Paris: Off the Beaten Track

A visit to Paris is much more than strolls along the Seine, sipping rosé in corner cafés and pastel-coloured sunsets lit by the sparkling Eiffel Tower. While this may be the Paris of postcards, there are hidden worlds to discover behind the centuries-old doors and winding alleyways. But where exactly are these portals to Paris’s secret enclaves?

 Hidden Museums

The Marais reveals a treasure trove of cultural gems, including Hôtel de Sully, a hôtel particulier (private mansion) set within a stunning courtyard, circa Louis XIII. You can also wander in through Place des Vosges, where within the arcades of this regal square sits the home of exiled poet Victor Hugo, now a free museum.

Hotel de Sully orangery and gardens 2016-01-12

Hidden behind a stately blue door in the 3rd district, explore a corner of Sweden at the Centre Culturel Suédois. This museum is dedicated to the history of FrancoSwedish
art and has a café serving all things Swedish, which you can enjoy in the year-round courtyard or summertime garden.

For the romantics at heart, there’s a museum dedicated to you. Close to Montmartre, the Musée de la Vie Romantique is an 1830 hôtel particulier where painter Ary Scheffer
once welcomed Parisian socialites including Delacroix and Chopin. It features his work, as well as furniture, paintings and items belonging to writer George Sand. The
idyllic garden is perfect for some down time.

Paris musee vie romantique entree

A Secret Village

One of my favourites is a veritable village in the heart of the historic Marais. A maze of courtyards, the Village Saint-Paul has several antique shops selling everything from frames to tableware, as well as galleries and boutiques exhibiting local artisans, and eateries perfect for a leisurely lunch like the family-run La Petite Maison Dans La Cour.

Enchanting Gardens

If it’s roses and respite you crave, I know just the spot. Down a little side street, you can while away the afternoon at the Jardin Saint-Gilles du Grand-Veneur, a well-hidden  garden square also in the Marais.

Square Saint-Gilles Grand Veneur-Pauline Roland 2011 5

Strategically set in the most unlikely of places, just off the bustling Champs-Élysées sits a clandestine garden. Upon entering the Jardin de la Nouvelle France (aka Jardin de la
Vallée Suisse), you are greeted by a sculpted marble tableau titled The Poet’s Dream, depicting 19th-century poet Alfred de Musset swooning over his many lovers. Down the stone
stairwell and through the arch, you’ll reach the garden designed in the late 19th century. The fish swimming in the pond may be your only company in this secret haven.

Jardin de la vallee suisse 17

At the bottom of the Champs-Élysées, is the Petit Palais, facing the royal Grand Palais, is home to an eclectic collection of fine art, dating from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Beyond the artwork, this elegant edifice is also home to a café and charming exterior courtyard.

The fashionable 7th arrondissement also reveals a natural haven, located on Rue de Babylone. Named after a young 19th century nun, the Jardin Catherine-Labouré, is a 7,000-squaremetre expanse of fruit trees, vegetable gardens, grassy lawns with vinecovered pergolas and is the perfect spot for a picnic.

Jardin c laboure

While over a century ago much of Paris was covered in vines, today only one vineyard remains, tucked behind the Sacré-Coeur basilica. Walk along the west side of the basilica, and you’ll find the Clos Montmartre, created in 1933. Wine lovers should note that the limited amount of wine produced here is more symbolic than savoury.

Paris abounds with surprises, so the next time you are in town, don’t hesitate on following your instinct and turning into an unknown alley or peering behind an open door - you never know what you might discover!

For more inspiration on where to Do, Dine and Spend in Paris, visit our dedicated destination pages.