One of the things I love about big cities is that there always seems to be a new neighborhood to explore. In New York City, there are entire boroughs that I’ve yet to conquer. In London, I’m dying to spend more time in Shoreditch (and a million other neighborhoods, to be honest). And in Paris? Well, let’s just say that, even after four visits to the City of Lights, there are many arrondissements left to be discovered. Instead of being overwhelmed by everything left to see, I like to think of this as a good thing; after all, this means I have plenty of excuses to return to each city.
Still, it’s good to chip away at your “to-see” list, and while in Paris this time around, I did make it to several new-to-me neighborhoods. One area that I spent a good chunk of time exploring was the 5th arrondissement, where I visited the Jardin des Plantes and the Grand Mosque – two spots I had never quite been able to work into previous Paris itineraries.
Getting off the metro at Place Monge, I emerged above ground and found myself in the middle of the Place Monge market – literally. The area was filled with vendors, shoppers, and street musicians, and I’m sure I could have happily passed the sunny afternoon at Place Monge alone. However, I had places to see, so I continued on.
First up, Le Jardin des Plantes, Paris’s botanical garden. Jardin des Plantes is home to several greenhouses, a large outdoor garden, and a zoo. While the jungle-like atmospheres inside the greenhouses were interesting to explore, I enjoyed the outdoor gardens even more. Not only were they free (it costs two euros to enter the greenhouses), they were also in full spring bloom.
Besides an incident where a random man asked me to visit the zoo with him (thanks but no thanks, creepy French stranger), I truly enjoyed my visit to the Jardin des Plantes. I’m always a sucker for beautiful flowers, and you certainly find plenty of them here. Plus, in the middle of bustling and busy Paris, it’s nice to find an idyllic escape.
From the Jardin des Plantes, I walked a few blocks to Paris’s Grand Mosque. After visiting Morocco a few years back, I love seeking out Arabic-influenced design in Europe, so this was right up my alley. Walking through the archway into the Mosque’s courtyard, I felt like I was right back in Morocco, with all the plants, tiled floors, and fountains.
I love that something like this – something with an aesthetic that’s distinctly un-Parisian – exists right in the middle of the city, just waiting to be discovered.
When you visit Paris, the first landmarks on your mind are probably the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, or the Arc d’Triomphe. And while those are undoubtedly must-sees, I was excited to find a few of the lesser-known gems this time around. They may not be quintessential Paris, but both the Jardin des Plants and the Grand Mosque are worth your time.