The term ‘spectacle’ has played an important role in recent critical discussions of vision and visuality. In human geography it has often been used to designate new forms of capitalist urban development, associated with display and show. This paper examines aspects of the term by addressing the critique of the spectacle developed by the situationist Guy Debord. It situates his writings on the subject back into the context of his engagements with the modern city between the 1950s and 1970s, and especially in Paris where he spent much of his life. In particular, it reads them in terms of both his bleak view of urban change and alienation under capitalism as well as the ‘glimmers of light’ that he found in ‘the setting sun of this city’. Debord’s attachment to certain urban sites within this critique of urban spectacle was often nostalgic. Yet it can also be understood as part of his concern with challenging the ways in which urban spaces were being reconstructed, and as opening up gaps or cracks for thinking about ‘counter-sites’ and points of political intervention.