Paris off the beaten track. Your alternative guide to Paris
Is there anything more exciting than discovering hidden places, amazing street art and cozy cafes in one of the most famous city? Check out Paris off the beaten track, download maps with routes on your smartphone and enjoy the city!
Belleville: Paris off the beaten track, street art, and Pere-Lachaise cemetery
If you have just one day to discover Paris off the beaten track, choose Belleville. Best time for the walk is Saturday, Sunday or Monday when you can take a look at flea market (B) on Porte de Montreuil. You can find there unique souvenirs from Paris, as well as extravagant clothing and antiques. After shopping, take a walk to the Rue Florian, where abandoned railway station La Petite Ceinturie (C) is located. It was built more than 150 years ago, but since 1934 the railway was systematically abandoning and the last train ran in 1993. Since that time the place was adopted by street artists who covered the railway station with fascinating murals. Once visiting Paris it is worth to spend at least 1,5 hour strolling around Père Lachaise (D), the biggest cemetery in Europe. Take a look at the most besieged burial of Jim Morrison (division 95), see the lipstick kisses on the grave of Oscar Wilde (division 89) or amazing gravestone of Tignous, the cartoonist from Charlie Hebdo (division 95).
On the way to Belleville do not miss The Church of Our Lady of the Holy Cross of Ménilmontant (E) and look behind the walls of abandoned theatre Villa de l’Ermitage (F). Take rest in Belleville Park (G), from where you can enjoy a stunning view on Paris. The mosaic panorama depicts the most important buildings that you can find in Paris. Once you reach the Rue de Belleville turn left and admire two greatest art works in the district – mural and installation on the corner with Rue Julien Lacroix St. and series of murals on the Rue Denoyez (I). If you are eager to explore more street art dive into narrow streets of Belleville and finally if you got hungry visit Guo Xin bar, where you can try delicious Chinese dumplings (6 euro for 15 pieces), soup with noodles or dumplings (6 euro per bowl) or another delights of Chinese cuisine. Real Paris off the beaten track!
Le Marais: Pompidou Centre, street art and Charlie Hebdo
Another idea for the Paris off the beaten track is Le Marais and its surroundings. Since terrorist attacks in November 2015 Parisians gather on the square Place de la République (A) in order to show their solidarity with the victims. Monument in the middle of the square is constantly decorated with flags and posters. Editorial office of satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo (B) is located not far from the square. In front of the office you can admire mural of impressive size refering to the history of France. After short walk turn to the Le Marais district. The name Le Marais is literally translated as “swamps” and refers to the quality of the terrain in the Middle Ages. However nowadays it is one of the most fashionable districts in Paris. If you like music band The Doors you may see from the street an apartment where body of Jim Morrison was found. Art lovers undoubtedly will be interested in visiting Picasso Museum (C) where more than five thousand art works by the famous artist are exhibited. If you prefer modern technologies than art hit Musée des Arts et Métiers (H) and admire more than two thousand exhibits from the museum collection that includes 80,000 objects. On the way to the Centre Pompidou stop by for a lunch in The Hure (E) bakery (delicious baguette with cheese and olives is just 2,5 euro). During Christmas–New Year period do not miss the opportunity to try marzipan delicacy called Galette des Rois (literally meaning King Cake, about 10 euro). The owner of unique perfume store Le Studio des Parfums (D) will open for you curtains behind the secret world of perfume with real pleasure. If budget allows you, join short workshop and create your own perfumes (about 75 euro per 30 ml).
While strolling around Le Marais you may notice characteristic mosaics created by French street artist called Invader. Art works refer to the popular in late 70. video game called Space Invaders. The most interesting mosaic in the close vicinity of Le Marais is Bunny Bugs which you may find at 91 Rue de la Verrerie. In Centre Pompidou (F) you can admire the largest collection of modern art in Europe. From the last floor of gallery opens a great panoramic view on Paris. Find time to visit artistic squat and gallery at 59 Rue de Rivoli (G) where everyone can find something interesting for him (working until 8 pm). Looking for dinner choose one of the restaurants near the Indian Passage Brady (I). Drop off for a drink in the African bar Le Comptoir Général (J) where you may taste delicious cocktails (about 8-10 euro) or simply relax and enjoy African folk music. It’s essence of the Paris off the beaten track. Remember that Paris is a melting pot – if you know French take a look to a unique guidebook, which will allow you to discover all Parisian minorities.
Montmartre: alternative movies, jazz and flea market
Start your day visiting flea market near metro station Porte de Clignancourt (A) (from Saturday to Monday, 8-17) and find unique souvenirs from Paris. If you are interested in foreign cultures visit Institute of the Islamic Culture (B) where temporary exhibitions, film screenings and discussions are organized. During lunchtime you may go to the Indian restaurant Krishna Bhavan (C), where you can try the best vegetarian cuisine and at the same time not lose a fortune (only 7 euro for a dish). Strolling along the main streets towards Pigalle square you might enjoy the diversity of Arabian neigbourhood. From Wednesday to Friday between the metro stations of La Chapelle and Barbes-Rochechouart colorful food market takes place. You can buy snacks for the rest of the day. Montmartre, which you are entering now, was a separate village once, but after joining to Paris it became the red light district. That’s why one of the symbols of the neigbourhood is Moulin Rouge (D), famous cabaret operating since 1889. Another legendary place is café Le Chat Noir which used to be a cabaret one hundred years ago and its logo with a black cat as well as Moulin Rouge became a symbols of a district.
Start climbing up the Montmartre hill on the stairs on Passage de Abbesses (E), where you will see fantastic murals and fascinating street art. You get directly to the Espace Dali (F) gallery where you can see artworks of famous Catalonian surrealist Salvador Dali. Cross Place du Tarte (G), the main square of Montmartre where street artists sell their works, then turn to the Sacre-Coeur (H) church, the highest point of the city from where a miraculous view on Paris opens. Stairs leading to the temple are often full of tourists and street musicians wanting to earn some money. In the evening it is worth to visit legendary cinema Studio 28 and watch one from its alternative movies, If you prefer music than movies, go to jazz club Bab-Ilo (I) where you will enjoy local artists. Before you hit your hostel, take a walk (or metro) to the Bassin de la Villette, the biggest channel in Paris, and try craft beer in Panama Brewing Company. If wine is the mainstream, beer is part of the Paris off the beaten track.
Montparnasse: street artists, catacombs and Arab quarter
Start you day with a walk along beautiful La Promenade Plantee (A), a green promenade of almost five kilometers length, which is an adapted abandoned railway. Then visit the Museum of Cinematography (B) with the biggest archive in Europe (more than eighty thousand titles). Except of exhibitions and permanent expositions you may have a chance to watch a movie, usually a classic one. Crossing the Siena you will get to the L’Aiguillage (C) gallery where you can find photographic, sculptural or painting beads. The next destination is Arab World Institute (D), the centre of Arabic culture where you can enjoy exhibitions, meetings and conferences. In the information point of the institute you can ask for more specific information what to do there. Not far from there is located Grande Mosquée de Paris (E) – the biggest mosque in Paris (entrance for tourists is for a small charge). Next to the mosque the small café with oriental cuisine is operating, where for as small as 4 euro you can drink amazing tea and try tasty biscuits.
History buffs would probably like to visit catacombs of Paris (F) which are famous called the largest cemetery in the world. It is estimated that there are remains of six million people. Next to the catacombs lies Montparnasse cemetery (G), where famous writers such as Julio Cortázar and Samuel Beckett, poet Charles Baudelaire and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre were buried. Visiting that place is a good opportunity to get acquainted with the history of Kiki de Montparnasse – club singer, whose life is a great introduction to the history of the district known for its bohemian meetings in the 20s of the last century. Right near the cemetery there is a legendary café La Rotonde (I) in which Pablo Picasso was a frequent visitor. Spanish artist depicted that Parisian cafe on his painting “Café de la Rotonde” (1901). If you are going for a walk on Sunday stroll along Boulevard Edgar Quinet (H), where you will meet local artists selling their art works (from 10 am to 5 pm). Finish you day on the highest floor of Montparnasse Tower (J) and enjoy wonderful view on Paris. Best time to come there is just before the sunset so you can see the city in day light and during the night. A great end of another “Paris off the beaten track” route.
The biggest tourist attractions for whole day
Paris of the beaten track is interesting, but some of the main spots art worth to visit too. Louvre is usually crowded with tourists but it is definitely place worth to visit. I always choose section with art of Mesopotamia where you can see two huge statues of bulls with wings (called lamassu) from the palace of Sargon II which looks really impressive. To see original Mona Lisa is a dream of many people, but firstly arm yourself with patience and wait twenty minutes in crowd before you get to the famous portrait. If you don’t want to wait in line to Louvre you can buy tickets in advance online through the Internet.
Another famous museum is Museum d’Orsay where art works from the second half of XIX and the beginning of XX century are exhibited. Similarly to Louvre you can spend there whole day (or even few) or just hit sections, in which you are interested in the most. If you are EU resident under 25 years old you have free entrance to abovementioned museums. Otherwise, you have a chance to visit museums for free on every first Sunday of the month. Reserve whole day for visiting Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie which is the biggest centre of science in Europe and a paradise for those who love nature and technologies.
You have to dedicate one day for visiting Versailles which is situated in the suburbs of Paris. The cheapest way to get there is by regional express (RER) taking line C to the station Versailles-Rive Gauche (one way ticket is 4,20 euro). The ticket you can buy in the same ticket machines as you use for usual metro tickets. The railway is connected with few metro stations for example Musée d’Orsay station or Invalides station. One way ride to Versailles takes around 45 minutes. Unfortunately after few visits to Paris I did not reach the top of the Eiffel tower, so say in comments if it’s worth to go up;)
Translated by Alyona Kononenko
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