Following on from my list of free stuff to do in Paris, now it’s time for some of my favourites that really are worth the entry fee…
5. Cruise on Canal Saint-Martin
This one should not form part of a rushed Paris-in-24-hours itinerary, but is definitely one to add to the list if you have a little more time. Chilling out is the name of the game as you are navigated either up or down Canal St Martin, through a series of locks and underneath the city for nearly 2 kilometres. The commentary is entertaining and the scenery pretty. It’s a lovely way to spend a couple of hours on a warm summer’s day.
4. Château de Vincennes
Without interior adornment like its famous siblings in Versailles or Fontainebleu, the Chateau de Vincennes is far less pretentious but fascinating none-the-less. It has a rich royal history and is remarkably well preserved, the keep actually being the tallest fortified medieval structure in Europe. They have interesting i-pad recreations of one of the rooms that change as you point the device in different directions, giving a great impression of what the rooms may have been like in the times of the kings. And the best bit? It’s not on the regular tourist circuit and you will likely be one of only a handful of people visiting!
3. Musée D’Orsay
Not only does this museum house some pretty special art works, the building is also magnificent. Originally a turn of the century railway station, its high, vaulted, glass roof ensures that this museum is one of the most bright and airy going around. If you make your way up to the top floor, you will find a spectacular view out over the city toward Sacre Coeur. The novelty? It’s Paris seen through the transparent faces of the two spectacular clocks that adorn the building.
2. Musée du Louvre
OK, so I know what you’re thinking. This is on everyone’s list! But my favourite part of a visit to the Louvre involves getting off the well-worn path to Mona and heading downstairs to level -2 where you can get up close and personal with the incredibly history of the site. Tucked away down in the basement, archaeologists have peeled away centuries of dirt to reveal the base of the round turrets formerly part of the medieval castle constructed in the late 1100s. It gives an amazing sense of how the city has evolved, often through destruction, over the last 800 or so years.
Just a stone’s throw from Notre Dame, it’s bigger and more famous counterpart, Sainte-Chapelle is a gem. Consecrated in 1248 and built to house Christ’s Crown of Thorns, it is an example of gothic architecture at its best. The stained glass windows are nothing short of magnificent, made even more so by recent restoration works. If you find yourself in here on a sunny day, it’s guaranteed to take your breath away.