It is easy to get swept up in the ‘must sees’ of a place, especially when you are in a city and short on time. Running around, trying to frantically cram all the famous sites into one weekend isn’t always the best way to see a city. And more importantly, to enjoy it. Most of the time, you end up exhausted, with blistered feet and needing another getaway as soon as you return home.
Paris is a gorgeous city. And most certainly has its fair share of iconic ‘must see’ sites.
Just like the Arc De Triomphe: historical, intricate and proudly waving the French flag at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. There are normally street performers at it’s base to enjoy too.
Recognise this postcard image?
But let’s move away from the typical Parisian icons. This city has so much more to offer.
With only 48 hours to soak up Paris like a true Parisian, we steered away from the guided tours to explore a different side of Paris.
What most tourist books forget to add…
1. Centre Pompidou
In Paris’ Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement, Centre Pompidou is a multidisciplinary cultural centre of an entirely new type. Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers in 1977, its striking architecture makes it hard to miss; renowned for its exterior escalators, enormous coloured tubes and scaffolding-like facade. A bit different to its more traditional surroundings. It is home to the National Museum of Modern Art, internationally famed for its 20th and 21st century art collections, whilst also bringing together galleries and cutting-edge exhibitions, interactive workshops, dance performances and cinema.
The centre is a site in itself, however, there is more. Many visitors don’t make it to the top- the rooftop that is.
Here the rooftop terrace bar and restaurant looks out over the breath-taking skyline. Blend in with Paris’ ‘trendy afterwork crowds’ and soak up the panoramic views.
This romantic terrace is perfect for a sunset aperitif or dinner. The quirky modern interior contrasts perfectly with the roses and idyllic backdrop, making it an elegant picturesque setting with a difference. The terrace offers an extensive (but not cheap…) list of signature cocktails and interesting twists on culinary delights. Á votre santé.
Definitely worth a visit.
2. Rue Des Rosiers / Le Marais
Since the 13th century, Le Marais has been Paris’ Jewish quarter. Today you are greeted with stunning old architecture, bustling streets lined with chic boutiques and, most importantly, falafel. A lot of falafel. Given its Jewish influence, the area is now famous for its Middle Eastern cuisine with long queues snaking down the streets for the Israeli-style falafel. But the wait is justified.
I like to consider myself a bit of a falafel connoisseur, having eaten more than my fair share. And when it comes to the best falafel, L’as du Fallafel certainly lives up to its name. L’as literally translates as “ace”. They may seem very confident, but rightly so. My perfectly packed pita was ace. Actually, it was probably one of the tastiest I’ve ever had. Fresh pita stuffed with hummus, tahini, aubergine, falafel, spicy sauce, tomato, salad… and a steal at around £6 for a takeaway. Yes, please. This is fresh, fast food at its finest. I know, somewhat comical queuing for falafel when in Paris, but hey, you’ve got to experience all of its cultural offerings.
Le Marais blurs modernity with a quaint traditional feel. From charming side streets off Rue Des Rosiers to a more modern vibrant feel celebrating Pride.
3. 59 Rivoli
Easily found on one of Paris’ best shopping streets, Rue de Rivoli, this quirky gallery is hard to miss. It stands out against the Parisian terraces thanks to bright abstract pieces scaling the building’s exterior. This is a taste of what’s to come. With free entry and hosting 30 different artists, this art novelty is jammed packed with colour, new ideas and creativity.
There is something here for every taste: from editorial photography, cubism and modern sculpture to the ‘unlabelled‘ genres. Even the building is a work of art – an old spiral staircase links all the floors (of which there are many!) with bold prints and thought provoking images. This modern gallery is something a little different to The Louvre. Each artist’s gallery is constantly changing and expanding so you will be surprised with something new every time.
4. Pause and watch the world go by
Exploring any city is draining; lots of pitstops are needed. For these, Paris is ideal. Here the cafe culture is fabulous; French coffee, pastries and all the chairs face outwards. As well as helping keep the busy streets a little less congested, it’s no coincidence that this makes cafes perfect for people watching. Coffee and croissant in hand, watching chic Parisians catwalk down the streets. A tiring sport… another pastry please.
Oh, and if you stumble across a tall, pointy metal thing, that’s supposed to be a pretty big attraction too. Tour De Eiffel, or something like that…