It wasn’t just my first night in Paris. It was my first night outside Asia. And I swore to celebrate it with the best view of the French capital.
A quick consultation with my best friend, Google, gave me a few suggestions: the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur, the rooftop of Centre Pompidou, and the top of the Eiffel Tower itself. The most compelling was Tour Montparnasse 56, “the city’s one and only skyscraper.” The best view of Paris, the reviews promised. (If you’re coming from the UK, you can fly to Paris via Flybe. They also have code-share agreements with Air France and KLM.)
After an afternoon of leaving footprints along Champs-Élysées, off to Montparnasse I went. A quick walk led me to the base of the 689-foot giant. The tower itself looked rather modern, terribly out of place amid structures that appeared they had stood there for centuries. A personnel at the door ushered me to its fastest elevator, the one that ferries passengers straight to the 56th floor. In only 38 seconds, I reached the viewing deck. There were not many tourists, a stark contrast to the long lines at the Eiffel.
I was there too early. I had planned on catching the Parisian sunset here so I ensured I would be here at around six in the evening. I forgot one thing: In this part of the world at this time of the year, the sun doesn’t set until around 8:30pm. I had more than two hours to spare.
Waiting is not a problem at Tour Montparnasse. The viewing deck boasts an unobstructed 360-degree view of the city. There is no shortage of spectacular scenery. To the south sprawls the Montparnasse Cemetery, and to the west stand the Eiffel Tower, the Church of Saint-Sulpice, and the Cathedrale Saint-Louis des Invalides. Binoculars offer a closer look, and the indoor cafe provide refreshments to exhausted visitors (for a fee, of course).
When the sun began teasing to dive, I scurried to the stairs to access the outdoor roof deck where only a few tourists lingered. I found a spot and witnessed the heavenly show. Clouds bared their darker linings as the light began to dwindle. The sun, finally taking some rest, became a perfect backdrop to the mighty Eiffel Tower. It was a glorious picture, so glorious it commanded the already thick crowd to whip out their phones and cameras and capture #ThatWonderfulMoment.
But the lights coming from the gadgets were no match to what happened next. When the evening welcomed its first top of the hour, the Eiffel Tower showed off some shimmer, forcing the admiring souls beside me to endure raising their phones a little bit longer. Much like the sunset just minutes before, the light show was a fleeting experience, something you have to take in in a matter of minutes.
Those who failed to grab the first run folded themselves on the floor, still facing Europe’s most famous landmark. The sparks would be back again after an hour; they waited. Friends made a toast, and lovers shared a kiss — almost everyone had a glass of champagne in one hand. The frugal and eager halves of me wrestled, but austerity won in the end with just one look at what was inside my wallet. Next time, maybe.
Tour Montparnasse 56
33 Avenue du Maine, 75015 Paris
Adults (21+), 14.5 EUR
Youths/Students (16-20), 11.50 EUR
Children (7-15), 9 EUR
- April 1 – September 30
- October 1 – March 31
How to get to Montparnasse Tower: Take the Montparnasse – Bienvenüe Station (Lines 4, 6, 12, and 13) and then follow the signs to Tour Montparnasse.