No 5 letters have ever come together to shape a name more full of meaning than Paris. Historically, culturally, and artistically, Paris has been at the center of it all for centuries. “Paris is always a good idea,” were the famous words of Audrey Hepburn, and it really is.
Today the city is still at the top of virtually everyone's travel list. But, while the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre tend to be the first spots to visit, there’s a lot more to see and experience often left off the guide books. Here are my top 5 off-the-beaten-path attractions in Paris.
1 - Musée de L’Orangerie
You know the Musée D’Orsay and the Louvre, but this small gallery located at the opposite end of the Jardins de Tuileries holds an even more impressive collection. The first floor counts with two oval rooms where Monet’s Water Lilies are in permanent display. The idea is that you can see the scene just as Monet did while he painted it. Downstairs, an impressive collection includes works by Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse, Renoir, and countless others.
Tip: You can buy a special ticket that guarantees dual entry into Musée de L’Orangerie and Musée D’Orsay to save some $$ and time.
2 - Merci
Shopping in Paris is great, especially during the summer and winter sales (“Les Soldes” which take place at specific times during the year determined by the government). La Bonne Marché and Galeries Lafayette are two of the largest shopping centers in Paris, carrying all the major brands. But if what you’re looking for is more of a highly curated collection, the unique and super cool items at Merci is what you need. This shop is located on the 3rd Arrondissement and holds a literary café on the first floor. It’s the perfect place to relax after some sightseeing.
3 - Hôtel Amour
Let’s say you’ve spend the afternoon exploring Sacré-Coeur and now it’s time for dinner. The courtyard restaurant at the Hôtel Amour is your spot. There’s a nice tropical vibe with lush trees scattered all around the restaurant and it’s a very authentic spot where real Parisians dine.
Tip: If you’re not too tired, do the 15-min walk from Sacré-Coeur to the Hôtel Amour to get a nice look at the neighborhood of Montmartre.
4 - Picnic at Versailles
Technically this is more of a day trip from Paris, but the train ride is so easy there’s no reason not to do it. You can hop on the Métro and it takes about an hour to get to Versailles. Stop by a local market to get the famous Versailles orange juice, a baguette, cheese and some wine. Then you’re ready for a picnic along the magnificent Grand Canal in the Jardins de Versaille. Make sure to eat all your food or throw it out before heading into the Palace, as food is not allowed inside.
Tip: You can also book a bike tour in advance, and they’ll make all the arrangements. You often get to meet your tour guide in Paris and take the Métro as a group.
5 - Coutume Café
Finding good breakfast in Paris is not an issue, but this little spot in the École Militaire neighborhood has probably the best coffee I had in Paris. The shop is owned by a Parisian and an Australian (both great coffee nations!), so you can tell they know what they’re doing. The raw decor and white tiles may feel a little bit like Brooklyn, but the food is as authentic as it comes.
Do you have any off-the-beaten-path sites in Paris? Add them in the comments!