With the Paris Olympics on the horizon, you may well be seeking a little joie de vivre for your travel plans this year. Paris draws in millions of travellers every year with its chic vibes, magnificent architecture and history, and to-die-for cuisine. Of course, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe are must-visits, but here are some underrated places to visit in Paris, too.
Jardin du Luxembourg
In 1612, Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV, was the woman behind the creation of the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Garden). This lush green space now covers almost 57 acres of land in the Sixth Arrondissement. With a mix of English, French and Italian landscaping influences, this underrated garden is perfect for a picnic, a game of pétanque and great people-watching.
Despite the Greek origins of the word ‘Panthéon’, King Louis XV of France commissioned the Panthéon to be built in dedication to Saint Genevieve (Paris’ patron saint). Not only does it have exceptional neoclassical architecture, but it is also the final resting place of Victor Hugo and Marie Curie.
While there is a €14 entrance fee, the Palais Garnier is worth every cent. Aside from being the place for opera in Paris since it opened its doors in 1875, architecture junkies will love taking in its grand exterior and interior work – from the gilded copper statues that greet you at its entrance, to the Grand Staircase in the lobby.
The hip Marais neighbourhood of Paris is worth an explore, particularly to visit Merci. It’s hard not to walk away with buying something from this shop as its three floors covers an extensive range of boutique clothes, home goods, accessories and even a café-come-library called the Used Book Café.
Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris
We’ve all heard of the world-famous French fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent. Now you can delve into the history and designs behind the fashion powerhouse at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris. This site was previously the YSL headquarters from 1974 – 2002 and re-opened as the museum in 2017. It’s so surreal to walk through the former reception area, where Yves Saint Laurent himself met with clients, as well as the studio.
Café de Flore
If you love a café, don’t miss the Art Deco Café de Flore – one of the oldest in Paris. You’ll find rich red booths and polished brass railings inside, however it’s the terrasse outside that draws us to Café de Flore. With the perfect sidewalk tables, you can sit back and relax with a café au lait and pastry to watch locals go about their daily lives.
For the antique lovers, don’t miss Les Bouquinistes flea markets. Found in a picturesque location along both banks of the Seine River between Île Saint Louis and the Louvre, meet locals selling a host of antique gems. You might find a unique book, postcard or map to take home as a souvenir!
Hôtel de la Marine
A fairly recent opening, the historic Hôtel de la Marine opened its doors to the public for the first time in 250 years in 2022. Situated on Place de la Concorde, you’ll get a real taste of French history, architecture and designs as you explore these 18th century apartments, recreated and restored to their original conditions complete with period furnishings and artwork! These apartments have had a long history, having first been the royal Garde-Meuble (the depository for the King’s collections of furniture, crown jewels, and artwork) followed by the Ministry of the French Navy until 2015. Note: there is an entrance fee that starts from €13.
Marché des Enfants Rouges
Finally, for the foodies out there – a trip to the oldest food market in Paris is a must. Opened in 1615 in the Marais neighbourhood, the Marché des Enfants Rouges is packed with all kinds of foodie delights from not just France, but places like Italy and Morocco, too.
If you’re planning a trip to France this year, don’t miss these underrated places to visit in Paris. Take a look at the range of Globus and Cosmos tours through France, as well as river cruises with Avalon Waterways along the Rhône, Seine and Saône rivers.