Paris’ charm surfaces through the layers of time imbued in its memorials, curated museums and the everyday details of city streets. Don’t limit yourself to only guidebook-approved attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. There’s just as much history and culture within the slightly less well-known heritage sites and truly off-beat local haunts.
You lose time in the Quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Having hosted Monet, Picasso, and the literary ambitions of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, this neighborhood retains an artistic flair carried over through concept galleries and old-timey cafés. Check-off these two historical legacies: Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church and Saint Sulpice Church. From Romanesque architecture to meridian lines, you’ll be awed by their deep history – both real and mythical.
La Carreau du Temple
Eclectic doesn’t even begin to describe La Carreau de Temple! Remaking itself over and over again, this venue celebrates the local community with engaging theatre performances, film screenings, vintage flea markets, jazz nights, themed festivals and opportunities to show off their athletic prowess.
Impressionist art sure impresses at the Musée d’Orsay, and you’d never have guessed it was previously a train station if the hollowed-out lobby didn’t give it away. With spacious galleries spanning five floors (complete with English translations for context), the museum’s bountiful but carefully curated eye-candy can be summed up in two words: remembrance and reflection.
Les Passages Couverts
There’s lingering history in the curved ceilings and glass-stained mosaics of Parisian Arcades. A series of covered passageways-cum-shopping galleries, these overlooked architectural delights allow a glimpse into 18th century Paris. Expect to find trinkets, dinky boutiques, cozy eateries and charming bits of everything in elegant Galerie Vivienne, low-key Passage Verdeau and their counterparts.
Jardin de Tuileries
If you need a breather, Jardin de Tuileries (or Tuileries Garden) is fresh, green and grand. This previously-royal garden was the first to open to the public; now, it’s a local favorite for joggers, families, and anyone looking for some peace in the city. Bordering several famous landmarks, the garden is perfect for a short respite.
Musée de Cluny
Skip the Lourve for a quieter alternative! You can travel back to the Middle Ages in this archaeological museum and remnant Gallo-Roman bath rolled into one. Vaulted ceilings and stone arches make for dramatic effect, but what really arrests your attention is the 15th century “The Lady and the Unicorn” tapestry series.
Catacombs are scary but so interesting. With literal skulls and bones forming solid walls of walkways, Les Catacombs is a veritable labyrinth under the city. Dark and honestly, morbid, it nevertheless invites visitors to meditate on death and depth of human history. On a side note, you probably shouldn’t smuggle any skulls out with you but whisper your secrets and they’ll stay safely buried.
Square de Montsouris
Ivy-wrought homes secreted entries, and colorful doors paint a mish-mash of houses born out of a storybook. Cobblestone path? Check. Mosaic tiles? Check. House plants just about everywhere? This petite square truly has to be stumbled into. Reflective of the peaceful 20s and 30s era these homes were built in, Square de Montsouris achieves the cozy charm of an older Paris.
Brush up on your French military history at the Les Invalides complex. A cluster of museums, monuments, Paris’ tallest church and Napoleon’s tomb, this assortment of heritage sites will have you fluent in some of France’s most glorious stories.
Palais Garnier – the opulent, gold-gilded and majestic opera theatre that embodies the height of Parisian entertainment. It’s easy to picture eager, dolled-up guests climbing the grand staircase and settling in for a show. Whether you splash out for a fancy night or simply sign up for a tour, you’ll be awed into silence. And be tempted to visit time and time again.