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Paris holidays: The joys of the city’s outskirts, from a royal graveyard to Chinatown

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Paris holidays: The joys of the city’s outskirts, from a royal graveyard to Chinatown

Paris? You’ll find an eyeful in the suburbs: A guide to the French capital’s fascinating OUTSKIRTS, from the graveyard where monarchs are buried to the ‘mysterious’ Chinatown

  • See Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI’s graves at the St Denis Basilica in the north  
  • Dine on rich French classics such as veal with fine wine at Les Mets du Roy
  • In the south, head on a walking tour of Vitry to see some amazing street art 

Figures show that three-quarters of visitors to Paris have been before. But most people’s idea of the ‘City of Love’ is a compact little area in the centre. We took two day trips to the outskirts to discover greater Paris.

NORTH: Every French monarch is buried at the 850-year-old suburban church St Denis Basilica. 

It’s just a €2, 30-minute metro ride from Champs-Elysees – yet it’s still little-known to British visitors. 

Discover all that Paris has to offer by exploring its outskirts, rather than just the city centre 

Above are the stained glass windows inside the St Denis Basilica, the 850-year-old suburban church where every French monarch is buried

Above are the stained glass windows inside the St Denis Basilica, the 850-year-old suburban church where every French monarch is buried 

Marie Antoinette's funerary monument at St Denis Basilica. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons

Marie Antoinette’s funerary monument at St Denis Basilica. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons

History fans will love standing next to the graves of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, guillotined during the Revolution, and seeing jewelled French monarchs’ crowns. 

There’s a spookily dark coffin-filled crypt and acres of ancient stained glass to photograph, too.

In the leafy square by the basilica, Les Mets du Roy pavement brasserie serves rich French classics such as lobster or veal with fine wine.

Head back towards the centre to find Stade de France, the country’s biggest stadium. 

Built for the 1998 World Cup (which France won), it has curvaceous architecture with ingenious moveable stands, and will be centrepiece of the 2024 Olympics. 

In the leafy square by the St Denis Basilica, Les Mets du Roy pavement brasserie (pictured) serves rich French classics such as lobster or veal with fine wine

In the leafy square by the St Denis Basilica, Les Mets du Roy pavement brasserie (pictured) serves rich French classics such as lobster or veal with fine wine

Enjoy a one-hour guided tour of the Stade de France (pictured), the country’s biggest stadium

Enjoy a one-hour guided tour of the Stade de France (pictured), the country’s biggest stadium

Check out the museum and one-hour guided tours (stadefrance.com/en/tours). 

Then stop off at Parc de la Villette, home to Europe’s biggest science museum and a collection of major new music venues, including the extraordinary shiny bubble shape of the Philharmonie concert hall.

South: French Chinatown is a fascinating, edgy and mysterious area. 

Above is the Philharmonie concert hall at Parc de la Villette, home to Europe’s biggest science museum and a collection of major new music venues

Above is the Philharmonie concert hall at Parc de la Villette, home to Europe’s biggest science museum and a collection of major new music venues

The Vitry area of southern Paris is known for its open-air galleries of street art. Above is one such work by a street artist

The Vitry area of southern Paris is known for its open-air galleries of street art. Above is one such work by a street artist

Guide Guillaume le Roux from Le Vrai Paris/The True Paris (levraiparis.com) leads tours through disused tunnels and under shopping centres to discover colourful temples in tower-block basements, subway stalls and bright cafes where teenagers listen to K-pop and drink bubble tea.

Continue south to Vitry and to one of the world’s best open-air galleries of street art. Kasia Klon of Street Art Tours (streetarttourparis.com) leads walks to the best pieces.

Head back towards the Left Bank, where the Museum of the Occupation has opened in a former Resistance hideout. It’s free and tells stories from Nazi-occupied Paris in a well balanced, thought-provoking way (museeliberation-leclerc-moulin.paris.fr/en)

Nearby, the new Poincon bistro offers ‘dishes of the day’ for half what you’d pay in the centre (poinconparis.com). 

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