Eiffel tower

Skip the Eiffel Tower and head to the Montparnasse Tower

Placeholder while loading article actions

At the Eiffel Tower you will find long queues and a narrow, crowded viewing platform

Whether it’s masters such as Van Gogh or Camille Pissarro, or smartphone users playing with filters, visitors to Paris yearn to capture it visually. There are a host of alluring locations in the City of Light from which to snag that iconic Instagram image, like the winding streets of Montmartre or the soaring glass pyramid of the Louvre. One location, however, will always attract more photographers than the others.

The Eiffel Tower has a magnetism that few other sites can match. If you exit at Bir-Hakeim metro station and turn right along Quai Branly, it slowly comes into view, rising above a row of trees. A grandiose wrought iron relic from the Belle Epoque, it is unlike any other world monument. (Tickets to climb the tower can run to around $29.)

This is just one of the reasons why the tower attracts nearly 7 million visitors a year. Every day, thousands of people form queues at the base of its four legs so they can take an elevator (or walk, for those who like a challenge) to the 906-foot-tall summit for the famous view of Paris, with the The Seine curves to the east while the Arc de Triomphe stands proudly nearby.

By the way: a local guide to Paris

But the top-floor observation deck is cramped and perpetually packed with tourists. If you want to get your own Parisian souvenir, be patient and be prepared to hurry to the popular spots with the best views. Even at night, when the tower lights up and the city changes its complexion, the masses are still reluctant to stay away. For visitors short on time or who just don’t like crowds, this isn’t a hugely enjoyable way to see one of the world’s iconic cities. Less than two miles, however, is a superb alternative.

Location: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France.

At the Montparnasse Tower, two belvederes and a fraction of the visitors

The Montparnasse district has a mystique of its own. The bars, cafes and restaurants were frequent haunts of the “lost generation” of American writers and artists who moved to Paris in the 1920s. Visitors still come to retrace the steps (and drinking habits) of the 1920s. crazy about Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Slightly less romantic is the towering specter of the Tour Montparnasse, a 200-meter-tall monolith that’s out of sync with the rest of the Parisian cityscape. Completed in 1973, its dark, rectangular, glass facade rises from the Montparnasse-Bienvenüe metro station and dwarfs everything else in the neighborhood. You don’t visit for its architecture though.

Its panoramic observation deck on the 56th floor offers arguably the best view of Paris with a fraction of the visitors the Eiffel Tower receives. Admission is $20 per adult, and Europe’s fastest elevator takes you to the top in 38 seconds. What really separates the Tour Montparnasse, however, is the expansive rooftop terrace, where there’s ample space to view the city from any angle. Admire the distant Byzantine curves of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart without having to wait or inconvenience anyone. Watch the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower as the city lights begin to come on. It’s a beautiful, stress-free way to capture your own Paris at your own pace.

Location: 33 Avenue du Maine, 75015 Paris, France.

March is a travel writer based in Birmingham, UK. Find him on Twitter at @JMarchTravel and Instagram at @secondcityscenes.

Read past Go Here, Not There columns