Paris, often dubbed the “City of Love” and celebrated for iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower,
the Louvre and Notre-Dame Cathedral, has more to offer than meets the eye – and what touristic
guides tell you.
While tourists flock to these renowned monuments, the city holds a few quirky secrets tucked away in its streets, secrets that Parisians hold dear to their hearts, but I’m not stingy so here you go baby!
La Sainte Chapelle: A stained-glass marvel
Located less than a 10-minute walk from Notre-Dame and hidden amidst the grandeur of the Palais
de la Cité on the Île de la Cité lies a jewel that often escapes the tourist radar: La Sainte Chapelle.
Imagine stepping into a kaleidoscope of colors where sunlight dances through intricately designed stained glass windows. Built in the 13th century by King Louis IX, this mini-cathedral was originally constructed to house religious relics, including the oh-so-famous Crown of Thorns.
The chapel’s upper level boasts some of the most breathtaking stained glass windows in the world. As you gaze upon these radiant creations, you can’t help but feel like you’ve been transported to a world of dazzling rainbows and ethereal beauty.
Visit on a sunny day to witness the windows at their most magical, and make sure to book your ticket prior to visiting. They costs 11.5 euros, and are free if you’re under 26.
I’m not trying to flex but I’ve been to the Taj Mahal and the Machu Picchu, and this is the monument that has taken my breath away the most intensely in my entire life.
La Sainte Chapelle
10 Bd du Palais, 75001
La Grande Mosquée: A Moroccan oasis in Paris
Paris has a way of surprising us at every corner, and La Grande Mosquée is a testament to this. Tucked away in the 5th arrondissement, which is very central, this mosque offers an unexpected slice of North Africa right in the heart of the city.
As you approach the entrance, you’re greeted by a stunning courtyard filled with palm trees, intricate tile work, and a serene fountain. Inside, the mosque boasts striking architecture with its horseshoe arches and ornate detailing, reflecting the rich Moroccan influence. The mosque also houses a charming tearoom and a lush garden, where I love meeting my friends to grab a traditional cup of moroccan mint tea.
So, after marveling at the stunning mosaics and peaceful prayer hall, you can sip mint tea and nibble on delectable pastries in a setting that feels straight out of a fairy tale.
Gosh, just thinking about Moroccan pastries is making drool … briouats, gazelle horns.
La Grande Mosquée
2bis Pl. du Puits de l’Ermite, 75005
Père Lachaise Cemetery: Where the famous rest in peace
Whilst not a traditional monument, the Père Lachaise Cemetery is a place where history and art come together in a peculiar and captivating way. Nestled in the 20th arrondissement near the Père Lachaise metro station, this cemetery is the final resting place of some of the world’s most famous figures, including Oscar Wilde, Édith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Modigliani, Frederic Chopin and more.
(I know, right! How is this cemetery not more well-known?!)
Imagine if the scenario of “Night at the Museum” happened here! It would most definitely be the most wicked party ever; just imagining it gives me butterflies. Anyways, back to serious stuff: What makes this cemetery so intriguing is the strange allure of exploring the ornate tombs and cobblestone pathways. It’s like a museum, where artful sculptures and elaborate mausoleums provide an unconventional backdrop for contemplating the lives of those who came before us.
A visit here offers a unique opportunity to pay your respects to legends, and have a break from the buzzing vibe of the city.
So, while the Eiffel Tower and Louvre are undoubtedly iconic, don’t forget to venture off the beaten path and explore the underrated monuments that make Paris the endlessly fascinating city it is.
From the stained glass dreams of La Sainte Chapelle to the Moroccan oasis of La Grande Mosquée and the artistic tranquility of Père Lachaise Cemetery, there’s always something new to discover in the City of Light.
Read more about Paris here in Dispatches’ archives.
Charlotte Laborie grew up in England, Belgium and Switzerland. Charlotte then moved to Paris and graduated from Sciences Po Paris. She is still based in Paris, where she works in marketing.