Most people think the best place to see Paris is from the Eiffel Tower. That makes sense: it is really tall and central after all. But there is somewhere better. Looking out from the Eiffel Tower, the viewer will always miss the biggest thing on the Parisian skyline â€“ the Eiffel Tower itself.
In fact, the Montparnasse Tower observation deck gives the most complete viewing experience. For that reason it is a great place to start a school trip to Paris.
The structure is a great introduction to the city for students â€“ they can literally look down on all the great spots of cultural interest, where they will be spending the subsequent days exploring. By observing a city from above, the history and styles can be experienced in a more visceral, fascinating way.
The Montparnasse district of Paris used to be the bohemian area of dance halls and theatres, cafes, artists and writers. The tower itself is built over the old train station, as part of a project in urban renewal. The foundations were completed in the 1970s and the tower rose to a piercing 200 metres into the charismatic French atmosphere. Now it sits as the beacon of twentieth-century architecture.
From bottom to top (excluding the six underground storeys) there are 59 storeys, 1,306 steps and 7,200 windows. The ascent to the top â€“ provided students donâ€™t want to walk up it themselves â€“ is serviced by 25 lifts and five service elevators. The fastest lift goes from ground floor to the 56th in a mere 38 seconds!
The 56th floor is the main viewing area. It yields views of Paris through flawless floor-to-ceiling windows, with educational displays and landmark aides. Binoculars are available so pupils can zoom their sights on buildings of particular interest. There is also an open-air panoramic setting for those not afflicted by vertigo. No school trip to Paris can get more dramatic than this.
The terrace is the best place to take photographs, with lenses unhindered by the reflections of glass. And donâ€™t worry: the walkway is well sheltered from the gusts that tear across the skyscraper. Not that the weather, or even time of day, affects the city too much â€“ its splendour stays the course no matter what visual context it is seen in.
What Can You See?
The 360 degree panorama allows for maximum freedom of sights. Along with the Eiffel Tower, Parisâ€™ most recognisable structures and areas can all be seen â€“ The Louvre, Les Invalides, SacrÃ©-CÅ“ur, Notre Dame cathedral, Montmartre and the PanthÃ©on. Short films about the cityâ€™s history and interactive quizzes are also available to keep pupils attention narrowed on the sights in front of them.
To make the most of your classâ€™s time at the Montparnasse Tower observation deck, specialised tour operators are well placed to organise school trips to Paris. That leaves less time to worry about the logistics and more time to enhance their experiences.
John Gardiner is the Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specialising in educational travel for school and youth groups. Whether you’re planning a school trip to Paris, New York or India’s Golden Triangle, you can trust both the educational and economic value of their itineraries, whether ready-made or specifically designed to suit the needs of your group.
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