Some of the world’s best cities are worth a second or third visit. If you’re headed over to Europe this summer, contributor Lilit Marcus shows how to escape the rookie crowds and find a more authentic side of Paris on your second (or third) trip.
Congratulations! You’re lucky enough to visit Paris, one of the greatest cities in the world, not once but twice. Odds are pretty good that you already went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, gaped in awe at Notre Dame, and got a photo of yourself smiling next to the Mona Lisa. Good news, though – there’s still plenty more to see and do in the City of Light, and you certainly won’t have as many other tourists waiting in line in front of you.
Pick a different neighborhood to stay in so that you can experience a new angle of French local cool, then prepare to see a whole new part of this incredible city.
Now that you’ve hit all the highlights, spend a little time focusing in on just what makes Paris so great. Already been to the Pantheon? If you haven’t, it’s definitely worth the visit, but make sure you stop at the nearby Eglise de St.Etienne, which is beautiful, almost always empty, and just around the corner. From there, you can partake in a particularly Parisian pastime – the flaner, or nice long walk with no specific destination, by strolling through the Latin Quarter. If you’ve already been to the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, invest in a smaller but just as beloved museum.
Focus on the work of one artist at the Rodin Museum (which has a gorgeous sculpture garden worth spending time in on a sunny afternoon) or the Picasso Museum in the super-bobo 3rd arrondissement. Prefer a variety of styles and subjects? Check out the Museum of the Orangerie or the Luxembourg Museum, both of which are just next to the Jardins de Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement. The totally-free Museum of the Romantic Life (which is more about the literary style than the daily practice of love, btw) in the 9th arrondissement is gorgeous and has a tea room that’s divine during the afternoon. Though most people associate Paris with classical or romantic art, there is a very good Modern Art Museum not far from the Champs-Elysees.
If you didn’t make it on your first trip, check out the Pere Lachaise cemetery, which is considered the most famous cemetery in the world. Among the people buried there are Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Maria Callas, Sarah Bernhardt, Marcel Marceau, and (probably the most famous with tourists) Jim Morrison. To make the best of your visit, do some research ahead of time. The cemetery is huge and the provided (posted, not printed out) maps are not terribly helpful. If there are a few specific graves you’d like to see, download maps on your phone ahead of time or use an app to help you find them.
There’s one more important thing to do on your second visit to Paris: get out of town. Even lifelong lovers of Paris need to see the country sometimes. There are great and relatively easy day trips from Paris, including Versailles, Disneyland Paris (What? Kids really like it), and Monet’s house at Giverny. If you want to take a pre-arranged guided tour (and not have to deal with navigating mass transit), the Paris City Vision company comes highly recommended. If you’re slightly more ambitious and want to do a whole weekend outside of Paris, the city of Reims (in the Champagne region), the beaches of Normandy (hugely popular with World War II buffs), and the wine country of Burgundy are also excellent places to see more of the country.
Before heading home, there’s one final thing to work on – your French, of course. Give yourself one afternoon to relax in a café or coffee shop – Telescope, near the Louvre, and Merci, not far from Place de la Republique, are both too cool to be believed – and while the afternoon away reading a French newspaper and enjoying some of the best coffee in the city. Merci is also a used bookstore, so if you’re feeling ambitious, pick up quelque chose a lire on the flight home.
Next thing you know, it’ll be time for a third visit.
For more adventures in Paris, check out:
- Foodie Round-Up: The Complete Guide to Macarons in Paris
- Ask the Locals: City Guide to Paris France
- A Single Woman Finds Love in Paris Cooking School
- Suzy Gershman’s Postcard from Paris
By Lilit Marcus for PeterGreenberg.com. Lilit is a freelance writer who lives on the Lower East Side and tries to get out of Manhattan as much as possible. Her work has also appeared in Glamour, The Daily, and Jaunted.com. Follow her on twitter at @LilitMarcus.