The first time I ventured to the city of love I was fifteen, accompanied by my family, exhausted after six weeks of non-stop travelling, encountered terrible weather and wasted two of our four days at Euro Disney. Don’t even bother. If you want Disneyland, go to California, I learnt my lesson.
The second time I went to Paris was purely to see a friend. I was going to bypass the city having nearly written it off after my first disastrous trip. Thank goodness I didn’t. Paris certainly deserved a second chance. It is, after all, the city of love.
There are some areas in Paris that are obvious must-see tourist attractions; The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre Museum, Versailles Palace, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, Champs-Elysees and Place de la Concorde. However, as in any city, there are hidden gems that many tourists unwittingly bypass.
If you’re planning a trip to Paris and want to try something a bit different, give these suggestions a go.
1. Check out Saint Severin Church in the Latin Quarter.
This Roman Catholic Church is one of the oldest remaining churches standing on the Left Bank and continues to be used as a place of worship. The building was started in the 11th century, however many of its features date from the 15th century.
This church is worth checking out primarily for its ancient stained-glass windows which were inspired by the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. This little gem is right in the middle of the city, and hardly any tourists know of its beauty so make sure you check it out on your wanderings!
2. Shakespeare and Co Bookshop, right by the Notre Dame.
This shop is what I would classify as an ‘adorable Parisian shop.’ It’s traditional and rustic with lots of nooks and crannies. Any book from here would be a great addition to any library.
The shop opened in 1951 as Le Mistral, and was renamed in 1964 as a tribute to the original Shakespeare and Co Bookshop which shut down during the German occupation of Paris. The shop has featured in popular films, Before Sunset and Midnight in Paris.
3. Picnics by the Seine River
There’s something about a picnic in Paris that seems more magical than a picnic anywhere else. There are a few grocery stores around the inner city which are perfect for picking up some picnic worthy food – cheese and crackers, pastries and fruit, wine… When the weather is warm, there’s nothing like sitting on the banks of one of the most famous rivers in the world and taking in the Parisian scene. Definitely give it a try!
This 130 meter high hill in the north of Paris is one of the most popular neighborhoods to explore. Primarily known for its white-domed Basilica of the Sacre Coeur on the hill’s summit, this neighborhood also has a strong nightlife. While you’re exploring this area, make sure you check out the vineyard, vigne de Montmartre. It is the most famous of the Parisian vineyard and while its wine is rather expensive the earnings are used to help social institutions, so you can feel charitable at the same time!
5. The Cinematheque Francaise near Bercy
For anyone who loves films, The Cinematheque Francaise is quite a find. It holds the world’s largest collection of film archives, movie documents and film related objects. The Cinematheque also screens films around around the world daily – perfect if you’ve got a couple of hours to spare!
6. Le Marais
This impressive district of Paris holds many architecturally outstanding buildings which also hold a lot of historical significance to the area. The area has become a fashionable district over the past fifty years, becoming home to many art galleries, trendy restaurants, and fashion houses. While you’re in the Marais district, be sure to check out the Place des Vosges, which is the oldest planned square in Paris. It is placed on the border of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements and was built by Henri IV from 1605-1612
7. Christmas in Paris
If you happen to spend Christmas in Paris make sure you stop by Galeries Lafayettes, the ten-story department building in the 9th arrondissement. The Christmas decorations and their giant Christmas tree is quite an extravagant site and sure to get you into the Christmas spirit.
8. Jardin des Plantes and Luxembourg Gardens
Jardin des Plantes is France’s main botanical garden. It covers 28 hectares and is one of seven departments of the Museum national d’historie naturelle. The gardens house a labyrinth which makes exploring the gardens especially inspiring.
The Jardin du Luxembourg, or Luxembourg Gardens is the second largest public park in Paris. It covers 22.5 hectares and is the garden of the French Senate. It is integrated extremely well into the city life around it which makes it very popular and easily accessible for all. Many French locals enjoy strolling through the park, playing chess, reading, enjoying the cafes or puppet theatres and renting a toy sailboat.
There are many nooks and crannies to explore in these gardens and they also make an excellent place for a spring or summer picnic.
9. Bois de Vincennes
This English style park to the east of Paris is one of those ‘gems’ that frequently are bypassed by tourists in favor of the Eiffel Tower and other such attractions. The park is three times larger than New York’s Central Park and four times larger than London’s Hyde Park with 2,458 acres to its name. Bois de Vincennes was originally a hunting preserve for the Kings of France but now features four lakes, several sports venues, a zoo which is home to many unique animals such as Asian elephants and a heard of mouflons, playgrounds and expansive gardens.
10. Rue Mouffetard
Rue Mouffetard is a personal favorite and one of the most vibrant and lively streets I’ve come across in Paris. The street is in the 5th and is part of Paris’s oldest neighborhoods. The street, which is mainly pedestrian, has many restaurants, shops, cafes and open markets. Definitely one to check out, if not for the shopping then at least for the atmosphere!