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La Belle Vie: Underrated Paris museums and beautiful French train journeys

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
La Belle Vie: Underrated Paris museums and beautiful French train journeys
The Museum of Romantic Life in Paris, photo taken in 2009. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

From one of Paris' best neighbourhoods to off-the-beaten-track museums and beautiful French train journeys, this week's La Belle Vie newsletter offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like a French person.

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La Belle Vie is our regular look at the real culture of France – from language to cuisine, manners to films. This newsletter is published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to your newsletter preferences in “My account”.

Montmartre might be touristic, but when visitors come I always take them to this historic, artistic neighbourhood. I like to walk up the hill from behind the Basilica, coming up from the Jules Joffrin area, near the mairie of the 18ème. The view is beautiful and the winding, narrow streets are adorable (though I would still rank the view from the Belvedère de Belleville as the best free look over the city).

So I was delighted to hear that the Montmartre neighbourhood was planning on applying for Unesco World Heritage recognition, and I was even more excited when I found out that the Montmartre wine was part of the application. The tiny vineyard in the heart of Montmartre feels like an escape to the countryside, while staying within the capital. 

The process will take a few years, and residents in the area are being encouraged to support the bid.

Paris’ Montmartre sets its sights on World Heritage bid

The one downside to Montmartre can be the crowds - it is understandably a very popular part of the city to visit.

One way to ensure that you will have a good time is to be aware of possible scams and pickpocketing. Unfortunately, this tends to happen in the most touristy parts of the city, especially around Montmartre. Luckily, there are some easy tricks to keep your belongings safe, while still having a nice time exploring.

14 simple ways to avoid the Paris pickpockets and petty thieves

You can also try to get off the beaten track a bit. One of my favourite museums in Paris is a short walk from Montmartre - the Musée de la Vie Romantique. It's a unique museum experience, as it is the house of the painter Ary Scheffer, with portraits and other exhibits recreating the 19th century. I highly recommend a walk through the garden.

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Another underrated museum in Paris is the Picasso Museum, and soon it will be even better. Earlier this week it reopened with a new permanent collection of over 400 Picasso works. More importantly, the museum will finally open a room focusing solely on the work of the artist Françoise Gilot, Picasso's ex-partner whose art has long been overshadowed by the male painter.

Paris Picasso Museum reopens with new selection

If neither of those museums sound particularly appealing for your next visit to the French capital, then do not worry. Paris is home to over 140 museums.

Illustrator, journalist and author of the book "The Little(r) Museums of Paris", Emma Jacobs, gave The Local a round-up of a few of her favourite hidden gems.

Five of the best off-the-beaten track museums in Paris

Of course, there is plenty to see and visit in France outside of Paris and its once-bohemian neighbourhoods.

The best part is that you do not need to drive to get there - trains criss-cross the country, and many of them offer incredible views, if you're willing to look out the window.

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VIDEO: 7 of the most beautiful train journeys in France

In the same way that being pickpocketed can ruin a day of vacation, being fined by a train ticket inspector can really put a damper on things.

You can make the most of your trip by knowing the rules ahead of time. Most of them are easy - like sitting in your assigned seat - but you may not realise that carrying an ID is obligatory.

ID, pets and smoking: 7 things French train ticket inspectors can fine you for

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Comments (1)

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Pat Hallam 2024/03/16 17:39
Sorry but the Musée de la Vie Romantique is not in Montmartre. It's south of Montmartre in the 9th arrondissement in a quartier called Nouvelle Athènes. Lots of artistic & literary connections (Georges Sand lived there) but a good 30 years or more before artists moved to Montmartre.
  • Genevieve Mansfield 2024/03/17 18:17
    Thanks for your comment! We corrected the article to note instead that it is a short walk from Montmartre.

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