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 less crowded sights in Paris
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope you found these “less gritty” and “more pretty” than Michael’s suggestions.
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Can you recommend some other sights in Paris?
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