Our Favourite Unique Paris Sightseeing SpotsOctober 4, 2016 10:00 am
Looking for something different to do in the French capital? Our handy guide has a selection of unique Paris sightseeing spots that are fun and informative.
If you’ve already visited the main Parisian sightseeing spots and are looking for something off the beaten track, you’re in luck! We’ve found a range of lesser-known activities that’ll help you make the most of your visit to this beautiful city whilst making fantastic new memories!
Go off the beaten track
The largest cemetery in the centre of Paris, and the world’s most visited, Père Lachaise is located in the 20th arrondissement and accessible from the metro stations of Philippe Auguste, Père Lachaise or Gambetta. Spanning more than 100 acres, this garden-cemetery is the final resting place of many a famous artist, musician, author, actor and playwright. Amongst the 70,000 tombs, you’ll find Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Pissarro and Seurat, alongside Molière, Proust and Édith Piaf (to name a few).
Discover the hidden gems of Paris
One of the ways to visit the charming but more obscure sights of the city is to take a bike tour. You’ll get an insider’s view of the city as the tour guides relate stories and facts that you’re not likely to find in the guide books. You’ll also discover local neighbourhoods that are usually missed by traditional tourist itineraries. It’s safer than it may sound as you’ll most likely spend most of your time off busy roads, taking back streets and canal-side cycle paths. This is a more unusual thing to do in Paris and one that you will never forget.
This beautiful promenade is said to have been the inspiration behind New York’s sky ride. The plant-flanked raised walkway covers 4.5km from Bois de Vincennes to Place de la Bastille and passes over footbridges and a viaduct. Opened in 1993, the trail follows the original railway track that was used between 1859 and 1969. If you’re looking for a sensory overload – you’ve come to the right place, the promenade is planted with fragrant cherry and maple trees as well as rose trellises and lavender.
Slightly macabre but truly irresistible, the Catacombs are basically corridors of human bones, 65ft (20m) underground. But why are they there, we hear you ask? To address the lack of burial space in Paris in 1785, the bones of 6 million Parisians were exhumed and relocated to the tunnels of disused quarries. These same tunnels were used in World War II as the headquarters of the Resistance.
You’ll find the beginning of the Catacombs route in Av. Colonel Henri Roi-Tanguy (metro and RER stop Denfert-Rochereau) and the exit 1.25 miles away (2km) at Rue Remy Dumoncel. Take something warm to wear as it can get a little chilly underground.
You might not find Belleville on recommended tourist lists, but it’s well worth a visit. It’s away from the main set of landmarks and monuments, and a world away from ‘designer’ Paris. Belleville lies east of the canals, north of Père Lachaise cemetery and spans the 10th, 11th, 19th and 20th arrondissements.
This bohemian area of Paris, birthplace of Édith Piaf, is home to a variety of different ethnicities and therefore offers excellent cuisine and a window to a highly cosmopolitan side of the city. It also hosts the fascinating Marché de Belleville market where you can find fruit, vegetables, spices and fabrics at discount prices on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wandering around, you’ll be immersed in an unique Parisian experience, surrounded by a variety of cultures in their different dress, speaking a multitude of languages.
Be sure to check out the beautiful Parc de Belleville. This park sits on a hill, 200m above sea level, offering panoramic views of the city and making it a popular tobogganing spot in the winter. If you’re not feeling too energetic, enjoy a stroll around the fountains and well-maintained gardens. Another park close by, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, is one of the biggest and oldest parks in Paris, measuring over 25 hectares and contains an artificial lake, caves, waterfalls and even a suspension bridge.
With views comparable to those from the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Coeur, the Observatory is located to the north of the city – just 10 or 15 minutes away from the Gare Montparnasse by train. The observatory is entirely devoted to astrophysics, and despite joining forces with the Paris Observatory in 1926, it has stayed true to its scientific leaning. Night observations no longer take place, but the sun is observed daily whenever possible, and many astrophysicists continue to work at the Observatory.
Sacré Coeur at night
As one of the most famous churches in Paris, the Sacré Coeur offers more than just views. Visit at night and you’ll see what we mean. The place it lit up in full splendour, and (especially during the summer months) you’ll find it alive with visitors and street musicians, who play into the night to entertain their audience
Head to St Paul metro station and you’ll be perfectly situated to visit the Le Marais neighbourhood. Le Marais means ‘the swamp’, and this neighbourhood was indeed a swamp until improved irrigation came to the city and it underwent a transformation. Now Le Marais is bohemian, fashionable, aristocratic, quirky … and continues to re-invent itself. Whichever of its identities you relate to most, you’ll recognise Le Marais as Paris’s centre of cool, with trendy boutiques, designer hotels, art galleries and bars. You could easily spend your entire visit in this neighbourhood!
While we’re certainly not advising against the well-known attractions – after all, what’s a trip to Paris without the Eiffel Tower? We definitely do suggest heading off the beaten track and having a Parisian adventure! Who knows what you might find!