Tips + Trends

Seen the Main Paris Attractions? Try These Local Alternatives

Instead of strolling along the Seine, try an alternate local experience and stroll Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement. (Photo: Jon Bilous / Alamy Stock Photo)

Few cities rival Paris when it comes to enthralling visitors with iconic attractions and elegant charm. From the dramatic majesty of the Arc de Triomphe, to the oft-photographed Eiffel Tower and the imposing architecture of Notre-Dame Cathedral, the city’s ‘must visit’ list could occupy days. But for every famous landmark, there’s a less familiar, yet equally fascinating alternative that could – quite possibly – provide the experiences that script your most enduring memories of the City of Lights.

paris attractions montparnasse
The view of the Eiffel Tower from Montparnasse Tower. (Photo: Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo)

Montparnasse Tower: Killer Views

Ironic, isn’t it that the best unobstructed view of Paris – from the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower – does not include the famous edifice itself? For the real Instagram ready photo op, head just about two miles east to the 15th arrondissement, where the magnificent Montparnasse Tower offers the most splendid views of Paris, including its most treasured structure.

The only building in the city to be officially classified as a skyscraper, the tower shoots some 689 feet into the sky. A superfast elevator system whisks you to the 56th floor in less than 40 seconds, where the city literally unfolds beyond the Seine. Order a coffee from the café and head out to the outdoor roof terrace, where visibility can reach almost 25 miles on a clear day.

paris attractions promenade plantee
The anti Champs-Élysées: La Promenade Plantée. (Photo: Chris Howarth/France / Alamy Stock Photo)

La Promenade Plantée: Nature Elevated

From exclusive shopping and fine dining to the simple pleasure of people watching, the Champs-Élysées is a Top 10 list fixture. Which is why the crowds seldom abate, the restaurants can be tourist-pricey and the hustle and bustle can become tiresome. If you’ve exhausted this classy concrete jungle, or it has exhausted you, make your way to the 12th arrondissement’s enchanting alternative, La Promenade Plantée.

A gorgeous tree-lined walkway that stretches along an abandoned railway for three miles, this breathtaking nature trail obliges as a blissful retreat in the heart of the city. Wind you way through parklands and quiet neighborhoods that, with its elevated position, enables you to enjoy striking views of the leafy district and beyond. There are various access points along the route, providing plenty of opportunities to hop off for a coffee or bite to eat before resuming your peaceful journey.

paris attractions canal saint-martin
Buildings reflecting in Canal Saint-Martin at sunset. (Photo: Jon Bilous / Alamy Stock Photo)

Paris Canals: A Seine Alternative

A leisurely stroll along the banks of the Seine is truly the quintessential Parisian experience. Whether browsing the street stalls during the day, or admiring the city lights under a night sky, there’s something utterly captivating about the serpentine waterway that winds through the heart of Paris. But it is by no means the only one. For romantic strolls that provide just a bit more privacy, there are charming canals waiting to be explored.

Running north to south in the 10th arrondissement, Canal Saint-Martin was constructed in 1802 under the order of Napoleon. The 2.8-mile long network reveals beautifully designed bridges and locks and is fronted by some of the city’s trendiest bars and cafés.

The canal is easily accessible via several metro stations: Republique, Jackquest Bonsergent and Goncourt are all located within walking distance of the southern end, while Jaurés and Louis Blanc are convenient for those wishing to explore the northern section.

paris attractions les frigos
Artist apartments in Les Frigos. (Photo: guichaoua / Alamy Stock Photo)

Les Frigos: Art on the Fringe

You’ve seen the Mona Lisa and all the other masterpieces the Louvre has to offer. What next? There’s no shortage of galleries within the city, but paying a visit to Les Frigos will reward you with a glimpse into the city’s next generation of artists and cultural influencers.

From the outside, this 13th arrondissement building appears to be nothing more than an abandoned factory, which it once was. Facing demolition in the 1960s, several struggling artists adopted the old industrial warehouse as their home. The building eventually gained a new lease on life and is now home to over 100 art studios where some of the city’s most unique artistic creations can be found.

Venture inside and take in the graffiti covered walls, as well as a delightful mix of murals, galleries and workshops. If you’re lucky, an impromptu musical performance or two will break out. There’s simply no telling what innovative artistry will capture your imagination.