There's so much to experience in Paris; museums, churches, parks, elaborate Art Nouveau buildings, restaurants...the list goes on. If you're a first- or second-time visitor, you shouldn't miss the tried and true sites, but if this isn't your first visit or you want to veer off the tourist track, here are ten gems you might enjoy.
Some of them are in plain sight, but for others you have to look a little harder. I've organized them by arrondissement; have fun exploring!
1. Caryatid Angel, 57 rue de Turbigo
Métro Arts et Métiers (lines 3 and 11)
You could easily walk right by this beauty and never see her. Spanning 30 vertical ft. and supporting the 4th floor of this Haussmannian building, the angel has watched over this neighborhood for more than 150 years. Little is known about the significance of what she is holding, however since this was the garment district during the middle of the 19th century, her dress, sash, bag, necklace and earrings may have been a nod to the district. it's thought that the torch in her left hand is rooted in Greek mythology.
2. Jardin de l'Hôtel de Sully
4th Arrondissement, Place des Vosges
Métro St.- Paul (line 1)
The Place des Vosges isn't out of the way, but step through a door at the extreme southwest corner of this beautiful square and you'll be surrounded by the peaceful courtyard and garden of the Hôtel de Sully, built in the early 17th century. The Duke of Sully, a member of the court of King Henry IV, bought the Hôtel soon after it was completed. It remained in the family into the 18th century. Today the building houses the offices of the Centre des Monuments Nationaux. The garden can also be reached by entering the building from 62, rue Saint-Antoine. When you visits the Place des Vosges, take a few minutes to enjoy this lovely, quiet garden.
3. La Place de Furstemberg
Métro Mabillon (line 10) or St.-Germain des Près (line 4)
Located in the bustling 6th arrondissement near the Eglise de St.-Germain-des-Prés, this little square is a quiet, elegant and charming oasis. The beautiful lamppost in the center of the roundabout completes the square. The French romantic artist Eugène Delacroix lived here and his works are displayed in his former house which is now a museum.
4. The Canal St. Martin
10th - 19th Arrondissements
Métro South - Bastille (lines 1, 5 and 8)
Métro North - Jean Jaurès (lines 2,5 and 7bis)
When you visit Paris you should take a cruise on the Seine. There's nothing like floating past the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and gliding under the iconic bridges on a beautiful Parisian day or evening. The Canal St. Martin on the other hand offers a very different view of Paris. It runs north and south through the eastern part of the city and navigates through numerous locks. You can travel south to north or vise-versa. Board at Arsenal marina at the south or at Parc de la Villette at the north. The northern end of the canal has a very different vibe from central Paris and it borders La Périphérique, the busy beltway that surrounds Paris. La Géode, the globe-like steel structure, is a 400-seat cinema. I love the way it reflects the sky.
It's a two and a half hour cruise, guaranteed to lower your blood pressure!
5. Rue Crémieux
Métro - Gare de Lyon (lines 1 or 14)
This one-block pedestrian street in the 12th arrondissement is just a short walk from the Gare de Lyon. These row houses were built in the mid-19th century for local workers and named at the end of the century after Aldolphe Crémieux, a Parisian lawyer and politician. Now they're a photographer's delight that will make you feel far from the madding crowd.
6. Cité Florale
Métro - Corvisart (line 6), Maison Blanche or Tolbiac (line 7)
This is one of my favorite hidden gems. The six streets that make up this tiny enclave are all named for flowers, and the residents have adorned their houses accordingly. The Bièvre River flowed through this section of Paris, flooding everything in its path and therefore making the ground too unstable to support the large Haussmannian buildings of the mid-19th century. In their place these charming townhouses were built. When you're there, also stroll through the beautiful Parc Montsouris nearby.
Métro - Denfert-Rochereau (lines 4 and 6)
If you really want a unique experience, descend the 132 steps below the city where 6 million skulls and bones have rested since the late 18th century. For more information on the Catacombs, see our blog post.
6. Musée Marmottan Monet
Métro - La Muette (line 9)
I discovered this beautiful small museum over 15 years ago and I never tire of it. Located at the western edge of the city in the 16th arrondissement, it boasts the largest collection of paintings in the world by both Claude Monet and Berthe Morisot. Works by other impressionists such as Manet, Delacroix, Pissarro and Degas are also beautifully displayed here. The more modern lower level highlights Monet's water lilies. If you are as much a lover of impressionism as I am, you can easily lose yourself in the Musée Marmottan. The building, an old "hôtel particulier" hunting lodge is beautifully furnished. As you leave, spend a few minutes enjoying the lovely Jardin du Ranelagh across the street.
7. Villa Léandre
Métro - Lamarck - Caulaincourt (line 12)
A short walk from Sacré Coeur Basilica, this "impasse" (dead-end street) off Avenue Junot will make you forget that you're in the hustle and bustle of Montmartre. This English-inspired lane with art Deco houses was created in 1926 and was given the name Léandre in 1936 after the French humorist Charles Léandre. Today it boasts some of the most expensive real estate in Paris; don't miss it when you're in Montmartre.
8. Quartier de la Mouzaïa
Métro - Botzaris or Danube (line 7 bis)
Tucked away in Paris's largely working-class 19th arrondissement is an oasis of pedestrian lanes bordered by lovely row houses mostly hidden behind walls, gates and lush greenery. The name of the neighborhood comes from an Algerian town and a battle which took place nearby during the French conquest of Algeria. The area was built on top of old gypsum quarries which were mined from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th century. If you didn't know, you wouldn't think this tranquil area is part of Paris. See also our blog post about this neighborhood.
9. La Campagne à Paris
Métro - Porte de Bagnolet (line 3)
Make the short trip to the eastern edge of Paris and you'll be rewarded by a handful of picturesque lanes and townhouses adorned with trailing vines and other beautiful foliage. Climb the steps and you'll be transported to "la campagne" (the countryside). Had it not been for the movie being filmed while I was there and a woman walking her dog I would have had these few streets to myself. Built atop old quarries in the early part of the 20th century, this neighborhood is the essence of charm. Before you leave, stop at the Bar Edith-Piaf in the square of the same name next to the métro station.
10. Père Lachaise Cemetery
Métro - Philippe-Auguste (line 2), Père Lachaise (lines 2 and 3) and Gambetta (lines 3 and 3bis)
Most people wouldn't associate the word "gem" with a cemetery, but in this case it's true. Père Lachaise is not only the largest cemetery in Paris; it's also the largest park, and truly a gem. Its wooded cobblestone lanes span 110 acres in northeastern Paris and it's estimated that at least 600,000 people are buried there. It's a good place to spend a quiet afternoon. Read about Père Lachaise in our blog post of the same name.
What are your favorite hidden gems? Leave a comment!
➜ Top Tips
Paris is one of the most walkable cities in the world. Wear good walking shoes and don't hesitate to detour; you never know what treasure you might discover!
The Parisians love their parks and gardens as well they should. As you meander through the city, don't hesitate to take a break from time to time. Sit on a bench and watch the children play or the residents walking their dogs. These quiet moments are some of my most cherished memories of this beautiful city.
As usual, take a good camera!