“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young [wo]man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway
While my feelings about Hemingway are mixed (*cough*misogynistic asshole*cough*), the man had a way with words and his prose about Paris sums up my feelings quite well. It seems no matter where I go, I always end up homesick for this gorgeous city. The first time I visited Paris was with my French class during my freshman year of high school, and it was love at first sight. We spent about a week traipsing around the city, and I had longed to go back ever since. I was lucky enough to study abroad there when I was in college, and made my triumphant return with one of my best friends last November. It was somehow even better than I remembered. There isn’t a city in the world (except perhaps New York) that holds a more special place in my heart than Paris.
But enough of my gushing: who needs a Top 5 guide to this famous city? From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, there is no shortage of tourist attractions in Paris. And while those sites are certainly worth seeing, there is so much more to the City of Light than that. Here are some of my personal favorites!
1. Musée Rodin
Paris is home to many world-renowned art museums, including the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. But if you’re interested in getting away from the crowds for a bit, head to Musée Rodin instead. Featuring the work of French sculptor Auguste Rodin (and a few pieces by his talented mistress, Camille Claudel), this museum is a must-see. In addition to indoor exhibitions, Musée Rodin also features an outdoor sculpture garden where you can easily spend an hour or two wandering around. It subtracts the stuffiness of a typical art museum, and instead allows you to enjoy Rodin’s work en plein air.
2. Parc Montsouris
Paris is home to several gorgeous parks, but one of the prettiest and least crowded ones is Parc Montsouris. Located in the 14th arrondissement (just a few stops from the Latin Quarter), this park has something for everyone. From running paths for joggers to large, sunny swatches of grass for loafers, it’s the perfect spot to pack a picnic and relax the day away. I happened to live across the street from here while I was studying abroad, and it was one of my favorite spots for both running and relaxing.
3. Arc de Triomphe
When visiting Paris for the first time, most tourists rush to top of the Eiffel Tower for what they assume is the best view of the city. But you’re much better off heading to the Arc de Triomphe instead. There are still some crowds, but they’re not nearly as overwhelming. Plus, you’ll be able to see the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc.
Another great spot to see city? The Tour Montparnasse. The running joke is that the view from the top of the Montparnasse building is the best in Paris because you can’t see the Montparnasse building (often viewed as an eyesore of the city’s skyline).
4. Rue Mouffetard
If you’re hanging around the Latin Quarter, be sure to take a stroll down Rue Mouffetard. Whether you’re trying to save money by not eating out every meal, or simply want to throw yourself a wine-and-cheese party in your hotel room, this is the place to grocery shop the French way.
In addition to the numerous cheese, charcuterie, and wine shops, there are also stands selling fresh produce. And of course, you’ll find plenty of bakeries where you can get your baguette fix. The best time to go is on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when this street buzzes with locals doing their weekly food shopping.
5. Musée des Egouts de Paris (The Paris Sewer Museum)
I’ll spare you a photo here. Suffice to say you really need to see it for yourself!
The name of this attraction, admittedly, does not have a lot to recommend it. However, this museum – in which, yes, you really do descend underground into the sewer system – provides a surprisingly fascinating history of waste management in Paris. You’ll learn all about how the system has evolved over time, from the days when the city created a cholera epidemic from dumping raw sewage into the Seine to a network that now removes 1.2 million cubic meters of waste water each day.
And consider yourself lucky for not having visited before 1975, when the tour of this facility included a boat ride down the sewage canals!