I thought I’d collaborate my top 10 must see hidden gems in Paris as I’m now doing a lot of Photoshoots, Filming and Gift Wrapping Services for Clients there. I fell in love with the French Capital when I first visited back in 1995, and have been returning there regularly since 2010 for work.
Julius Caesar conquered Paris in 52 B.C. It was then a fishing village, called Lutetia Parisiorum (the Parisii were a Gallic tribe), on the Île de la Cité. Under the Romans the town spread to the left bank and acquired considerable importance under the later emperors. The Renaissance reached Paris in the 16th century and at this time the Louvre was transformed from a fortress to a Renaissance palace. The city now remains the most visited one in the world ahead of London and New York.
I have been lucky to find some hidden gems during my spare time there and thought I’d collate my 10 favourite ‘must visits’ in Paris.
Ribbons by Jane Means
The Eiffel Tower
This elegant and beautiful tower of wrought iron lattice work and rivets on the Champ de Mar is the most iconic symbol of the stunningly inspirational and stylish city that is Paris. Named after Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the engineer who designed it, the tower was supposed to be a temporary addition to the Parisian skyline during the Paris Exposition of 1889 but, thankfully, it was saved from deconstruction in 1909 and lives on to be the most visited paid monument in the world. Walking beneath its four huge, weight-bearing legs gives you a real sense of the scale and intricately interlaced beauty of this structure and, whilst it is, admittedly, rather tiring climbing the 328 steps to the first floor, the Parisian air and atmosphere are wonderful and, after 2 lift rides to the top, the views are utterly breathtaking. After all, at almost 1000ft, it was the tallest structure in the world in 1889 and it still remains the tallest structure in Paris.
There are beautiful photographs to be taken all over Paris and it is nature, as well as architecture that impresses and inspires me so much. The medieval cathedral of Notre Dame is a splendid example of Gothic architecture and can be seen from the relaxation of a cruise along the Seine or explored in more close up, awe-inspiring detail. Her full name is Notre-Dame de Paris, our lady of Paris, and she is located on the ‘Ile de la cite’, in the heart of the city.
Thought to be the best example of French Gothic architecture in the world, Notre Dam is visited by around 13 million people each year. It was interesting to note that Victor Hugo’s famous gothic novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, published in 1831, was written to increase interest in the cathedral he loved so much. I was lucky enough to see this amazing place during blossom season.
I personally have a love of topiary and within these magnificent gardens belonging to the beautiful Luxembourg Palace there are some splendid, playful and sometimes surprising examples of skillfully and well-groomed topiary treats. Walking the elegant and well maintained pathways of pristine precision and stunning shrubbery, I could not fail to be inspired by my creative surroundings
This ‘small palace’ was built for the 1900 Universal Exposition, when it served to solidify France’s position as an artistic world leader and it now houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. This is a very grand and elaborate building with a blend of traditional and modern architecture, which stands amidst other architectural gems on Winston Churchill Avenue. One of its facades also faces the Seine and one faces the Champs Elysees. It is an absolute pleasure to explore this delightful building, with its paintings, tapestries, sculptures and exquisite objects. I could feel myself soaking up the centuries of creativity as I walked
Sacre Coeur & fairground
Well, yet another building that just omits magnificence. The Basilica of the sacred heart of Paris is another of the most visited monuments of Paris and stands at the top of the hill of Montmartre. It evokes thoughts of Indian temples and was built in the Romanesque-Byzantine style in the most wonderful Chateau-Landon stone which has been bleached by wet weather and now shines bright white against the skyline.
Walk the pretty streets of Montemarte
Surrounding the Sacre Coeur, the cobbled streets slope away and form a tempting network of streets and stepped pathways, absolutely bursting with creativity. Historically, much like a village within the city, it is where the artists used to live but now, filled with tourists, it offers shops and cafes and is a place where many wonderful hours can be lost finding inspiration.
Saint Germain Quarter
Here dwells, St-Germain-des-Pres, the oldest church in Paris. The essence of the surrounding streets was once that of a café society full of poetry, art and literature but Lagerfeld, Dior and Armani now command the shop fronts and the scent is one of high fashion, opulence and prestigious addresses. Picasso and Oscar Wilde once resided here and frequented the very famous cafes on the Saint Germain Boulevard. This is a neighbourhood for your Sunday best, for window shopping, art museums and languid lunches in bistros and brasseries, where observing Parisian society is always inspiring.
Another breathtaking location within Paris and the ideal place to get a picture-perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. The Trocadero gardens feature beautiful sculptures and the famous Warsaw Fountains which offer impressive water displays. This large area includes several museums, meaning more culture, creativity and inspiration and it is dominated by the Palais de Chaillot, a stunning building, designed to frame and compliment the view of the Eiffel Tower.
Enjoy the cafes
Whether you prefer to be surrounded by grand interiors, full of gleaming mirrors, columns, polished brass and sumptuous seating or if you prefer to sit outside, beneath a canopy, amidst scented shrubs in the sunshine as you watch Paris stroll by, there are an almost infinite number of cafes to choose from in Paris and I could spend more time than I care to admit to sampling the coffees and cakes at many of them. Paris certainly takes café society seriously and does it exceptionally well.
By far my most favourite and ‘must see’ café experience within a city full of wonderful cafes, is the ‘Au Vieux Paris’, with its lilac blossomed, wisteria draped walls and its hot pink al-fresco dining, this place epitomized understated, exquisite, Parisian chic to me. It was utterly delightful…
Need I say any more, with Galeries Lafayette, Printemps and the French Fashion Houses oozing glamour, you can’t resist a shopping trip whilst you are in Paris. There are plenty of Flea markets and independent stores located all over the French capital.
Working for new clients in Paris has opened up a wonderful opportunity to really explore the finer, more elegant and exquisite cultural details that this unique city has to offer.
Soaking up the atmosphere and being surrounded by such impressive architecture and style, with its distinctly different formal greetings, dressed up personal presentation and social formalities illustrates the charm and individuality of Paris and Parisians themselves. I certainly feel inspired to add a little Parisian chic to my own creations in the near future, and will be sharing all my travels and finds on my Instagram Page