Catherine Cooper

Paris Hidden Gems - Al Fresco Holidays

There are so many iconic sights to see in Paris – the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur to name but a few – you might think you don’t have time for the “smaller” sights. But while you probably don’t want to miss out on the main attractions, it’s also well worth taking time to get away from the hoards now and again and exploring some of the lesser-known Parisian spots. Here are a few suggestions.

Meudon Observatoire

Meudon Observatoire

Source: Flickr

A lovely green space on the outskirts of Paris with stunning views of the city. Buy bread and cheese from the local delis and bakeries and relax by the edge of the lake. While you are in the area, you could also visit Rodin’s house.

Musee de la Magie

Set up by George Proust in 1933, the Museum of Magic covers the story of magic from the 18th Century right up to the present day. Housed in a 16th-century cellar under the Marquis de Sade’s house in the Marais district, exhibits include optical illusions, magic mirrors, wind- up toys and many more as well as a 20 minute magic show. While you are there the Musee d’Automates (robots) is also well worth a look.

Bois de Boulogne

Especially on hot days, “le Bois” is a great place to take a picnic and relax. The 2nd largest park in Paris, it is around the same size as Richmond Park in London, or twice the size of New York’s Central Park. Hire a boat and row on one of the lakes or simply enjoy wandering the landscaped gardens.

Jardin d’Acclimation

Next to the Bois de Boulogne, the Jardin d’Acclimation can be reached via a little yellow train and despite being an amusement park primarily under the age of about eight, is rarely busy even in summer and had a relaxed, pleasant feel to it. Attractions include an “enchanted river,” pony and camel rides, a puppet theatre and a miniature zoo. There is also a children’s playground and “brumitaseurs” where kids can frolick in cooling sprays on hot days.

Rodin Museum

Rodin Museum

Source: Flickr

The large, best known Paris museums such as the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay are spectacular but can also be fairly exhausting. Housed in a stunning mansion with huge gardens, the Rodin Museum small enough not be overwhelming and the large and beautiful gardens can help stop smaller children becoming too fractious.

Fragonard Museum

One of the oldest museums in France and a must for biology-lovers and those who love the gruesome but probably not for very sensitive or small children, this museum displays the work of an 18th century doctor who turned humans and animals inside out for educational purposes.

Take a trip along the canals

Everyone is familiar with the Bateaux Mouches of the Seine, which also make a lovely trip especially at night, a canal trip allows you to see the city from a different viewpoint. Children are usually fascinated by the opening and closing of the locks and the canal even goes underground at one point.

Ile de la Cite flower and pet market

Ile de la Cite market

Source: Flickr

Spend a sunny Sunday browsing not only the flowers sold in this market but also parrots, canaries, chickens and even ferrets, mice and rabbits, some of which are available for petting.

Musee des Egouts

Have your children seen Ratatouille or Flushed Away? In Paris you can actually visit part of the sewers. There are various displays illustrating the history of the sewers but while toilet-humour obsessed children may love it, it can be fairly smelly. It’s also sometimes closed if it’s been raining heavily.

Passage de Princes

This pretty covered walkway built in the 1860s is crammed with toys divided into different sections – everything from teddies and dolls to the latest electronic games. It’s a great way to while away a rainy hour or so, even if you’re only window shopping.

The Catacombes


Source: Flickr

Fascinating for lovers of the macabre, the 3,000km catacombs are crammed with the bones of six million of Parisiens which were moved here during the 18th and 19th centuries as public burial sites started to overflow. The 45 minute tour takes you through around two kilometres of the dark, cramped passages 20 metres under the ground packed with bones. Gruesome.

Alfresco Holidays offers mobile homes at the Paris Est campsite, just one hour from the centre of Paris by public transport and less than 20 minutes from Disneyland, Paris. It is close to the attractive green space Parc du Tremblay and walking distance from many restaurants and bars.

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