As one of the most famous and compelling capital cities anywhere in the world, and featuring some of the most iconic landmarks of all time, uncovering the unknown of Paris is far from simple. That said, heading off the tried and tested tourist path reveals a number of sights and areas that provide a unique insight into the French capital.
Canal Saint Martin
One of the most popular means of exploring all Paris is to board a boat on the River Seine. From Notre Dame Cathedral to the Musée d’Orsay, many of the treasures of Paris are there to be seen from the water. This, of course, means thick crowds of tourists climbing aboard, so why not experience the serenity of the Canal Saint Martin instead? Crossed by numerous footbridges, and with an eclectic array of unusual bars, museums, and bistros lining the waterway, the Canal Saint Martin offers a more sedate experience away from the bustle of the crowds.
Like much of ancient France, Paris fell under the rule of the Roman Empire during Caesar’s conquest of Gaul in 52BC. For centuries, the city was part of the great Empire and gradually expanded from a former Celtic dwelling on the banks of the River Seine into the town of Lutetia, home to thousands of residents. To get in touch with this ancient period, a visit to the Musée de Cluny is essential, with the museum housing a vast collection of artefacts from antiquity. Also a must-see are the remains of Lutetia at the Archaeological Crypt in Notre Dame Square. From first-century BC walls to the ruins of an ancient cathedral, the Archaeological Crypt transports visitors back in time to a lesser-known era of Paris.
For a true taste of Parisian life, the district of Montmartre is the perfect choice. Here, tight streets lead to patisseries, boutiques, and cafes, all populated by the locals of the region. Paris is one of the most bohemian and cosmopolitan cities in Europe, and Montmartre is a neighbourhood that thrives with diverse cultures. Experience the sights and sounds by wandering the cobbled streets and enjoy discovering a region of the city like a local.
As one of the more chilling yet fascinating attractions in the city, the Catacombs of Paris cover two kilometres of tunnels some 20 metres below the surface. This macabre place was established at the end of the 18th century to facilitate an overflow of Parisian cemeteries and to remedy hygiene concerns. Thousands upon thousands of human remains are stacked neatly inside, making the descent into the tunnels one that should not be attempted by the faint hearted!
Traditional Paris comes alive in Le Marais – a part of the city that remained untouched by the renovation project of Baron Haussmann during the 19th century. As such, the Paris of old is clear for all to see, with beautiful architecture and tight enclosures making it a fascinating area to discover. The lively Jewish community here has its own unique place in the city’s history, which can be discovered at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme.