Paris is unique in it’s dynamic as a capital city. You can be mystified, surprised and uplifted, but there isn’t the same turbulence as other cities that ‘never sleep’. It possesses the same beauty, depth, opportunities, history and valuables of any other European capital, however, the sweetness that encourages stillness and reflection in the mind isn’t lost in the vastness of the place.
It’s romantic in every sense of the word and somewhere that feels oddly homely. There are a few particular spots that myself and fellow travellers have favoured and that don’t get the attention they deserve, so here goes!
Shakespeare & Company Bookshop
This is a little bookshop steps away from Notre Dame. It reminded me of something out of Harry Potter because the vibe in there is magical, whimsical and wondrous. The place is floor-to-ceiling with books, there are literary quotes painted on the walls and up the narrow, creaking staircase, you’ll find plenty of cushioned seats, old books to snuggle up with, teary messages pinned up by fellow travellers, a piano which is welcome to be played and even a resident cat. It has a little café of it’s own next door where you can have a cuppa and read whatever you have inevitably picked up. I have spent hours there; reading, listening to musicians, poetry readings and discussions, wandering endlessly!
Find some music!
One thing I wanted to do whilst in Paris was visit a decent jazz club. I found one but due to the travellers way, I didn’t end up staying very long (It was called Le Caveau des Oubliettes, sounded like something out of La La Land). However, I ended up in a cabaret restaurant with a piano bar instead! Just around the corner from the bookshop mentioned you’ll find a little restaurant called ‘Aux Trois Mailletz’. We listened to a singer and a pianist over dinner (very good food too) and it was so special. If you don’t find yourself there exactly, remember there are artists of all kinds scattered around the city, keep your eyes peeled and they could light up your night.
Catch a Sunday Market
Montmarte is known for its markets, but during our Sunday wanders around the city we stumbled upon at least three small and charming markets full of trinkets, jewellery, books, pre-loved items and much, much more. Great for a gander, using your little bit of French with the locals and for buying gifts too!
An oldie but a goodie. It’s a lovely view from the top but it’s just as magical in the distance. I visited it in 2015 and 2019, and it’s very hard to ignore the massive increase in security around the tower in those five years. Obviously necessary but I hate to admit, the romance of being underneath it has drained a wee, tiny bit, what with the glass cage around it… if you wander in the general area, it’s quite nice to spot the tower looking down a street and admiring it from there, and from the parks around it too. If you want to go up it, I would strongly advise booking in advance, and fast track is definitely worth the money as queues can be crazy! Check ahead of time for nice weather and prepare for security heading into the grounds as well as the actual tower. Can’t be missed!
This is an ancient, mass grave deep in the undergrounds of Paris. The path walls are made out of the skeletons of those buried there, and the walls of bones go so far back into the darkness, no ending can be seen. It’s incredibly interesting, thought-provoking and full of history. Despite it being a tourist attraction that you pay into, it is still a mass grave, so please try to be respectful, quiet and refrain from taking selfies – this may seem obvious to some but, unfortunately, not to all. This is something that will always have a massive queue so don’t think about going without booking it online in advance, it’s really easy to do and will save you waiting in a queue for hours!
Natural History Museum
On the left bank of the River Seine is the French National Museum of Natural History. In a grand display of fossils and bone fragments, you’ll learn the history of the beasts with whom we share the planet. Even if you never thought you’d be interested in ‘piles of bones’, I have to admit it was awe-inspiring and a lovely place to visit. All of the signage inside is in French, so if you really want to learn about all the different species in there, I would advise downloading a good translation app beforehand. There’s a botanical garden there too, and on the grounds themselves, there are beautiful paths and gardens. They’re lovely to walk around and it gives you a bit of a break from the busy streets!