Not a great fan of endless museum corridors? And confused about what to see in Paris other than its long list of illustrious museums? Well, you might want to read on because this is exactly what this blog talks about.
I am not a great museum enthusiast myself and apart from the appreciator of some of the more famous pieces of art, I donot get quite so excited with grand museums. Having said that though, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Hermitage State Museum in St Petersburg and ofcourse the Louvre in Paris and some more of their likes but thats how far my museum love really goes. So when I land up in Paris and in Vienna (more about this city in another post which is underway currently), I look for some of the more off-beat things to do. And if you are like me, or you are already done with your preferred dose of artsy Paris and want to move on, then here are my tips on a perfect but short Parisian getaway. Not all of these are super non-touristy, because believe you me, there are hardly any places left in Paris which haven’t been invaded by tourists yet, but I am sure they will add something new to your list.
To start with, lets just pen down the quick obvious ones – like the real in-your-face-ones without which you wouldn’t be really able to go home to your family and friends.
If you haven’t visited Paris yet, you may for sure think that the Eiffel is probably the most overrated monument in the whole wide world. But wait till you see it and I can assure you that the 324 m wrought iron structure will just melt your heart away. But what I find over-rated for sure is the view from the top. I remember being in awe of the views when I had visited it for the first time 10 years back in 2008, but this time around it didn’t present the same thrill. For one, the number of tourists have increased exponentially resulting in queues even before you enter the grounds and the additional security measures put in place adding to the wait. And more importantly, there are other awe-inspiring views around the world and much closer home, in Paris itself, from Montparnasse.
But what is truly unparalleled is watching the Eiffel light up at night and glimmer every hour after sun down. Don’t miss this for the world.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame
You probably know enough of this cathedral already so I will just keep it short. See it in the last rays of the setting sun and be mesmerized in its golden aura. And while you are near it, take a quick stroll across the bridge to the famous Shakespeare & Company bookstore which also doubles as a coffee shop. Unfortunately this is not the original Shakespeare and Company which was opened in 1919 and would have probably been Paris’ oldest bookstore were it still open today. It was the meeting place of such literary greats as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein and James Joyce. But this store was opened in 1951, modeled after the original.
Sacre Cour and Montmarte walk
Sacre Cour needs no special mention but here is a tip if you didn’t already know about it – the funicular which takes you up the hill uses the same ticket that you use in the Paris Metro or the RER so if you have a transport day pass then you can simply use it.
Once done with the Sacre Cour, take a walk around the narrow streets of the Montmarte, but not before you have particularly passed by the iconic Moulin Rouge. Montmarte is a real treasure trove and keep your eyes open to what you may find round the corner.
A very short walk from the Notre Dame is the Saint Chapelle which is probably the best example of Gothic architecture and the 15 stained glass windows within will dazzle your eyes. If you are choosing between the Notre Dame and this, choose this and you won’t regret your choice. Spend some time admiring these beautiful windows and then you can continue your tour of the Concierge, used as a prison earlier but now part of the Palace of Justice, and also houses the prison where Marie Antoinette was held.
Of all the places that have left me awestruck in Paris, the Pantheon stands out. Some of the reasons could be firstly, its original display of the Foucault pendulum makes it a unique house of science and art secondly, it was one of the rare places where I could actually identify a non-famous art work just by looking at the depiction and most importantly, its crypt which houses the tombs of some of the illustrious French men and women such as Victor Hugo, Marie and Pierre Curie, Rousseau, Alexander Dumas and so on. Apart from the paintings and the installations, I am sure you would be blown away with the sheer size of the building. And what also stole my heart were the little library installations at the centre where you could read some of the works of the literary greats of France.
Below are the frames of paintings depicting the life and death of Joan of Arc
The Catacombs of Paris
This is a tour that I am writing about without having experienced it myself as the Catacombs were closed during my visit. But with the description of the tour, I would highly recommend it if you have the time and is definitely the top of my list for my next visit.
The Statue of Liberty
While France gifted the US the Statue of Liberty that now stands overlooking the shore of New York, the US had returned the gesture with a miniature of the statue to France. This is installed on the banks of the Sienne and can be accessed via the Metro station St Michels. I had visited it the first time I was in Paris, in 2008, but missed it this time due to lack of time.
I will post a picture of this statue from one of my archives soon.