Discover the unexpected on your next trip to Paris. Sure, you probably already know the most iconic sights to see but follow a lesser-trodden path to uncover a very different shade of the City of Light. Celebrity tombstones, NYC statue replicas, and an abandoned railway turned pedestrian park are the beginnings of your hidden, hauntingly beautiful explorations of Paris.
Surprisingly, Paris also has a number of free attractions. And, conveniently, each of the following four sites can be visited without charge. So, for a unique, wallet-friendly urban adventure, check out these tranquil, inventive, and downright odd sights, and take a leap into Paris’ unknown.
Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
This hillside necropolis in eastern Paris is the final resting place of many famous people, including Oscar Wilde, Édith Piaf, and Frédéric Chopin. Unique in character, it’s a cross between a shrine and an English park, featuring 70,000 tombs, gothic gravestones, and more than 5,000 trees. In other words, this 109-acre cemetery is a place where nature and funerary art coexist, a space for quiet contemplation. One of the most popular graves is that of legendary rock star Jim Morrison, whose low-key tombstone is overflowing with flowers, candles, and messages from adoring fans.
In the Know
Location: 8 Boulevard de Ménilmontant, 75020
Interesting Facts: It’s the largest cemetery in Paris and the world’s most visited burial grounds.
Insider Tips: If you’re willing to spend a little money, you can join a guided tour and enjoy shortcuts to the most famous graves, as well as hear anecdotes about some of the celebrities buried there. Or be a flâneur and take a stroll at your own pace.
Statue of Liberty replicas
New York City’s original Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French people to the Americans, recognizing America’s perseverance for freedom and democracy. What you might not know is that at least five replicas of the empowering statue still exist in Paris today — and they’re peppered all around the city. Each varies in scale and grandeur. Embark on a scavenger hunt to locate the public duplicates and see how many you can find. The grandest of them all — and gifted by the American community — can be found at Île aux Cygnes (the Island of Swans), located on an artificial islet along the river Seine.
In the Know
Location: Île aux Cygnes, 75015 (close to the Pont de Grenelle); Jardin du Luxembourg, 75006
Interesting Facts: The 38-foot-tall replica on Île aux Cygnes was added to the island in 1889, three years after the original NYC statue was installed.
Insider Tips: The replica at Jardin du Luxembourg is perhaps the hardest to find, hidden among the many outdoor statues. Head to the western edge of the park and look out for an oak tree; in front of the tree, she proudly stands.
The apartment building designed by French architect Jules Lavirotte is one of the most intricately detailed art nouveau edifices in Paris. With its floral patterns and highly ornamental ironwork, this multistory apartment — reminiscent of Gaudí — is an architectural masterpiece. It’s the product of collaboration between Lavirotte and his friends, including the ceramist Alexandre Bigot and other creatives. The quirky and elaborate façade represents the lush garden of Eden and won an award in the Paris façade competition in 1901, the same year the building was completed.
In the Know
Location: 29 Avenue Rapp, 75007
Interesting Facts: It’s one of the most photographed private buildings in the arrondissement.
Insider Tips: The building, in the heart of Paris, is about 2 blocks from the Eiffel Tower and faces the famous landmark. After checking out the fascinating façade, take a stroll along the Parisian streets and see the Eiffel Tower from afar.
Floating above the city, an elevated park traces over a 3-mile-long deserted railway line in eastern Paris. This otherworldly green space, 33 feet above street level, begins just east of Opéra Bastille and unfolds to the Bois de Vincennes, on the edge of central Paris. The abandoned railway space goes mostly unnoticed from the ground, yet it provides beautiful panoramas of the Parisian rooftops and beyond. Planted with rose bushes, cherry trees, and lavender, it’s a breath of fresh air and a tranquil spot hidden away from the urban grind below.
In the Know
Location: 1 Coulée Verte René-Dumont, 75012
Interesting Facts: This rail-to-trail park was the original inspiration behind New York’s High Line.
Insider Tips: Check out the Viaduc des Arts beneath the promenade. It’s home to a string of artisanal shops and workshops all housed under the 64 former railway arches.