Been there done that: Obscure sightseeing in Paris
As one of the most visited cities in the world, Paris is a must for any traveller and young backpacker. Be it a long weekend, a stop on a European jaunt or an extended stay to soak up all the cultural attractions of this buzzing city – there is something for literally everyone in the French capital.
Most people stop by and do the Instagram-friendly sights of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysee, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Montmartre and Pigalle area. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re pushed for time, there are plenty of options for tour buses and sightseeing cruises all reasonably priced and offering a similar product.
But if you want to dig deeper, Paris has some amazing off the beaten track sights that will earn you extra cool points.
1. City of the Macabre – A must see the Catacombs/Les Catacombes de Paris. This hellish spectacle in the 14eme arrondissement is a series of tunnels lined with bones and skulls, allegedly the final resting place of 6 million people! A short Metro ride from Tour Montparnasse or Le Jardin du Luxembourg this will most definitely make your Instagram pictures stand out!
Keeping with the grisly theme the Cimitiere de Montmartre is worth a visit as is the Cimitiere de Chiens (pet cemetery) which as a bit of an excursion in Asnières-sur-Seine, around 20 minutes from central Paris.
2. Crazy street art – The Parisiennes love their art so much they’ve littered the streets with it! Alongside the ubiquitous graffiti are seen all over the city, there is also some fascinating sculpture dotted around the city. From the giant thumb in La Defense to the Les Enfants du Monde (children of the world) in Parc Bercy, there is bizarre, interesting and thought provoking art all over the place. Keep an eye out for street art by Invader and Obey as well. Who needs the Louvre?
3. More art than you can shake a brush at – One of Paris’s newest art scene arrivals is Fondation Louis Vuitton. The building alone is worth the trip, looking like some bizarre arrival from outer space has set down in the heart of Bois de Boulogne. If you don’t want to make the trip to the periphery of the city then, of course, there is always the world famous Louvre, the Pompidou Centre and the Musée de Orsay to keep you amused.
4. Faire du shopping? – Had enough art and sightseeing? For some truly Parisienne retail therapy skip the tourist trap of Champs Elysee and head instead to Rue du Charonne near Bastille. Independent, vintage and designer all jostle for your attention and money here. If you prefer your shopping with a view, then Canal St Martin is lined with high street staples and independent stores alongside a beautiful canal setting. Perfect for people watching over a Vin Blanc in between shops.
5. Mangez bien! – When it comes to refuelling the French obviously have a big reputation for food and drink. Some areas have a very distinct flavour such as the Marais, historically a Jewish area, which has a huge choice of falafel and middle eastern type cuisine. The trendy areas of Bastille, Oberkampf and Republique, are strewn with a massive selection of cool bars and restaurants – from classic French to Japanese and Argentinian- follow your nose for street food or try Astier just off Ave de Republique.
Many tourists will find themselves around Montmartre at some point, the favourite haunt of artists and hellraisers. There are also many excellent choices here for food and drink – try Le Bouclard for modern French food at reasonable prices (and maybe some celeb spotting).
As a general rule, most arrondissements (areas) will have a cluster of great authentic restaurants. If in doubt try and avoid restaurants with multi-lingual menu’s at the front, especially those around the main sights.