Paris features gorgeous vistas, stunning details on every street, and one of the most photographed monuments in the world. Plan your photographs ahead of time with this handy guide of the best spots and subjects to capture while on holiday in the French capital.
PHOTOGRAPHING THE EIFFEL TOWER
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most photographed monuments in the world, so making your photos unique can be a bit of a challenge. The key is to find interesting viewpoints and angles instead of sticking to the traditional straightforward photo. Get creative! Find different ways to frame the tower, capture it during various kinds of weather, and experiment with how you compose the structure in your shots.
Just don’t forget to think about what time of day you’re visiting, as the crowds can be overwhelming when the city comes to life. We suggest heading to see La Tour Eiffel in the morning, though the monument can be irresistible when it sparkles after dark (every hour, on the hour, until midnight).
WHERE TO FIND THE BEST VIEW OF PARIS
You wouldn’t think that an office skyscraper would boast the best views of the City of Light, but, trust us on this one. Traverse the streets of Paris to the Montparnasse neighborhood, ride to the 59th floor of Montparnasse Tower, and prepare to be wowed by the view that unfolds before you. Don’t forget to bring your wallet, however, as the trip to the top will cost 17 euros (15 if you’re a student). Before you make the trip, check your camera bag to ensure that you’ve packed your zoom lens — you’re going to want to hone in on the city’s spectacular details from this nearly 700-foot-tall viewing platform.
FINDING THOSE CLASSIC PARISIAN BUILDINGS
Though Paris is known as one of the most photogenic cities in the world due to its charming architecture and abundance of cafés, finding the perfect combination can be a challenge. For photos of the architecture that makes Paris Paris, head to the famous Rue Réaumur, between Rue d’Aboukir and Rue de Clery. You’ll find that the street is lined with a charming array of cafés and small shops. Take your time exploring the area, and snap shots from multiple angles to capture the centuries-old elements that make Paris the stunning city it is today.
TOP OF THE CITY
Walk off those baguettes and take advantage of the city’s best (free) vantage point: the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre. The infamous white domes of Sacré-Coeur are a photo op in and of themselves. Attend a service (the church is still-functioning) or climb straight to the tower for an expansive panorama — we guarantee it’s worth the 300-step journey to the top. The basilica is open from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day, and the dome is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (May to September).
THE SECRETS OF THE LOUVRE
Undoubtedly Paris’s most famous museum, the Louvre is home to over 35,000 works of art, including pieces such as the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. After you check out the antiquities, let the ornate architecture of the Louvre act as your subject. The stunning glass pyramids that grace the entrance are also worth exploring with your camera. Head back at dusk for a night photography session, when the glass structures are illuminated beautifully in the evening light.
THE CENTER OF PARIS
Those who traverse the length of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées will be rewarded with a stunning view of the Arc de Triomphe, a memorial arch dedicated to those who fought and died for France in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Shooting the arch from various angles is a great exercise for photographers — after all, it is an Instagram mecca.
However, the real appeal to this historical site is the view from the observation deck, which requires visitors to climb 280 steps to reach it. You’ll be glad you made the climb, though, because this location is the perfect spot to take a panoramic picture of Paris, made complete by the view of the Eiffel Tower along the skyline.
A LANDMARK TO PHOTOGRAPH FROM ALL ANGLES
Located in the fourth arrondissement, on the Île de la Cité, Notre-Dame towers above the nearby buildings. Lush foliage surrounds it and offers great foreground interest to the majesty of the church. Circle a few times to shoot different angles of the well-known landmark, and keep your eye on it as you explore the surrounding area. You never know when you’ll find a perfect view to frame the stunning cathedral.
SHAKESPEARE & CO. BOOKSTORE
This famous bookstore on Paris’ Left Bank is located right across the river from Notre-Dame. The delightful exterior — and interior — have attracted creatives for decades. Snag a shot of the shopfront, then stow your camera away, and head inside to explore. Since you can’t take photos inside, get creative with your outdoor shots. Try different subjects, angles, and compositions. After dinner, head back to see the bookstore in a different light. It’s open until 11 p.m. every day, so there are always people bustling on this part of Rue de la Bûcherie.
THE MOST COLORFUL SPOT IN PARIS
Paris is shaded in a stately grey, punctuated with pops of color from window boxes, cheerfully painted café doors, and the occasional street mural. If you’re looking for an abundance of color and detail, make your way to the Sainte-Chapelle cathedral. Constructed in the 13th century, this church is nothing short of a masterpiece. It also houses the largest collection of stained glass in the world. Plan your visit around the sun — the cathedral is at its most beautiful and colorful on sunny days.
THE CITY’S MOST MIND-BENDING BRIDGE
Popularized by Christopher Nolan’s hit movie, “Inception,” the Bir-Hakeim bridge is a picturesque walkway that seems to extend forever. It’s located just down the river from the Eiffel Tower and offers a great view of the steel structure, as well. Use this spot as an opportunity to play around with symmetry and framing. Be sure to come back at night, when lights line the street and cast a lovely glow.
MAKE THE MOST OF THE RAIN
Rather than casting the city in gloom, rain tends to make the French capital all the more romantic. Take advantage of the weather and experiment with your photography. Try long-exposure shots, capture the Blue Hour, and use puddles to create reflective subjects. Need more advice? Photographer Aneesh Kothari shared his tips for photographing Paris in the rain with us last year.
IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Wide shots of the Parisian skyline are undoubtedly beautiful, but this city is rife with intricate details. From the gargoyles that adorning churches to the patterned rooftops to the quaint shopfronts, keep an eye out for the small moments and unique objects and details that shouldn’t be missed. There’s a reason your camera has a zoom function!
Header image by Loïc Lagarde.