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Things to do in Paris
If you don’t fancy pushing your way through crowds trying to get a selfie with the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, make your way to the Musée d’Orsay on the Left Bank of the River Seine, which is crammed with dazzling paintings by Impressionist and post-Impressionist artists such as Cézanne, Gauguin, Monet and Van Gogh. You’ll probably notice that the cavernous building does not look like a typical gallery – it was originally built in the 1900s as a train station.
Paris is full of designer boutiques and ateliers but Deyrolle is a wonderful shop of curiosities, even if you’re not looking to buy. A short walk from the Musée d’Orsay, Deyrolle has been a purveyor of taxidermy since 1831. Head up the creaky stairs and you’ll find yourself in a strange zoo of unblinking exotic animals – bears, zebra, tigers, giraffe, lions and buffalo, alongside cases of iridescent blue butterflies and bell jars containing songbirds from far-off lands.
Sacré-Cœur basilica stands high up on a hill in the bohemian district of Montmartre, where artists paint pictures in the cobbled square and tourists sit outside cafés eating moules frites. The architecture is impressive – inside, you’ll be greeted by soaring arches, stained glass and a majestic dome above the altar covered in a blue and gold mosaic of Christ, his saints and the Virgin Mary. Outside, 300 steps take you up for a closer look.
It may sound morbid to visit the largest cemetery in Paris but Père Lachaise is a fascinating (and free) place to wander for a couple hours searching for the headstones of some of the most famous people in history. You’ll need to pick up a map when you arrive because more than a million people are buried here. The most popular graves, which include those of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Marcel Proust, are often decorated with flowers and small gifts left by fans.
Cult film director David Lynch (famous for Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks) opened hush-hush Parisian nightclub, Silencio in 2011. Enter through a golden underground tunnel and emerge into a labyrinthine candlelit space where chic French bobos (hipsters) quaff wine, while watching burlesque and contortionist performances take place on stage. There is also a 24-hour cinema, a smoking room, a dance floor, a library and the ominously named Blackroom.