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5 less crowded sights in Paris: Michael’s list

by Michael on June 18, 2014

On a first trip to Paris most visitors go through the checklist of “must-see” attractions: The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame are usually the most popular. But there are many less crowded sights in Paris.

Imagine strolling through a museum and you are the only one there. Or finding a quiet corner in a park to get attached to the rhythms of the city without the crowds. Here are a few such places to visit in Paris.

5 less crowded sights in Paris

1) Picpus Cemetery

This bucolic setting (pictured above) is Paris’ only private cemetery. It holds the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette. A US flag always flies over this hero of the American Revolution, courtesy of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  The cemetery also contains the remains of victims of the Reign of Terror who were guillotined in 1794. Rows of manicured rose gardens leading to a simple stone commemorating those who died create a poignant tableau. (Thanks to one of our readers, Barbara, for suggesting this site.)

picpus cemetery paris

2) Musee des Plans Reliefs (The Relief Map Museum at Les Invalides)

A visitor can spend days at Les Invalides, the French military museum that also houses Napoleon’s tomb. But tucked into a quiet attic space is the Relief Map Museum, a collection of 30 antique scale-models of fortified sites from the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the room-sized models are over 300 years old. They were used by kings and generals to plan military fortifications and engage in war games. Due to its almost clandestine location, this museum is usually empty and you’ll have it to yourself.

less crowded sights in paris (640x501)

3) Les Egouts (The sewers)

How many cities can claim a sewer system with a literary heritage? Les Egouts are featured prominently in Victor Hugo’s classic Les Miserables. Believe it or not, they can make for a fascinating half-hour. Visitors stroll along open culverts carrying effluent, and who knows what else, from the city streets above. Wear a hat because sometimes those rusty overhead pipes leak. It’s a short walk from the Eiffel Tower so you can combine the two to see Paris from both its crystal-clear heights and murky depths. Sure the Eiffel Tower is romantic, but was it featured in The Phantom of the Opera? Here’s information on how to tour the sewers of Paris.

Paris sewers

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4) The Catacombs

Miles of underground pathways containing the bones of over 6 million people, many of them arranged in quite decorative poses. It’s also where the French Resistance hid from the Gestapo during World War II. This site is best visited in the winter, spring or fall to avoid the peak summer season when there are long waits to get in. However those long waits are due to entry being limited, so once you descend into the Catacombs it won’t be too crowded. If you do go in summer go later in the day. It’s popular with teenage boys and other ghoulish types.

Catacombs mortal sign

5) Chateau D’ Vincennes

If you can’t make it to the château region try this local spot. Located on the outskirts of Paris, but easily reachable by Metro, this 14th-century structure is one of the best preserved castles in Europe.  Don’t forget to visit the dungeon where you can see the cell of the infamous Marquis de Sade.

Chateau de vincennes

Like it? Share it . . . Pin it!Five sights in Paris where you can avoid the crowds and still get a good dose of the city's history

Here’s a list of Larissa’s favorite offbeat sights in Paris.

What favorite bits of Paris do you recommend?

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larry June 11, 2012 at 9:03 am

Chez Omar – hidden gem restaurant, just north of the marais. Vincennes racetrack – watch the french lose their cool with a couple minutes to go before the race; they push and shove to get their bets in.

Michael June 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for the tip.

Kristin June 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm

The Musée Jacquemart-André—a gorgeous building and a wonderful art collection. I love a lot of the parks, too (including André Citroën and Montsouris), and the elevated Promenade plantée. It’s been too long since my last trip to Paris. . .

Michael June 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Thanks for the tip. It sounds like you should start planning another trip to Paris…

Andy June 11, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Some great ideas here guys, and very original. Not sure my five are in the same league.
All the best,

noelle June 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm

the catacombs are very interesting, but I don’t think they are for everyone.

Michael June 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Well I do say they’re for the ghoulish. That’s why Larissa will be posting her own list next week.

Thanks for checking in.

Michael June 11, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Thanks for the tips. The sparkling water fountain looks like it’s worth a try.

Simon P June 12, 2012 at 9:00 am

I haven’t heard of any of these except the catacombs – and ironically when I tried to visit them a few years back the line went around the block! I guess with something like that it depends what time of year you visit. I was in Paris during the peak tourist season.

Michael June 12, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Yeah the crowds at the Catacombs in the summer are quite large. The line backs up because they limit how many people can be down there at one time. At least when you get down there it’s not crowded. Most of the year you can just show up and walk in.

Barbara June 20, 2012 at 10:49 am

Hi Michael,
This is a different list than Larissa’s but, “vive la différence!”.
1- Great, you made it to Picpus cemetery. My pleasure for the tip. Doesn’t it feel special at General Lafayette’s graveside? I was so moved…
2- I have heard of the relief maps but never have seen them. I love Geography so, I would find them cool.
3- Les égouts – haven’t done and will pass…
4- Les Catacombes- Idem for this one.
5- Château de Vincennes- Not done but squeemish also passes on dungeons.

Keep up the great work.

Michael June 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm

We’ll get you to the sewers one day!

Steve July 14, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Musee des Arts et Metiers (including amazing Metro station), Mariage Freres (not far away).

Michael July 16, 2014 at 12:58 am

Thanks for the tip about the Metro station.

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