I had walked by it so many times: the tall, lonesome tower that looked like it once belonged to a church, but now stood by itself in a small park in the middle of Paris. The Tour Saint-Jacques, situated along the busy Rue de Rivoli, draws far fewer visitors than the neighboring Notre Dame a short walk away but definitely deserves a spot on your Paris bucket list! The historical monument is located in the 4th arrondissement of central Paris.
Tour Saint-Jacques History
The Saint-Jacques Tower is the last remaining piece of a 16th-century church that was partially destroyed during the French Revolution. It took over 10 years to build the structure and it dominates all the surrounding Parisian buildings nearby.
Its history is intertwined with that of the Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, which was built in the 16th century, between 1508 and 1522.
The tower is all that remains of the church, which was dedicated to Saint James the Great. During the medieval period, the church served as a starting point for pilgrims on the Way of St. James to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
The church itself was constructed in the Flamboyant Gothic style, and the tower was completed in 1523. The Tour Saint-Jacques stands a whopping 52 meters high and is richly decorated with sculptures, including those of the four evangelists.
During the French Revolution, many churches were destroyed or repurposed, and the Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie was not spared. The main body of the church was demolished in 1797, leaving only the tower.
The tower was later purchased by the City of Paris and underwent several restorations in the 19th and 21st centuries. It was classified as a historic monument in 1862.
Today, the Tour Saint-Jacques serves as both a historical site and a meteorological observatory. The surrounding park provides a pleasant setting for locals and tourists to relax.
Can You Climb the Tower?
Yes, you can go up the Tour Saint-Jacques Tower. Recently I learned that it’s possible to enter the tower and see a stunning 360-degree view of Paris from above but you must climb 300 steps first! I decided to make the trip myself and see if it was worth it.
How to Visit the Tour Saint-Jacques Tower
You can go up the Saint-Jacques tower every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from mid-May until mid-November, at the top of the hour between 10 am and 6 pm. The only way to buy tickets is online through the Tour Saint Jacques website. Tickets are 12€ per adult, with a reduced student rate of 10€.
I visited the tower on a Saturday in September at around 11:30 am. At least 1 ticket from each of the day’s hours was still available, so I opted to go up at 1 pm. Only 18 people are allowed to climb up at a time, so you’ll probably be with a group of people.
It’s a great Sunday in Paris activity when everything else is closed!
The Way Up the Tower
I arrived on time and waited in the park for the tour to start! The tower is really impressive to see in person.
This is where I bought my tickets to go up the tower:
We finally began the climb. A tiny winding stairwell is the only way up! Luckily, you don’t do the whole climb all at once. That would be too exhausting. Instead, you will make two stops on different levels and complete the climb in 45 minutes.
This was the view looking up the tower from our second stop along the way up:
Views from the Tour Saint-Jacques
The climb to the top of the Saint-Jacques Tower is definitely worth it! It’s the most stunning view of Paris that I’ve ever seen in my life.
Views of the Eiffel Tower
Here are some shots of the Eiffel Tower which you can see very clearly in the Parisian sun!
Views of Montmartre
This is the view looking north where you can see the Sacré Coeur sitting beautifully in the Montmartre sunlight!
Views of the Left Bank
Southern views offer a pristine look at the Left Bank of Paris – from Notre Dame to the Panthéon!
To the east, you can spot the Hôtel de Ville and the Centre Pompidou – which looks so out of place compared to other monuments!
Is it worth it to go up the Saint Jacques Tower?
What did I think of the tour? Well, I was really disappointed, to be honest. While the view from the Tour Saint-Jacques is phenomenal, visitors are only allowed at the top of the tower for just 15 minutes! The majority of the one-hour-long tour is spent at the bottom of the tower, and at two stopping levels along the way up.
If I had to estimate, we spent about 10 minutes on the ground floor of the tower near the statue, another 10 minutes on the first (second) floor stop and then another 15 minutes on the next floor stop, and then your final stop (the roof) you are only allowed around 15 minutes because they want you to have enough time to get back down in a relaxed manner.
The tour guide explained it’s easier to have two stops on the way up so people can catch their breath, which I understand, and it is quite dizzying to go up and down a tiny spiral staircase, but they really should give us more time at the top of the roof!
What I love about the view from the Saint Jacques Tower is how you are basically in the center of Paris and can see all the major monuments around you. It’s better to go up this tower and get a view of the stunning Notre Dame, as opposed to going up the Notre Dame where you cannot see the cathedral itself!
Square de la Tour Saint-Jacques
75004 Paris, France