Paris is the most beautiful city in the world! We’ve all seen hundreds of pictures and films where a couple strolls along the Champs Élysées, has dinner overlooking the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, and takes moonlit boat rides along the Seine, arm in arm, sipping champagne. And don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t love a nice moonlit boat ride once in a while? But if you’re like me and would fancy trying something a little bit different, here are a few ideas for how to see past the obvious and make the most of your Parisian weekend.
1. Don’t actually go on the weekend
Now, obviously if you have work or school this might be a non-negotiable point for you, but if at all possible, try to get a weekday or two into your visit. During the week, Paris is half as busy as on the weekends, and if you have a hankering to visit almost anything at all, you’ll find that places are much less crowded on weekdays, and you won’t have to spend all your time elbowing other tourists out of the way.
2. Have coffee in Belleville
Belleville is, in my opinion, by far the most interesting part of the city. This is the old stomping ground of Edith Piaf and Manu Chau, along with countless other Parisian greats. Its eclectic collection of coffee shops and bars make for the perfect place for people-watching with a cup of café au lait, or a glass of vin blanc. Address: Aux Folies. 8 rue de Belleville, 75020.
3. Skip the Louvre and try Halle Saint Pierre
If you’re an art lover, then the obvious place to visit is the Louvre, but if you’re looking for something a little less obvious, the Halle Saint Pierre is the place for you. This is a great contemporary art gallery, situated right by the famous Sacré-Coeur church (as featured in Amélie), with exhibitions that change every few months. For the very modest sums of 6,50 € with a student card and 8,50 € without, you can see the gallery’s latest weird and wonderful collection, and even enjoy a little after-art lunch in their beautiful gallery café. Their current exhibition, HEY! contains a range of work from leading contemporary artists recently featured in the art magazine of the same name and is absolutely worth a look. Address: Halle Saint Pierre: 2 Rue Ronsard, 75018 Paris.
4. Graveyards can be surprisingly beautiful
Not everyone would find the idea of wandering around a graveyard particularly exciting, but Père Lachaise is on a whole other level as far as graveyards go. As the largest cemetery in Paris, a stroll around its 44 hectares can be a bit of an undertaking, but if you have a few hours to spare on a sunny afternoon, this really is one of the most beautiful places you can visit in the city. Set back from the hustle and bustle of the main city, this cemetery provides the final resting place for a host of the greats from Jim Morrison to Oscar Wilde. And if that’s not enough to tempt you, the view from the top of the hill is phenomenal. Address: Père Lachaise Cemetery: 16 Rue du Repos,75020 Paris.
5. See the puppies on the Quai de la Megisserie!
Now, while graves might not be everyone’s cup of tea, is there anyone out there who can resist a baby animal? I think not! Situated along the banks of the Seine, the Quai de la Megisserie plays host to a whole string of beautiful pet shops, where you can find anything from tiny turtles to the aforementioned puppies. A favourite with adults and children alike, it’s a challenge to visit them all without acquiring a new, furry friend.
6. Have falafel in the Jewish quarter.
After all those puppies, you’ll be sure to have worked up an appetite. Although you’ll of course be having the obligatory candlelight dinner at some small French bistro, one thing not to be missed is the falafel from the Jewish quarter. L’As du Fallafel (34, Rue des Rosiers) is often cited as serving the best falafel in Paris. With a recommendation from Lenny Kravitz, they must be doing something right. Unfortunately, with a reputation like this one, the place is often packed, and if you don’t fancy queuing, there are a whole host of other equally delicious (believe me, I tried!) falafel shops and stands all along the street. Address: L’As du Fallafel. 34 rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France.
So whether you’re a foody, an art lover or you just can’t get enough of those puppies, Paris has something off the beaten track that will give you a weekend you won’t forget in a hurry!