The Galeries Lafayette is free to visit, well-located, and offers free views from the top of Paris.
There are a couple of high-profile vistas from which to take in Paris, namely the Eiffel Tower and the Montparnasse Tower. But there’s also a lesser-known, vastly less crowded, and completely free option as well: the Galeries Lafayette.
The Galeries Lafayette is a department store located on Boulevard Haussmann near Paris’ famed Opera House. (The store is actually a chain, but the one on Boulevard Haussmann is the flagship location). And on the top of the store, there’s a free terrace, called La Terrasse, that offers sweeping views of Paris:
Note the background of that shot; though views from atop Galeries Lafayette aren’t quite as high as those from other vantage points, they are arguably better because you can see the Eiffel Tower rather than standing on it. The terrace is also in the midst of the city — as opposed to isolated in a more park-like environment — meaning it’s a great place to study Paris’ groundbreaking urban design.
The Galeries Lafayetter and La Terrasse are home to several restaurants (which you are not obliged to patronize). It’s a great place to relax.
It’s also a great place to take in some incredible architecture:
Though I didn’t find anything in the store that fit my tastes or budget, I spent a decent amount of time gawking at the ceiling and architectural details.
The building that houses the Galeries Lafayette was completed in 1912 and is done in the Art Nouveau style. The founder of the store, Théophile Bader, wanted to create a “luxury bazaar” with the building, and the design prominently features a central dome that creates a soaring, church-like environment.
(The store claims to be “the second top tourist attraction, after the Eiffel Tower,” though that is almost certainly not true in a city that’s also home to the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Catacombs, the Orsay and dozens of other sites. Also, again, the crowds were not overwhelming during my visit.)
In any case, the Galeries Lafayette is a hidden gem in the heart of Paris, and a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon and relax after a busy day of sightseeing.
— Jim Dalrymple II