Over 200 million international tourists visit France every year. What’s more, Paris is one of the most visited destinations in Europe, a reality that saw tourist spending in the city reach roughly $13 billion in 2016. However, many could argue that international tourists often do France wrong, especially in Paris.
Hollywood has glamorized the capital city for years, and Netflix’s recent release of Emily in Paris has only added to the fantasy of Paris with its polished, fancy streets and cafes along the Seine, and not the city’s more dilapidated features.
Paris has many of these facets, from the Catacombs to Petite Ceinture. Of course, it’s important to see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre at least once when you’re in the city, just as it’s crucial to embrace the culture and the language while you’re there.
Most travel websites will suggest visiting these locations in addition to brushing up on your French vocabulary beforehand. Having a good overview of the language would make your trip a lot smoother, such as learning the 20 most used French verbs. Picking up French will ensure you are immersing yourself in the experience and online tutors make it accessible and convenient to do so. Still, once you visit the mainstream locations in Paris, we suggest checking out the following historic and dilapidated attractions throughout the city.
Every tourist visiting Paris wants to go to the iconic Gare du Nord train station, but why not swap out a running railway for an abandoned one? The Petite Ceinture railway started construction over 150 years ago under the Empire of Napoléon III and was in operation from 1862 to 1934. Today, Petite Ceinture is abandoned and overgrown with flowers and greenery. The original bridges and tunnels are hidden behind the neighborhoods and streets of Paris’ most famous arrondissements. The railway is also free to walk around, so consider it like you’re going on a trekking vacation, albeit this is more common in countries like India.
The Catacombs are a mainstream tourist destination, even though many might not know the full history. Individuals may not realize that tucked away in a small corner of the tunnels are the wall sculptures of a quarry worker who hand-carved them two centuries ago. The sculptures were made in secret when the Catacombs were a stone quarry. The worker was a former soldier, and during his time working in the quarries, he would go to this corner of the tunnels on his lunch break and work on three sculptures that recount his memories of the war.
Built-in 1575, the Medici Column houses a secret spiral staircase in front of Paris’ commodities exchange building. The staircase was built for Catherine de Medici’s astrologer, but its true purpose is unknown. At the time, the royal palace once stood behind the free-standing column and connected Catherine’s apartment to the observatory at the top. It’s a location of science and mystery, and its nearly 500-year-old roots make it one of the more dilapidated locations in the city.
Paris is full of beautiful, polished things we see on television screens. However, the city also has dilapidated elements that, in their own way, offer the same beauty as the Louvre or the Seine. Travel is about exposing yourself to everything a new city or country offers, and that includes going to the lesser-known attractions.