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As the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris depicted, the City of Lights has a long history of attracting fascinating characters. All those people eventually have to end up somewhere, often at Pere Lachaise and Montparnasse Cemetery. Paris has become one of the few cities where visiting the dead is a popular attraction.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Opened by Napoleon in 1804, the Pere Lachaise cemetery with its 300,000 graves is the largest in Paris. It’s a beautiful, even romantic, spot for a stroll. The visitor can get lost for hours among the serpentine tree-covered paths. While it’s the final resting place for many famous people, a quiet area can usually be found away from the celebrity crowd.

Pere Lachaise path

Go and explore on the miles of cobblestoned paths.

Pere Lachaise cemetery man reclining

We just love the look on this gentleman’s face, “Okay, I’m done. Can I just take a nap now?”

Pere Lachaise cemetery woman weeping on tomb

There are many graves with women weeping in agony but we didn’t see one of a man doing the same thing.

Pere Lachaise Rossini grave

The original grave of Rossini, the Italian composer of the stirring William Tell overture, is typical of the style of the mid-19th century. These mini-mausoleums provide a private chapel inside to pray. (Later his remains were moved to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence. He’s in some illustrious company there with Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.)

Pere Lachaise cemetery Jim Morrison grave crowd

Despite all the Napoleonic-era generals, famous composers and other luminaries, the most visited tomb at Pere Lachaise is still that of former Doors lead singer Jim Morrison. Forty-plus years after his death he’s still drawing standing-room-only crowds.

Pere Lachaise cemetery Jim Morrison tomb graffiti

You probably wouldn’t want to be buried next to the former rock star. The headstone next to him attracts quite a bit of graffiti, including the expression above. It’s now surrounded by a fence and a guard is on constant vigil.

Pere Lachaise Oscar Wilde grave

Much like the person, Oscar Wilde’s grave has had a long and sordid history. The lifelike genitalia on the angel were stolen while the slab itself attracted graffiti and lipstick kisses. The governments of France and Ireland recently restored the tomb and put up a glass barrier around it. Now those wishing to leave a kiss behind must plant one on the wall instead.

Pere Lachaise root pushing headstone

In a macabre tableau, some of the headstones are being toppled by tree roots which look eerily like skeletal arms pushing up from below.

If you visit, climb up the hill and walk around the older sections that are in a somewhat tumbledown condition. Some areas look they haven’t been touched in a century.

Pere lachaise Auschwitz memorial

There are about a dozen Holocaust memorials that are truly heart-wrenching.

Here are some interesting books about Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

Montparnasse Cemetery

After a black-and-white day at Pere Lachaise, we were in the mood for a bit of color at the Montparnasse Cemetery. It’s also more accessible than Pere Lachaise due its flat, compact size.

Montparnasse cemetery Pigeon grave bed

One of the more well-known graves is of Charles and Sophie Pigeon who are still in bed looking like they just happen to be discussing the day’s events. Monsieur Pigeon made his fortune by inventing the non-exploding Pigeon lamp, which sounds like it could be something totally different, that he exhibited at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair.

Montparnasse Cemetery Man Ray

Influential photographer and painter Man Ray was born in South Philly. His headstone on the left says “unconcerned but not indifferent” and is signed by wife Juliet. Hers says simply “Together Again.”

Montparnasse Cemetery Man peering behind ivy

This man peering out from behind the creeping ivy is trying his best not to be forgotten.

Montparnasse Cemetery Alexander Alekhine chess

Former world chess champion Alexandre Alekhine of Russia has a chess board imbedded in front of his tomb. I wonder if any of his fans ever play a match on it.

Montparnasse Cemetery Sartre Grave

There is a tradition of leaving Metro tickets on the grave of French philosophy couple Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

Montparnasse Cemetery Sartre Simone de Beauvoir grave metro tickets

I can’t find out why that is. Does anyone know the answer?

Montparnasse cemetery cherubs with cross

Have you ever visited a cemetery on vacation?

Like it? Share it . . . Pin it!Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is a hauntingly beautiful place where you can visit the the grave of rock star Jim Morrison, along with many other famous artists, writers and musicians.

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

We found an easier way to get around Paris. Download this Paris Metro map pdf and you’ll always know where you are in the City of Light. This official city map is difficult to find (we’re not sure why), so we’ve made it available for you below.

The entrance to most Paris Metro stations display the map "avec rues" (with streets). Get your own free copy to navigate like a local!

Paris’ public transportation takes visitors just about anywhere. The traditional Paris Metro map shows the train routes as a series of colored lines. That gives a you general idea where the lines are located in the city, and how they relate to each other. But it doesn’t show you, the visitor, exactly where you are compared to the actual streets above ground.

Paris Metro map avec rues (with streets)

Screen shot of Paris Metro map ave rues
A screenshot of the Paris Metro map avec rues

But we’ve found a better Paris Metro map: the grand plan lignes avec rues (lines with streets). It has three unique features that make it especially useful for visitors:

  1. The map displays the metro lines with all their twists and turns
  2. It overlays the lines on the actual city streets
  3. The map includes icons of major tourist sights

Download the Paris Metro Map PDF avec rues (It’s free!)

YES! Finally you can look at a map, figure out exactly where you are and where you want to go, then make an informed decision about how to get there. Additionally, when you arrive at your destination stop, you’ll be able to determine exactly where you are in the city. For me, one of the most frustrating things about taking a subway/metro is walking through the various underground passageways that twist this way and that. The typical metro map only displays how the train lines relate to one another, not to the city itself. By the time you pop up above ground, you are completely disoriented as to where you are.

Classic stylized map of Paris Metro
The traditional stylized Metro map is most useful for determining how the lines relate to each other, but it doesn’t tell you what’s going on at street level.

Heading to Paris? Compare Paris hotel prices using this handy tool!

With the map avec rues, you can figure out your location pretty quickly. Once you get above ground, a quick look at a few street signs will tell you where you are in no time. You can also make more informed decisions about where you’re going, and the best route to get there.

For example, take a look at the screen shot excerpts from the two different types of maps below. The traditional “cartoon,” or stylized map is on the left, the map avec rues is on the right. They both show the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides. Assuming you want to visit both Left Bank attractions, you use a map to plan your day. Using the “cartoon” map at left, it appears that the first stop might be “Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel” to visit the Eiffel Tower. Then, after doing a quick Google search for the best metro stop for Les Invalides, you’d get three possible options: “La Tour Maubourg,” “Ecole Militaire,” or “Varenne.” Back onto the Metro you go, change trains, and pop up near Les Invalides.

Now, plan out the same excursion using the map avec rues (above right).With the metro lines overlaying the actual city streets, it’s easy to see that Les Invalides is fairly close to the Eiffel Tower. You probably won’t need to jump back on the Metro at all! Additionally, you can see that you have several options for which line to take to the Eiffel Tower at the outset. And take a look at the “Ecole Militaire” stop. It’s right between both sights, AND it drops you off in front of the large park where most people take those sweeping views of the Eiffel Tower—Score!

Download the Paris Metro Map PDF avec rues

In this larger view of the Paris metro map “avec rues” you see exactly where the metro stops are, along with major streets in the neighborhood.

Paris Metro map PDF (and hard copies)

The Paris Metro grand plan lignes avec rues is published by RATP, Paris’ public transit system. The Paris Metro map pdf is available on the RATP website, but it’s a little difficult to find. That’s why we’ve made it handy for you to download here:

Download the Paris Metro Map PDF avec rues (OUR FAVORITE!)

The map is easy to use on a phone or tablet.

Hard copies of the Paris Metro grand plan lignes avec rues are technically available at city ticket offices. According to Paris info.com (the official Paris tourism) website,

“There are detailed street maps, plans of the “arrondissement” or maps showing the public transport network. You can obtain free maps from the ticket offices in metro stations, in the department stores and at all the information centres of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau (the latter is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Russian!).”

However, paper copies of just about everything are getting more difficult to find these days. We suspect (but we don’t know for certain) that this map may no longer be in print. Once existing stock is depleted, it may not be replenished. Therefore, if you are an “old school,” hard copy kind of person, it’s probably not a good idea to count on picking up a copy once you’ve arrived in Paris. We recommend downloading the PDF file and printing it out before you leave home. (If you’re able to find a hard copy once you’re there, consider it a bonus! 😊)

Certainly there are Paris Metro route finder apps that can be downloaded to smart phones or tablets. But based on our experience, this is one case where “a map is better than an app.” The map shows the big picture, giving you options to determine which routes are best for you. Apps, in our experience, don’t always give the best recommendations. (Plus the map is free, and doesn’t take up much memory in your phone or tablet, so what have you got to lose?!)

Armed with this user-friendly map, anyone can soon be navigating around Paris like a native. This map helped us find these less crowded sights in Paris, as well as Pere Lachaise Cemetery. And while we were riding the Metro, we enjoyed some of these entertaining Street Musicians of Paris.

Heading to Paris? Compare Paris hotel prices using this handy tool!


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Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our travel newsletter here. SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave

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

Book a unique Paris tour with Viator.

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?

Book your own unique Paris tour with Viator.

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.


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

 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.

Like it? Share it . . .Pin it!Here are 5 lesser-known sights in Paris that are truly peaceful & pretty--including Napoleon & Josephine's love nest & an Impressionist museum that's NOT the Musee d'Orsay ;)

Can you recommend some other sights in Paris?

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

I’ve always had a soft spot for street musicians of Paris. It seems like after room and board our highest travel cost is the coins I toss into their instrument cases as I pass by. Maybe it’s because many years ago my fantasy was to move to Paris with my guitar, sit on a park bench in the Luxembourg Gardens and strum vintage American blues tunes. I’d live off what I earned so I likely would have starved but that doesn’t happen in dreams, does it?

While strolling around the streets of Paris we’ve seen a wide array of musicians performing, a few even go to the trouble of setting up an upright piano on the sidewalk. In the Metro they proliferate like champignons. It seems like every station has a musician assigned to it. The acoustics of the cavernous tiled tunnels apply an eerie bass sound to whatever they are playing.

One of the toughest aspects of being a street musician is being totally ignored by the audience, many of whom just wish they’d go away. In London it was the opposite, there the crowd would burst into polite applause when the musical set was finished. I guess that’s just another difference between the French and the British. Here are some of the musicians we’ve come across around Paris.

Street musicians of Paris guitar player park bench

This cool dude was hanging out in the Bois de Vincennes on a Sunday afternoon.

Street musicians of Paris piano player

I wonder if piano players ever wish they had taken up an easier instrument to lug around.

Street musicians of Paris piano player street

Same goes for this guy.

Street musicians of Paris metro sax player man in suit

This saxophone player provided a bit of Dixieland jazz for the afternoon commute. 

Street musicians of Paris guitar player metro Dylan

Close your eyes and he could be Bob Dylan.

Street musicians of Paris guitar player metro open case

Street musicians are used to being ignored by most of the people passing by.

Street musicians of Paris metro Asian instrument case open

 This Asian instrument provided some treble notes on the normally bass sounding Metro.

The video showcases several of the above musicians including a guitar player who stepped into a Metro car and announced in his French accent, “And now something from Robert Zimmerman.” This led one knowledgeable commuter to yell out “Dylan!”

The Paris Metro is very convenient but can be confusing. Here’s where to find an easy-to-use free Paris Metro map.

If there is a heaven, surely the bakeries are French. There are so many patisseries in Paris that it’s difficult to walk a block without the smell of butter wafting out of an open doorway. The locals are rather picky about their Paris pastry, which keeps the standards high. During our stay there we made it our mission to try the best of what the city has to offer.

Paris pastry Maison Larnicol Kouignettes

Kouignettes

These little beauties were all the rage on our most recent visit, a sort of French take on the sticky bun. A mini-version of the classic Breton kouign amman: take an already buttery layered pastry, slather it with more butter and sugar, then roll, slice and bake in a muffin tin. The filling oozes out the bottom during baking creating a caramelized gooey/crunchy crust. Available in about 10 different flavors (such as raspberry, pictured above), but of the six (yes six!) we tried we liked the classic butter and sugar the best.

Paris pastry crumb pistachio cherry

Pistachio cherry thingy (Michael’s official name for it)

We never did get the official name of this drool-worthy coffee cake from Pain d’Epis on the Avenue Bosquet. But it had a layer of ground pistachios, fresh sour cherries and a buttery crumb topping that somehow managed to be crunchy and cakey at the same time. It was so good we went back for more, 3 times.

Paris pastry macaron

Pistachio Macaron with Honey Buttercream

To some, Paris pastry reaches its true heights with the macaron. Possibly our favorite pastry of Paris. (Note: do not confuse these with those chewy coconut macaroons your great-aunt Tilly used to serve at holidays.) Take two large macaron bases (egg whites, icing sugar and ground pistachios), sandwich them around honey-nougat buttercream (which is as good as it sounds), sprinkle candied pistachios on top and eat. Classic French pastry meets the Whoopie Pie. Yum!

Paris pastry Mcdonalds macaron

McDonalds cafe

Hard to believe it but that’s the pastry section at a McDonald’s pictured above. In a city like Paris, even the fast-food places have to take it up a notch.

Paris pastry pot au creme with beignets

Pot au creme with beignets

What’s a chocolate pot-au-creme without a few freshly made mini-doughnuts to nibble on? This combo was so rich even dedicated chocolate lover Larissa couldn’t finish it.

Paris pastry almond croissant

Almond croissant

The above picture answers the eternal question: what does an almond croissant look like after spending a day in the bottom of a backpack. It still tasted good.

What are some of your favorite French desserts?

Pin it!Explore Paris by visiting tasty patisseries--here a photo essay of some of our favorites

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