Paris

Paris is one of the few cities in the world that virtually everyone knows. Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of Paris? I think everybody who has spent a few years in any sort of school must have heard of this city. And probably everyone who hasn’t been there has their own image of Paris. Sometimes this image might be very remote from the reality and when they come to the French capital for the first time, they are surprised to find out that the City of Lights is completely different from what they had imagined. Sometimes the reality will exceed their expectations, sometimes they will be disappointed.

You may like Paris, you may love it, or you can hate it, but you cannot deny that for a travel photographer the French capital city is a paradise. Very few cities can boast so many landmarks and tourist attractions as Paris.

When is the best time to go to Paris?

Good months to visit Paris are: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August,  September, October, November, December. Honestly! Every season in Paris has its fans and every season is great in its own way. Winters can be cold or rather chilly, but for the most part not too harsh. Summers are fantastic, but it gets very crowded, prices go up and you have to stand in long queues to the main attractions.

By “long queues” I don’t mean “15-minute queues”, it’s more likely to be one or two hours of waiting before you can enter e.g. the Notre-Dame Cathedral or go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. As a matter of fact, the Notre-Dame Cathedral has two separate queues: one to visit the church interior and another one to visit the tower and see the breath-taking panorama from there.

If you want to avoid the longest queues, save a little money on accomodation and still have at least some chance for warm and pleasant weather, then spring (April, May) or autumn (October, November) might be good times for you to visit the French capital.

What to see and what to photograph in Paris?

The number of attractions and photogenic places in Paris is bewildering. Make sure you take enough memory cards, or if you are an analog photographer – enough rolls of film. Some people will say: “oh, the main sights, such as the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre have been photographed a bazillion of times…” Yes, and so what? Not by me!

If you’re a travel photographer and you’re visiting this city, it is difficult not to take photos of the Eiffel Tower. Yes, it has been photographed countless times, but it is your job to photograph in a new way, find an interesting perspective, be there at the right time at catch great light. Because of its height, the famous Iron Lady, as they call it, is visible from many places in the city. Therefore, it may not be so difficult to come up with an original perspective as it could seem, provided you have enough time to explore the city. Two very common viewpoints are the Trocadéro and the Champ de Mars (“Field of Mars” in English). Even though these places are extremely popular among tourists, if you arrive there at the right time and the light is beautiful, you have a good chance to take fantastic, original and memorable photos of the Eiffel Tower. If you would like to capture this best known Parisian landmark from a distance, there are many great spots along the banks of the Seine river.

Paris has a relatively flat topography with very few hills, and therefore good and easily accessible natural vantage points are scarce. In this regard it is somewhat similar to London and cannot compete with such cities as for example Lisbon, Prague or Hong Kong. Nevertheless, there are some hills in the City of Lights and Montmartre with the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur is the best known and most visited one. It is easily accessible, to get there use metro lines 2 or 12 and get off at Anvers or Pigalle. It is relatively far from the city center, but the view is quite nice. I would not call it spectacular, though, but it definetely is still worth a visit, if you have enough time.

Another option to take beautiful panoramas of Paris is to use man-made structures as vantage points. The most obvious one would be of course the observation platform at the top of the Eiffel Tower, if you have enough patience to stand in the extremely long queue to get there. The disadvantage of this particular vantage point is that you cannot have… the Eiffel Tower itself in your photographic masterpiece.

The Eiffel Tower might be the most obvious vantage point in Paris, but in my opinion it is not the best one. The towers of the Notre-Dame Cathedral are open to visitors and the view with the Seine and the Eiffel Tower in the distance is simply amazing. Other great options are the observation decks at Tour Montparnasse or the Arc de Triomphe. Whichever place you choose, make sure you have enough memory cards and charged batteries. The views can be spectacular if the weather plays along! It is up to you to capture them in great photos, which you will be proud to share with your friends.

This panorama of Paris with the river Seine was taken from the tower of Notre-Damme Cathedral. After importing it into Lightr…