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What to Do in Paris and France to Escape the Olympics

What to Do in Paris and France to Escape the Olympics

Construction chaos, price hikes and now mandatory QR codes to walk some city streets: As the Olympics loom in Paris, many locals are already looking to escape the Games, and come July, will head to quieter parts of France.

It’s likely that some of the 15 million visitors expected to roll into town might also want a break from the cheering crowds. Luckily, the greater Paris area and nearby regions offer plenty of opportunities to slow down and take in some French culture. Whether you’re looking to escape for an hour or for a day, here are some suggestions.

With its quirky inside-out architecture — a tangle of colorful tubes running across the facade — the Pompidou Center has been a flagship venue for contemporary art since the 1970s. For a culture break between athletic feats, stop by its “Comics on Every Floor” festival, a wide-ranging, international dive into the genre.

While the festival offers no fewer than five individual exhibitions, the biggest one by far is “Comics, 1964-2024,” which contrasts American comics, Asian mangas and European trends. Graphic novels have long thrived in France: Franco-Belgian comics and, more recently, graphic novels are a huge market, and local stars including Hergé, Blutch and Catherine Meurisse are also getting their own mini-exhibitions at the Pompidou Center.

Children will also be able to sample an immersive installation crafted by the author and illustrator Marion Fayolle. The Pompidou’s wide-ranging permanent collections are a bonus, and now is a good time to catch them, since the building is set to close from 2025 to 2030 for extensive renovations.

Time commitment: 3 to 4 hours

Location: Châtelet, Rambuteau or Hôtel de Ville Metro stations

Cost of entry: €17 or €14 for concessions;

When the crowds or the summer temperatures become too much, Paris offers a compelling option: going underground. Underneath the French capital lie the Paris Catacombs, a maze of ancient mining galleries, some of which were used in the 18th century to create an ossuary.

At the time, the city’s cemeteries had become so overcrowded that they posed a public health threat. The bones of the dead were piled into the repurposed galleries, which have been open to visitors for over two centuries. As you descend the steep spiral staircase, the temperature drops to about 57 degrees, and the sounds of the streets fade.

The mile-long route is eerily introspective, with plaques here and there to guide you past the…

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