Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Offbeat Attractions in Paris

Written by Adrienne Erin

Paris ~ one of the top wonders of the world. Not only is it the city of love, it is the city where tourist attractions are in abundance.  If you are visiting Paris, you might be wondering to yourself, "Where can I go to enjoy myself?" As per usual, you probably have locations such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and other such sites in mind.

While those sites are good attractions for first-time tourists, you may want to get the full effect of Paris.  In order to get a sense of history and culture, there are three sites you will especially want to visit: the Paris Catacombs, the Parc de Buttes-Chaumont and the Lutèce Arena.


Catacombs of Paris - Photo courtesy of Ben Templesmith
Catacombs of Paris
Also referred to as Catacombes de Paris. The Catacombs of Paris is one of the most unusual tourist attractions around the world.

The underground ossuary began in the 18th century, where it began as a mining place for stone quarries.  However, as time passed, the stone quarries depleted, leaving the mines vacant from 1777 to 1786.

It was not until 1786 where the mines were put back to us -- an underground burial for the Paris population.  Begun by Police Lieutenant General Alexandre Lenoir and finished by his successor Thiroux de Crosne, the exhumation and reburial of all the Paris' deceased was undergone.

Now a burial ground of six million people, tourists roam the catacombs to see one of the most prestigious burial grounds known on earth. The skeletal remains that act as walls are real remains.

This museum offers an in depth understanding of the Paris culture and gives you an interesting experience.  This will be one experience you will not forget anytime soon.

Arènes de Lutèce ~ Photo courtesy of Natalie Hegert
Arènes de Lutèce
Coliseums were thought to be only large in Rome, since Romans monopolized and popularized gladiatorial combat.  However, Romans populated much of the globe centuries ago and, now; there are coliseums around the entire eastern hemisphere, including France.

In France, gladiators would gather from all around the world to fight at the Arènes de Lutèce.  Constructed in the 1st century, this amphitheatre was one of the longest and largest of its kind and could seat as much as 15,000 people.  In the upper tiers, the poor and slaves would sit in the battered heat.  However, in the lower tiers, Roman citizens were seated and linen awnings were provided to protect citizens from the harsh sun.

The arena was buried over the centuries, and though the neighbourhood around it was named "les  Arenes" after it, nobody quite knew where it was until the 1860s.  It was rediscovered by a construction company that was planning to build a tram depot there.  Now it is a protected site, avoiding the construction of any metro stops or outdoor playground equipment, able to be enjoyed by everyone.

Now, tourists are able to view and travel around the coliseum.  Often there will be children playing sports in the centre of the arena, but if you can, stand in the centre to spectate the arena in its entirety.  The stone seats are a quiet place in a charming old neighbourhood to eat a bagel from the the bagel shop nearby, or just take in the scenery of one of the oldest attractions in Paris.  It's not a visit you will soon forget!

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
Located on the northeast side of Paris, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is the fifth largest park in Paris, coming in at 61 acres.

The urban park was crafted in the late 19th century and has been a popular tourist attraction since.  The park is known for three major features: The Temple de la Sibylle, Île de la Belvédére and an Artificial Lake.
Photo taken by the Adrienne
  • The Temple de la Sibylle - The most famous and prominent feature of Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, this temple resembles the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy. Inspired by many romantic paintings in the 18th and 19th century, the Temple of Vesta was an inspiration to be recreated and attract tourists to visit it across the world. The Temple de la Sibylle is crafted in pure perfection, giving tourists a very romantic setting once inside.
  • Île de la Belvédére - A rocky island surrounded by the waters of a beautiful lake, the steep cliffs of this island were crafted from old gypsum quarry stone.  Standing thirty feet above water, tourists will get a beautiful view of the park as Île de la Belvédére sits in the heart of the park. Synthetic waterfalls make way for a beautiful and rather romantic gesture if you are with someone you love.
  • Artificial Lake - Constructed to surround the Île de la Belvédére, this artificial lake is beautiful and peaceful.  The waters are almost always calm and make for great canoeing with your family or a loved one. This lake can be seen in full-view from the top of the Île de la Belvédére.

Author Bio
Adrienne is a a freelance writer and Francophile whose love of travel was ignited by her experience studying abroad in Paris. She travelled extensively in France to practice her language skills, and also travelled abroad to a number of European countries to visit friends, family, and sites that had interested her for years. Read her personal blog, Pongra, to see more of her work.