Ah, Paris! The city that brings joy to my heart. And many a heart when it comes to that.
The Eiffel Tower. Notre Dame. The curious smile of the Mona Lisa and the star-studded river stroll along the Seine.
Paris has a reputation for romance and style for a reason. But it’s still a hulking, great capital city in a thriving 21st century country.
So, what should you do after you’ve seen the classics? Where should you go?
Allow me to introduce you to seven unusual things to do in Paris…
Embrace modern France with a visit to the art and culture-filled Institut du Monde Arabe and sip mint tea while gazing at Parisian rooftops and the bulk of Notre Dame.
For a more (ahem) immersive experience, strip off and head to the Hamman at the Paris Mosque (although not in that order.) Once you’ve recovered from the vigorous black volcanic scrub and in-depth steam among strangers, recuperate with honey-soaked baklava in the Moorish-inspired café outside.
The Tour Montparnasse may not win any beauty awards, but it makes up for all that with its view from the 56h floor. Peach, ruby reds, canary yellows and lavender blaze across the sky as the sun goes down, lighting up the Eiffel Tower and the sparkling grid of Paris around it. You can dine at Europe’s highest restaurant, the Ciel de Paris, if you book in advance and brace yourself for an international rather than local crowd. Cocktails, scallops and sunset over the City of Lights, what’s not to like? (There’s also a viewing platform, too, if you don’t feel ready to dine.)
Known as the world’s most visited cemetery, Père Lachaise has over 70,000 ornate tombs of the famous and rich within a sculptured garden on over 100 acres of land. Notorious graves include Oscar Wilde in his suitably flamboyant graffitied tomb and Proust in his befittingly un-ostentatious grave. Jim Morrison can be found surrounded by devoted fans who scribble lyrics onto the trees by his resting place. It’s a big place. so if you’re looking for someone in particular, it’s useful to carry a map with you.
A small and fairly quiet affair, The Maria Curie Museum lies on the leafy streets of the 5th Arrondissement in Paris. It was renovated in 2012 with a donation from Marie’s daughter, Ève Curie, and you can find the official site here. Originally housed in the Curie’s old laboratory, it’s an inspiring tale of the only person (not woman, person) to have won two Nobel Prizes in two separate science subjects. It also offers a surprise glimpse into the French beauty secrets of the past…
As the only dedicated cultural centre outside Sweden, a visit to the Institut Suédois certainly makes for an unusual thing to do in Paris. It displays a lot of love towards the country with concerts, art exhibitions and lessons in the language. They even bring a little taste of Sweden into the heart of Paris with an authentic smorgasbord and Swedish Fika in Café Suédois.
Floating over Paris in a hot-air balloon is perhaps one of the most dreamy ways to see the world’s most romantic city. The most popular (and view worthy) times to drift upwards are at dawn or just before sunset, as the sun peppers buildings and landscapes with its good-morning or goodnight. There are several companies that run balloon trips including Ballon Air de Paris and Aerfun.
When the summer arrives and the heatwaves descend, Paris greets July with four weeks of The Paris Plages.The banks along the Seine swap traffic for treats, as ice cream sellers, concerts and sandy beaches create what you could call a “Seine-side holiday.” Grab a deckchair, borrow a book or take up beach sports and kayaking.