I don’t know about you but I find it really annoying when I see a list of places to see or visit in a city and find that most of them I could have come up with in my sleep. So, this article gives you a few places that you might not have thought of to visit in the City of Lights, the world’s most visited city.
The 10 obvious things
Before we get underway though, here is a list of the 10 things that most travellers would know to see in Paris.
- Tour Eiffel
- Champs Elysees
- Arc de Triomphe
- Versailles (not technically Paris but still something people often do while staying in Paris)
- Sacre Coeur
- Bateau-Mouche – boat on the River Seine
- Notre Dame cathedral
- Louvre museum
- Galeries Lafayette
But there is so much more to Paris than these “core” monuments and activities as I have set out below.
The 10 not so obvious things
Paris Plage/ Ice-skating
For one month over Summer, the banks of the River Seine in Paris are transformed into a beach like atmosphere complete with sand, sun chairs and umbrellas. You will find Parisians indulging in a taste of the seaside without having to leave the city of Paris.
Conversely, in Winter, you can ice-skate at the outdoor ice rink which is set up near the Town Hall (Patinoire de Hotel de Ville). This truly is the symbol of Christmas in Paris.
Canal St Martin
Everyone thinks of the River Seine that runs through Paris but many don’t know that there is also a picturesque canal which is popular among Parisians for Sunday strolls. This chic area around the Canal St Martin features bars, shopping, cinemas and much more. There are also science and music museums. You may recognise some of the bridges crossing the Canal from Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 film “Amelie” which set up fairy-tale like scenery.
Parisian cemeteries were starting to get full and the city needed more space as it grew so the skeletons of those entombed there were dug up and placed in the Catacombs. The Paris Catacombs are underground tunnels were disused quarries initially containing remains transferred form the Cemetery of the Innocents, which were transferred at nightfall between 1786 until 1788. From then until 1814, remains from all the other cemeteries of Paris were transferred to the Catacombs.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Most people don’t think about visiting a cemetery when on holidays but the Pere Lachaise cemetery (http://www.pere-lachaise.com/perelachaise.php?lang=en) is the final resting place for many important people from politics to music to the arts. Think Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison to Proust and Oscar Wilde. It is easily accessible by metro and despite being the final resting place of many is beautiful and worth whiling away a few hours at.
The Musée Rodin (http://www.musee-rodin.fr/en/museum/musee-rodin-paris) is an indoor and outdoor museum situated on 3 hectares in the heart of Paris, which is perfect to visit when you want the best of both indoors and out. This Museum features sculptures by Rodin including the famous Thinker, which is situated in picturesque garden area which sits adjacent to the house.
Note, it is currently (at the time of publishing) open until 8:45pm on Wednesday nights if you are looking for some art after dark.
Musée de l’armée Invalides
Pretty much directly opposite, and clearly visible from the Musée Rodin, is the Musée de l’Armée Invalides (http://www.musee-armee.fr/en/english-version.html). This gold domed structure features a military museum as well as the tomb of Napoleon.
Fondation Louis Vuitton
This modern art gallery opened only in October 2014 and hosts the art collection of Louis Vuitton’s Group CEO Bernard Arnault. It is located in Paris’ second largest public park, the Bois de Boulogne (which by the way has a totally different feel at night (and not in a good way) so don’t be out here after dark).
Jardin des Tuileries/Musée de l’Orangerie
Many tourists walk past or even briskly walk through the Tuileries Gardens (http://equipement.paris.fr/jardin-des-tuileries-1795) in the 1st arrondissement en route to the Louvre Museum or the Champs Elysées but this is one of Paris’ most beautiful parks and well worth a stroll. It also houses Monet’s Les Nymphéas (Water Lilies) in the small and often overlooked, but important, Musée de l’Orangerie (http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/). The Jardin de Tuileries is alongside the Rue de Rivoli in the 1st and the nearest metro is the Tuileries stop.
Take a step back in time and visit the wonderful tea room of Café Angelina (http://www.angelina-paris.fr). This salon de thé was founded by Austrian Antoine Rumpelmayer in 1903 and named after his God-daughter. It has seated a veritable who’s who of the Parisian aristocracy including philosopher Proust, fashion designer Coco Chanel as well as the largest French fashion designers.
Make sure that you have a signature hot chocolate and if you like that you can even take a tin of the Café Angelina hot chocolate powder formulation home with you to enjoy and reminisce of your Paris stay.
Dine in a Parisian Art Deco Brasserie like La Coupole in Montparnasse
La Coupole (http://www.lacoupole-paris.com/en/) is the most famous Parisian brasseries in the world yet it is barely known by most tourists. It is a beautiful Art Deco building started in the roaring twenties and who really has hosted a who’s who of the arts, politics and music.
And a bonus…
Dine at Paris’ oldest restaurant, Le Procope, which has been running since 1686
Le Procope (http://www.procope.com/lhistorique/) restaurant has been running since 1686 when an Italian from Palermo, named Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli opened up a few doors down from L’Ancienne Comédie (a French theatre house which hosted premieres by Racine and Moliere for 81 years). Again, a who’s who of the French have dined and drank here. Come experience this unique piece of history.
If you have a few days spare in Paris, just walk the streets off the touristy path and discover the true Paris as lived in by Parisians.
By Ellie Palmer