7 Overlooked Sites in Paris
The major attractions around Paris tend to saturate the sightseeing that happens when one has a limited amount of time to explore the city. I know the feeling well — time being of the essence and the overwhelming need to cram all the best sights into a single trip.
While the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur Church are all incredible structures and worth the trips to the relevant arrondissements, they are not the be all end all of Paris (sorry).
Having some expendable time in this city has given me the opportunity to uncover some hidden gems that are almost completely overlooked by the average traveler to Paris. And I’m not even talking about the man in the wall in Montmartre or the Paris Catacombs.
This was a hard list to narrow down, but here are 7 overlooked sites in Paris that you should make an effort to explore when you’re in town. The best part? You’ll rarely encounter queues or crowding at any of these attractions; Paris’ best kept secrets!
1. Sainte-Chapelle in Paris
8 Boulevard du Palais
I’m not even going to try convince you that there exists a church more spectacular than the Sacre Coeur or more exquisite than Notre Dame; however the Sainte-Chapelle chapel does come pretty close.
The chapel sits on the same island in the Seine that Notre Dame does; this is likely why the attraction so often goes overlooked to visitors to this area. They all come for the grand finale and completely miss out on a very beautiful opening act.
The chapel is situated inside of the Palais de la Cité which housed the French royals up until the 14th century. The construction for this space began back in 1238, which is mind blowing to wrap your head around.
The church is as gothic as it gets. The upper chapel is where you need to make your way to; it features floor to sky stained glass windows and mosaic panels that will take your breath away.
There are thousands of biblical scenes depicted in these glass panes, all of which come to life as the sun shines through the space. It’s quite remarkable and one can lose themselves for hours trying to figure out what panel relates to which story.
Sainte-Chapelle is so overlooked in Paris that many local Parisians have never even set foot near the church. If you’re unsure about the location, simply request your free guided walking tour to take you past the palace grounds when walking over the Île de la Cité.
Since the grounds are today used for courtroom and legal facilities you’ll have to go through intense security checks before being allowed into the space. Don’t be alarmed or deterred, this is simply procedure.
2. Le Ballon de Paris in Paris
Parc André Citroën
I recall spending most of my first ever trip to Paris constantly chasing the next high. By this I mean the physical high of being up and above the city skyline so as to have the best panoramic view of the French capital. Nothing more Instagram worthy than a birds eye view of the Eiffel Tower.
There are many fabulous spots from which to view Paris panoramically. The Montparnasse Tower is actually taller than the Eiffel Tower and overlooks almost all of the cities most notable attractions; the rooftop of the Center Pompidou is another beautiful hangout that gets you really high, along with the top of Montmartre hill in the 18th arrondissement.
Le Ballon de Paris, however, is arguable the most overlooked point of elevation on the Parisian skyline. What is it, you ask?
Le Ballon de Paris is a permanently anchored air balloon suspended in the gorgeous Parc André Citroën on the Left Bank of the 15th arrondissement. The balloon hovers at a height equivalent to a 12 story building and thus gives riders of the balloon one of the best views of the city available.
Day after day le Ballon de Paris is lowered into the park to pick up groups of customers and then released back into the air. It’s wonderful watching the world below get smaller and smaller as you get higher & higher.
This is another attraction in Paris that few seem to know about it. Most riders of the balloon find it by accident only because they came to visit the park in which it exists. Speaking of which, Parc André Citroën is a great place for a picnic or to simply laze in the sun if you have some time to kill.
3. Sewers of Paris in Paris
93 Quai d’Orsay
Paris didn’t always have the impressive waste and sanitation systems that it does today. Up until the Middle Ages all of the drinking water for the city came from the Seine river. This would have be fine, were the Seine not also being used as the dispatch point for all of the wastewater of the city.
As you can imagine, this was a vicious cycle of contamination that put the people of the city in a perpetual state of risk when it came to their health. In 1855 it was Napoleon III who ordered the Paris sewer systems to be updated and for the construction of new boulevards and aqueducts to take place.
The sewers of Paris have since been updated many times over. Built and rebuilt, cleaned and upgraded; the sewers that run the city today are inaccessible to the public. The ones dating back to 1370, however, are open to visit and make for a completely alternative way to explore the city of Paris.
The tunnels that make up the sewer system become a sort of underground labyrinth resembling something out of one of the darker Harry Potter films. The site is curated so that visitors make their way through the lair in an organized and safe manner. There is also able opportunity to learn about the history of the sewers and the infrastructure of Paris in general.
4. Salvador Dali’s Sundial in Paris
27 Rue Saint-Jacques
Despite being of Spanish descent, Salvador Dali spent most of his life and career living in the French capital. Paris was the hub from which many of Dali’s greatest works came into fruition and with the help of his wife, Gala, he became the renowned Surrealist artist we know him as today.
If you’re at all familiar with Dali’s works you’ll know that he had a certain affinity toward the presence of clocks and the concept of time in general. His melting clocks currently hang at a museum in New York City, but Dali didn’t leave Paris without a work of its own.
The Dali Sundial hangs just above Rue Saint-Jacques. It doesn’t work, much to public dismay; and many interpreters have attempted to understand this piece over the years.
The sundial seems to reflect a self portrait of the artist, including Dali’s unique mustache for which he was famous. The piece was placed into the wall back in 1966 in a ceremony that Dali himself was an attendee at.
Working or not, this is a unique and definitely overlooked site in terms of Parisian street art. Not many people who visit the city are able to say they left having seen the sundial in person.
5. Le Louxor Palais Du Cinema in Paris
170 Boulevard de Magenta
Film lovers listen up, this ones for you!
Up until recently this old cinema was completely closed for business and not open to the general public at all. In 2013 a decision was made to restore the Le Louxor cinema to its former glory — and we are oh so grateful!
Le Louxor was built back in 1920 and is now the only Parisian cinema left standing from the pre-war entertainment era. Most of the other cinemas in the city didn’t survive these tumultuous times, and Le Louxor was almost lost as well.
The space is incredible. Watching a film here is hardly comparable to the contemporary cinemas that we usually attend today.
The interior is inspired by Egyptian times and the renovations to the space made sure to stay true to this original theme. The ambiance of the decor and the layout makes for a highly enjoyable experience from the minute you arrive.
Following your movie, guests are invited to enjoy the rooftop bar and the selection of reasonably priced drinks that are on offer.
6. Passage Brady in Paris
33 Boulevard de Strasbourg
If you haven’t yet realized, Paris is a diverse city with histories of immigration patterns from various parts of the world. Moroccan culture is vast, Chinese even more so; and in areas such as the 10th arrondissements the Indian and Pakistani communities have set up their own slice of paradise to call home.
Passage Brady dates back to 1854 and is the central hub for trading amongst the people of these nationalities. The passage is low-key and rundown to say the least, but the zest for life and beauty of the garments available in the space makes up for it.
You wouldn’t think that such a foreign attraction could become something unmissable in terms of things to see in Paris. The truth is that Passage Brady is the perfect fusion of Eastern culture meeting French traditions.
If you’re one who values authentic curry and properly used spices then Passage Brady should be high on your list of things to do while in Paris. The Canal Saint Martin is located in the same arrondissement and could be visited either before or after your trip to the passage (Read more about Discover walking tours).
7. Atelier des Lumière in Paris
38 Rue Saint-Maur
This next attraction isn’t so much overlooked as it is simply unknown. The Atelier des Lumières is Paris’ first digital museum and is located in the 11th arrondissement not far from the Père Lachaise Cemetery.
Instead of housing physical art, the museum projects the most well known, revolutionary works of our time onto ten meter tall walls and ceilings and floors inside the massive warehouse space.
This results in a completely unique and immersive museum experience where the viewer somewhat loses sense of reality. Ones concept of space and size is completely overwhelmed once inside, the art takes over and all you can really do is move your way through the different rooms and marvel at the impressive digitals.
The goal of this museum was to make art accessible and appealing to people who wouldn’t usually enjoy roaming around a museum space; reading plaques and tracking down specific pieces.
The digital museum is located in the Oberkampf area of Paris which is an up and coming little neighborhood. Nightlife rules these streets, but by day there are quiet vintage stores and wonderful cafes to be enjoyed as well.
There you have it. Seven sites in Paris that have been completely neglected by the general public at times, including myself.
If you fancy an alternative view of the city where tourists are few and queues are virtually unheard of then any of the above will greatly suffice. Paris is magic — no matter how you choose to view it.