Paris is the most popular tourist destination in the world, so it is remarkable if there is anything new for the visitor to discover. While these spots may be familiar to some, for many they offer a unique view of the City of Light.
1. Foucault pendulum – The Foucault pendulum is an amazingly simple example of physics at its finest. Located in the Paris Pantheon, it is the showpiece of the building. Originally an experiment to demonstrate the rotation of the earth, the pendulum actually uses this rotation to mark the time. While the pendulum may be the centerpiece of the Pantheon, the rest of the building is also a fascinating tour. Meant to honor the best and brightest of French society, you can visit the tombs of such legends as Voltaire, Emile Zola and Victor Hugo.
2. Gobelins Tapestry Factory – Gobelins tapestries are world famous and the company has been making these works of art since the 15th century. Today the factory is owned by the French government and the tapestries are used for government buildings and diplomatic missions. I used to live near the factory when I was an exchange student and love the atmosphere in the compound. Behind the intimidating walls you will find life much as it was in the 17th century. It’s amazing to wander around and enjoy this peaceful artist’s haven. The down side is that there are only a few tours a week and they are in French. If you don’t speak French, grab a friend who can translate or pick up one of the English pamphlets that sort of summarizes the tour.
3. Mountain biking in Fontainebleau – While Paris is amazing, it is good to get out of the city once in a while. One of the most random and fun things I have ever done on my travels is mountain biking in the national forest of Fontainebleau. I am definitely not a mountain biker, so if I can do this and enjoy it anyone can. Formally the royal hunting grounds, the forest itself is gorgeous and huge, encompassing nearly 65 square miles. There are numerous outdoor activities to do besides biking, including some great rock climbing. So rent a bike in Paris and take the 45 minute train ride out to the country for fresh air and a day of communing with nature.
4. Picnic Lunch. Ok, granted, this may not be one of my most original tips, but it is one of my favorite things to do in the world. Stop by a local shop for a pre-made sandwich, or visit a grocery to make your own. My favorite is saucisson with brie on a fresh baguette. Grab some wine to go with, and head for the Jardins du Luxembourg. Located in the swanky 6th arrondissement, the park is the largest in Paris and a personal favorite. Sit back with your sandwich, enjoy the scenery and some great people watching.
What are some of your favorite offbeat experiences in Paris?
9 thoughts on “Four Offbeat Paris Experiences”
Oooo, like the tip about mountain biking in Fontainebleau, and doing so in the former royal hunting grounds put a whole new ‘spin’ on it. I’m totally going to make a point of doing that next time I’m there. People always tend to associate Paris exclusively with a city getaway, but the second you step out of the City of Lights, it’s country as far as the eye can see.
Matt, I’ve never been to Paris, but you’ve definitely found some things here that I’ve never heard of. One of the best things about exploring a place is finding things that aren’t in the guidebooks. That pendulum looks awesome.
Do children and their fathers still play with remote-controlled model boats at the pond of Jardins du Luxembourg? When I was there (20y ago) I watched them for a while. While having my pre-made sandwich… :)
oh it’s still a really popular place. Part of the reason I love it so much, great people watching
I’ve done a number of maps of Paris, for Gourmet magazine and others. I’ve read quite a few books about it and set in it. I am intimately acquainted with Inspector Maigret and A Moveable Feast. I have Proust on my IPod. I’ve watched The 400 Blows and Enfants du Paradis and Boudu Saved from Drowning and Breathless and Charade and many other films set there. I have set fiction there myself and Paris is a continuing motif in my book. But I’ve never been there. I just feel like I have. I even give people advice on where to go when they visit Paris.
Eric – Wow, it sounds like you have a real passion for Paris. You should set a goal and visit. It’s such a remarkable place.
If you go to the pantheon, make sure to climb up all the way to the top for some great views of the city. They recently opened that up, it’s pretty neat!
Thanks for the tips! I’d love to return to Paris and try out your suggestions
I remember that pendulum from my last trip to Paris, almost 14 years ago! Good tips. I never knew about the factory – I may look it up while I’m there.
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