Here at SRM Travel we try to give ideas for our friends and clients who travel. We like to give you tips on what to do and see. For this post, we will give you some ideas on things to do and see in Paris.
OK, everyone knows about the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre. What are some of the fun things that don’t necessarily make it onto everyone’s list of things to see and do. Here are some ideas in no particular order.
- The Sainte Chapelle – OK, so this is on a lot of people’s list. But not necessarily these details. First, don’t go on a cloudy day. We have been on a sunny day and later went on a cloudy day and what a disappointment in comparison. It was still impressive for the people seeing it for the first time, but, if you have a choice. Wait till its sunny. Second, you can wait for a long time in line to get tickets. Here is how to avoid the line. Go to the Conciergerie next door. You can get a dual ticket to see both. The tour of the Conciergerie is really fascinating and is one of the oldest buildings in Paris. The heavy gothic architecture in the dungeon area is impressive. When you finish you go out to the court yard and there will be a long line for the Sainte Chapelle. Walk to the front of it and hand the person your ticket and walk in. Everyone in line is waiting to purchase a ticket and you won’t have to wait. What a great feeling to walk past them all and not be butting in line but doing it totally legitimately.
- House of Nicolas Flamel – 51 rue Montmorency – in the Marais – If you have read Harry Potter, this name will ring bells with you. He was an alchemist and built the house in 1407. It is the oldest stone house in Paris.
- Half timber houses – Paris was a very medieval city and was mostly half timber houses. This construction was later banned because of the fire hazard. But modern Paris was in large part a reaction to the Revolution. The streets were narrow and easily barricaded and were difficult for the king’s troops to maneuver. General Haussman, under Napoleon III undertook a project to reinvent the city. Many of the buildings were knocked down and current wide avenues and the stone buildings were built in the middle of the 1800s. This was partially make it easier to put down resurrections and partly to clean up the city and reduce disease. Up until this work, there was essentially no sewer in Paris and the stench must have been horrendous. So now there are very few half timber houses left making it hard to imagine what Paris used to look like. There is one at 3 rue Volta which was actually built in the 1600s as a replica of earlier half timber houses. It is not far from Flamel’s house. Others nearby are two at 11 and 13 rue Francois Miron, and one at 12 rue des Barres. There is also one in the courtyard at 5 rue de Braque. It is private so you might not be able to see it.
- Place des Vosges – It is the oldest planned square in Paris and is beautiful. It is also in the Marais not far from the half timber houses.
- Paroisse St. Eustache – A church near the old Les Halles. Les Halles was the market place for Paris where meats and vegetables were shipped in to supply most of the stores and restaurants in Paris. The traffic became too much and they moved the market to the suburbs. Now it has been converted to a mall. But we think St. Eustache is prettier than Notre Dame. It is in the flamboyant gothic style.
- Basilica of St. Denis – An abbey church in the St. Denis area of Paris that has the tombs of most of France’s kings and queens and other notables. Worth a look, especially if you like history.
- Catacombs – One of the weirdest things you will see anywhere. You go down these narrow stairs and there are rooms and passages stacked floor to ceiling with human bones and skulls. What is bizarre is that they have created elaborate designs with them by stacking them in different ways.
- Gobelins Tapestries – You know all those tapestries you see in museums and palaces. Well, a lot of them were made by the Gobelins Tapestry works and it is still in business. The tour is very interesting. They still have the cartoons (what the call the designs that the tapestries are based on) going back several centuries and if you wanted (and had enough money) they could recreate some of these ancient tapestries.
- Marche aux Puces – which translates to Market of the Fleas, or Flea Market. It is the largest in the world and can be found near Porte de Clignancourt. It not only has junk, and clothing but has fine antiques as well. It just seems to go on and on. I know people who have bought paintings there and then found out it was a Picasso or Degas. Also, at the cafes you often have students playing jazz which is excellent. Highly recommended. Only open Saturday, Sunday and Monday but I would choose Saturday and second choice would be Sunday.