AL­MOST SE­CRET PARIS

Love Paris, but hate crowds? Check out lesser-known but lovely sites in the City of Light

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION FRANCE - ALEX LALAK

Paris is a mag­net for tourists and they usu­ally ar­rive with match­ing itin­er­ar­ies – Notre Dame, Eif­fel Tower, Musée D’Or­say – the list goes on. This means there are of­ten epic queues to get into the big­gest mu­se­ums and long wait­ing times to ac­cess the city’s at­trac­tions, par­tic­u­larly in peak sea­son.

But there are great al­ter­na­tives through­out the city of­fer­ing as much charm as more fa­mous sites with­out the mad­den­ing crowds. Make the most of your Paris hol­i­day with this guide to some of the best.

CHÂTEAU DE FONTAINEBLEAU

The Palace of Ver­sailles will al­ways lure tourists but the equally grand Château de Fontainebleau, just south of Paris, is a more in­ter­est­ing op­tion. The res­i­dence of French mon­archs for cen­turies, this palace was re­stored by Napoleon af­ter the rev­o­lu­tion and is now a pro­tected land­mark.

Elab­o­rate in­te­ri­ors and the art col­lec­tion are key draw­cards but make sure to al­low time for a wan­der in sprawl­ing gar­dens spread across 130ha around the chateau.

It’s also great value at only €11 (about $A16) a ticket, mak­ing it a much cheaper op­tion than Ver­sailles. MUSEE-CHATEAU-FONTAINEBLEAU.FR

MONTPARNASSE TOWER

Smart Parisians know the Eif­fel Tower isn’t the only, or the best, way to glimpse a view of the rooftops of Paris.

Wave good­bye to the hordes of tourists and in­stead head south to the tallest of­fice build­ing near the cen­tre of the city, the 210m-high sky­scraper, Montparnasse Tower.

Get the lift to the Panoramic Ob­ser­va­tion Deck at the top and be­hold a truly spec­tac­u­lar view of the city that in­cludes the mag­i­cal sight of Gus­tave Eif­fel’s mas­ter­piece. TOURMONTPARNASSE56.COM/EN/

THE BASILICA OF SAINT DE­NIS

Notre-Dame Cathe­dral is spec­tac­u­lar and worth see­ing, yet its throngs of vis­i­tors are enough to de­ter even the most en­thu­si­as­tic sight­seer.

In­stead, take the metro to the sub­urb of Saint De­nis, just north of Paris, to see a church con­sid­ered by many lo­cals to be the city’s most beau­ti­ful and im­por­tant, the Basilica of Saint De­nis. It boasts stun­ning stained glass win­dows and was the burial place for more than 100 French roy­als (in­clud­ing Louis XVI and Marie-An­toinette), as well as be­ing Joan of Arc’s favourite church. It’s also home to the pre­served heart of Louis XVII, still on dis­play. SAINT-DE­NIS-BASILIQUE.FR/EN

MUSÉE MARMOTTAN MONET

For­get shuf­fling through the crowded gal­leries at the Musée d’Or­say to catch a glimpse of Claude Monet’s fa­mous wa­ter lily paint­ings and in­stead head to the of­ten over­looked Musée Marmottan Monet, which boasts one of the best col­lec­tions of im­pres­sion­ist art in the world.

If you time it right, you might get to spend time alone with some of the Monet paint­ings on dis­play here but make sure you save some time to also en­joy the ex­tra­or­di­nary work by his equally fa­mous con­tem­po­raries in­clud­ing Renoir, De­gas and Gau­gin. MARMOTTAN.FR/UK/

PARC DES BUTTES CHAUMONT

There are beau­ti­ful parks through­out Paris and one of the most pop­u­lar is the Tui­leries Gar­den that sits be­tween the Lou­vre and the Place de la Con­corde. But if the crowds get too much try a wan­der in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the city’s east.

A favourite with lo­cals, this park fea­tures a large lake at its cen­tre and is the per­fect spot for a re­laxed pic­nic.

If you’re feel­ing en­er­getic, climb up the hill to the Tem­ple de la Sibylle, which af­fords spec­tac­u­lar views of the park and be­yond. EQUIPEMENT.PARIS.FR/PARC-DES-BUTTES -CHAUMONT-1757

PALAIS DE TOKYO

The per­ma­nent art col­lec­tion at the Cen­tre Ge­orges Pom­pi­dou is one of the best (and largest) in the world. But if you’re look­ing for a con­tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tion on a less in­tim­i­dat­ing scale head to Palais de Tokyo. This edgy mu­seum of­fers ever-chang­ing care­fully cu­rated dis­plays – just the thing for an hour of cul­ture that isn’t too over­whelm­ing. PALAISDETOKYO.COM/EN

CRUISE ON CANAL SAINT MARTIN

Each day thou­sands of tourists pack on to the open-topped boats that ferry up and down the river Seine, but a more en­joy­able op­tion is to skip the masses in favour of a cruise along the Canal Saint Martin.

The leafy wa­ter­way in the city’s north­east (fea­tured in many French films in­clud­ing Amelie) is a beau­ti­ful set­ting, and float­ing along on a boat run by Canauxrama at twi­light with a glass of rose in hand is the per­fect way to spend a Parisian af­ter­noon. CANAUXRAMA.COM/EN

EAT­ING AL­TER­NA­TIVES

Baguette – Skip the queues at Poilâne and try the award-win­ning bread at Tout Au­tour du Pain

Mac­arons – Head to Pierre Herme for these sweet treats rather than tourist favourite Ladurée (pier­re­herme.com).

Hot choco­late – Avoid the crowds at the fa­mous An­gelina and try tea salon Jac­ques Genin (jacques­genin.fr/).

Steak Frites – Re­lais de l’En­trecôte de­serves its fame but Le Petit Cler is a great al­ter­na­tive (lep­etit­cler.com).

PIC­TURES: SUP­PLIED

Away from the tourist mad­ness, Paris has more won­der­ful parks, palaces and wa­ter­ways if you know where to look.

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