While doing research for our Paris trip, we came across many places advertising themselves as “the best place in Paris for city views”. Now, after having been to the city myself, I’m still no expert but my guess is they probably all offer visitors a pretty special view, because Paris is breathtaking from up high. Which one is the best, however, is up for debate, but the subject of today’s post is definitely in the running for that title!
I had so many pictures to share from our tour inside Notre-Dame Cathedral that I wasn’t able to fit the second part of our experience there – seeing Paris from the top of Notre-Dame Cathedral – in that post. The cathedral was one of four city-view locations we checked out while in Paris, and were I to rank them in terms of “best view”, I’d put the cathedral in a tie for first place with the Eiffel Tower. (For the record, I think the Eiffel Tower would win first were it not for the fact that if you’re in the Eiffel Tower, then the tower will no longer be in your photographs. Bummer.)
While there wasn’t much of a line to get in to see Notre-Dame Cathedral itself on the day we visited, we had quite a long wait to go up in the towers to check out the view. Only a few people were allowed inside the towers at a time, so it was very slow-moving. (If you’re looking for where to queue up, it’s along the left side of the cathedral if you’re facing the west facade.)
When it was finally our turn to go up, the weather had turned cloudy and chilly. I was just praying the rain would hold off long enough for us to take it all in. The tickets we purchased (€8.50 per adult, children were free) allowed us to stop at two different spots for photo-taking opportunities. The first was about midway up the towers, and the second was from the very top of the cathedral. As an added bonus, we got an unexpected workout in by climbing the 422 steps to the top! (There are no lifts in the towers.)
Out of the two levels we stopped at, my favorite was the first one, midway up the towers, and it was because of the gargoyles. Even from the ground these creatures were fascinating, but being level with them, and therefore able to include them in my city shots, was pretty unique. I love how they appear to be watching over the city from up high, like if someone were to dangle precariously from the Eiffel Tower, they’d take flight and save the day.
From the first level, we had a clear, unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Coeur, the church on the hill in the second photo. These two photos were both taken with a 50mm lens. If I’d had more time, I’d have switched to my 55-250mm lens so I could have gotten some shots with a little more zoom, but I was ushered on to the next level before I had a chance.
That is actually my one complaint about seeing the city from Notre-Dame’s towers – there is a time limit that you’re allowed to spend on each level, and in my opinion, it’s not long enough for someone who wants to take photos AND just step back for a bit and enjoy the scenery. Just something to keep in mind if you’re like me and prefer to linger.
After our time on the first level was up, we climbed the rest of the way to the top where we were enclosed on a small viewing platform by thick cable wires. As someone who does not particularly care for heights, those cables were like my security blanket. (The cables were also a protective feature on the first level, but do not typically get in the way of pictures on either level.)
My favorite part about seeing Paris from the top of Notre-Dame Cathedral was our vantage point of the River Seine. It is such a beautiful river. We had the pleasure of walking along it multiple times on our trip and I rank its beauty right up there with the Thames in London.
You can also see the Eiffel Tower from the top level, but space at the top is limited and everyone tends to gravitate towards the one spot where the views are best. My recommendation is to get your shots of the Eiffel Tower while on the first level since it wraps around the cathedral and offers multiple spots with panoramic views.
Notre-Dame Cathedral is, unfortunately, one of those areas where officials remind you to be aware of pickpockets, so that’s why Cory was wearing our camera bag on his chest like an over-sized fanny pack. (Ha!) Taking simple precautions reduces your risk tremendously, although it might come at the expense of looking a little awkward in family travel photos.
Comparing the time we waited in line to the time we actually got to spend in the towers would have caused Notre-Dame Cathedral to rank a little lower on my short list of “best Paris views” if not for the truly great, expansive views the cathedral has to offer. And then there’s the gargoyles – instant extra points added in for them. If you’re visiting Notre-Dame Cathedral anyway, I say do the towers, but maybe try going during the week for a shorter wait time. And make sure to already have the lens on your camera that you think you’ll use the most before you go up!
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