Let me introduce myself: my name is Marco and live in Paris.
Unusual places to visit in Paris
I have been living in the French capital since 2008 and as part of my job I welcome clients who rent apartments in Paris, whether on holiday or for business purposes. Usually they ask my advice on sights worth visiting in Paris.
If you choose to stay in apartment you do so because you really want to feel part of everyday life in the city. Our clients tend to have already visited the Ville Lumière and, therefore, wish to avoid the well-known tourist traps. Turning their attentions to more unusual Paris landmarks, that are truly representative of life in the city, is exactly what I wish to tell you about today.
When they ask my advice about a potential Paris itinerary, I always ask them what they do for a living. This enables me to give clients personalized suggestions that reflect their interests. For example, if they are architects (as many of them are!) they are already familiar with the more famous buildings. I update them on the latest developments in Paris architecture that could be of interest to them.
Architecture enthusiasts, take a tour to Les Halles!
I usually start my itinerary about unusual places to visit in Paris with the Les Halles redevelopment site. To an amateur the site won’t mean much, but to anyone interested in architecture it’s a must see attraction. Les Halles is a well-known Parisian district, dating back to the 70’s. Aesthetically speaking, it no longer bears any resemblance to the typical building styles of that era thanks to a new architectural project that is revolutionising the whole area.
For now, aside from building sites, it’s possible to visit an exhibition that contains a model of what Les Halles will look like in 2016. One large part of the district will be entirely covered by a “Canopée”, a gigantic, futuristic transparent roof acting like a real canopy (a term normally used to describe the topmost layer of foliage in the rainforests). This canopy-like roof will extend in waves over the entire complex, allowing sunlight to filter through but protecting the covered area from rain and sun.
A tree lined walk: we are in Promenade Plantée
Another unusual Paris attraction is the Promenade Plantée, also known as Coulée verte René-Dumont. This tree-lined boulevard was once an old railway line. This road extends for almost 5 kilometres, starting at Place de la Bastille and finishing at Boulevard Périphérique on the district Rive Droite, naturally located on the right side of the river Seine.
Here you can imitate the Parisians and relax in the sunshine, or stroll along the walkway, enjoying the wonderful perspective it provides overlooking the squares and roads of the city centre.
Modernity and history merge in Parc de la Villette
Continuing this unusual Paris itinerary, another attraction not to be missed is the Parc de la Villette. Not only does this location hold many cultural events throughout the year, but the Parc de la Villette is a true architectural gem in its own right. Throughout the park a recurring theme unites all the buildings and structures, the union of the old and new; of water, vegetation and minerals; of the city and nature. This spirit of aggregation is the work of the architect Bernard Tschumi, who is responsible for the development of the layout of the site based on a triple system of points, lines and surfaces.
Parc de la Villette is particularly renowned for the so called Folie: square based structures, each one different from the next, and coloured red to stand out against the green of the surrounding nature. Some of the gardens date way back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The Parc de la Villette is home to 26 Folie in total. The most well-known amongst them are: Folie Observatory, upon which one can climb to enjoy the view of the city; Folie L5 that houses a children’s workshop; and Folie Information that welcomes visitors at the Southern Entrance of the park.
There are many attractions to be found inside the park, including theatres, concert halls and the famous Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, the biggest science museum in Europe. If you’re travelling with children you must visit this museum as it offers a series of themed activities and laboratories designed for children as young as two years of age.
Discovering the biggest Jardin de Plantes in France!
Another magical place to visit both with and without children is the Jardin de Plantes, the most important botanical gardens in France. It is situated in the 5éme arrondissement and offers a fantastic series of themed gardens. Some of the themes featured are; alpine, ecological, rock garden, rose garden, maze, bee and bird garden. Above all you will be able to visit the splendid nineteenth century greenhouses which contain all different plant species, from the most well-known to the more exotic with their multicoloured flowers.
The next step of my unusual Paris itinerary is the Jardin de Citroën, to be found inthe west of the city. This disused Citroën factory, decommissioned in 1970, has been converted into an enormous green space, the Parc André Citroën. Here you will find fountains, greenhouses, and the beautiful Jardin des Métamorphoses, not to mention a teathered hot air balloon from which you can admire the city from on high.
To finish in style with a comprehensive overview of modern Paris architecture, you can’t miss a trip to La Défense. This area, filled will skyscraper office complexes was developed in the 1980s and is home to all the capital’s economic activities.