If you want to see all of Paris at once, there’s no greater place than from the top of Montparnasse Tower, Paris’ lone skyscraper, standing proud and alone at 689 feet. The 360 degree views are amazing, and you can truly test your geographic knowledge of the surrounding area.
To help you out, I’ve put together a geographic guide for you. To orient yourself, Montparnasse Tower is signified by the pink pushpin on the map below. The other blue icons represent all the famous Paris sites I will tell you about. Are you excited? ARE YOU EXCITED??? You should be.
There are so many items to point out in this photo. The long stretch of grassy park just south of the Eiffel Tower is called Parc du Champs de-Mars. That tall structure is, of course, the Eiffel Tower, named after Gustave Eiffel, the engineer whose company designed and built the tower. The tower was built in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair. The sky-scrapers in the background are located just outside Paris in an area call La Defense. This is Paris’ main business district.
The two buildings forming a semi-circle around the Eiffel Tower form Place de Trocadero. The place was named in honor of the Battle of Trocadero, in which French forces captured Isla del Trocadero in southern Spain in 1823. The original Palais du Trocadero was built to host meetings and concerts for the 1878 World’s Fair. In 1937, the old building was destroyed and replaced by today’s Palais de Chaillot which now sits atop Trocadero and houses a number of museums.
It’s a little hard to see, but right in the center of this photo, you’ll find the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The Arc was commissioned in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon, but wasn’t finished until the 1830s. Today, it honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. The monument stands 164 feet in height, 148 feet wide and 72 feet deep. It was the largest triumphal arch in existence until the construction of the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang, in 1982.
The gold-topped building is officially known as L’Hôtel national des Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids). It is a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement of Paris containing museums and monuments. The buildings house the military museum of the Army of France , as well as the burial site for some famous Frenchmen, including Napoleon Bonaparte.
The large building with the glass dome ceiling at the bottom of the picture is the Grand Palais (Great Palace), a large exhibition hall and museum complex located at the start of Champs-Élysées in the center of Paris. The structure was built for the Universal Exhibition in 1900 and dedicated to the glory of industry.
The large building just south of the long stretch of garden is the Musée d’Orsay, an art museum housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, and is best known for its extensive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces, including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. The museum opened in 1986.
The ferris wheel sits in the center of a large public square at the start of Paris’ most famous street, Champs Elysees.
You can pick out the famous Louve by the long and vast array of buildings occupying the bottom of this photo. The Louve was built by Philippe Auguste to protect Paris from the Anglo-Norman threat in the late 12th century. Over time, the original fortress was expanded and transformed into a royal residence for various French kings. In 1791, the revolutionary Assemblée Nationale decreed that the Louvre would be a national palace to house the king and for gathering together all the monuments of the sciences and the arts. The Museum Central des Arts opened its doors on August 10, 1793. Finally, in 1882, the palace ceased to be the seat of power and was devoted almost entirely to culture. Slowly but surely, the museum began to take over all of the vast complex of buildings.
You can pick out the Pompidou Centre by how out of place the building’s blue and red colors look in the Paris skyline. Built in 1977, the Pompidou Centre houses Paris’ modern art collection. In the spirit of modern art, the museum’s iconoclastic architecture has an inside-out feel. The top floor of the museum also hosts a stunning view of the city.
You can find the Notre Dame Cathedral by the church’s two imposing bell towers at the bottom of the photo. Located on the eastern half of Île de la Cité, Notre Dame is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and among the largest and most well-known churches in the world. Construction on the church began in 1160 and was finally completed in 1345.
The Panthéon is the dome-topped building at the bottom of the photo. Located in Paris’ Latin Quarter, it was completed in 1790 as a church, but after many changes, now functions as a mausoleum, containing the remains of distinguished French citizens, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Marie Curie.
The Abbey of St. Germain (it’s the building with the two towers) was founded in the 6th century by the son of Clovis I, Childebert I. Over the years, it became a center of intellectual life in the French Catholic church until it was disbanded during the French Revolution.
The Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Gardens, is the second largest public park in Paris located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. The park is the garden of the French Senate, which is itself housed in the Luxembourg Palace.
You can find the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in the distance at the top of the photo. The Basilica is a Roman Catholic church in northern Paris. A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the hill Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.
Paris Montparnasse is one of the six large Paris train stations, just south of the Montparnasse Tower. It opened in 1840, and was rebuilt completely in 1969. It is used by intercity TGV trains to the west and south-west of France including Tours, Bordeaux, Rennes and Nantes, and by suburban and regional services on the Transilien Paris – Montparnasse routes.