Paris from the top... of Galeries Lafayette and Printemps
The large Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores are well known among Parisians and visitors for the wide variety of products they offer, and for their glamourous window displays. However, fewer people know that both stores have roof-top terraces that are freely accessible to the public. They provide unimpeded 360 degree views over the surrounding Paris skyline, presenting unique opportunities for taking pictures. And since they are only a few steps away from each other, it is easy to discover both terraces in one short excursion.
The Galeries Lafayette terrace is particularly good for a close-up observation of the famous Opera Garnier just across the street, making it easy to photograph its architectural detail.
For its part, the terrace at Printemps offers views on some typical Haussmannian façades, and on the details of the department store's roof-top including the recently-restored golden weather vane. The south view from the terrace takes in the Pantheon, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, etc. To the north, the Sacré Coeur stands at the top of the nearby hill of Montmartre, making it a great spot to photograph the typical tin roofs of Paris that surround the white Basilica.
Photo Tip: If you want to photograph the famous Parisian monuments from these terraces, a long lens or a good zoom will provide best results, allowing you to isolate them from the rest of the city.
Timing: A visit to the terraces also needs to be timed appropriately to get the best possible light. Because the best part of the vista is facing south, I would recommend going there either when the stores open at 9:30 am or when the sun starts to get a little low later in the afternoon. The shorter days of the Fall, Winter and early Spring months make it easier to get the best light during the store opening hours!
Bonus: Both terraces offer places where you can sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee, making them a good resting spot after taking many pictures.
If you go, make sure also to stop inside both stores to see the two different stained glass cupolas! The dome at the Printemps is above a small restaurant, while that at the Galleries Lafayette is above the perfume area. They are both well worth a visit. Enjoy!
Getting there: Both stores are accessible from either of Métro Havre Caumartin or Chaussée d'Antin La Fayette, on Line 9
Galerie Lafayette opening hours: Thursday from 9:30am to 9:00pm; Other days from 9:30am to 8:00pm
Printemps opening hours: Thursday from 9:35am to 10:00pm; Other days from 9:35 am to 8:00pm
About the Author
Sophie has been a photographer, educator and traveller for most of her adult life. She founded Better Paris Photos in 2008 (which became Better Travel Photos in 2014) to deliver exceptional photography experiences to travellers.