Sick of the Beauty in Paris? Tour her Underbelly!

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You probably know Paris is home to winner wines and cheeses unlike any other (both in smell and taste). And you probably know she’s a fashion hotspot and go-to-inspiration-point for artists and writers, musicians and academics. But what you might not know is that beneath her beautiful skin of cobblestone streets and quaint alleyways lies an intricate maze of interconnected sewers, metro systems, shopping centres, nightclubs and more. These Paris tours will prove why subterranean snooping is a must in the City of Lights.

The Paris Sewer Museum (Le Musée des Égouts de Paris)

In the Mecca of macaroons and perfectly poofed poodles, you may find it odd that the sewers are where the party’s at, but it’s true; Parisians pride their expansive sewerage system and its pathways. Rest assured, the smell isn’t paralyzing: some liken it to “a teenage boy’s bedroom.” Stench aside, it’s the engineering that’ll make you see the city differently: Dating back to the 14th Century, the sewer’s streets, crossings, squares, and blind alleys make up its 1,300 mile expanse. Afterwards, just make sure to treat your rattled senses to a restorative French Wine and Cheese Dinner with gourmet Preston Mohr

The Archaeological Crypt of Notre Dame (La Crypte Archéologique de Notre-Dame)

Though fashion-forward trends occupy a large portion of Paris’s attraction, the city also offers staggering insight into medieval life. Beneath the streets of Paris, at the Archeological Crypt of Notre Dame (a spot along the river Seine that has seen human habitation for some 500,000 years) lay the remains of a house from Lutetia, the precursory town to Paris, as well as Gallo-Roman archives – of note is an intact 1700-year-old hypocaust heating system – and the foundations of an orphan’s hospital. After marvelling at the Notre Dame alongside Fred on his Paris Essentials Tour, step into this archeological crypt: it’s the topper on the cake.

The Catacombs of Paris (L’Ossuaire Municipal)

Heed these three words: hire a guide! (Once again, Fred and his Paris Catacombs Tour is a great choice). There are many stories of people getting lost in the catacombs such as the time a doorkeeper of a local hospital lost his bearings in the labyrinth and his remains – bones and a set of keys – were found 11 years later. Despite its maze-like layout, the Catacombs are a haunting ossuary of approximately six million people and it’s fascinating. It’s as deep as a five-story building and houses bones from graveyards that were moved when they started to compromise public health. If you’re looking for somewhere to cool off during the hot summer months (the temperature in the catacombs hovers around 14°C), or you want to see famous people (albeit in skeleton form), then this is the place for you. Just don’t be intimidated by the verse at the entrance that reads, “Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la mort” (“Halt, this is the realm of death”).

Medieval Louvre

After visiting the incredible Cour Carré exhibition (where cultures and eras of Paris clash) at the Louvre with Boris Petrovic on his All Inclusive Paris Walking Tour, take a trip down to the medieval part of the museum. Here, archaeological excavations that have only been going on for 30 years reveal the city’s original fortress built in 1190 AD. Yes, the current Louvre was built atop a fortress and, even more amazing, the medieval workers stationed there used to eat monkeys’ brains!

Canal Saint-Martin

Heed these three words: hire a guide! (Once again, Fred and his Paris Catacombs Tour is a great choice). There are many stories of people getting lost in the catacombs such as the time a doorkeeper of a local hospital lost his bearings in the labyrinth and his remains – bones and a set of keys – were found 11 years later. Despite its maze-like layout, the Catacombs are a haunting ossuary of approximately six million people and it’s fascinating. It’s as deep as a five-story building and houses bones from graveyards that were moved when they started to compromise public health. If you’re looking for somewhere to cool off during the hot summer months (the temperature in the catacombs hovers around 14°C), or you want to see famous people (albeit in skeleton form), then this is the place for you. Just don’t be intimidated by the verse at the entrance that reads, “Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la mort” (“Halt, this is the realm of death”).

The Metro

According to Paris tour guide Travis Bürki, some of the city’s metro stations are “profundis amazement!” For example, the Place Des Abbesses is the deepest at 36 metres below street level and it features a stunning art nouveau canopy and a sprial staircase beside seven large format panels decorated with photos of the Montmartre area. Other stations he recommends visiting are the Place Des Fetes, which was used as a shelter during World War II and such “ghost” stations as Porte Saint Martin and Haxo, which are abondoned but visits are still organized by the RATP, the local metro authority.

Canal Saint-Martin

Xavier Hesse’s high-speed Speedboat & Culture Extended tour is the way to see the Canal Saint-Martin tunnel that passes beneath the Bastille. One of the highlights you’ll learn about is the canal’s lock systems that fill certain stretches of the canal with water at record speeds so boats can pass through. In the warmer months, the banks of the canal buzz with picnickers and buskers, but the best way to experience it is via the underground waterways built in 1802 to provide fresh water to thirsty Parisians. Boats + speed + dark tunnels = one thrilling combo.

The Spa at the George V

After touring Old Charming Paris with Pamela Breit, take refuge deep below the Four Seasons Hotel George V where an exhaustive menu of spa services will revitalize your tired self. Once they’re done with you, you’ll be raring to tackle the streets again, and since the spa is located steps from the Champs-Elysées, why not take your new body on a Parisian shopping spree?

The Wine Museum of Paris (Le Musée du Vin)

If you enjoy learning about wine’s history and looking at all its paraphernalia, then Le Musée du Vin is the place to be. What cellar door is better than a space where Parisian monks produced their very own wine in the 15th Century? And since wine + a movie = one unbeatable experience, be sure to pair your trip to Le Musée du Vin with Abigail de BruyneSet in Paris – Le Movie Tour that will show you more than 50 locations in Paris where blockbuster movies and TV shows have been filmed.

The Social Club

To end an amazing day in Paris on an awesome note, check out the Social Club, one of the city’s hottest underground nightclubs that has an epic, self-proclaimed “retrofuturist” style (i.e., black walls, black sofas, and neon lighting). Bonus: the best DJs in town fight for space here, spinning everything from techno to trance, jazz to hip-hop. Give Nico’s famous Paris Bar Crawl a whirl (note: 4 free shots are included), but be prepared: he “likes making moves on the dance floor!” History will go down.

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