Guest Post: 7 Reasons You Need To Visit Paris
Paris is one of the most frequently trodden cities in the world. It is crawling with tourists, cameras, queues and a whole host of ‘must see’ sights that are famous in every continent. There’s good reason behind this. The place is swimming in formative world history and some of the most influential art man has ever created. There is stunning design on every single corner and, during a rare quiet moment, it could easily be the turn of the twentieth century. Not much in the way of architecture has changed since then.
And yet, if you’ve actually been to Paris you’ll understand just how quickly tourism loses its appeal. It’s less City of Love, more City of Shove because, as with the best things in this life, it has been inundated with culture vultures. Prepare to be shepherded around galleries by a continuous flow of art junkies desperate to catch a glimpse of the (disappointingly small) Mona Lisa. You’ll be harassed, too, by men who hide behind bunches of glittery, plastic Eifel Tower key rings and scatter when the police arrive.
If you’re happy to follow the tourist trail, Paris will provide. However, this city has a very different, sometimes macabre, side to it, one that many people overlook because they’re too busy flicking through a guide book. After generating so much artistic output, Paris is bound to have its hidden curiosities and, if you want to immerse yourself in the crux of things, then delve a little deeper. With that in mind, here is 7 Reasons To Visit Paris:
1. Shakespeare and Company – 37 Rue Bûcherie, 75005 Paris
This bookshop has kept its bohemian ideals, despite the changing face of modern France. It has welcomed some 50,000 writers through its doors, to work and stay, including Henry Miller and Allen Ginsberg. At Shakespeare and Company, a motto remains, ‘Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers, Lest They Be Angels in Disguise.’ Therefore, if you’re new to Paris and want to feel at home, you’re sure of a warm reception here. Perhaps they’ll even dust off the bottle of absinthe for you.
2. L’Ossuaire Municipal (The Catacombs) – 1 Place Denfert-Rochereau, 75014 Paris
The best way to avoid the crowded streets is to get beneath them and hang out with folk who can’t cause a ruckus, the dead. A crypt houses the remains of some 6 million people whilst the rest of the Catacombs compromise of a 180 mile network of underground tunnels that were used by rebels during the French Resistance. These days, they’re home to illegal parties and walking tours, though the atmosphere is still dense with history. The walls are daubed with street art dating back to the eighteenth century and, as an added bonus, you won’t need to check the weather in Paris. Ultimately, if you’re trying to avoid conforming to travelling conventions, you can’t get more underground than this…
3. Place de la Madeleine’s Secret Public Toilet – 75008 (follow the winding stairway leading down from the courtyard to the right of the church)
The oldest and most beautiful loo in the entire city. As strange as it sounds, the Place de la Madeleine public toilet is absolutely worth a visit if you’re into the art nouveau movement, not to mention the fact it’s pretty much a secret. It’s the kind of thing you only know about if you’re a local, so you can feel like a true Parisian as you relieve yourself in style. With thick mahogany doors and intricate mosaic, it’s like an artist’s impression of how toilets should be. After all, doesn’t your derriere deserve the best?
4. Pere Lachaise cemetery – 16 Rue du Repos, 75020 Paris
Continuing the morbid theme, take in the sunny sights at one of the world’s most prolific cemeteries. Here, big name libertines enjoy their final resting place alongside Hollywood actresses and confessional poets. From humble tombstones to grand chapels, Pere Lachaise is marvelled at for the quality of its sculpture above all else. Visit the graves of Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison – whose memorial is under guard due to copious fan graffiti. If that wasn’t enough, Oscar Wilde’s tomb has been encased in glass because of stone erosion. It has literally been kissed too many times.
5. Musée Fragonard d’Alfort – 7 Avenue Gén de Gaulle, 94700 Maisons-Alfort, Paris
Based in the suburbs of Paris, this museum is definitely worth a visit if you’re the type who enjoys crypts, cemeteries and secret toilets. Housed under its roof is a vast collection of anatomical oddities, from mutated animals to ‘the hall of curiosities.’ Although the website cares to reiterate that it is ‘not a gallery of monsters,’ some of the subjects protected behind the glass can cause the faint hearted to squirm. In essence, however, it’s a fantastic collection detailing the history of scientific research.
6. Les Frigos – 19 Rue des Frigos, 75013, Paris
If you want to get off the beaten path in Paris and taste a bit of the arts, go to a warehouse called Les Frigos. Since the 1980s a huge number of artists have squatted in this large building on the banks of the Seine. Owned by SCNF, France’s railway, the building has become synonymous with art and rebellious spirit. After years of trying to expel its tenants, the mairie of Paris bought the building to insure that the artists could stay and create. You can check out the infamous warehouse for yourself during its open house – jazz music, artists expos, and dancing are all on tap.
7. Les Puces de Saint-Ouen (The Fleas) – Port de Montreuil, Paris
Known as the Fleas, Les Puces dates back over two centuries, when rag-and-bone men scoured through the rubbish of Paris to sell on. They were called ‘crocheteurs’ or ‘pickers’. The enterprising traders set up a flea market with stalls in this area, and today it’s become one of Paris’ well-known flea markets. Take the métro to Porte de Clignancourt on Line 4 and follow the crowds towards the large concrete overpass. If you are looking for antiques, don’t waste too much time looking through the clothing, African objects and household goods on streets along the way. The market and neighborhood is very colourful and you will love the diversity of personalities, stall keepers and products for sale!