Paris, the city of light, has an abundance of places to see. The city’s quintessential sites, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and The Louvre are of course must see tourist spots. If you are planning your first visit to Paris , you should plan to hit the major tourist sites. Although, at those spots, you are most likely to interact mostly with other tourists.
A great part of travel is the experience of a new culture and its people. There are lesser known places in this beautiful massive city. If you explore lesser known places, you can learn amazing facts about the city’s history, culture and mingle more with locals.
The Paris Catacombs is an underground ossuary that dates to 1786. The then ten centuries old Cemetery of Innocents had become a source of disease to residents, and the Council of State decided to transfer the remains to underground disused quarries. This labyrinth of tunnels under the city are over 186 miles long and contain millions of bones stacked throughout along the walls. This activity may not be suitable for claustrophobic people. Guided tours are available Tuesday through Sunday.
Relax and surround yourself with gorgeous rose gardens when you visit Le Jardin du Luxembourg. The grounds were purchased from a Duke of Luxembourg, the garden’s namesake, and built in the 17th century by Queen Marie de Medicis following the assassination of her husband King Henri IV. This sight has numerous sculptures, flowerbeds, tree-lined promenades, and the gorgeous Fontaine de l’Observatore. This sight also has an apiary, greenhouses with beautiful orchids, the Orangerie, and the Pavillon Davioud. A highlight is an original model of the Statue of Liberty. While you sit on a bench and relax, you can observe local Parisians living their daily routine. You may see lovers on the benches in passionate embraces swept up in the moment. A bonus: the garden is free.
This museum is located on a property where renowned sculptor Francois Auguste-Rene Rodin lived and worked. Rodin made a deal with the French government, where he would live in the 18th century house for free in exchange for a donation of his art upon his death. The house and garden showcases collections of drawings and sculptures from Rodin and his colleague Vincent Van Gogh. Here you will see the sculptor’s most famous pieces including The Kiss, The Thinker and The Gate of Hell. Tours are available for the museum and gardens, or you can visit the gardens only. Musee Rodin is open from 10 am to 5:45 pm every day except Mondays.
North Tower of Notre Dame
Notre Dame is one of the more familiar locations in Paris, but one lesser known attraction is the North Tower of the cathedral. After you climb the 387 steps to the top, be prepared to get overwhelmed by the panoramic view of greater Paris. As you explore the walkways of the tower, you view up close the many gargoyle statues (also called grotesques) as they guard the cathedral. Hours for the North Tower vary by season, check the website for details.
The Medieval Latin Quarter
This section of Paris, located in the 5th arrondissement, dates to the first century BC, when the Romans occupied Paris. This quarter includes the famous Sorbonne ,the top rate university in France. This is an area frequented by scholars and students. Other noteworthy sites include the Roman Arena, Boulevard Saint Michel Neighborhood, the Cluny Museum ,Quarter De La Huchette and Square Viviani.