We all know about the iconic sights of Paris. The Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and Sacre Coeur will always be high up on your list when visiting the city, no matter how many times you’ve been before. However, dig a little deeper and there is so much more to be discovered on these streets. From seemingly innocuous sights that actually have an intriguing story to things that are known to everyone but no one really knows why they’re there, these somewhat quirky attractions can add a slice of originality to your Paris city break.
Many of these sights highlight Paris’s darker side and we’ve included some of them below. What more would you expect from a city with many famous cemeteries and an underground network containing the remains of six million people?
Statue of Death, University of Medicine
There are many statues in Paris that have a hint of the macabre about them, but few do it in such an overt way as the statue of death found at the University of Medicine. Inside the publicly accessible courtyard, Henri Allouard’s sculpture depicts the Grim Reaper shrouded in a white sheet and standing on top of objects associated with greed and vanity. If nothing else, it serves as a stark reminder to the students of the very thing they are trying to prevent.
Hotel de Sens Cannonball
Many remnants of the French Revolution and medieval period have been expelled from Paris in the wake of redevelopment, but this accidental memorial still stands today. The Hotel de Sens is a former residence of the Archbishop of Sens, but now this private mansion holds the Forney Art Library. Look a little closer and you will see a small cannonball embedded in one of the external walls – the result of an attack by the revolting citizens during the insurrection of Charles X. A plaque with the date, July 28th 1830, has since been added.
It’s well known that the Guillotine is a French invention and was used as a form of capital punishment, predominantly during the French Revolution. However, it’s less known that you can still see markings of where a guillotine once stood on your trip to modern-day Paris. Where Rue de la Roquette and Rue de la Croix Faubin meet, in the 11th arrondissement, you can clearly see five indents in the concrete which show where the foundations once were. Though quickly found when you know where to look, you could easily walk past without even knowing they exist.
The Room of Endangered and Extinct Species
With all the famous and iconic museums in Paris, the National Natural History Museum may be quite far down your list of places to visit. However, it is definitely worth spending some time here and exploring the haunting Room of Endangered and Extinct Species within the Grande Galerie de L'évolution. Featuring taxidermy, fossils and pressed plants, the exhibition displays animals that are no longer with us or that are slowly dying out. Among these, you will see the world’s only black emu skeleton, a Tasmanian tiger and a preserved Cry Violet. Seeing all of these creatures in one place makes you contemplate the impact humans have on the natural world.
This last addition is a little more light-hearted than the others listed here but still an interesting quirk to hunt down on your Paris city break. You might walk past 1 Bis (1b), Rue Chapon thinking it’s just a rundown apartment in need of some TLC. However, you’re very unlikely to ever get an answer should you decide to knock on the door. That’s because the door and the entire address is an art installation by Julien Berthier and Simon Boudvin, designed to represent all of the secret and hidden doorways in cities across the world. In a nod to the artists, a sign next to the graffiti-covered door reads ‘J.B. & S.B. Specialists’.
If you would like to unearth any of these hidden gems and visit some of the more mainstream attractions, our team will tailor-make a trip to Paris to suit you. Just call us on 0800 988 3369 or submit an online enquiry by clicking here.