Legendary for harboring some of Paris’s most iconic artists and intellectuals, Montparnasse lies on the city’s Left Bank, in the 14th arrondissement, and remains a popular tourist attraction. Taking its name from the Greek Mount Parnassus, home to ‘the Muses’ (the nine Greek Goddesses of the arts and sciences), Montparnasse was the central hub of Paris’s creativity throughout the 20th century. Home to a vibrant population of penniless artists and grassroots intellectuals, the area was a meeting ground for the era’s burgeoning arts scene. Future icons like Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce were among the immigrants who flocked to the area, along with a number of key French figures, many of whom are now buried in the Montparnasse cemetery. While the golden era might be long gone, the neighborhood retains much of its gritty charm, with its many traditional cafés and creperies (pancake houses) recreating some of the vibe of historic Paris.
Today, the 210m-high Tour Montparnasse, Paris’s only skyscraper, reigns over the area, a gloomy steel structure that nonetheless offers spectacular views from its 56th floor observatory and is home to Paris’s highest café. Better yet is the panorama from the open-air terrace on the 59th floor, with minimal crowds and the chance to ride on Europe’s fastest elevator making it a worthy rival to the iconic Eiffel Tower. Montparnasse’s second major attraction takes to the other extreme – the famous underground Catacombs of Paris, a labyrinth of tunnels running beneath the city and used as an eerie underground boneyard.