Exploring the Rooftops of Paris

Despite being an integral part of the cityscape, Paris’ distinctive zinc roofs have become nearly invisible, but as much as we underestimate them, there’s nothing quite like them in the world. Jennifer Ladonne explores some of the capital’s best places to re-appreciate.

Shimmering like molten silver in the clear sunlight or blending seamlessly with a low, cloudy sky, the roofs of Paris are no small part of its beauty and character. Baron Haussmann greatly renovated the city in the 1850s and 60s, adding an airy lightness to his buildings and skyline by cladding about two-thirds of its structures in soft, light metal. These zinc roofs are so iconic and the expertise used to create them is so rare that they are candidates for UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list.

And while there’s nothing like seeing this expansive silver patchwork from the height of the Eiffel Tower or the Butte Montmartre, Parisians love nothing more than to loiter between rooftops, perch on a terrace or balcony and watch the sunset turn them from shimmering bronze into midnight. blue.

Since only a few of us have access to an apartment or balcony with a view in Paris, here’s our guide to the city’s best public places to see its iconic rooftops up close and personal. From museum terraces to rooftop cocktail bars and restaurants, it’s up to you to enjoy the sacred hills of Paris.

Soaking up the view from above at Galeries Lafayette © MOMA Group

Museums and Monuments

With alleyways and panoramas along the way, the 206-step Paris Panthéon culminates with magnificent panoramic views of the city’s precious monuments, bridges and neighborhoods: Notre-Dame and Île de la Cité, Île Saint-Louis, Arènes de Lutèce, Sacré-Coeur and Eiffel in the distance. with its tower. A few blocks away, stopping for lunch, dinner or a snack on the ninth floor of the Institut du Monde Arabe, dedicated to the culture, art and history of the Arab world, will give you some of the most spectacular views in the city. Butte Montmartre on the Seine, Notre-Dame and beyond.

From several vantage points in the interior galleries or exterior terraces of the Musée d’Orsay on the Left Bank, you can see both banks of the Seine, the Eiffel Tower, and the Tuileries Gardens, with its neat rows of Haussmannian buildings lined beyond the Rue de Rivoli. to the glittering domes of Sacré-Coeur. Many visitors go for an Instagram-worthy look of Paris via the iconic clock face of the old Gare d’Orsay.

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Dedicated to the indigenous art and culture of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, the panoramic terrace at the top of the Musée Quai Branly offers great views of the Seine, the Eiffel Tower and much more. Better still, diners at the museum’s all-glass restaurant, Les Ombres, can enjoy up-close views of the tower while sipping a glass of wine or having a gastronomic meal. At the top of the new Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection, stylish restaurant Halle aux Grains offers rare oriental views over the undulating canopy of Les Halles to the Center Pompidou. The rise is worth stopping by for a drink on the terrace of the museum’s Georges restaurant for truly breathtaking views. Now is a good time to go, as the museum will close in late 2023 for a massive four-year renovation.

Hôtel Rochechouart’s rooftop bar is a big hit for neighborhood hipsters © Hôtel Rochechouart/Facebook

A classically styled porch and columnar row along the magnificent new Hôtel de la Marine – a unique restoration of a noble 17th-century interior that opened last year – offers stunning views of the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries and the Assemblée Nationale beyond. . Visit the ballroom first to see the magnificent history of the legendary square (where Marie Antoinette and other nobles were executed by guillotine) on a special display. You can enjoy magnificent views of the Eiffel Tower in the newly opened terrace restaurant of the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine and in the stylish cocktail bar Girafe, located in Trocadéro, just across the Seine from the Iron Lady.

Located on the sixth floor of Jean Nouvel’s glittering Paris Philharmonie de Paris, the restaurant and bar Le Balcon offers panoramic views of Paris and Parc de la Villette for concert goers (or anyone else), before, during or after a concert. Accompanied by a meal or drink. concert. While the food is hit or miss, it’s a great spot for a drink and a snack.

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At the Le Louxor cinema, built in 1920 as a magnificent example of Paris’ neo-Egyptian craze and reopened in 2013 after four years of restoration, you’ll be immersed in a lively neighborhood as you grab a bite to eat or enjoy a drink on your balcony overlooking Boulevard Magenta. , the historic elevated Barbès-Rochechouart metro station and the colorful hustle and bustle of Pigalle.

Kimpton Saint-Honoré has an amazing cafe and cocktail bar overlooking the Opéra Garnier © Kimpton Saint-Honoré

Shopping with a Scenic

The roof terrace of the historic Galeries Lafayette is so large that in 1919 aviator Jules Védrines landed his plane there. Today, the eighth-floor terrace offers one of the best panoramas of Paris, with only a waist-high glass panel separating you from the Haussmannian rooftops, the golden statue of l’Harmonie atop the Opéra Garnier, and a panorama of almost every monument. in the city. The large outdoor terrace with its stylish rooftop cafe is the perfect place to take a break from shopping or sit and daydream. The terrace is open year-round, but the various dining options are only open during warm weather. At BHV, Marais’ only shopping mall, you can join the hipsters at one of Paris’ six Le Perchoir iterations, a trendy bar, restaurant, and nightclub serving elegant yet pricey cocktails and a small selection of more upscale but expensive snacks.

Gold L’Harmonie atop Palais Garnier as seen from Galeries Lafayette © MOMA Group

Hotel Terraces and Bars

More and more Paris hotels are using rooftops to attract both visitors and locals because you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy their setting. Many are only open during warm weather, but a few with indoor restaurants or indoor areas are open year-round. While this list is far from exhaustive, you can’t go wrong with any of them (hint: go early, terraces always fill up quickly).

The Kimpton boutique hotel chain’s super-chic new Paris outpost stands out not only for its elegant, art-filled rooms, but also for its stunning rooftop café and cocktail bar with stunning views of Opéra Garnier and Haussmann-era Paris. Although open until October, the hotel is planning new concepts for cooler weather. For romance, you can’t beat the intimate open-air cocktail bar of the Hôtel National des Arts et Métiers. Set between rooftops on a corner of the Haut Marais with views of an eerie medieval Gothic church, seating only 10 to 12 people.

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The Peninsula Paris hotel’s restaurant and bar, L’Oiseau Blanc, has long been a gourmet favorite with its yacht-like bar and two Michelin-starred restaurant, as well as stunning eye-level views of the roofs of Paris and the Eiffel Tower beyond. Continuing the five-star theme, the elegant new Cheval Blanc hotel, housed in the restored La Samaritaine Art Nouveau department store, has been in development for 16 years and finally opened in September 2021. Available from the Conciergerie and the entire Left Bank, Le Jardin restaurant and bar. And at the 16th-floor Brach hotel, you can relax to a hen’s blow while sipping a boutique cocktail (chickens are for eggs only) in the rooftop kitchen garden.

Hotel Paradiso shows movies on its rooftop giant screen © Romain Ricard

On the other side of town, in Pigalle, an easy walk from Gare du Nord and Gare du l’Est, Hôtel Rochechouart’s rooftop bar is a big draw for hipsters in the neighborhood, with panoramic views of Paris both near and far. Located just above Butte Montmartre, next to the picturesque Cimetière de Montmartre, Terrass Hotel’s rooftop bar, restaurant and viewing area is so magnificent that it gave the hotel its name. With affordable rooms to boot, this is a good address to add to your little black book.

For movie buffs, the new Hotel Paradiso near Place de la Nation offers giant screens and unlimited movie options in every guest room, along with a lively cocktail bar and open-air movie screenings on Sunday nights on the rooftop garden terrace. At the Hôtel Molitor, a stone’s throw from Roland-Garros, the Bois de Boulogne and the Eiffel Tower, as well as the first actor to play Tarzan in films and the first bikini, both debuted. On summer Sundays, the terrace hosts DJ sets with summer cocktails.

With six outposts and an increasing number of Le Perchoir, it is by far the most popular chain of terrace restaurants-cocktail bars-nightclubs in Paris. Each of the six addresses offers an outstanding view, but the original Ménilmontant location is still the most popular. Open year-round with heated tents in the winter and sun loungers in the summer, guests line up outside for access to the stylish seventh-floor area.

From France Today magazine

Principal photo credit: Le Perchoir in the Marais has eager customers queuing to get in © Le Perchoir/Facebook

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