The Saint Jacques Tower
After ten long years of restauration the Tour Saint Jacques near Châtelet has become one of the sweetest spots for a view over Paris. The 54 meter tall tower is the last remaining piece of the Church of Saint Jacques de la Boucherie. Boucherie? Butchery? Odd as it sounds to our ears today the church was so named because in the 16th century the area was home to the butchers of Paris and thus they had their own church. The church was built between 1509 and 1523 in the flamboyant gothic style which is still quite visible on the tower in the elaborate sculptures of 13 gargoyles and other creatures plus leafy decoration. On the four corners are sculptures of Saint Jacques and animals representing three of the four evangalists: an eagle for Saint John, an ox for Saint Luke and a lion for Saint Mark. The Revolution brought an end to religious celebrations in the church and in the 1790s and it was dismantled stone by stone leaving just the tower. But why leave the tower? A tower was a useful building and served as a firewatch. It was later used as a factory to make shot used for hunting, then as a weather station. In 1836 the City of Paris purchased the building and completed a first renovation in 1906. The tower is a UNESCO World Heritage site as it is part of the Chemin de St Jacques de Compostelle. Another tidbit is that the tower sits on the Square de la Tour Saint Jacques which was the first public square in Paris created in 1856.
The tower is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday for public visits in the nice season, in 2018 that’s 1 June until 4 November. There are 300 steps to climb (the equivalent of 16 stories) in a narrow turning staircase, so it is not for everyone (claustrophobics and acrophobics are discouraged, also no children under 10, not handicapped accessible, nor for those with heart problems) but the unobstructed view is rewarding. There is little protection on top just a 90cm high ballustrade which allows for clear viewing and photography 360° around.
You must reserve your visit in advance on the site http://www.desmotsetdesarts.com/offres/visites-guidees-paris/visite-de-la-tour-saint-jacques The guided visit last 50 minutes and costs 10€ per person.
The overlook in the Parc de Saint Cloud (free)
Parc de Saint Cloud was the Former estate of the kings of France, Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI spent quite a bit of time here during the Revolution. There was once a château, but now there remains only vestiges of the gardens and fountains designed by Le Nôtre. This a lovely and huge park to run, walk or ride a bike. Climbing up the hill to the area called “La Lanterne” is worth the effort to see the panoramic view over Paris. You can also drive up there and bring a picnic. (La Lanterne was a sort of lighthouse tower that was illuminated to let the people know when Napoleon I was present at the chateau. It was destroyed by the Prussians in 1870). The park extends about 10 kilometers farther to the west becoming more of a forest than a park, so there is lots of room to roam.
Other Views over Paris
The terrace at the Hotel Raphael (free, just buy a drink)
The Printemps du Goût Terrace (free, just buy a drink)
Holiday Inn Paris at Rue Danton (free, just buy a drink)
Parc de Belleville (free)
The top of the Arc de Triomphe
The Tour Montparnasse
The observation terrace of Institut du Monde Arabe (free)