‘Paris, you are my happiness’ sang Edith Piaf back in 1949, and it’s clear a lot of people agree with her. The French capital invariably features in Top 10 lists of the world’s most visited destinations, and while Paris’s popularity is undoubtedly a reflection of its undeniable charms it can make visiting a trying experience at times. Are you desperate to ditch the crowds but not sure where to begin? Convinced that there are no ‘hidden gems’ left to discover? Think again. Take a minute or two to check out this assortment of left-field experiences before your next trip, and upon your return you’ll be telling your friends ‘Eiffel in love with Paris again’…
Browse the Flea Markets
In the true spirit of off-beat travel, give the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen (believed to be the world’s largest flea market) a miss and instead head to Les Puces de Montreuil, where you can vie for vintage gems with other snoopers. Don’t be shy, for the bargains won’t be handed to you on a (antique) plate – patience and your best haggling game will help you sort the tat from the treasures.
Vanves’s weekend market is smaller but still has a winsome charm and a tantalising trove of bargains to be had. Perfume bottles, 1920s dresses, chocolate moulds; what more could you want from a flea market?
Visit Some Quirky Museums
The Louvre will never be passé but the inevitable crowds can sometimes take the gloss off a visit. A nice complement to the flea markets is a visit to the Musée des Arts et Métiers, which houses over 80,000 scientific instruments and inventions, ranging from the first model airplane (designed by Clément Ader in the 1890s) and first calculators to ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’. As fascinating as they are quaint, the objects in this wonderful museum demonstrate man’s ingenuity.
As does the Museum of the History of Medicine, if in a slightly unnerving way at times. Expect to wince at the sight of medical tools dating from as far back as medieval times, as well as preserved body parts.
For a pick-me-up, head to the spellbinding Musée de la Magie, which explores the history of magic from as far back as the 1700s to today. Wands, hats and curiosity cabinets abound, while the brilliant magic show will wow even the most sceptical of audiences.
Picnic in the Park
One of the great pleasures of Paris is its many beautiful parks, each perfect for a gentle saunter and a leisurely picnic. The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement is a true favourite of the locals but never gets overcrowded (it’s one of Paris’s largest public parks), so you can enjoy the beautiful waterfalls and bridges in peace as you snack on baguette and fromage.
20 minutes’ walk from the Musée de la Magie is the Anne-Frank Garden, a recent addition to Paris’s plethora of parks. It’s not well-known, however, and this – along with its small, intimate setting – makes it a fittingly tranquil spot to relax in the fashionable Marais district.
Parc Monceau was created by the Duke of Chartres in the late eighteenth century for the public; his philanthropy was matched only by his eclectic taste. The garden is famous for its follies, which include an Egyptian pyramid, classical Greek colonnades and a Chinese pagoda. Two hundred years on and locals continue to enjoy this wonderful park.
How to Get to Paris
As if Paris were not enticing enough a destination already, its proximity to the UK means there are no barriers to an impromptu weekend getaway. Flights from London to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) take only an hour, so you can be enjoying the hidden secrets of Paris in a flash. Once you’ve touched down at Paris Charles de Gaulle, get a Shuttle Direct transfer to your accommodation. Punctual and cheap, a Shuttle Direct transfer will see your getaway off to a flier.
Where to Stay
Ideal Hotel – The Ideal Hotel is, well, ideal thanks to its great location in the central 11th arrondissement, which has plenty of excellent bars and eateries. It’s not far from either the flea markets or museums, and guests love the friendly staff and comfortable rooms. The free Wi-Fi is an added bonus.
hotelf1 Paris Porte de Montmartre – This property just outside the 18th arrondissement is an excellent budget choice. The unlimited breakfast buffet will set you up perfectly for a day of wandering the Parisian streets. There is free Wi-Fi on offer too.
Hôtel Moderne – This cosy hotel in Maisons-Alfort will meet all your needs: it features a communal lounge where you can socialise with fellow travellers, while free Wi-Fi is available throughout the property. It’s also under a mile from the nearest metro station, which gives you convenient access to the city centre.
Shuttle Direct is the leading provider of airport transfer services in Europe and North Africa. For years travellers have entrusted Shuttle Direct to handle their transport needs, and our excellent range of low-cost and efficient services provide holidaymakers with a stress-free start to their vacation. Book your transfer through our easy to use online booking system and let us do the rest while you get ready for a unique Paris getaway.