View of the Eiffel Tower from the 56th floor of the Tour Montparnasse

Visiting the Tour Montparnasse: Tips for Enjoying the Best View in Paris

Eyesore or eye-catching? Opinions on Paris’ Tour Montparnasse, or Montparnasse Tower in English, have always tended towards one extreme or the other; either way, it sparks reactions. 

Reactions were so severe, in fact, that after it was finished in 1973, there was a tremendous outcry. The uproar continued to be so loud that two years later, the city banned the construction of any building taller than seven stories—quite clearly a pointed jab at the Tour Montparnasse.

That sentiment continues today among Parisians and visitors. There’s an oft-repeated tongue-in-cheek joke about the Tour Montparnasse having “the best views in the city because it is the only place from which you cannot see it.” 

And honestly, while in my opinion, the Montparnasse Tower is not as spectacularly ugly as everyone makes it out to be, they have a solid point. The tower is also not particularly interesting either; paradoxically, that’s exactly what makes it such a good observation deck. 

The Tour montparnasse towering above other buildings in the area in Montparnasse cemetery vicinity with a blooming cherry blossom tree
The Tour Montparnasse sticks out like a sore thumb — not great for the aesthetic of the neighborhood, but amazing for views.
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It’s somewhat pointless to climb up the city’s most iconic viewpoint in search of its best view, which is why I opted not to climb the Eiffel Tower.

I make this point in my article about New York’s observation decks when I mention the cons of going up the Empire State Building; when you can’t actually see the city’s most iconic sight, what’s the point?

And the same rings true for the Tour Montparnasse. Since you honestly won’t really miss seeing it, you have nothing to lose by being atop it.

What Can You See from Tour Montparnasse?

View of the eiffel tower as seen from the top of the montparnasse tower complex
Not bad views of the Eiffel Tower, even on a cloudy, foggy, rainy day!

The best thing about the Tour Montparnasse, which stands out distinctly (for better or worse, mostly worse) among Paris’ architecture, is that you can quite literally see almost the entire city from its heights. 

Paris isn’t a very built-up city, so the fact that the Montparnasse Tower stands so tall in its skyline really benefits it (and is part of why it attracts so much ire, being such an outlier).

From the Tour Montparnasse, you can see virtually every important Paris building. I’m not kidding. I can’t think of one building I wanted to see but didn’t.

Want front-row seats to the Eiffel Tower? You’ve got them. And the Louvre? That, too. Even the teeny-tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Sacre Couer up on the hill all the way in Montmartre? Yup, it’s there!

Allison standing in the Tour Montparnasse inside section looking at the Louvre, with her feet in front of it
One cool thing? On the interior of the 56th floor, decals on the floor show you exactly what you are looking at in the distance, in case your Paris geography is not top-notch!
Views from the Tour Montparnasse
See how you can see the exact footprint of the Louvre and understand the parameters and size of the building after looking at the floor decal? How cool is that!

The Tour Montparnasse consists of two main levels for visitors: the 56th floor, which is indoors and gives you about 180-degree access to Paris’ best views.

Honestly, I particularly loved this interior part because there’s really nothing that you miss on the other 180-degree part of the view, because this part of the city isn’t very scenic and doesn’t have any major attractions.

Also, the glass windows are quite clean and well-kept, so you don’t miss anything from taking pictures through the glass (something I did not find to be the case when I visited One World Observatory in New York City).

Here is an example of some of the photos I took inside the observation deck on the 56th floor so you can see what kind of photos you can capture. Note that I’m just using a simple Google Pixel phone and using my 2x and 5x zoom functionality — I’m not even using a fancy camera!

One of the views of from the top of Tour Montparnasse
The Les Invalides and Napoleon’s tomb area
View of Montmartre in the distance and its Sacre Couer Basilica
Hard to see, but that’s the Sacre Couer Basilica and Montmarte in the distance
Giant park and fancy building as seen from the top of the Montparnasse Tower
The Jardin du Luxembourg in front of the Senate

The interior 56th floor of the tower is also good because it’s, well, inside and as you might be able to tell from my photos, which were taken in early March of 2024.

So despite the fact that you don’t get the best and clearest photos, it can still be a good activity for a rainy day in Paris.

But wait a second, because I’ve only discussed what you can see on the 56th floor so far. Let’s go up the stairs and see what you can see from the terrace!

A person walking up a staircase
There are 3 flights of stairs (in a quite dingy stairwell) that you must climb to reach the top terrace
View of the landmarks that you can see from the Tour Montparnasse
I love all the placards showing what you can see (in theory!) from the Tour Montparnasse

When I visited the Tour Montparnasse, it was an incredibly (and characteristically) rainy and gloomy day in Paris. I’m talking down-pouring rain and temperatures of 3° C / 37° F.

I literally found myself feeling colder in Paris in March than I had during Svalbard in February the month prior, so it was really nice to be able to see all these gorgeous views from the inside.

There’s also an outdoor terrace on the 59th floor, where you have full 360-degrees of all of Paris… which I’m sure is lovely on a sunnier, less gloomy day, but it was a little hard to enjoy when I visited.

Gloomy view of the Paris Montparnasse tower rooftop observation deck
The 59th floor of the observation deck has some stereotypical “photo spots” like the <3 Paris sign
A part of the architecture of the upstairs of the Tour Montparnasse with a sign that says "paris city of love" with lots of hearts and a cut-out that perfectly frames the Eiffel Tower
Another installation you can take photos with — this one frames the Eiffel Tower perfectly!

You might not be able to tell perfectly from the photos, but there is actually a small amount of glass roofing over the main “walkway” perimeter of the 59th floor. That’s actually quite a nice touch (and definitely a nod to how aware Paris is of just how often it rains there!).

However, the whole “arena”, shall we say, of the top terrace is completely open. When it’s so windy that it’s practically raining sideways in Paris (again, not uncommon), you’ll definitely get quite wet and cold!

As a result, my time up on the 59th floor was quite limited before I went back down to the warmth of the 56th floor — and here’s where you can find a café if you want to pause for a drink!

Le Cafe 360 on Floor 56

Cafe on the 56th floor with cheesy architecture
There’s also a café on the 56th floor where you can warm up with a view

Being somewhat of an observation deck junkie, I’ve seen many an overpriced café selling things at 4-5 times the price of what you’d pay on the ground.

I was surprised that the prices at Le 360 Café were actually only about 50% higher than you’d pay at an average place in Paris — and on par with what you’d pay within a short walking distance of attractions like Le Louvre.

At least, that was my observation during my March 2024 visit — prices may have changed since then, but this is what I saw and am reporting back on!

Price list at Le 360 cafe on Tour montparnasse
Prices are surprisingly affordable!

If you can’t read the writing on the menu, it reads: €2.80 for an espresso or café allongé (what we call an americano, or what would be most similar to a brewed coffee back in the U.S.), €4 for a double espresso, €4.20 for a cappuccino, €4.20 for a hot chocolate, and €3.80 for a tea.

Fancy something more, well, fancy? A glass of Champagne (and it being France, trust that it will actually be Champagne and not just sparkling wine — real ones know) is €13 for a glass or €75 for a bottle.

A glass of house wine (red, white, or rosé, pick your poison) would be a mere €5… ah, how I love French wine… or a bottle for €24. There are some other options — beer, lemonades, soft drinks, etc. but I thought I would highlight the more interesting offerings.

Getting to the Tour Montparnasse

Rainy day at the Gare Montparnasse main train station in central paris that connects to many high speed trains
The Gare Montparnasse, part of the Montparnasse-Bienvenüe metro stop. This view is seen as you are leaving from Tour Montparnasse and heading back towards the metro.

Paris’s metro is perhaps the most well-connected metro system in the world. My quibbles about its annoying validation system aside, you can get virtually anywhere in the city fairly seamlessly, and the Tour Montparnasse is no exception.

Take the metro to Montparnasse-Bienvenüe, which is served by both line 12 and line 4. And here’s my most important tip to save you a bunch of walking: take exit 7, Rue du Départ.

The Paris metro has a lot of different exits for every station, and Montparnasse-Bienvenüe is one of its larger stations as it connects with Gare Montparnasse, where the TGV (high speed train) departs from.

Picking the right exit will save you a bunch of time and backtracking! With the correct exit, it’s only a 300 meter walk (about 4 minutes) from the metro.

As you approach Tour Montparnasse, veer slightly to your left — you’ll want to enter the main building area, pictured here:

View of the entrance to Tour Montparnasse in Paris on a gray, rainy day
This area is where you enter
Sign in the underpass area that reads "vers la tour"
If you see this sign, you’ve walked too far and need to backtrack towards the front entrance.

Once you see the Tour Montparnasse’s entrance, it’s pretty simple to go up.

It goes in a few stages, and in case you’re an anxious traveler like me who wants to know all the steps so you can’t somehow fail at visiting a place you’ve never been to before, I’ve outlined them below.

Airport style security checkpoint on the ground floor
You must go through a security checkpoint on the ground floor

First, you enter at the ground floor and pass through an airport-style security checkpoint.

The line can be a bit confusing here if you arrive a few minutes early, before the security desk opens, like I did. I recommend waiting on the left-hand side as this is where the line actually begins, not the right-hand side.

The staff will not check your tickets at this stage; they just will make sure you don’t have any of the prohibited items.

Signs on the first floor that lead to the panorama point
Follow this sign to reach the elevator

Second, you follow the signs to the “visite panoramique” or panoramic visit; it also notes that there is where the “billeterie” or ticket booth is so if you do not already have your ticket you can buy it after you’ve taken the elevator.

Follow this sign (and the crowds) and it will bring you to the elevator. Pretty simple!

Next, just wait for the elevator to bring you to the 56th floor. This elevator is extremely fast, supposedly the fastest in Europe — it takes just 38 seconds to go up 56 floors! — so I didn’t wait long at all.

Ticket booth at the Tour Montparnasse if you did not prepurchase tickets
No lines to buy tickets at 9:30 AM on a weekday in March… but there may be lines at other times, so I recommend pre-booking your ticket!

Finally, once reaching the 56th floor, you’re there! Either show your pre-purchased ticket on your phone (recommended) or stand in line at the ticket booth to buy your ticket on-site.

Congrats — you’ve reached the Tour Montparnasse; now enjoy the views.

Are the Lines for Tour Montparnasse Long?

Allison standing with the eiffel tower visible in the distance
Visiting in March meant limited lines and not too crowded!

Luckily, unlike most Paris attractions, I found visiting the Montparnasse Tower quite simple and fast.

That said, I still made things easier for myself and booked skip-the-line tickets online so I could just show my ticket voucher.

Book your tickets online here!

Despite visiting many of the world’s most popular cities, I’ve never found lines quite as unwieldy as Paris’s, even in the off-season (and remember — I visited during a rainy period in the beginning of March).

I can’t say for sure what visiting Montparnasse Tower would be like in the summer… but there are probably way longer lines than I encountered in the off-season!

Still, it’s definitely easier than more popular and crowded Paris sites like the Louvre, which require a huge amount of willingness to deal with lines. Despite having pre-booked my Louvre tickets in advance, I still waited 45 minutes in the pouring rain on a random weekday afternoon.

On the other hand, I had booked the first slot of the Tour Montparnasse (at 9:30 AM) and arrived there a few minutes beforehand. I only waited about 5 or 10 minutes from when the Tour Montparnasse opened before I was 56 floors up, admiring its stunning views!

Tour Montparnasse Hours

cemetery views from the 56th floor in Paris
View of the Montparnasse Cemetery from above – how crazy!

Many travel blogs are actually out of date on this topic, and the Montparnasse Tower has greatly expanded its hours of operation as its popularity has increased.

While the Tour Montparnasse isn’t the most central of Paris attractions, it’s open more than 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, making it easy to fit into your Paris itinerary.

The first slot of the day opens at 9:30 AM, and that’s when I chose to visit, since I was staying in Montparnasse so arriving there that early was pretty easy. The last slot is at 10 PM daily, so you could go at night as well.

Personally, I wouldn’t go that late at night. I think it’s worth reserving some daylight hours to see the Montparnasse Tower. 

Pick your timeslot here!

What’s Nearby Montparnasse Tower?

Shadow being cast on the catacomb arrangement of bones
Don’t miss the nearby Paris Catacombs – just be prepared and pre-book your tickets!

Like I’ve said above, one of the main reasons why the Tour Montparnasse has such good views because it’s tucked away in the 14th arrondissement, far enough away from Paris’s sites that you get a spectacular view.

But does that mean there’s nothing to do in that area? Not at all! 

Since I stayed in Montparnasse on my most recent trip to Paris, I got to know this neighborhood a bit below the surface. Since I’ve visited Paris many times and always stayed smack-dab in the center, it was really nice to see a slightly more offbeat side of the city.

Montparnasse is an especially good option if you are visiting Paris for a short time on a trip to France and want to be near the TGV to take advantage of its excellent high speed trains.

Graveyard of the Montparnasse cemetery with mausoleum structures in the rain
After seeing Montparnasse Cemetery from above, check it out from ground level!

So what to do before or after visiting the Tour Montparnasse? I’d suggest visiting the incredibly interesting and historic Montparnasse Cemetery next.

Whether you just go for an aimless wander or look at the gravestone directory so you can visit some of your favorite historical figures like Jean-Paul Sartre, both ways are a great way to enjoy a walk in this quiet corner of Paris.

I also suggest you visit the Paris Catacombs on the same day as going to the Montparnasse Tower because they are fairly close to one another.

It’s about a 15-minute walk (0.8 miles or 1.2 km) between the two — and that time goes by even quicker when you stop off at the cemetery in between.

View of bones artfully arranged in an interesting shape in the Paris Catacombs
The Paris Catacombs are a must-visit and just a short walk from the Montparnasse Tower

I’m writing a post all about visiting the Paris Catacombs that reminds you of common pitfalls so you don’t make them before your trip!

Unlike the Tour Montparnasse, you’ll absolutely need to plan your Catacombs tickets in advance, so be aware of that!

You can try to save money and book it on the official website, but those slots go quickly since they only release 7 days ahead of time in advance.

As of writing, when I look at their website, I can only find tickets for 5 and 7 days from today… and it’s April, not yet high season. During high season, you’d probably check back every day at midnight (Paris time) to grab tickets as soon as they’ve been added.

Unless you’ve planned ahead exquisitely, you’ll have more luck buying one of the reserved slots on a site like GetYourGuide which have a deal with Catacombs to pre-purchase entry tickets. It’s a few euros more than buying it on site (which already costs an eye-watering €29) but you can book several weeks in advance and not worry about.

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