The first time I saw the Tour Saint-Jacques was on a random walk around Paris in October 2012. I snapped a few photos and kept going because the park surrounding the tower was closed. I honestly forgot about the Tour Saint-Jacques until several years later when I read about it for having some of the best views of Paris.
The tower isn’t open very frequently, which is part of the reason that it took me so long to visit. If you want to visit here’s what you need to know:
- The Tour Saint-Jacques is open for visits from June 1st to November 3rd 2019
- Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (and Monday in July and August)
- The only way to visit is by taking the guided tour, which lasts about 50 minutes and is very interesting
- Group size is 17 people max, so make sure to book in advance
- Book tickets online here, or at the tower in-person
Basically, you can visit from June to November on the weekends!
We started our visit standing under the tower. The majority of the group spoke English so the guide gave our tour in English. The guide gave an overview of the visit and warned everyone that we were going up 300 stairs (16 floors).
They divide the visit into three parts, meaning you get three mini-breaks from climbing the stairs. This format is different from when you climb the Towers at Notre Dame or L’Arc de Triomphe. I thought this made it easy to digest the history of the tower.
The guide gave the full history of the tower from its construction in the 16th century up until its last restoration in the 1990s. The groups are small enough where anyone can ask a question, so it really made it feel like a private tour.
Just to note – the staircase is pretty tight (and spiral), just like the one at Notre Dame. If you are claustrophobic it might not be the best option for you.
I sometimes get over-excited about a good view, but the Tour Saint-Jacques seriously has one of the best views of Paris. You can see everything in a completely unobstructed way.
Some of the major landmarks you’ll see include Hôtel de Ville, Notre Dame, the Pantheon, the Seine River, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre-Cœur, Palais Garnier, the Grand-Palais, Saint Sulpice, Les Invalides, La Defense, the bridges, and more.
One of my favorite parts of the visit was seeing all of the different Parisian rooftops and the layout of the city. I could stare forever. We were also really lucky that we had blue skies and a few clouds. A grey day would still be stunning too with all of the buildings.
The guides gave us 10 or 15 minutes at the top to take in the incredible views and take as many photos as we wanted. This is when it was really nice that the group was small. I never had any problems taking the photos that I wanted and didn’t feel rushed to move.
We began our descent after everyone was done taking photos. We went straight down without stopping, so when I came out from the staircase I felt a little dizzy.
I can’t recommend climbing the Tour Saint-Jacques enough. It’s a wonderful way to see some of the best views of Paris from above. Out of all of the places I’ve climbed or gone up, this was my favorite (basically everything besides the Eiffel Tower). I’m already planning to go back in November so I can hopefully catch the leaves changing!