Monday, January 19, 2009

Top Ten Hidden Travel Wonders of Paris - Part 1

Lara Dunston of Cool Travel Guide and professional travel writer recently commented “I would love to see a list of your favorite off-the-beaten-track Paris places”. So fearing a Gallic overdose, here is a list of favourite Paris places that I’ve been that may not be on the main itinerary of most visitors.

The best way to experience Paris (as for many European cities) is to walk and to walk some more. The Metro is excellent for longer journeys and numerous cafes make for a great break but many of the places listed below were discovered simply by walking and aren’t listed in many of the guide books. Paris is full of hidden surprises – parks are spread throughout Paris and interesting and eclectic museums hide behind many corners. Art museums abound as do architectural treasures left untocuhed over the centuries.

That is not to say that I’d miss the iconic sights such as those listed in my top ten travel wonders of Paris on my first visit.

Here is a list of some hidden Parisian jewels in no particular order.

Sewer Museum (Musée des Égouts) (6th arrondissement)

Built in some disused sewerage tunnels, the galleries of this museum stand in stark contrast to the magnificence of most Parisian galleries. Only a few hundred metres from the Eiffel Tower along the Seine, displays include old flushing machines, various cleaning equipment and a detailed history of how the French have dealt with their waste since the 1300s. In some of the galleries, you can stand (at a safe distance) above the fast-flowing effluent and waste water with the usual sad trail of litter including a huge amount of Metro tickets. While a mild stench permeates some of the tunnels, the history of cities battling their waste provides for a fascinating few hours. The last room is a gift shop best left for your imagination!

Outdoor Sculpture Park (Musée de Sculpture en Plein Air) (5th arr.)

If not suffering from sculpture fatigue from the Louvre and Rodin Museum, Paris offers a wonderful (and free) short walk along the Seine for around half a kilometre passing some 50 sculptures, ranging from the superb and remarkable to the mystifying and weird. Running from the Paris Botanic Gardens (which includes an excellent alpine garden), people meander through this relaxed park, overseen by the colourful houseboats which are moored along the river.

Musée Carnavalet (3rd arr.)

Surprisingly free from people, this museum details Paris’ history. Only a couple of blocks from Place des Vosges in the fashion-conscious Marais district and richly displayed throughout two connected historic stately homes, the extensive history covers from the earliest prehistoric tribes of the area, through ancient maps and document, a detailed treatment of the French Revolution and more recent history of the world wars up to modern times. Some of the multitude of rooms are recreated for certain periods including a Louis XIV room and a superb French-style manicured garden. This museum should be visited early in a Paris visit as it provides context for many other things that you’ll see in Paris.


More hidden gems in Paris follow.

8 comments:

Ranch Australia said...

Great insights.
This is really such nice post with photos.You have nicely described.
Keep Writing...

Mark H said...

@ranch: Thank you.

MikeC said...

I heard of the sewer tours in Paris. That seems like a really interesting tour to me. Much more interesting than the tour of the Coke Cola Factory.

Footsteps said...

I can always count on something interesting here (which is why your site is in my Google Reader!). Great post, Mark. I wouldn't want to miss your version of Paris when I go there someday...

Mark H said...

@footsteps: You'll get to Paris. It is the dream city to me.

Mark H said...

@mikec: Lots of dank dark water in both places??

Lara Dunston said...

Oh, I missed this, Mark - glad to have seen it - these are great suggestions!

Sherry Ott said...

Some great advice for getting away from tourists in Paris! I hope to make a quick stop in Paris this summer!

 
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