Discovering France's "Not-So-Touristy" Attractions

June 30, 2016

The City of Love is undoubtedly an awe-mazing destination perfect for people whose feet are itching to travel.  There are just sooo many tourist attractions to see in Paris alone (and even more equally impressive places to visit in the suburbs), that's why I felt a little bit "bitin" with our 4-day stay in the French capital.  Hmm.. I hope, someday, we'll get the chance to stay longer in this beautiful city -- so I'll have the luxury of time to explore every corner of the Louvre Museum and Versailles, and experience the romantic ambiance of the Eiffel Tower at night.

Anyway, this is going to be my last post about our family's trip to Paris, France, so allow me to show you six more attractions that we visited during our short vacation in the city.  


CHATEAU DE VINCENNES

Chateau de Vincennes

Chateau de Vincennes is a royal fortress of medieval architecture, which was originally used as a hunting lodge, then a royal residence, a site of porcelain manufactory, and eventually, a state prison.  Today, this massive structure functions as a main base of France's Defense Historical Service, which also preserves a museum in the donjon.

I especially loved this place because it is less crowded compared to the other royal residences (Louvre and Versailles) we've visited.  Rafa was able to freely roam around the castle because it was empty -- at least we don't have to worry about him breaking something we cannot afford to pay because there's really nothing fragile in here (unlike in Versailles and Louvre where furniture, paintings, and decors cost millions).  This was actually the first castle I have ever explored, I think, so it's a pretty memorable place for me.

Chateau de Vincennes
The donjon of Chateau de Vincennes stands 52 meters making it the tallest in Europe

Chateau de Vincennes
The Holy Chapel or Sainte-Chapelle was still under renovation at the time of our visit

Chateau de Vincennes
The Royal Pavilions, just like the Holy Chapel, was also being renovated that's why we didn't get to see its interior

Chateau de Vincennes
Visitors can also freely explore the parapet of Chateau de Vincennes

The other reason why Chateau de Vincennes will always be memorable for me is because Ronnie had an acute gallbladder attack here.  Good thing we brought my husband's medications during our tour (I have anticipated this scenario already since I knew we would be eating mostly in restaurants where food are almost always fatty or oily), or else we could have ended in the ER of one of Paris' hospitals.  

It was indeed a stressful experience for my husband to have an acute gallbladder attack while on a Europe tour.  Nevertheless, he still made sure to make the most out of our trip by exploring the castle as soon as he felt a little better already -- no one can stop him from enjoying Europe, not even his gallstones!  (Yeah, I know. He's really that stubborn!)

Chateau de Vincennes
Chateau de Vincennes
Chateau de Vincennes

***Chateau de Vincennes is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. Free entry for Paris pass holders. Normal entry price is 8.50 EUR. 


HOTEL DES INVALIDES

Hotel des Invalides

The National Residence of the Invalids is a building complex which was originally built as a hospital and a hospice for war veterans.  A few years later, it was further expanded to include a Soldier's church and a Royal church, that eventually became a mausoleum for some of France's war heroes.  Finally, a Military Museum was also placed in one of the wings of the Invalides, which is considered to be one of the biggest in the world.

Hotel des Invalides is a pretty huge property, so expect to do a lot of walking when you visit the place.  Our main agenda in this attraction was to only see Napoleon Bonaparte's tomb.  However, we unfortunately got stranded here for about an hour or so, because of the heavy rain that poured over the city.  Hence, we decided to make the most out of our time by seeing the Army Museum as well.  And boy, oh boy, it was indeed a large exhibit!  The museum alone has four floors filled with military and warfare collections, so be prepared to get your leg muscles workin'!

Hotel des Invalides
An obligatory couple shot at the courtyard of Hotel des Invalides

Church of Saint Louis also known as the Soldier's church
Church of Saint Louis also known as the Soldier's church

The Royal Chapel or Dome des Invalides
The Royal Chapel or Dome des Invalides

The Royal Chapel or Dome des Invalides
The tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte

The Royal Chapel or Dome des Invalides
A closer look of the tomb

The Royal Chapel or Dome des Invalides
Hotel des Invalides
Hotel des Invalides

***For more information about the museum's timing and ticket prices, please click here. 


CONCIERGERIE

Conciergerie

The Conciergerie is an old prison in Paris which used to be a part of the royal palace, Palais de la Cite.  This is where the prisoners of the French Revolution, including Queen Marie-Antoinette, were detained before they were taken to the guillotine to be beheaded.  

Unlike most museums in France that's overly crowded with tourists, the Conciergerie, surprisingly, had only a few guests at the time of our visit.  Well, to be honest, this attraction can be a bit boring since it's just basically a detention cell.  It's not the typical Parisian museum that boasts a luxurious and sophisticated architecture that people would usually admire.  I guess, what you'll most likely to appreciate about this attraction would be its historical significance. Hence, if you're not a history geek, then you might have a hard time enjoying the place.  

Conciergerie
Conciergerie
Conciergerie
Conciergerie
The detention cell of Marie-Antoinette is a little bit creepy, don't you think?

***The Comciergerie is open everyday, from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.  Free entry for Paris pass holders.  Full ticket price is 8.50 EUR.


SACRE COEUR

Sacre Coeur

This Romanesque church, made predominantly of white stones, is the second most visited church in France, next to Notre Dame, and considered one of the most noticeable landmarks in the City of Love, for it sits atop a hill overlooking the French capital.  

To climb 200 steps to reach the church is really no joke, especially for the elderly and for tourists with babies and strollers. It's a good thing they do have a funicular at the bottom of the Montmartre hill which could take visitors up to the Sacre Coeur with ease.  This service is actually considered part of France's metro system, so you'll only need a metro/bus ticket to use it.

Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur

***The Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre is open everyday from 6 am to 10:30 pm.  Entrance is free of charge.  The dome, however, can be accessed for a certain rate.  


PANTHEON

Pantheon, Paris

The Pantheon is a building of Neoclassical architecture which was originally built as a church dedicated to Saint Genevieve, but was later on converted into a mausoleum to house the remains of prominent Frenchmen, including Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, etc.  

I have seen Rome's Pantheon, which really impressed me, but Pantheon Paris did impress me more!  Its interior is well preserved and the underground crypt is huge (this one's definitely a must-see!).  What caught my attention though was the Foucault pendulum, located at the center of the building, which kept an exact local time -- I'm telling you, this thing is really very very interesting!

Pantheon, Paris
Pantheon, Paris
Pantheon, Paris
Pantheon, Paris
Pantheon, Paris
Pantheon, Paris

*** The Pantheon is free for Paris pass holders.  Regular entry price is 8.50 EUR.  Open everyday from 10 am to 6:30 pm (Apr-Sept) / 6:00 pm (Oct-Mar).



LUXEMBOURG GARDENS

Luxembourg Gardens

Just a few meters away from the Pantheon is the Luxembourg Gardens, a park currently owned by the French Senate.  Originally, this place was created by the initiative of King Henry IV's widow, Marie de Medici, to house a new palace and a 25-hectare garden (inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy).

This lovely place is perhaps the most beautiful garden you'll ever see in Paris.  The park is well maintained and there are a lot of chairs available for anyone who wishes to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.  The metro station is also just right beside the park's entrance gate, making it really accessible to the public.  It is, indeed, a perfect place for a family bonding or for anyone who simply want to breathe some fresh air and take a break from all the stress brought about by a busy city life.

Luxembourg Gardens
Luxembourg Gardens
Luxembourg Gardens
Luxembourg Gardens
Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Gardens
Luxembourg Gardens

***The Luxembourg Gardens is open to the public free of charge, all year, daily from 7 am (during summer) / 8 am (during winter) to an hour before sunset.  


That concludes our tour of the City of Lights.  I hope you liked our photos!  In my next post, I'll be taking you to the stunning capital city of Spain, which is MADRID!  Til then, my dear readers!  

Merci!


***For more photos, stories, and tips about our adventures in Europe, you may check the following blog posts: 

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