The Eiffel Tower, Arch de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame no doubt, you won't leave these off your tour of France. But what indulgences does Paris offer that aren't so prominent?
Often, your most intriguing travel stories will be inspired by quiet discoveries off the beaten path. Here are a few delightful Parisian stops that are often overlooked on crowded Paris itineraries.
Dining in Paris
You'll want to look your best when dining in Paris, so wear dress up instead of down; shorts and tennis shoes might bar you from admittance at classy eateries. And, if you've taken time to learn French, don't be shy speak up and practice your French skills when you order!
Here are just a few French eatery options for tourists on the go:
- Forget McDonalds for fast food; instead try Pomme de Pain for quick sandwiches, French style.
- For French ambiance, check out these cafes at St. Germain-des-Pres: Les Deux Magot, Cafe de Flore and Brasserie Lipp, and this one at 13 Rue de l'Ancienne Comedie: Le Procope.
- For affordable French souffle with flair, try La Cigale Recamier at 4 Rue Recamier.
- For steak and thick "French" fries, try Le Relais de L'Entrecete at 15 Rue Marbeuf near Champs-Elysees. (Street vendor fries are tasty too.)
Be aware that you'll pay less if you visit restaurants off of main thoroughfares. In nicer parts of town, venture down side streets to explore for eateries. These locales will be less crowded so you'll be served faster, too.
Sightseeing in Paris
It's a balancing act. Few have the luxury of spending all day at one Parisian site, so you'll want to prioritize, pace yourself and visit Paris in sections to avoid racing from place to place.
This is simpler than you might think. Paris is literally divided into halves: the Left Bank and the Right Bank of the Seine River, and also divided into 20 sections (called arrondissements). Just take on a few sections at a time, and wear some comfortable, attractive shoes.
- The oldest church in Paris isn't Notre Dame, but St. Germain-des-Pres, built in the 542 A.D. The structure has been rebuilt throughout the centuries, but retains its original grandeur. Here you'll find the tomb of Descartes and other learned notables.
- If you're visiting France in the wintertime, consider ice skating on the rink outside the Hotel de Ville. Such an adventure is the perfect stage for unforgettable photos.
- To get your bearings, an hour-long float down the Seine River will buy you a fine view of many impressive sites and give your feet a well-earned rest.
- The Musee d'Orsay is a train station-turned museum that includes paintings and sculptures from the big names: Monet, Cezanne, Degas, Renoir and Van Gogh. It's located near the Quai Anatole France, at 62 Rue de Lille.
- If you just can't get enough French art and must take some home with you, visit Sacre-Coeur and Place du Tertre (follow the signs) in the 18 arrondissement (section of Paris). Here, artists flock to sell their wares to tourists; you'll likely find many unexpected treasures. Be wary in the evening hours in these neighborhoods, though, as this is a rough area.
- On Champs-Elysees Avenue at Place de la Concorde is the Luxor Obelisk, a gift from the viceroy of Egypt to King Louis-Phillip. This Obelisk is located where many were beheaded by guillotine during the French Revolution, including Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI.
- If you need a walk in the park, take time to visit the beautiful, spacious Pere Lachaise Cemetery, were you'll find tombs of Chopin, Moliere and Balzac. Or for a more peaceful respite, see the exquisite, mystical statuary in Montmartre Cemetery, near Sacre Coeur Basilica.
- Versailles Castle skirts the edge of Paris. Take the full tour and don't miss the elegant gardens.
- To get into popular venues, try this Paris kiosk for half-price, same-day tickets: Place de la Madeleine and at the foot of the Tour Montparnasse. Hours are from lunchtime through evening (shorter hours Saturday). You can also nab last-minute Paris tickets online, often at fair prices. But be wary of buying tickets from scalpers at the door - naive tourists have paid outrageous prices, purchased forged tickets, or simply lost cash to tricksters who disappear without delivering tickets.
- Les Catacombes, because this site is underground, it's sometimes overlooked for flashier fare. Bring along a flashlight to explore these underground tunnels, where gypsum and limestone was quarried to build parts of Paris centuries ago. These lonely tunnels have long been a hiding place for those on the run: Christians in the eighth century, French Revolutionary soldiers, and both allies and occupiers hid here during WWII.
To fully learn French, you must peruse Paris leisurely, soak in the culture, enjoy the people and take advantage of every moment you have in the enchanting "City of Light." In the words of 14-year-old Jordana Galvez who did just that:
Paris is full of wonder. Almost every place has a story behind it. And the sights themselves are nothing without the people...it is the people that really make Paris come alive. If I could describe how I felt in Paris in a few words, they would be to live life, love it, and know who you are, for you truly are blessed.