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Swarms Begone!

March 31, 2016
How To... Avoid The Hordes
Ah, Paris in spring! There’s no better time to visit, but with it, alas, come the whining visored hordes. So how about you steer clear of the big daddies and try these lesser-known lovelies...

We simply adore Louis XIV’s OTT weekend crash pad, Versailles, and no visit to Paris would be complete without an open-mouthed gander about its glitzy palais and manicured environs. But if you’re after something a little more subtle, try Vaux-le-Vicomte. This baroque château, a mere 50-minute scoot out of town, to the southeast in Maincy, offers the same architectural grandeur and sprawling clipped lawns, plus a certain frisson français. Created by landscape architect André le Nôtre, architect Louis Le Vau, and painter Charles Le Brun, it was in fact, the original inspiration for Versailles, and comes with significantly fewer fanny-packs. Also not to be missed are Saturdays in summer, when you can dine in the candlelit grounds.
There’s no denying that Notre Dame is staggeringly impressive, but for even more stain-glass wow-factor, skip on a few blocks to darling little Sainte-Chapelle, secreted away inside the forbidding Palais de Justice. Goodie two shoes Louis V built this C.13th upper chapel to house his religious artifacts, and today it makes for an exquisite 20-minute gawp, plus they put on some lovely classical concerts in the evenings. Just be sure to buy your ticket, day or night, in advance online. The place might not be swarming but the queue is often achingly slow – wave as you skip past them all, printout in hand!

Sure, the Eiffel Tower is a skyline icon, but rather than lining up with the coachloads to shuffle around inside its steel corset, why not take a step back and slip into Les Ombres, where you can gaze up through the restaurant’s geometric glass roof for sparkly views of the tower... ? So close you can blow a kiss to Tonya tourist at the top. Mwah!

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte / 77950 Maincy / +33 1 64 14 41 90 / 10am-6pm daily /

Sainte-Chapelle / 4 blvd du Palais, 1st / +33 1 53 40 60 80 / Mar-Oct 9.30am-6pm, Nov-Feb 9am-5pm / closed daily 1-2pm /

Les Ombres / 27 quai Branly, 7th / +33 1 47 53 68 00 / lunch & dinner daily /