For centuries, lovers have flocked to Paris in search of the perfect place to get down on one knee. What gesture could be grander than sweeping your loved one off their feet in front of the Eiffel Tower? It is quite simply the ultimate Parisian postcard. For some of us though, romance is the exact reason we want to avoid Paris.
For me, of all the Parisian tourist attractions we are told to love, not a single one seems original anymore. Everyone goes to the same places, to take the same posed photographs and do the same cliched things. Feeling this way about Paris makes me wonder, is there anything left for me to enjoy in the city of love? If you too are looking to explore Paris minus the mushy stuff, I’ve compiled a list of the most overrated attractions and the alternatives that will blow them out of the water.
Miss: Ascending the Eiffel Tower
This is probably the first thing that everyone will ask you about when you say you’ve visited Paris. No Parisian cityscape is complete without the overbearing steel structure known as the Eiffel Tower. Every day, hoards of people battle vertigo to make their way to the top for the perfect 360 perspective of Paris. Sadly, in order to get any kind of decent view over the city, you will need to shove past irritating couples glued together, all whilst trying to avoid getting hit with a selfie stick. If you manage to get any snaps of the scene, the photographs will be slated by those at home who won’t even recognise Paris without it’s most famous landmark. Don’t get me wrong, the views are cracking but it is a heck of a lot of effort for a photograph that will quickly look like any other cityscape.
Don’t miss: People watching around the Eiffel Tower
This one is much more fun. Save yourself the ticket entry price (and stress) and instead park yourself up nearby and stay tuned for a bit of free entertainment. The amount of people you will see attempting to hold their balance as they pretend to pinch the top of tower never gets old. I also enjoy the anger exhibited by couples when the selfies are unflattering or the light is ‘wrong’. Romance might be the first thing you associate with the smiling couple in front of the Eiffel Tower but if you delve behind the snapshot the insults are flying and Jon is getting whacked by a selfie stick.
Miss: Putting up a love lock
Perhaps Paris’ biggest middle finger to starry-eyed lovers to date was the removal of thousands of love locks from the Ponts des Arcs bridge. Over the years, swarms of tourists became enamoured with the idea of carving their name on a padlock before securing it to this famous bridge and throwing the key into the River Seine. Local entrepreneurs quickly seized upon this trend and sold padlocks to tourists at a 500% mark up. Not only was the love lock craze harmful to Parisian infrastructure, so much so that they needed to remove the padlocks to ensure the safety of the bridge, but it was also damaging to the environment as the rusting keys pollute the river. Now that the bridge has been reinforced with plastic panels to prevent tourists leaving love locks, the panels of Pont des Arcs have been adorned with aggressive love graffiti instead. Love locks have sprung up elsewhere around the city in retaliation to this move by the French state but much like the relationships they symbolise, they are unlikely to stand the test of time.
Don’t miss: Grave spotting at Père Lachaise
Instead of becoming one of the above people who leave a reminder they would probably rather forget, head on over to Père Lachaise, Paris’ largest cemetery to see the burial places of those with real legacies. Some of the greats are buried here including classic novelist, Oscar Wilde, the famous composer, Chopin and talented singer, The Doors’ frontman, Jim Morrison. I suppose it could be argued that a visit to a French cemetery is a rather morbid way to spend the afternoon but I can promise you it will be a more informative and worthwhile use of your time than defacing Parisian landmarks.
Miss: Walking down Champs-Élysées
Welcome to Paris’ most famous (and busy) street, Champs-Élysées. It joins the famous Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde and acts as the main route into the heart of Paris. Formerly, the avenue used to be the most exclusive shopping district in the city and has largely retained that title. While more high street shops have infiltrated the street, class still oozes from notable retailers such as Cartier and Louis Vuitton. The street is definitely the place to go if you have the budget and desire to buy a flashy designer handbag but it is largely a pointless walk if not.
Don’t miss: Sneaking along Paris’ abandoned railway
More commonly known as La Petite Ceinture, this former railway has fallen into disrepair since the introduction of the Metro signified its demise. Whilst there is still a stretch of the railway open to the public, the vast majority of it is closed off and no visitors are permitted. Unsurprisingly, the most interesting parts of this railway are in the parts which are off limits to walkers. If you know where to look, it is relatively easy to gain access to these long stretches of forbidden railway and you will share the route with few others, allowing for great photograph and viewing opportunities. Gaining unsanctioned access to the railway is technically illegal, although this seems to be rarely enforced. Keep your wits about you anyway.
Miss: Climbing Sacré-Cœur Basilica
The Basilica may be beautiful but so is having feeling in your legs. Before you even reach this impressive church, you will have already clocked up nearly 300 steps. Add in the €6 that it costs to pay your way up to the dome and then an additional 300 steps along a spiral staircase and you will wish you never started. In all fairness, I’m sure the views at the top are stunning on a clear day, however, prepare for extreme disappointment if it is overcast. In all fairness, the spot would be great for photographs on a clear day but the sweaty journey means everyone looks like they’ve just been swimming. Not quite the elegant and poised snaps most had in mind.
Don’t miss: Descending to the Catacombs
Rather than seeing Paris from above, check out what is going on below. The Catacombs are an underground tunnel network that run beneath the city and hold the remains of an estimated six thousand people who fell victim to the plague. Only specific parts of the tunnels are open to the public and entrance into the prohibited parts is strictly forbidden. Tickets can be purchased online at the official Paris Museum Site prior to your trip. Unfortunately, on the day I was due to visit, the workers were on strike which meant my tour was cancelled so this is most definitely still on my to-do list. Not only will the descent to the Catacombs be much less strenuous and cooler than hiking to the top of Sacré-Cœur, but it also makes for a much more interesting story.
Miss: Visiting The Louvre
If anyone actually appreciated the Mona Lisa when they saw it then the Louvre would not have been struck off my must-see list. However, reality being what it is, you queue for hours to stand behind a massive crowd and look at a tiny painting of an ugly woman in a massive glass box. Yep, that really is it. Whilst the glass pyramid outside of the Louvre is undoubtedly beautiful, sadly you’ll need to visit pre-sunrise if you are going to get an unobstructed view of it.
Don’t miss: Strolling around 59 Rivoli
If you’re no art critic but are still looking for a bit of culture then look no further. 59 Rivoli is a former squat turned art studio just a 10-minute walk from the Louvre. Not only is entrance free (voluntary donation based) but you can tour around the stacked floors and actually meet the artists while they work. Some of the artwork at 59 Rivoli can be purchased with the artist themselves and a lot of it is reasonably priced so it is a great place for snagging a bargain!
Miss: Picnics on checked blankets
Picnics are a frequent sight in the green areas of Paris, probably because eating out is super expensive. Couples everywhere flock to local parks with their blankets and woven hampers to lay on the grass feeding each other. This wouldn’t be so bad if it were the odd pair but it feels like all of the couples in Paris have been invited to the party from which single people are barred. Privacy is nearly non-existent in these areas and hearing other people playing tonsil tennis while you’re trying to devour your latest block of Tomme de Savoie is just downright annoying.
Don’t miss: Pizza on the Canal Saint-Martin
Okay, okay, I know we’re talking Paris and not Rome. There is no doubt that the French do food admirably but nothing can beat a good pizza, especially a pizza with a gimmick. Just around the corner from Canal Saint-Martin lies a mythical pizza shop where you can buy the best pizza in Paris. When you order, opt for canal delivery and you will be given a pink balloon. Head towards Saint Martin’s, pitch up a spot with your balloon and wait for your pizza to be delivered. Voila! And if that isn’t cool enough, they also do 8 cheese pizzas! Pink Flamingo pizza is not only much cheaper than a candlelit dinner but way more original. Who said romance is dead!?
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