The Hidden Gems of Paris

If you are planning a trip to Paris this summer or in the next few years, you will of course plan an itinerary that includes the major sights; the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the River Seine. There are, however, so many nooks and crannies in Paris to add to your list and these lesser known attractions are definitely worth the trip. As you plan your trip you will want to familiarize yourself with how Paris is laid out, in arrondissements, or neighborhoods. The arrondissements begin with the 1st in the center of the city on the right bank of the Seine River, this includes the Musée du Louvre and the Tuileries Garden. From there, if looking at a map, you look up and then move right, spiraling your way around the city working towards the outskirts of the city.

Place des Vosges

This is my absolute favorite place in Paris. The square, featuring 36 ornately decorated, identical houses, is as charming as they come. It is home to the Victor Hugo Museum, for all you Les Misérables fans, commemorating his former residence and the location for where he wrote the play. It is the oldest known square in Paris and located in the 4th arrondissement. This is THE place to head after buying a bottle wine, some cheese, grapes, and of course your baguette. A place to relax, slow down, and enjoy the moment.

The Jules Verne Restaurant

Located 401 feet up inside the Eiffel Tower, the Jules Verne is a must on your Paris bucket list. The view, especially from your window seat during sun set, is absolutely beautiful. The memories made during your 5 or 6-course meal will far outweigh the cost. Yes, the restaurant is very expensive, however, the great food, picturesque views and added perks, are all worth the cost of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. You do need to make a reservation, and be sure to request a window seat (not necessarily guaranteed, but they honor on a first come-first serve basis – That said, the site parisinsidersguide.com claims to have a leg up on this). Regardless of where you sit or when you visit, you will be able to enjoy the special entrance (that’s right, no waiting in line) and entrance to the 2nd floor viewing deck at no additional cost.

The Postcard Market

As far as shopping for souvenirs of Paris, one of the cheapest, lightest, and easiest souvenirs to pack, are antique postcards. They are sprinkled throughout the city (many in the stalls located on the Seine), but one of the best selections and most fun experiences is the postcard and stamp market, known as the Marché aux Timbres et aux Cartes Téléphoniques. The market is located in the park just off the Champs-Elysées and is open Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am till sometime in the afternoon. This is a great relaxing activity to enjoy the fresh air, the park, and some memories of the Paris of yesteryears.

The Arc de Triomphe

Sitting stately in the middle of the Champs-Elysées, this iconic structure is more than a home of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it also boasts a terrace with panoramic views of the city. Open all day, the views are probably the most breathtaking at night. The key to getting to the monument is to look for the stairs that will take you to the tunnel that goes under the road near the Avenue de la Grande Armee side of the circle. Do NOT try to cross the road!! The 12-spoke intersection is one of the worst and craziest in Paris and the world.  

View from the terrace of The Arc     

Other Notes:

Visiting Versailles

If you are planning a visit to Versailles, as you should if there is time, it is important to purchase the correct train ticket. Your Metro card for city center does NOT allow you travel out to the villa. In an effort to enforce proper payment of fees, you ticket must be used in order to exit the train station. If you do not have the proper ticket, it will not allow you to leave. The last time we visited Paris the train attendant made a couple, with only the Metro card for travel within Paris’s center, ride the train back the 45 minutes to Paris so they could purchase the correct ticket and return to Versailles. Spare yourself this pain.

Tickets to Versailles

Assuming you are only headed to Versailles for the day, you have a choice to make: spend more money or more time waiting in line. The best deal, I believe for the money and to respect the limited time you have, is to buy an all-access pass, called the Passport, online prior to arriving. This will avoid the time of waiting in line at the ticket office and should allow you their version of the “easy pass,” where you simply walk in to the different exhibits, again without waiting in line. Lines to enter the palace and other parts can sometimes be more than an hour, with the Passport, you should be able to by-pass most of them. If you really want to reduce your wait, you may now purchase a Passport with a timed entry.

Any trip to Paris, regardless of how long you are there, will always include the major sites. By taking a little time to wander outside the standards, you just never know what you may find.

Bon Voyage!!