by Megan McDonough
Paris remains as one of my all-time favorite cities. Of course, I’m sure this is true for many travelers and art lovers alike. The first time I stepped foot in the City of Lights was during my junior year of college, when I studied and worked in London. Our program was hosting a weekend trip to Paris so I made sure I was the first person to sign up.
As a young student with limited funds, I remember my friends and I stuffing leftover croissants from breakfast into our purses to serve as a mid-day snack. Looking back, I cringe at this slightly embarrassing memory, but I don’t regret the experience one bit. Two years later, I re-visited Paris on a solo trip and although I was no longer a broke college student, I still took advantage of the free and fabulous views one can find in Paris.
I used to wonder why Parisians were so thin despite eating carbohydrates all day. Then I discovered Montmartre and things started making sense. Although this artsy neighborhood of Paris is relatively close to a metro stop, it definitely requires an uphill hike to make it to le Sacre Coeur – therefore helping me understand how locals stay so fit. Below the hills, just outside of the church is one of the most magnificent views. I recommend going here just as the sun begins to set. You will see the city transform from day to night, as the city lights are illuminated.
It took me two trips to Paris to figure out that Galeries Lafayette was not only a shopaholic’s paradise but also one of the best views in Paris. The shopping center is massive, so do your best to avoid picking up a shirt here or a skirt there. Go all the way up to the top floor and find the door that leads outside. I was pleasantly surprised not only that this outdoor space existed, but also at the spectacular view in general.
Centre Georges Pompidou
Similar to Galeries Lafayette, the Centre Georges Pompidou rooftop offers a memorable view of Paris for the reasonable price of zero euros. If you have already bought a ticket to the National Museum of Modern Art, take advantage of the elevator, which takes you to the rooftop where you have a clear view of Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sacre Coeur. If you are in the mood to feel rich minus a huge bank account, head to the trendy Georges Restaurant and order a glass of wine.
Parc du Champs de Mars
Although this is not a view from a 50-story building, the panoramic view from Parc du Champs de Mars is not only free, but one of the best ways to see the Eiffel Tower up close and personal. If you want to see the Eiffel Tower glitter, make sure you arrive closer to the evening hours. During the day, the view is equally stunning and the architectural details are front and center. If I were planning another trip to Paris right now, I would call up a group of friends and plan an afternoon picnic in the park and make sure we had enough wine and cheese to last us a few hours.
Arc de Triomphe
Anyone visiting Paris will undoubtedly make it to the Arc de Triomphe at some point on his or her trip. I suggest heading there in the evening because the romantic city lights will be turned on. Bonus points if you are visiting around Christmas time. My second trip to Paris was in late December and there were holiday decorations and outdoor markets all along the Champs-Élysées. Standing underneath the Arc itself gives you a panoramic view of the city as you watch beeping cars speed their way around the roundabout.
Other views for a small price: For just a few euros, you can take an elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower. To actually see the Eiffel Tower at night, you won’t get a better view than the one on the top floor of Montparnasse tower. I paid for both of these views and did not regret it. In fact, these views were so memorable that I don’t even remember what I paid in the first place.
Megan is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Bohemian Trails, an online travel magazine focusing on global art, culture and off-the-beaten path destinations. Born in Washington D.C. and now based in New York City, Megan is a freelance writer and social media specialist in the travel industry. Her passion for travel has taken her to Europe, South America, Mexico and Egypt.