As soon as their plane touches down at Charles De Gaulle, most tourists make a beeline for the best-known sights in Paris: the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Louvre. But what if you don’t want to join the mad rush to see the Mona Lisa, or stand in line for the Eiffel Tower? Strike out on your own and try a different itinerary that takes you to the markets, bakeries and less-crowded sights in Paris. We suggest a few of the best things to do,
One word before you go: Paris airfare and hotels can be expensive, so be sure to protect your vacation investment with travel insurance. When you’re buying a travel insurance plan for Paris, look for one that includes trip cancellation and interruption, emergency medical and emergency medical transportation benefits, travel delay and lost/delayed baggage benefits, and more.
1. Explore the gardens of the Palais-Royal. While the palace itself is not generally open to the public, visitors can spend a few hours wandering its formal gardens and appreciating the contrast between modern sculptures and 17th-century architecture. A favorite is the Colonnes de Buren, an installation of 260 black-and-white striped columns.1 Afterward, savor a croque madame at Le Nemours.
2. Shop the Sunday markets. One of the best things to do in Paris is spending a Sunday morning browsing the open-air market. There are more than 60 Sunday markets in Paris, selling everything imaginable: oysters and old books, baguettes and Brie, scarves, and stamps. The Rue Mouffetard is known for street performers, while Le Marché Bastille has musicians singing traditional French songs.2
3. Go back to the future. Paris is known for its historic architecture, but it was home to modernist pioneer Le Corbusier as well. You can visit a villa the great architect built in the 1920s, preserved by Fondation Le Corbusier, as well as Le Corbusier’s own studio and apartment, reopening in 2018 after a lengthy renovation.
4. Say hello to some skulls. In the late 1700s, Paris ran out of room in its cemeteries. The city moved millions of skeletons — some more than a thousand years old — into disused quarries under its streets, creating eerie catacombs with carefully arranged bones.3 Today you can tour a section of the catacombs and learn about its macabre history.
5. Visit as many patisseries as possible. The pastries of Paris are legendary, so you might as well indulge! That’s what Chef Yotam Ottolenghi did, and his recommendations include the perfect croissants at Du Pain et Des Idées, the mille-feuille at Yann Couvreur and the eclairs at L'Éclair de Génie.
Wrap yourself in the glamour of a bygone time at the Hôtel Providence: “Bejewelled in lavish fabrics, unique objets d’art and superbly crafted bespoke details, this is a luxury lifestyle hotel that lives up to its promise,” The Telegraph says.4 Or, for a Paris hotel stay that’s downright decadent, book a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel George V. Located on the Champs–Élysées, the George V is known for its breathtaking flower arrangements, superlative service and Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Cinq.
If you’re traveling on a budget, it’s still possible to find a great hotel in Paris. The 1K Paris is a lively place with a Peruvian restaurant, modern rooms and suites that have access to a private pool. Generator Hostel is a chic Paris poshtel with shared rooms and hip amenities.
If you have a taste for luxury (and a budget to match), dine at Le Grand Véfour, a grand Parisian restaurant that first opened in 1784. The décor is lavish, befitting the classic French cuisine, and the prices exorbitant — which is why many people recommend the prix-fixe lunch.
The opposite of the traditional dining experience you get at Le Grand Véfour is Fulgurances, an ever-changing hot spot that hosts fresh culinary talent. Owned by three food writers, Fulgurances offers residencies to young chefs, giving it “quite a reputation for being one of the most consistently exciting tables in town,” Eater says.
For a relaxed glass of wine and some excellent charcuterie, Willi's Wine Bar is the place to go. The wine bar also offers special dine-and-learn workshops, such as “Table Arts of the French Empire” and “Treasure Hunt in the Louvre.”