Few people would consider going to Paris without seeing at least four things: The Seine River, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre. They might even plan their whole trip around these fantastic destinations, but after they’ve seen all there is to see at these big places, travelers are fuzzy about what comes next.
There is certainly more to Paris than the hugely popular attractions, and you may be surprised to find that you enjoy the smaller, out-of-the-way places even more. Paris is crammed full of history; even the least history-oriented person will be shocked to learn how old it really is and how many centuries of strife and tragedy have passed through the city.
One such place that many travelers most likely miss is the Luxembourg Gardens. This is a great place to go to escape the hub-bub of the main city and marvel in our ancestors’ creative genius. Look out for the sculpted trees, walkways, Roman-style architecture, and small enclaves of different kinds of flowers. You may even see a few potted palm trees, which seem to stick out in the City of Lights.
Besides the quaint gardens, you will also see Luxembourg Palace, constructed in the early 17th century and once the home of France’s elite. The palace is a beautiful work of art, symmetrical and romantic. Even if kids don’t appreciate the history and culture behind the palace, they are sure to love the bright colors and open-air experience of the gardens.
Paris’ Latin Quarter is a great place to go if you like a crowded, homey atmosphere. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the variety of shops. To picture the Latin Quarter, think of a place like New York City, with tall white buildings standing shoulder to shoulder, seemingly flowing together like one big structure. Don’t forget to look up as you stroll along this artsy walk; you may see the huge Notre Dame Cathedral looming overhead.
This is the section in which you will find the Musee d’Orsay, which may not be as famous as the Louvre but which will certainly not disappoint you. If you can think of any great artists with connections to France or the art world in general, chances are you will find their work here. The Musee d’Orsay might not be the best attraction for kids, so if you’re traveling with children, you may want to have a backup plan.
If you like old churches, you will certainly find more than Notre Dame to satisfy your love of beauty and reverence. Paris’ Sacre Coeur is a terrific destination for many reasons. It’s nowhere near as old as the famous cathedral (Sacre Coeur was built in the 1800s) but it is special in different ways. The overall style is almost Middle Eastern, and its grand domes and peaks bring the Taj Mahal to mind. A tour through the church will amaze you. Take a moment to see the art, enjoy the views, and soak in Paris’ religious history.
While you’re in this section known as Montmartre, don’t forget there are other things to do here as well. This is a great place to buy art, since it’s a huge painter’s haven. The rows of paintings and street vendors may very well be what most people think of when they ponder Paris. Also in this area, check out the windmill known as Moulin de la Galette; this is certainly an odd sight in the city.
The River Seine is one of Paris’ biggest attractions, but it’s more than a pretty face. It is part of the charm that makes Paris picturesque, so naturally you will want to take a cruise on the river. Remember to capture the terrific views you will see from the water. Paris’ natural beauty is just as much an attraction as the vibrant streets and historic buildings you will see.
Paris is full of various quarters that hold streets of shops, restaurants, artist havens, churches, and many other ways to pass the time. Those who have only a few days to visit the City of Lights should choose wisely; by all means, if you have a very little amount of time in Paris, make sure to see “the greats” like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but if you’ve seen these things and want to really delve into the city of Paris, make sure to get the whole experience by exploring the little-known places as well.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer