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5 less crowded sights in Paris: Larissa’s List

by Larissa on June 18, 2014


Last week Michael wrote about some of his less crowded sights in Paris. We both love the nooks and crannies of the City of Light, and fortunately there are plenty of them. My suggestions are a little less grim than his—I prefer to spend my time above ground.

Five truly Parisian sights where you can avoid the crowds

Five less crowded sights in Paris

 1) Malmaison  

The former home of Josephine Bonaparte, this “petite château” sits among beautiful gardens on the outskirts of Paris. It is easily accessible by metro and bus. Meticulously restored with many original furnishings, Malmaison offers insight to the country life where Napoleon spent his weekends away from Paris. History, culture, gardens and a cool chateau in one tidy little package. Far more digestible, and less crowded, than Versailles.

Less crowded sights in Paris Malmaison (550x440)

Malmaison was Napoleon and Josephine’s love nest.

2) English Language Bookstores of the Left Bank  

For a glimpse into Paris’ literary past, start with a visit to Shakespeare & Co., perched opposite Notre Dame cathedral. It’s a 1950’s-era reboot of the original shop that closed during WWII, that somehow manages to channel ghosts of both the lost the beat generations. It’s a tiny, creaky old place with tons of great titles. Don’t miss the mini-museum on the 2nd floor. Once you’re in a literary mood, amble over to the Odeon neighborhood where two competing used bookshops, San Francisco Books and Berkeley Books (there’s a story behind this budding rivalry), offer previously read tomes at reasonable prices. They each have good Paris-related sections, including guidebooks.

Less crowded sights in Paris-One of the left bank's English bookstores

Channel your inner Hemingway at Shakespeare and Company

3) Musée Marmottan Monet

This small museum boasts one of the largest collections of Monet’s works in the world. It is the “city sister” of the well-known Monet Gardens at Giverny. Housed in a former mansion in the 16th arrondisement, the Marmottan’s manageable size and bucolic setting enable a slow perusal of some legendary artwork, including paintings by Monet’s Impressionist and Post-Impressionist colleagues. An excellent collection of medieval illuminations is also on display.

4) Saxe-Breteuil Market

A street food market in spectacular setting behind the Ecole Militaire with a view of the Eiffel Tower. It is crowded, but not with tourists carrying guidebooks. Open every Thursday and Saturday morning, Saxe-Breteuil is where residents of the 7th and 14th arrondisements shop for groceries. If you don’t have a flat with a kitchen you’ll only be able to ogle the cabbage-sized artichokes, Breton lobsters and fresh duck eggs. But even a visitor with a small hotel room can pick up fresh Normandy cider, ham cut to order off the bone and a hunk of aged Auvergne cheese.

Less crowded sights Paris-the tasty Saxe Breteuil Market

Sniff out a few bargains at the fish counter.

5) Canal St. Martin

This multi-locked canal forms the spine of a neighborhood north of the Bastille. Trees and tiny parks line the 4 km long waterway, arced with delicate iron footbridges every few blocks. The streets alongside house some funky shops and small cafes. There are plenty of spots to enjoy a simple picnic while watching the barges and tour boats float by as they are raised and lowered through the locks.

Less crowded sights in Paris- Canal Saint-Martin

The canal provides a relaxing setting for a picnic.

I hope you found these “less gritty” and “more pretty” than Michael’s suggestions.

Can you recommend some other sights in Paris?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Payton Jayce June 18, 2012 at 8:15 am

Thanks for your highlighted 5 spot with less crowded sights in Paris. I’m happy to your nice information. If i get an opportunity, I’ll visit here.


Larissa June 18, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Glad you found it informative


Anonymous June 18, 2012 at 9:02 am

Always a joy to read your post!! I appreciate your efforts! Celeste
P. S. I equally liked both of your lists.


Larissa June 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Glad you liked them Celeste, but I still think mine was better than Michael’s 😉


anne June 18, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Hi Larissa, I have been to , 2, 4 and 5. I stayed near Ecole Militaire, and I have a friend that lives near Canal St Martin, Have you been to the parc … Buttes Chaumont?


Larissa June 20, 2012 at 6:04 am

No, we haven’t been to Buttes Chaumont yet. . .but that’s the beauty of Paris-there’s always a reason to go back! :)


Anna Marie June 19, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Very nice article. I love finding lesser known tourist attractions, but always feel I need to see the “obvious” places too. How do you strike a balance?


Michael June 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm

We try to stay at each destination long enough to do both. We met some people in Paris who were only there for two days as part of a group tour of Europe. So all they did see were the “the greatest hits.”

Your future web site looks exciting, btw.


Barbara June 20, 2012 at 10:40 am

Thumbs up, Larissa.
1- Malmaison much more easier than Versailles and very beautiful & quaint. Worth the trip down there.
2- Classic haunt(it seems that I know that woman in the pic 😉 ).
3- Haven’t done
4- Ditto
5- A real delight.

Great list and lovely photos!


Larissa September 1, 2015 at 10:23 am

Oh Barb, such a delayed reply from me . . . but glad it meets with your (very educated) approval! :)


anne June 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Barbara and I also went to Parc Andre Citroen , so YES every reason to go back :-) :-)


Amy July 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm

We just returned from Paris last week and I JUST saw your Paris posts. :) Turns out we did some of the items…the St Martin Canal, L’as Falafel… One of our highlights was the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. An easy walk from the canal and beautiful.

On our next trip, we will do the Sewers and Catacombs – not enough time this trip…


Larissa September 1, 2015 at 10:22 am

Yes, Buttes Chaumont is getting a few mentions in this comment string . . . well, darn! I guess I’ll just have to go back to Paris to check it out! 😉


Terry at Overnight New York August 31, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Nice post! I especially like the idea of Versaille light, and English language bookstores are always a welcome sight.


Larissa September 1, 2015 at 10:24 am

Yes, Terry. So many wonderful out-of-the-way places in Paris. No need to deal with crowds!


Penny Sadler August 31, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Larissa, love these suggestions. Especially the book stores and the Mamaison. All of them are exactly the type of thing I love.
Great write up!


Larissa September 1, 2015 at 10:25 am

Malmaison was wonderful, Penny. A charming place, and we basically had it to ourselves!


Cat of Sunshine and Siestas September 1, 2015 at 6:54 am

I have wanted to spend six months in Paris since I was a kid! I even took a class called ‘Paris and the Art of Urban Life’ in college, given by two professors who taught in the City of Lights. Hard to avoid the crowds, but this list has me thinking of taking a trip soon!


Larissa September 1, 2015 at 10:26 am

That sounds like a course worth taking, Cat! And visiting Paris is always a good idea :)


Mary Gabbett September 4, 2015 at 9:21 am

Great list. I loved spending time at Shakespeare & Co. on the Left Bank. Fantastic bookshop. Another off the beaten path thing to do in Paris is to go to thrift shops. You’ll see a side of Paris that only locals know.


Larissa September 6, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Great idea about the thrift shops, Mary. That would be a terrific way to pick up some chic fashions at more realistic prices :)


Lillie September 5, 2015 at 9:53 am

I love avoiding the crowds!!! Excellent list. I have been to Shakespeare and Co. and do recommend it. Good vibes!


Larissa September 6, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Yes, there’s just something about a good bookstore . . .


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