Why not ditch the usual slew of tourist-heavy haunts and experience a different side of the French capital by visiting these 6 alternative tourist attractions in Paris…’
Eiffel Tower vs Saint-Jacques Tower
OK, so the Eiffel Tower offers views from 300 metres (984 ft) while Saint-Jacques Tower offers them from just 52 metres (172 ft). However, bear with me here. While the Eiffel Tower is spectacular, it’s constantly crowded. You have to wait in line, it’s expensive to enter, and it’s kinda difficult to enjoy the view when you jostle around with other visitors.
Saint-Jacques Tower, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer from this constant stream of traffic. The gothic masterpiece is the single remaining piece of the Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie Church, which was destroyed during the French Revolution. Parts of the tower and the surrounding park were restored between 2008-2009. Although nowhere near as famous as the Eiffel Tower, Saint-Jacques has a long and interesting history. The Tower is listed as a Monument Historique by the French authorities and also as a Chemins de Compostelle World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, Saint-Jacque is in the city centre and has brilliant panoramic views.
Get off at Chatelet metro stop (yellow line, 1, cerise line, 4 and purple line, 14)
Champs Elysee vs Rue Cremieux
Let’s face it, Champs Elysee is busy. All the time. It runs through the heart of the city and is a constant cacophony of engines, horns, and voices. It’s a beautiful street, which can look great in photos if you can get a good shot amongst the chaos. It looks better at night when the lights come on and a more relaxed atmosphere takes over.
If you’re in the market for a leisurely stroll away from the madness, then check out the stunning Rue Cremieux. Rue Cremieux has quickly become the most Instagrammed street in Paris, much to the horror of local residents. Its pastel-coloured prettiness has made the residential street a huge draw for visitors. Unfortunately, the street’s residents have been subject to some disrespectful behaviour. If you pop over please be discreet and respectful.
Take the RER to Gare de Lyon, or the metro to Ledru-Rollin (lilac line 8)
The Louvre vs. Musee de L’orangerie
It might just be me, but I found the whole Mona Lisa experience to be completely underwhelming. I’m not commenting on the quality of the art, but the queues, the hanging around, and desperately trying to view a really small painting at the same time as a million others. What wasn’t underwhelming at ALL was the fabulous L’Orangerie. Here, you can view all eight of Monet’s incredible ‘Waterlilies’ canvasses. The studio was renovated to allow for as much natural light as possible to flood the space in order to show the works in, well…the best light. Musee de L’Orangerie is also home to the vast collection of priceless artwork belonging to Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume. This includes pieces by Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso.
L’Orangerie is located next to Place de la Concorde at the corner of Tuileries Gardens. Get off at Concorde metro station (yellow line: 1, green line: 12, lilac line: 8)
Montparnasse Cemetery vs. Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Ok, so Pere Lachaise Cemetery has Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Edith Piaf, but Montparnasse has Jacques Chirac, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone De Beauviour. While they might not be deemed as sexy, there’s a huge list of poets, artists, writers, former Presidents, and the odd dictator resting in Montparnasse Cemetery.
Montparnasse Cemetery is the second-largest necropolis in Paris and covers around 45 acres of land. It’s a surprisingly pretty area – despite its purpose – and, at the risk of sounding odd, it’s a beautiful spot for a walk. It’s not as famous as its counterpart at Pere Lachaise, but it’s certainly worth the trip to see the beautiful tree-lined walkways and the statue of Génie du Sommeil Éternel.
Montparnasse Cemetery can be reached via bus from Saint-Germain, or by train from Cite to Raspail.
Paris Metro vs. La Petite Ceinture
La Petite Ceinture is a former railway line that encircles Paris and operated until 1934. I’m cheating a little by putting it on the list because you can’t actually travel on La Petite Ceinture these days.
However, the city has redesigned some of the 30 stations of La Petite Ceinture and many are now artsy hangouts. La Hasard Ludique, for example, has been transformed into an auditorium, bar, and restaurant. Several more abandoned stations are due to come online shortly. Let’s face it, this is way more interesting than any station on the metro. Although La Petite Ceinture is currently one of the most underrated tourist attractions in Paris, it’s unlikely to stay this way for long.
Hop on the metro to Maraichers/Port de Montreuil (yellow line: 9)
Les Pont des Arts vs I Love You Wall (Le Mur des je t’aime)
For many years, the tradition of attaching a padlock to Les Pont des Arts Bridge across the River Seine has been A Thing. At one point, there were more than 700,000. After their combined weight cause a parapet to collapse, authorities began removing them. So, as an alternative, hop over to the ‘I Love You Wall’ instead. The wall contains 612 tiles, spanning 416 square feet, and contains the words ‘I Love You’ in more than 310 languages. Scoring a padlock and putting it on a bridge can’t come close to how pretty it is – especially if you’re in Paris for Valentine’s Day or with your SO for a break.
The I Love You Wall is open Monday to Friday. It’s such a pretty spot and flies far below the radar for most visitors. And, in a city with more than 15 million visitors each year, that’s a difficult thing to achieve.
Square Jean Rictus. Get off the metro at Abbesses, near Pigalle (green line: 12)