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Paris – city of Towers

New York has its Chrysler Building, Barcelona boasts the Gaudi turrets and London prides on Big Ben.  As for Paris… Despite being the home to the most iconic edifice in the world, the Eiffel Tower, Paris has some other “tower tales” to tell… Let’s lift the curtain on these multifaceted creations to peep into their curious history, as well!

Towers of Paris panorama. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Towers of Paris panorama. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

The meaning:            tour = tower, skyscraper

The history:                      

Fun fact – initially no one really liked the Eiffel tower, so it was intended to be dismantled and sold as scrap some 20 years after its construction. Fortunately this never happened and now everyone marvels in front of the most emblematic tower in the world! If speaking towers in Paris, however, interestingly no two are alike! Did they break the mold after each new one or something? You have the Flamboyant Gothic Tower of Saint Jacques, the highest skyscrapers in Europe in La Défense, and the lonely soldier of the Montparnasse Tower, standing isolated yet proud in the city’s 14th arrondissement.  Each comes from a different context and has its own story to tell…

Who's Tall, Taller, Tallest in Paris? Image: Wikipedia

Who’s Tall, Taller, Tallest in Paris? Image: Wikipedia

A forest of towers:        

La Défense, Europe´s largest business district, where some of the tallest buildings in Europe are situated, is home to skyscrapers in all shapes and forms. Walking around the area can be visually exciting, if you find pleasure in modern glass-and-steel constructions. The most famous landmark of La Défense is its central and iconic building, La Grande Arche. As for the tallest skyscraper in France (231m) – it is the Tour First, currently located in the same district.

La Défense panorama; Picture Wikimedia Commons

La Défense panorama; Picture Wikimedia Commons

The misfit:                        

Despite denounced by some as “bringing Manhattan to Paris”, the Montparnasse tower’s architecture and monolithic appearance have never managed to please and  – as a result – two years after its completion, the construction of skyscrapers in the Parisian city center was banned. Ask any Parisian what they think of the Montparnasse Tower and prepare for this: “The view from the top is the most beautiful in Paris, because this is the only place from which the tower itself cannot be seen”. This makes the tour Montparnasse the most unfortunate of all Parisian towers…

 View on the Montparnasse Tower from the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France. Picture: Wikipedia

View on the Montparnasse Tower from the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France. Picture: Wikipedia

And the winner is… :         

Did you know that the Eiffel Tower shrinks 15 cm in winter? Or that it actually takes 3 different shades of brown to be painted? Since the construction is very high, the darkest one needs to be applied at the bottom and the brightest – at the top. The tower is covered with 60 tons of paint every seven years to be protected against corrosion. The painting process takes from 15 to 18 months as a whole and the painters still work as they did in 1889 – with small, circular brushes instead of sprayers. Previously painted red, orange and yellow, the tower has maintained its signature “Eiffel tower brown” colour since 1968, which – according to supervisors – best accents the Paris skyline.

Tower solidarity - the Eiffel tower, as seen from the top of the Montparnasse tower. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Tower solidarity – the Eiffel tower, as seen from the top of the Montparnasse tower. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Not to be missed:          

Well-known by Parisians, the Saint Jacques Tower is an easily recognizable city landmark, with its rich decoration and buttery colour. The 52 m Flamboyant Gothic Tower, built between 1509 and 1523, is all that remains after the demolition of the former 16th century church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, razed to the ground shortly after the French Revolution. Used as a shot tower in 1824, “la tour Saint Jacques” was declared a historical monument in 1862. A well-known starting point to the major pilgrimage destination of Santiago de Compostela, it later inspired Alexandre Dumas to write the play “La tour Saint-Jacques-de-la-boucherie ” in 1856. Nowadays, the meteorological laboratory harbored at the top of the tower, shares the room with a few falcons, which have also chosen the tower top as their preferred official residence.

The Saint Jacques Tower. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

The Saint Jacques Tower. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

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