5 Off-the-Beaten-Path Attractions in Paris

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5 Off-the-Beaten-Path Attractions in Paris

Sure, you’re going to want to hit the highlights of Paris, from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame, the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe, but to truly get a feel for the City of Light, consider these off-the-beaten-path Paris attractions, too. Wander through out-of-the-way neighborhoods, fancying what it would be like to live and work here. Learn about the city’s dark history, including vampires! Go underground to catacombs and long-forgotten train tunnels. Explore eccentric museums that go far beyond the Mona Lisa. Shop in vintage boutiques alongside Paris hipsters and while away the day in dusty bookshops, sipping mug after mug of cafe au lait. From hidden pocket parks to vibrant street art, here’s what we suggest for a unique sightseeing perspective on Paris.
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1. Explore Paris 10 (Canal Saint-Martin), Paris 19 and Paris 20
Explore the hidden hideaways of Paris’ 10th Arrondissement (Canal Saint-Martin), as well as the 19th and 20th Arrondissements. In the 10th, wind your way in and out of boho shops, bars, restaurants and sidewalk cafes like a local. Walk along the banks of the canal and enjoy evening aperós. The bars at rue de Faubourg Saint-Denis are nearby and worth the walk.
In the 19th Arrondissement, you can explore a former industrial area-turned-pretty Parc de la Villette, set along the Canal de l’Ourcq. Check out, too, the Mouzaïa neighborhood, the Saint-Serge de Radonège Church, the Cité de la Science de l’Industrie and the Cité de la Musique.
The charming 20th Arrondissement is largely free of tourists, making it one of the most authentic districts of the city. Enjoy Paris like a local in this trendy neighborhood, home to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Asian markets, low-key bars and a bewitching village-like ambience. For some of the best views of all of Paris, head to the Parc de Belleville.
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2. Go Underground in Paris
Sure, the City of Light is impressive above ground, but don’t overlook the treasures below the streets. There are more than 80 miles of abandoned tunnels below the surface, so dig in. tour the 15th-century Catacombs of Paris, a spooky underground quarry used to hold bones from disappearing cemeteries in Paris. Cross Paris underground along the rails of La Petite Ceinture, a train line that originally transported goods from depot yards to downtown Paris. Descend into the Archaeological Crypt in front of Notre Dame to learn about the history of Roman Lutetia from the 4th century AD and visit sections of the Roman Paris underground city. Take a tour of the locals’ favorite underground site, the Carrières des Capucins. While the Paris Catacombs represent just 0.5 percent of the Paris underground city, this alternative unveils even more. It is located below the districts of Paris 14, Paris 13 and Paris 5 and operates as a nonprofit museum. The torchlit tour will introduce you to the city’s industrial heritage and truly take you back in time.
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3. Admire the Street Art of the 13th Arrondissement
Take a self-guided tour of Paris 13 and marvel at the larger-than-life street art murals. Famous street artists from around the world are making their mark here, especially in Butte-aux-Cailles and Belleville. Picturesque Butte-aux-Cailles is a wonderful spot to stroll at leisure, admiring the graffiti art in between drinks and dinner. Look for murals by Miss Tic and Jeff Aerosol, the most famous street artists in this quarter. Check out, too, Les Murs des Frigos, a former WWI hangar that has now been rented out to artisans and artists – the interior and exterior are covered with interesting street art. Head next to the Boulevard Vincent Auriol, where you’ll find staggeringly giant murals – which you can also glimpse by riding the L6 metro – and other captivating pieces between Avenue de Choisy and Avenue d’Italie.
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4. Take an Urban Nature Break
Take a deep breath and appreciate the greenery of the 12th Arrondissement’s La Coulée Verte (or La Promenade Plantée), a nature walk that connects Bastille Square to Porte Dorée and Bois de Vincennes. The park was built on a historical rail line in order to save it from demolition and has since become a favorite green space celebrating nature, art and design. The Allée Vivaldi section is a particularly lovely, tree-lined pedestrian avenue – the fall foliage colors here are spectacular. If you’re familiar with New York City’s High Line, you’ll love the elevated walkway above the Jardin de Reuilly. Lounge with the locals on a warm summer day and imagine what life would be like in Paris. Other “secret” parks in Paris include the Jardin Natural, Jardin Alpin and the Albert Kahn Musée & Jardins.
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5. Visit a Lesser-Known Museum
Go beyond the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay and explore some of Paris’ lesser-known, yet equally enticing, museums. At the Musée Curie, you can learn all you want to know about Marie Curie, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, in her old laboratory. Music fans can delve into the life and stories of the famous French singer Édith Piaf, known for her songs La vie en rose and Non, je ne regrette rien. Her former apartment in the Ménilmontant district has been turned into a museum in her honor. Go the dark side at Le Manoir de Paris, a spooky look at Paris’ unsettling past, including aspects of the Phantom of the Opera, crocodiles in the dewars and vampires, all brought to life by real actors and animatronics. History buffs won’t want to miss the Archives Nationales, housing documents dating back to 625 CE. The structure itself – a late Baroque-style beauty built by the order of Napoleon 1 – is a masterpiece in its own right.

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