In September this year, I returned to Paris for a long weekend with the intention of revisiting places I already knew and loved – the Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Cœur, and so on – and seeing some new sites too. Over the course of the weekend, I discovered some lesser-known spaces that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting the city.
Here are my top 3…
Following the devastating fire that burnt large sections of the Notre Dame Cathedral, this chapel has become a favourite with visitors. Just the other side of Pont Saint-Michel, this 13th Century Gothic Chapel is tucked away on Ile de la Cité, very close to Notre Dame. Though smaller in size, its stained-glass windows are just as stunning (if not more so) than the infamous cathedral.
Its information panels were very informative and gave details about the restoration of the stained glass and the history of the chapel. Restoration of some sections of the chapel is ongoing, but this doesn’t detract from its sense of grandeur.
Pop up pub on the Seine:
Just a few hundred metres from Sainte-Chapelle, on the other side of Pont au Charge, is a bar called Scillet. The bar is directly opposite the imposing Conciergerie (a gothic fortress and Revolution-era prison, housing Marie Antoinette’s former cell) that sits at the side of the River Seine, which glows with the evening sun as it sets over the city (well, it did when I was there in mid-September!).
The staff are very friendly and were keen to offer advice on what to do nearby. The beer, made by local brewery ‘Demory’, was delicious. The aesthetic hails back to the history of the Seine, down to its marketing with a medieval ship as its logo. Okay, maybe the ‘vibe’ could be considered a bit too hipster for some people, but I loved it.
The farm at the Chateau de Versailles:
I had a wonderful day at Versailles. The artwork, the history, the architecture, the gardens… it was all stunning. Undeniably, the Palace of Versailles is very beautiful… and very famous.
What is less famous, however, is the little farm that is part of the Versailles estate. Past the gardens, on the way to the Trianon Palaces and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate, is an adorable little farm that sadly is not accessible to the public. However, from behind a fence on an offshoot of the main boulevard, you can see ancient breeds of sheep and goats grazing the land. It’s so bizarre, wonderful and heart-warming that a little patch of quaint French countryside can exist (1) in the outskirts of a city and (2) mere moments away from a series of palaces. Taking a break from the eccentricities of the rest of the estate to simply absorb this idyllic scene is absolutely worth it.
So, there we have it: a chapel, a bar and a farm. Quirky in their own ways, these 3 spaces are certainly worth a visit, adding a little je ne sais quoi to a city break in Paris.
This “city of love” has so much more history and culture than meets the eye, and I would encourage anyone visiting the city to take a step off the beaten track to discover even more hidden gems – you never know, you may just find the unexpected highlight of your trip!