I want you to close your eyes for a minute and think about Paris. Imagine the City of Lights in your mind. Go ahead. Close your eyes, but only for a minute so you can keep reading.
Ok, what did you see? Maybe you saw the stereotypical Frenchman riding a bike with a baguette in the front basket? Or perhaps you saw a street performer serenading the crowds in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral with his accordion? A chic French woman sitting at an outdoor café sipping her coffee accompanied by a flaky croissant could come to mind as well. Whatever your image of Paris may be, there is one thing I know you saw in your mind: The Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower is the most symbolic image of Paris. Every year millions of people flock to Paris to get a chance at seeing this monument. The highlight of any visit to what is one of the most recognizable monuments in the world is of course taking the elevator ride up to its top floor and enjoying the views of Paris. The only problem with taking in the panorama of Paris from the Eiffel Tower is that the most iconic feature of the skyline is missing: the Eiffel Tower itself!
I was one of the millions of people this year that wanted to visit the top of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately that dream went up in flames when I checked online and realized that all the tickets were sold out for the days I would be in Paris. Who knew those things could sell out?! *sigh*
So, there I was in Paris with no ticket to the Eiffel Tower and no time to wait in the colossal line outside of it. I was in need of a plan B, and that’s when the ugliest building in Paris came to the rescue.
Poor, Montparnasse Tower. Paris is a city known for its beauty, but this poor skyscraper is known as the ugly duckling. It is literally referred to by many people as the ugliest building in Paris. Despite its less than flattering reputation, what the Montparnasse Tower does boast of are amazing views of Paris that actually include the Eiffel Tower.
So after throwing my hands in the air and cursing my lack of foresight to buy tickets for the Eiffel Tower with more time in advance, I made my way over to the Montparnasse Tower. The 1970s skyscraper is not as ugly as people make it out to be, but as the only tall office building in the area, it definitely sticks out like a sore thumb.
My travel buddy and I walk into the tower, and I immediately discover the first thing I love about the place. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, the Montparnasse Tower had a very short line. It took only about five minutes to stand in line, buy the tickets and get on the elevator to the building’s observation floor. From what I’ve read online, it seems like the Montparnasse Tower always has short lines.
After riding what we were told is the fastest elevator in Europe, we reach the 56th floor where the walls are actually floor to ceiling windows with stunning views of the city. We stroll around admiring the views of Paris and take some time to sit in their café and enjoy some slightly overpriced coffee.
Besides the beautiful views, what I like about the observation floor are the different stations positioned alongside the windows that have interactive televisions with fun facts, trivia and games. I learned about the history of the Montparnasse neighborhood and heard some interesting stories about some of Paris’ most famous former inhabitants. At another station I learned about other Parisian monuments, which helped to plan the rest of my day, and at the last station I saw a live webcam view of Chicago, Berlin and Hong Kong from other skyscrapers with observation decks like the Montparnasse Tower. The stations were definitely a nice touch to the overall experience there.
When my travel buddy and I finished seeing all there was to see on the 56th floor, we took a short walk up a flight of stairs that led us to a rooftop terrace. In the open-air terrace, the views of Paris and especially of the Eiffel Tower were even more impressive. The daytime view was beautiful, but I have been told that seeing the lit up Eiffel Tower at night is an even more gorgeous sight to see from atop Paris’ ugliest building. Now, I know at what time of the day I will pass by the Montparnasse Tower on my next trip to Paris.
My travel buddy and I walked around and took in the views of the beautiful city below us for one last time before using Europe’s fastest elevator again to go back down to the first floor. I left the Montparnasse Tower feeling happy, satisfied and a little less disappointed about not getting to go up the Eiffel Tower. I wouldn’t say that the Montparnasse Tower is a worthy replacement for going up the Eiffel Tower, but with the unique view of Paris that it offers, it’s worth adding to your Paris To-Do list if you have some extra time to spare. If you end up like me with no tickets to the Eiffel Tower, then the Montparnasse Tower is a great consolation prize.
The Montparnasse Tower may be known as the ugliest building in Paris, but for those willing to not judge a book by its cover, they’ll discover the yet to be well known secret of the gorgeous unmatched views that the ugly duckling tower has to offer.