If you've already visited Paris, perhaps you want to see the city in a new light? Or perhaps it's your first time here, but you want to take a different path to the usual Louvre - Eiffel Tower - Notre Dame? Paris is one of those cities that feels alive. Sit outside a café and watching the world go by, head off to wherever the fancy takes you or open the door to a tiny, seemingly abandoned boutique is enough to feel intoxicated by the city's unique ambiance. There's no doubt that if you let yourself be carried along, you'll discover a multitude of neighbourhoods all but forgotten by the guide books. But if you need inspiration, we've put together a handful of unusual places for you, where you'll be enthralled, go green, learn, have fun, relax and touch upon some of the many sides of this city that never cease to amaze us. This is Paris, like you've never seen it before.


    Archaeological crypt of the Île de la Cité

    Visit underneath the Notre-Dame Cathedral

    There's no doubt you'll go to see the Cathedral of Notre-Dame during your stay in Paris, but would you have thought of visiting what's hidden below, in the crypt? Opened in 1980, it houses the remains of ancient buildings that are more than 2,000 years old in some cases. Go 7 metres below ground, get lost in a delightful maze and travel back in time.

    Be it the dock at the port in old Lutetia, Gallo-Roman baths, private thermal baths, ruins of Roman villas, wells and ramparts or even the layout of the Haussmann sewers, you'll see the different stages of urban and architectural development unveil and mix before your very eyes in the heart of the capital, Île de la Cité. A guided tour of around an hour and a half is available, as well as slide shows and models of the famous cathedral.

    Location: 7 Parvis Notre-Dame - Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +33 (0)1 55 42 50 10


    photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Butte-aux-Cailles district

    Village soul, concept cafés and a friendly atmosphere

    Butte-aux-Cailles generally doesn't appear in tourist guides, and it's just as well. That's why this neighbourhood, built around a small hill in the 13th arrondissement, has been able to keep its charm and authenticity. As you'll see, there are no Haussmann-style buildings around here, but narrow, tree-lined, cobbled streets, edged with pretty houses and walls decorated with works of street art, including some by the famous Miss Tic.

    Admire the timber façades of La Petite Alsace, take a dip in Paris' oldest pool under a vault worthy of a cathedral or try your hand at crochet over a hearty lunch at l'Oisive-Thé. Come evening, get lost among the crowd of locals in the neighbourhood's restaurants and bars.

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    photo by Mbzt (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Petite Ceinture

    Walk for kilometres without seeing a single car

    Wild and enchanting, the Petite Ceinture is an old railway line that once allowed freight trains to travel around the French capital. Although some stretches are still in use, the line has mostly come to a halt and instead has given way to a multitude of welcome initiatives. Almost invisible from the road, built part up high and part underground, the line has a café here (La Gare in the 16th arrondissement) and a canteen there (La Recyclerie in the 18th arrondissement), but also shared gardens, an ecological trail, cycle paths, sports buildings and a tree-lined walk in the 15th arrondissement.

    Some recommended entry points: Rue de la Mare and Rue de Ménilmontant in the 10th arrondissement, between Rue Rottembourg and Rue de Montempoivre in the 12th arrondissement, between Place Balard and Rue Olivier-de-Serres in the 15th arrondissement.


    Museum of Fairground Arts

    Enter a colourful world of entertainments

    The Musée des Arts Forains (Museum of Fairground Arts) is a place completely dedicated to laughter, parties and the art of entertainment. Its delightfully vintage collection is made up of carousels, old attractions like the course des garçons de café (waiters' race), and other rare and authentic objects dating from the Belle Époque.

    Unlike most Parisian institutions, this museum lives and breathes – during the guided tours, the actor guides turn on some of the carousels, which visitors are even invited to try out. State-of-the-art sound and projection technology is used to enhance the character of this unique heritage and help both little and big kids to dream. Please note that all visits are by booking only.

    Location: 53 Avenue des Terroirs de France, 75012 Paris, France

    Phone: +33 (0)1 43 40 16 22


    photo by Laika ac (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Rue Crémieux

    Paris' most colourful street

    It's unlikely you'll stumble across Rue Crémieux by chance. This cobbled pedestrian street houses will brighten up your photos with their vivid colours ranging from turquoise to magenta, from apple green to pastel blue. Add a couple of flower pots and a cat on the way and you'll have a perfect countryside painting to marvel over in the middle of Paris.

    Located in the 12th arrondissement, close to the Gare de Lyon train station, this charming, colourful, 144-metre-long street feels out of place in one of the city's rather more mundane neighbourhoods.

    Location: Rue Crémieux, 75012 Paris, France


    Little India on Passage Brady

    Travel to New Delhi without leaving Paris

    If you like a bit of exoticism, look no further - Passage Brady offers you an instant change of scene. Set up by Mr Pannoussamy's restaurant in 1972, this passageway is peppered with greengrocers, restaurants and hairdressers done out in the colours of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

    Rice, lentils and spices fill the shelves of some shops while others specialise in beauty accessories, colourful clothes, incense or massage oils. French gives way to lively conversations in one of the multiple languages spoken in the subcontinent and the smell of baguettes moves over to be replaced by curry, naan and chutney.

    Location: Passage Brady, 75010 Paris, France


    photo by koronis.at (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Sainte-Chapelle windows

    Discover the delights of a small church near Notre-Dame

    Sainte-Chapelle is a lot less well known than its neighbour Notre-Dame, but no less astonishing. It offers visitors who venture to the top of its staircase a spectacle so majestic it defies imagination. In the highest part of the building, 600 square metres of 15-metre high glistening and colourful stained-glass windows radiate power and mysticism.

    The best way to discover the chapel is on a sunny day when can see the rays bring this breathtaking palette to life. Classical music concerts are also regularly given in the evenings to help you dive into this masterpiece of medieval architecture in a more spiritual way.

    Location: 8 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris, France

    Open: January–March and October–December: daily from 9 am to 5 pm. April–September: daily from 9 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +33 (0)1 53 40 60 80


    Deyrolle's Cabinet of Curiosities

    Delve into a universe from a time gone by

    Dayrolle is a taxidermy shop founded in 1831 at 46 Rue du Bac in the 7th arrondissement. If you enter the museum there, not only will you burst in on a richly decorated 200-year-old residence, but you'll also dive straight into the savannah. Stuffed zebras, lions and rhinos are the trademark of this cabinet of curiosities specialising in taxidermy and entomology as well as splendid specimens of butterflies, shellfish, crustaceans and even corals.

    Another particularity is the educational boards published by the house on the themes of botany, geology and zoology, among others. More surprising still, everything here is for sale to anyone who dreams of having an imaginary hunting table in their living room. This makes for both an enlightening and exotic visit.

    Location: 46 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris, France

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 1.30 pm to 6.30 pm, Saturday from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm (closed on Sundays and Mondays)

    Phone: +33 (0)1 42 22 30 07


    photo by flightlog (CC BY 2.0) modified


    The Grande Mosquée de Paris gardens

    Wander around a space characterised by beauty and spirituality

    Very few people know that you can visit the Grande Mosquée de Paris and its gardens. This Hispano-Moresque-style place of worship in the 5th arrondissement was erected in the 1920s in honour of the Muslim soldiers who fell for France in World War I. Its 33-metre-high minaret overlooks the aptly named Jardin des Délices (Garden of Delights), totalling a surface area of 3,500 square metres.

    Here you can stroll around ponds, fountains, mosaics, wisteria and palm trees (5 of them, for the 5 pillars of Islam). The modest entry fee will also grant you access to the large patio, the Koranic library and the conference room.

    Location: 2bis Place du Puits de l'Ermite, 75005 Paris, France

    Open: Saturday–Thursday from 9 am to 6 pm (closed on Fridays)

    Phone: +33 (0)1 45 35 97 33


    photo by Zairon (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Butte Bergeyre

    Explore a country village in the middle of the city

    If you think the most beautiful view over Paris is from the heights of Montmartre, wait until you reach the top of Butte Bergeyre. From here, you can see Sacré-Cœur as well as having a bird's-eye view over the roofs of the capital. Façades swallowed in ivy, rustic rose bushes, small cottages with pretty flowers, shared gardens and children playing on the pavement are all ingredients of a peaceful village in the country, creating the perfect illusion.

    Nevertheless, this park, not too far from the bustling Place Colonel Fabien, is accessible on foot by 2 sets of steps that you need to know are there. The first is on Avenue Simon Bolivar and the second is at 17 Rue Manin. A path at the end of Rue des Chaufourniers will also take you there.


    photo by Guilhem Vellut (CC BY 2.0) modified

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