Paris: The Dark Side of the City of Romance

February 24, 2015

A mere can-can kick from the UK, Paris is a deliciously mysterious mistress to our gentlemanly capital.

Of course, you’ll want to tick the city’s most famed sights off of your list but when you’ve already been there, seen that and got the Mona Lisa postcard from La Louvre gift shop, it’s time to delve deeper into Paris’s darker, dirtier, hidden depths.

Sitting in the shadow of the iconic landmarks you’ll find a labyrinth of city secrets just waiting for you to ditch the Eiffel Tower queue and discover them.

Whether you’ve booked a romantic Seine river cruise or you’ve got a port stop in Le Havre on your cruise holiday itinerary, here’s a hit list of wickedly good French fancies that you won’t find in the guide books.

Come closer and let us whisper secrets of how to enjoy the city of light, love and croissants the way:

Ruder than the Moulin Rouge

If you’ve already been thoroughly frou-frou-ed at the Moulin Rouge or the home of the famous red windmill and can-can dancing girls just isn’t risqué enough for you, booking tickets for the Crazy Horse cabaret is guaranteed to add oooh-la-la to your trip.

Take a peek at the decadent dance displays at the Crazy Horse, located on the regal Avenue George V, to add a (quite literally) cheeky aspect to your itinerary.

Not Your Average Museum

There are tons of museums and art galleries in Paris – La Louvre, Musee d’Orsay and Centre Georges Pompidou being probably the top three.

If you’re an art lover then the chances are that you’ve already queued to see the famous Van Gogh’s, Picasso’s and Monet’s, so why not take a look at what the city’s lesser known museums have to offer?

From the magical to the macabre to the downright mindboggling, there are some really quirky places to spend an hour or so in Paris.

The Museum of Carnival Arts is something of a fairground graveyard and is both charming and creepy in equal measures or for something creepier still, the Museum of the History of Medicine is grossly fascinating (don’t linger over the 19th century hand-powered chainsaw too long!).

Also crammed full of the stuff of nightmares are the Vampire Museum, the Museum of Hunting and Nature and the Museum of Taxidermy and Skeletons.

You can guarantee that there’ll be no elbow sharpening required to get a good look of these unusual exhibits.

Going from the gory to the gross, why not pay a visit to the Paris Sewer Museum?

Okay, maybe we need to draw the line there and have a second look at the Louvre!

NOT Madame Tussauds

If you’ve ever been to Madame Tussauds in London or Blackpool then you might think you know what to expect at Le Musee Grevin, Paris’s wax museum – but trust us, you’re in for an altogether weirder experience.

As well as an eclectic selection of famous faces immortalised in wax, you’ll also find a variety of odd exhibits – including scenes of torture in the History of France section (charming), a skeleton on horseback to depict the Middle Ages (spookily inaccurate) and a mesmerising Hall of Mirrors.

It’s more than a little bit loopy but the lavish halls and ballrooms of Le Musee Grevin are great fun to explore on a rainy day.

The Dog Basket in the Sky

Dog lovers may want to look away now but the Dog (and cat and other pets) Cemetery in Paris is actually quite a morbidly charming place to visit.

This is the final resting place of much loved pets including the original Rin Tin Tin, a monkey named Kiki, the dog of a Romanian Princess named Drac (the dog, not the Princess) and a much mourned hen.

Going Deeper Underground

If you’ve ever seen the movie As Above, So Below then you might want to give this one a miss!

If not or you’ve just got a really sadistic streak, a trip underground to the Paris Catacombs is always going to be great spooky story material.

The walls and ceilings of this series of dark tunnels are made up of the bones of thousands of dead Parisians who found themselves evicted and re-homed when the city’s cemeteries got overcrowded.

Note: However tempting a bone-a-fide skull might seem as a souvenir, your bags will be checked at the end of the tour.

It’s unlikely you’d be able to explain a smuggled skeleton away as ‘your own that you brought from home’!

Movie Magic

Add a sprinkling of movie magic to your Parisian adventure with a pit stop at the Café des Deux Moulins, which featured in the movie Amelie.

It’s also just around the corner from the Moulin Rouge, which featured the movie, erm, Moulin Rouge, making this spot, in the heart of the Pigalle red light district, a must see for film fans.

Just avoid the area with children as the neon ‘Sex Shop’ signs could spark some awkward lines of questioning…

Lady Liberty on Vacation

Nope, no need to check your cruise tickets to make sure you didn’t sleep-sail all the way to NYC – plus the Eiffel Tower in the background kind of gives it away.

This Paris monument is Lady Liberty on vacation and whilst not quite as impressive at just thirty five feet tall, she’s right on the Seine so river cruisers can get a good look.

She also has another doppelganger in the city – a bronze Statue in the courtyard of the Musee des Arts et Metiers, plus there’s the impressive gold Flame of Liberty (an informal Princess Diana tribute) on the Place de l’Alma.

This Lady definitely gets about a bit!

Hit the Beach

Another city surprise is the Paris Plage.

No, not a nasty dose of a medieval infectious disease – plage is French for beach.

If you fancied a Caribbean cruise but you’re a little too susceptible to sunburn, Paris in summer is home to an awesome sandy beach.

This Seine-side seaside spot is open mid July to mid August and has everything you could possibly want from a beach break – ice creams, beach volleyball, mini pools, deckchairs, the works.

When you’ve had enough you can simply shake off that sand and dive straight back into the city’s culture, shopping and sightseeing instead.

A Magical Mystery Tour

There’s no need to spend hours in a crowded, over-air-conditioned museum in Paris to enjoy works of art.

Far more fun is wandering the labyrinthine city, noticing the street art that crops up as you explore.

Try to pull the man through the wall at Le Passe Muraille in Montmartre, admire the Steampunk-style station at Metro Arts et Metiers or just keep your eye’s peeled for the pixelated mosaic art around the city, a craze started by a French street artist nicknamed Invader that’s most noticeable in the Latin Quarter.

Open your eyes, look up, look down and all around – you never know what exciting artworks you’ll spy hidden among the city streets.

Eat your heart out Banksy!

An Absinthe Adventure

Absinthe is a drink that you’re unlikely to find at the onboard bar, so if you fancy trying it in its original home of gay Paris, head to La Fee Verte (the Green Fairy) for an authentic absinthe experience.

Using traditional serving fountains and preparation methods, a drop of the green stuff here has a real sense of occasion.

Just make sure you can find your way back to your ship afterwards!

The Oddest Monument Ever

Paris is full of amazing monuments – the Arc de Triomph, the Obelisk of Luxor at Place de la Concorde and, of course, the iconic Eiffel Tower.

For something altogether weirder however, head to La Defense to see the giant thumb sculpture, Le Pouce.

This 40 foot tall ‘severed thumb’ monument is surrounded by the glossy glass skyscrapers of this Parisian business centre and it’s fair to say that it quite literally sticks out like a sore thumb!

Maybe that’s the message…?

Our take is that it’s worth seeing, just so that you can say that it sucks – get it!?

Don’t Look Down

If it’s just not a trip to Paris for you without a trip to the top of the tower, then watch out for the whopping big hole in the floor!

As part of a £24million facelift, the first level of the Eiffel Tower has had a glass floor installed, giving vertigo-inducing views of the ground nearly 60 metres below. Go stand, lie or jump on it – if you’re brave enough!

No matter how many times you’ve done Paris and how much time you have to spend in the French capital, there’s always something new and exciting to discover; so ditch the tourist trail, cross over to the dark side of the city and explore our secret spots instead.

Discover some of the lesser known attractions that are desperate to step out of the shadow of the Eiffel Tour and Notre Dame cathedral for a darker, more magical, more surprising Paris experience.

You’re guaranteed to fall in love with the city of love all over again. Except maybe at the dog cemetery…or the taxidermy museum…or the catatombs…or…..