Untraditional and Unique Sightseeing: Paris
Many travelers assume Paris is cliché or overhyped – been there, done that – but there is always something new to discover in the city of love. Here are our best ideas for out of the box sightseeing in Paris, perfect for Parisian novices or repeat visitors, which go beyond the typical visits to the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees.
1) Paris Catacombs and the Pere Lachaise Cemetery
The Catacombes de Paris house the remains of nearly six million people, hence why it is known as “The World’s Largest Grave.” The subterranean catacombs were officially opened to the public in 1874 and have since been incorporated as one of the Paris Musees (City Museums of Paris). Perfect for travelers that enjoy a little macabre.
Also visit the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where you will see the tombs of many famous individuals such as: Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Chopin, Edith Piaf, Sarah Bernhardt, Proust and many more.
2) Bastille Market
While other more well-known attractions are swarming with tourists, step into the vibrant Bastille Market, one of Paris’ largest markets, and interact with the Parisian locals. Countless stands will be offering up the freshest produce, local cheeses, and fish. Every Saturday, food vendors clear out for le Marche de la Creation Bastille (Bastille Art Market).
3) Explore Montparnasse
The go-to when exploring neighborhoods in Paris is usually Montmarte but the city’s hidden gem, Montparnasse, offers excellent cafes and bars. In the area, you will find Montparnasse Tower (Tour Maine-Montparnasse) which was the tallest skyscraper in France until 2011. During the 1920’s, the neighborhood was an important part of artistic life and culture in Paris. Artists began to move into the area as an alternative to Montmarte with its more affordable rent prices. Soon writers, painters, sculptors, and poets from all over the world had come to call Montparnasse home, including Anatole France, Edgar Degas, and Edourad Manet.
4) Musée Carnavalet
Dedicated to Paris’ history, the Carnavalet Museum was established in 1880. Like the Paris Catacombs, Musee Carnavalet is one of the fourteen City of Paris Museums. Guests are immediately greeted by a grand sculpture of Louis XIV and within they will find a vast collection of 2,000 sculptures, 2,600 paintings, 150,000 photographs, and 20,000 drawings.
5) Ballon Generali de Paris
See the City of Light like you’ve never seen it before! From a tethered hot air balloon floating about 150 meters above sea level, travelers will get a birds-eye view of Paris and see all of the most famous sites, but from a completely new perspective. It can carry up to 30 passengers at a time and the attraction and is open for rides daily from 9:00AM – 5:00PM.
6) Arenes de Lutece
The Arenes de Lutece are located in the Latin Quarter and are considered to be the most significant Gallo-Roman ruins within the city. The amphitheater was constructed in the 1st century AD and was once the venue for gladiator combats. Historians believe that the space was able to seat nearly 17,000 patrons. After invasions in 280 AD, the amphitheater was filled in and used as a cemetery. During the 1800s, French author Victor Hugo lead a preservation committee to help uncover and restore the arena. Today, visitors can observe the remains of the stage and a few other original features.
7) The Covered Passages of Paris
The Covered Passages of Paris, or the Passages couverts de Paris, were built during the 19th century and are an early form of what we know today as a shopping mall. At one point there were nearly 150 covered passages in the city, but many were done away with during Haussman’s renovation of Paris between 1853 and 1870. Today a couple dozen remain and are all located on the Right Bank, including popular passages such as Jouffroy, Vivienne, Choiseul and Verdeau. The highly ornamented passageways lie under glass ceilings and are lined with small shops as they connect two separate streets. The passages are a unique shopping experience that travelers won’t forget any time soon!