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Alternative Paris Top 8 – Forget about
the Eiffel Tower
If you are planning to be one of the 27 million people that visit Paris each year
and it’s your first time in the city, it’s important to know which of the French
capital’s many attractions are truly worth experiencing. These 8 are our top
8. Put On Some Rouge – and bring your wallet
The world’s most famous cabaret, the Moulin Rouge, is still going strong after
more than 120 years in the business, and its owners have worked hard to
combine modern entertainment values with classic fin de siécle ambience. That
said, prices for many shows are very 21st Century, i.e. not cheap.
Marked out by the unmistakable and iconic windmill on its roof, the famous
cabaret of the Moulin Rouge has had pride of place on Paris’s Boulevard de
Clichy in Pigalle since it was founded in 1887. Lauded by visitors to the city for
decades and even having a movie themed around it, it remains a popular
attraction for many looking for a late night in 16ème.
Tradition & Innovation
While today, people flock to the Moulin Rouge because of its legendary status
and the traditions of performing arts it represents, this Parisian institution was
founded at a time of huge cultural and social change. The exuberance of the
Belle Epoque in France at the end of the 19th Century and the atmosphere and
draw of neighbouring Montmartre contributed to the development of a unique
venue: a loud, over-the-top venue in which Parisians from all walks of life would
rub shoulders. The dance revues that it pioneered spread across the world, as
did the legendary can-can which was born from its shows.
Seeing A Show
If you’re looking to take in one of the Moulin Rouge cabaret shows, do yourself a
huge favour and book your tickets well in advance. While there are shows taking
place almost every day of the year, demand is such that they often sell out. You
can book your seats for a show with or without dinner either via the official
website or through a reliable booking agent, such as Viator. The current Féerie
show is a fresh take on the venue’s traditional performances, though the can-can
still makes a welcome (if a little cheesy) appearance! Be warned, however: the
enduring popularity of the shows at the Moulin Rouge and the general cost of
entertainment in Paris has made getting tickets particularly pricey. If you can find
tickets for less than 100€ each, you’ve uncovered a true bargain.
7. Investigate Café Culture
Few things are more inherently Parisian than a coffee and pastry in one of the
city’s thousands of cafés, even if it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the
gems from the tourist traps. Café Charbon on Rue Oberkampf and the Améliefeatured Café des 2 Moulins near Blanche metro are two of our favourites.
The café lifestyle is at the very heart of everyday life in the French capital, and
taking time to grab a coffee or glass of wine in a Parisian café should be as
essential a part of your trip as would be a visit to a pub on a day in London. No
matter where you head in the city, you’re guaranteed to stumble across more
than one establishment in which to relax and take in the ambience, but what if
you want to sample the cream of this amazing city’s proverbial crop? Fear not, as
CityTrip Planner knows some of the very best cafés Paris has to offer.
Café des 2 Moulins near Blanche metro is perhaps one of the most ‘pictureperfect’ Parisian cafés, part of the reason that it was used in the movie Amélie,
though this place of pop culture pilgrimage does attract quite a few tourists.
Another establishment which provides glamour and ambiance to those seeking
shelter from the city is Café Charbon on rue Oberkampf; the charming rouge,
wood and mirrored glass also sets the mood for more lively affairs in the
evenings, when coffee is exchanged for more intoxicating beverages.
Haute (Café) Couture
Alongside the escapes of your average Parisian or casual visitor are some
institutions which set a slightly higher standard (and whose refreshments come
with a higher pricetag). A visit to the Café de Flore on Boulevard St-Germain, for
example, will likely set you back more than a trip to your average café, not least
due to its age (it was first opened in 1885) and its history of famous patrons,
including Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The Café Beauborg near the
Pompidou Centre on rue Saint-Martin also manages to maintain a good quality
menu, drinks list and ambience despite its proximity to a major tourist attraction.
If you really feel like splashing out, the Café du Trocadéro (Place Trocadéro et
11 Novembre) has plenty on offer to put some pressure on your credit card, as
well as a great view of the Eiffel Tower.
6. Stroll Down The Seine
The lifeblood of the Paris, the River Seine is an attraction all in itself, with
caricaturists and other artists ready and waiting to sketch passing tourists in
exchange for a few euros. It’s also a more picturesque way to travel through the
city, especially in the summer – look out for the Batobus between the Eiffel Tower
Just like the Thames, the Tiber or the Danube, the Seine is the lifeblood of the
city through which it flows. Unlike some other capital city rivers, however, it does
not merely indicate the bounds of recommended exploration; rather, it is a line
which one should cross several times on a visit to be ensured of taking in the
best of Paris.
Especially in the summer, one way to sightsee and travel through the city is to
navigate the Seine by Batobus. A portmanteau of bateau (boat) and bus, this
wide, open shuttle runs between the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Élysées. A more
picturesque alternative to navigating the city by Metro underground, tickets are
15€ for a single day’s travel, with two- and five-day passes available at heavily
One of the classic riverside sights, the banks of the Seine have long been home
to artists willing to sketch a portrait or caricature of passing tourists for a few
euros (or, once upon a time, francs!). If the weather is good enough, taking in the
ambience of the city by strolling along the river is always a worthwhile idea; if the
skies are clear, the sight of dawn breaking across the city is particularly beautiful
from the river.
The Isles of the City
In addition to what goes on along its banks, the Seine is also unusual in that
some of Paris’s most-visited attractions are completely surrounded by its waters.
The two small islands in the middle of the river, l’Île de la Cité and Île SaintLouis, are essential stops on most visits to Paris. The former is the traditional
centre of Paris and site of its old city, the Pont Neuf (the oldest new bridge in the
city!) as well as the famous cathedral of Notre Dame. The smaller Île Saint-Louis
is primarily residential, though its lack of major tourist attractions makes it an
ideal section of the city to visit if you’re simply looking for a quiet, atmospheric
stroll. It also harbours a number of excellent cafés and ice cream parlours, not
least the famous Berthillon (29-31 rue St Louis en l’ile).
5. Check Out L’Arc De Triomphe
Commemorating those who lost their lives in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic
Wars, this literal triumphal arch is the true Parisian icon for the French. As well
as seeing the monument itself, watching the sideshow of drivers trying to
navigate the roundabout is always entertaining!
One of the French capital’s most iconic monuments, this grand triumphal arch at
the centre of a roundabout on Place Charles de Gaulle remains one of the
city’s most popular sights for visitors from France and further afield. It is the
central and most famous of three arches which form the axe magnifique, the
others being the Grande Arche at La Défense and Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
at the eastern end of the Jardin des Tuileries.
Commissioned in 1806 by the emperor Napoleon I just two decades after the
Revolution, though not completed for thirty years due to ongoing political turmoil
in France, the arch’s primary purpose is to commemorate the lives lost during the
Napoleonic and Revolutionary Wars. It also houses the Tomb of the Unknown
Soldier who fought and died during the First World War.
The reliefs and sculptures upon the arch itself can sometimes be overlooked by
visitors due to the imposing nature of the monument, yet these impressive works
of art deserve as much attention as their canvas. The four main sculptures
represent peace, triumph, resistance and volunteer soldiery, while six reliefs
depict a range of important battles and military events from the Napoleonic Wars.
The names of various French military leaders and victories are also inscribed on
various parts of the arch.
A Parisian Panorama
While some visitors to the Arc de Triomphe are content to grab a photograph and
check out the sideshow that is so often the traffic flow around the structure, many
choose to ascend to the top of the arch itself. It might only be 50m tall, but the
views from atop the monument are no less remarkable than those from more
traditional observation points like Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower, the views
down the Champs-Elysées and up the Avenue Charles de Gaulle being worth the
climb alone. A lift is on offer for elderly or disabled people, but most will have to
contend with the stairs, so be prepared for a small climb!
- See more at: http://www.citytripplanner.com/travel/things-to-do-paris/arc-detriomphe/#sthash.vqYNs9uK.dpuf
4. Climb Up To Montmartre
Famous for its cemetery and church of Sacré-Coeur, the hill at Montmartre offers
stunning views across the city. If you don’t fancy climbing the steps of the Rue
Foyatier, there’s always the metro and funicular railway to the top!
While some areas of Paris have lost their sheen slightly or sought to create a
new, forward-looking feel for a 21st Century city, there remain some parts of the
French capital which still embody the classic Parisian style and ambience. The
hilltop district of Montmartre is one of these classic Parisian areas, and a climb to
the top should be an essential part of the itinerary of any visitor. Of course, if you
don’t fancy climbing the steps of the Rue Foyatier, there’s always the metro and
funicular railway to speed you to the top!
Situated in the 18th arrondissement in the northern part of central Paris,
Montmartre is easily identifiable from a distance by the distinctive shape of the
church of Sacré-Coeur, which sits atop this 130-metre hill. 2014 will mark a full
100 years since the basilica was completed, so don’t be fooled by its classical
and Byzantine themes. Entrance is free from 6am to 11pm daily, so don’t be
fooled by anyone outside who might try to extort any kind of involuntary ‘donation’
Cimitière de Montmartre
The district’s cemetery is also one of its most-visited locations. While it is smaller
and less well-trodden than the massive Père Lachaise in 20ème, it still welcomes
those who wish to pay their respects at the final resting place of luminaries such
as Degas, Dumas and Berlioz. There is more to the Cimitière de Montmartre to
names on tombstones, however, and the monuments, sculptures and memorials
within are just as much of a draw as those who are interred there.
Montmartre was historically located outside the city limits and therefore not
subject to municipal taxes, a factor which contributed to its rise as a popular
drinking spot during the early 19th Century. The city’s boundaries might have
changed, but at night the district’s bars and nightclubs still attract partygoers from
across the city. La Fourmi (74 rue des Martyrs, just down the street from Pigalle
metro station) is one establishment which, despite its popularity, remains
welcoming and accessible to outsiders. Unlike some other watering holes
nearby, a drink here won’t cost the earth.
- See more at: http://www.citytripplanner.com/travel/things-to-do-paris/sights9/#sthash.jFCnZPvN.dpuf
3. Pay Your Respects At Notre Dame
This stunning Gothic cathedral was completed in 1345 and remains one of the
world’s most beautiful. The large courtyard out front does host live music from
time to time, but usually offers plenty of space to get some amazing photographs.
Entry into the interior is, of course, free of charge.
One of Paris’s most famous structures and the centre of religious life in the city
since the 14th Century, the stunning Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame was
completed in 1345 and remains one of the world’s most beautiful. Situated on
l’Île de la Cité in the middle of the River Seine, which flows through the French
capital, this legendary building attracts many of Paris’s 33 million annual visitors.
As you step through the doors of Notre Dame, you are entering a building which
was conceived over 850 years ago, with the cornerstone having been laid in
1153. The iconic Western facade and towers were not completed until the mid13th Century, but since then it has represented the highest seat of religious
power in France.
Gothic Cathedral in the middle of Paris
As you might expect for a building that has been in place for such a long time,
Notre Dame bears the scars of many of the most notable historic events to affect
Paris over the past few centuries. Many of its treasures were stolen or destroyed
during the French Revolution of the late 18th Century when many Catholic
cathedrals across France were rededicated as ‘Temples of Reason’. The same
era saw the beheading of the church’s statues of the kings of Judah, when they
were mistaken for French monarchs (the recovered heads are on display at
the Musée de Cluny). The stained glass windows of the cathedral have also
changed, some of them having been replaced due to damage sustained from
bullet fire during the Second World War.
To plan a trip to Paris which includes a visit to Notre Dame,
visit www.citytripplanner.com today!
Long lines in the summer months and around
Visiting this magnificent building is usually surprisingly straightforward,
considering its popularity. Its doors are open to all free-of-charge from 7:45am to
6:45pm daily, though obviously entry might not be as straightforward during
services. The summer months and specific festival seasons such as Christmas,
Easter and Assumption, may also see the necessity for a short period of queuing
before one can visit the cathedral’s interior. The area around the cathedral is
especially charming in its own right, as is l’Île de la Cité in general, so be sure to
take a stroll around the building if you have the opportunity. The large courtyard
at the western end of Notre Dame is the focal point for visitors, as well as the
location of the entrance to the catacombs beneath.
- See more at: http://www.citytripplanner.com/travel/things-to-do-paris/10notredame/#sthash.OzY2peVZ.dpuf
2. Shop In St-Paul
As the Champs-Élysées filled with high-end retailers, it lost a lot of the ambiance
which once made shopping in Paris a tourist pastime in itself. Fortunately,
the Village St-Paul in Marais has retained its character, with antique shops,
florists and patisseries standing out amongst an eclectic mix of independent
stores. Click here for more information.
Indulging in a spot of retail therapy in the French capital has always been a
popular motivation for city breaks to Paris. Sadly, the locations that have been
traditional destinations for casual splurging, such as the area around the
Champs-Elysées, have lost much of the charm that made shopping in Paris such
a pleasure. Fortunately, there is still hope for those seeking to spend a few
Euros in this wonderful city, and St-Paul is one of the bastions thereof.
Le Village St-Paul
Nestled among the tall terraced buildings of Marais in the 4ème
arrondissement, Le Village St-Paul is the area surrounding a short series of
connected courtyards running parallel to Rue St-Paul, which itself runs from the
Seine opposite l’Ile St. Louis up to Rue Saint-Antoine on the border between
3ème and 4ème. A quaint, rather low-key locale almost secreted away from the
rest of the city, those strolling through the area would likely be surprised to know
that a royal residence stood here for two hundred years in from the 14th to 16th
Centuries: l’Hôtel de Saint Pol. Mercifully for those who abhor anything overly
extravagant, the village is free of any of the bright, gaudy scenes which are on
display in the haute couture areas near the Champs-Elysées.
Hunting For Curios
Le Village St-Paul is best-regarded for its antiques and curiosity shops, and there
are plenty of interesting objects up for grabs which are sure to become talking
points with pride of place in your home. A short stroll through the area will see
you stumble across plenty of these stores with little effort, though the silverware
of Cassiopée on rue Charlemagne bears special mention. There are also several
small galleries in the Village where you can buy or browse at your leisure.
Cafés and Bistros
The area around St-Paul is particularly rich in effortlessly cool, welcoming places
to sit, relax and recharge. Traditional French brasserie fare is on offer at places
like Pomme Canelle, but there’s a surprisingly diverse range of cuisines on offer
in and around the area, from Japanese to Sardinian. Of course, you need not
feel guilty about spoiling yourself on your holiday, so don’t be afraid to check out
one of the neighbourhood patisseries!
- See more at: http://www.citytripplanner.com/travel/things-to-do-paris/stpaul/#sthash.s5ognUEF.dpuf
1. Visit the original statue of liberty
When you’re trying frantically to make the most of your time in a new city, it pays
to take a step back and give yourself a few moments of tranquility, and
the Luxembourg Gardens are a great place to do just that. Plus there’s the first
original statue of Liberty, which is only a fraction of the size of the famous gift of
Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom.
Former Royal Garden
At one point in its history, what is now the second-largest park in Paris was a
restricted area, owned by and for the exclusive use of the royal family. Shortly
after the Revolution, the park became public property and was expanded to
include land confiscated from the Carthusian monastic order nearby. Today, it
remains close to political power, acting essentially as the garden of the French
Senate which is housed in the Palais du Luxembourg to the north.
A Refuge For Parisians
The gardens are remarkably well-maintained, as you would expect with such
pride of place in central Paris, with a balanced mixture of curated areas and just
regular ‘trees and grass’. While it is understandably most frequented during the
summer months, it is a popular destination all year round, especially with hardy
joggers who brave all weather conditions to work up a sweat in these beautiful
Sculpture On Display
Aside from the obvious draw of the green space that the Jardin provides, it also
acts almost as an outdoor gallery in this classicly cultured city. The park is
notable for the significant number of statues scattered throughout, including
works by Préault, Blanchard, and an early model of the Statue of Liberty by
Frédéric Bertholdi. The other most notable artistic feature on display is the Medici
fountain, parts of which are almost four hundred years old, and which has stood
in the Jardin for two centuries
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