After seeing the Eiffel Tower a few times, climbing the Arc de Triumph at least twice, and many trips to the Louvre, I bet you’re looking for new things to see and do. I know I was. Here is a list of 10 unconventional things that are not found on many lists.
Take a Boat Ride up the Canal St Martin
Taking a boat ride up the Canal St Martin is a relaxing way to see this part of Paris from an unusual angle. Canauxrama, a boat tour company, offers a few different cruises. The one I’ve taken starts at the Bastille and takes 2.5 hours to slowly make its way up the canal. You go through four locks and two swinging bridges. You also get to go through what they call “the vault”. This goes from the area of the Bastille under the city to the canal. The journey ends at the Villette Park in the 19th arr.
Spend time in La Villette
When your cruise up the canal is over, take time exploring this amazing and unique park. Not only is there grass and bike lanes but there is also a merry go round, very colorful children’s play areas, the City of Science and Industries museum, the city of music-philharmonie building as well as a bookstore, restaurant and a space for temporary and traveling shows. I had the privilege of seeing the King Tut exhibit here at the little Villette. In the summer they inflate a huge screen and have community movie nights.
Graze your way down Rue de Bac
Rue de Bac is a one stop shop for some of the most delicious stores Paris has to offer. Angelina’s, Chapon, Dalloyau, and Jacques Genin, just to name some big ones. There is also ice cream and many cafes. You can follow this delicious street all the way to La Grande Epicerie de Paris-A huge, luxury supermarket with food from all over the world. It’s part of Le Bon Marche which is the first public department store. Take the metro, line 12, to the stop ‘Rue de Bac” to start your journey. Metro Lines 10 and 12 go to Sevres-Babylone, the closest stop to Le Bon Marche.
Relax in an old Roman Arena
Hidden behind a regular street in the 5th arr. are the remains of a roman arena. These days, people play soccer and sit on the old stones reading and chatting. Nearby there are playgrounds. It’s surrounded by trees and gardens.
Have fun at Jardin d’Acclimatation
Right outside the city in the Parc de Bois near the Louis Vuitton foundation is a small amusement park. Jardin d’Acclimatation originally opened in 1860 as a zoo under Napoleon III.It was also a place for science and learning. In the beginning of the 20th century they brought in more modern rides and opened a children’s zoo. In the mid 90s they brought back some of the educational programs. The whole amusement park has a futuristic steampunk feel. Some rides look like boats that fly or old motorcycles with sidecars. Take a walk to see the animals and a small aviary. You can also rent a paddle boat. The 1 line goes to the edge of the park but the website lists many other ways to get there.
Walk around a Chateau without leaving Paris
On the opposite end of the metro 1 line lies the Château de Vincennes. This was the original center of the French monarchy before Versaille was built. It was then used as a prison. Napoleon I turned it back into a barracks and arsenal. It protected Paris during invasions during the 19th century. Now the grounds house military artifacts. There is a great audio guide to all the buildings on the grounds. The guide has you visit the church, then go across to the tall tower known as the Keep. This building was very modern at the time since Charles V added the brand new indoor latrines on every floor. The small part of town next to the chateau has a handful of places to eat, drink coffee and get some chocolate.
See any exhibit at Atelier des Lumieres
The Atelier des Lumieres is an art center in a huge open space. They take an artist and project piece by piece on all the walls, the ceiling and the floor. You feel completely immersed in each piece of art. It’s not stationary either. If the image is of waves they will move. If the image is of a tree it will start with just the trunk and slowly grow into the full painting. There are usually 1 or 2 smaller shows and then a longer one featuring the main artist. I was lucky to see Klimt, Japanese art, and Van Gogh exhibits. It’s a whole new way to immerse yourself in art.
Atelier des Lumiers is in the 11th arr. You can get there by taking Metro lines 9, 3, or 2 or a number of busses all listed on their website.
Tour Musee Marmottan Monet
One of my absolute favorite museums, Marmottan Monet, houses the largest collection of Monet’s. Monet passed in 1926, leaving a sole heir to most of his paintings and collections, many of which have never been seen. When Michael Monet, his son and heir, passed, he left all the work he had to the Marmottan museum. When these works went on display in 1970, they became the largest collection of Monet’s work. The museum also houses an array of other artists Monet had collected as well as some art from the Middle Ages and revolutionary times.
The Museum is located in the 16th arr. You can take Metro line 9 or RER C as well as many buses.
Stop by the Architecture museum
This unusual museum includes casts of French monuments like pieces of cathedral entrances. It also houses copies of stained glass and murals from French romanesque and gothic churches. The third part of the museum has models of more modern architecture from the mid 1800s to present day. The museum also has fun, educational, hands-on displays where you can create an arch with blocks and see how the casts are made. There is also an architectural library and training grounds for restoration of monuments.The museum is across the river from the Eiffel tower so it has a gorgeous view.
Take metro 9, or 6 or one of the many busses that go into that area.
Discover the new Grands Voisins
Les Grands Voisins is located in the 14th arr. in the old Saint-Vincent-de-Paul hospital. Now some of the halls, rooms and courtyards house artists shops, chocolate, and other foods. There’s also a bar and concert hall, as well as small gardens. The summer of 2019 grand opening only has 2 of the courtyards open. The plan is to convert the whole hospital into this kind of market and community by 2024.
Take Metro lines 4 or 6 or RER B