Updated: May 2018
Paris is the city of monumental architecture and imposing buildings. But also a city with hidden gems and secret attractions just as numerous as it’s narrow alleys and secret corners.
If you are traveling to Paris for the first time, it’s rather easy to go for a straight forward been-there-done-that city escape. Please do take time to do so; visit the Eiffel Tower (don’t miss our guide!) and climb up the the stairs to Sacré Coeur. Even have a stroll on the Champs Elysées! It’s lovely and despite all the hype, you haven’t been to Paris if you didn’t see this part of the city.
If you don’t have much time, I recommend taking a classic Hop on Hop off tour. It is clearly not the cheapest way to get around town, but you can be sure not to have missed a major sight while wasting time figuring out Metro plans. Click here for 10% Off Paris Hop on Hop off Day Pass
And then, once you’ve seen all the obvious, go and look for the secret Paris attractions. Search for the hidden gems of Paris. To make it a bit easier, I assembled a wide list of unusual things to do in Paris for you.
Paris hidden gems – discover the secret Paris
unusual things to do in Paris – tips from a local
- Parks and Gardens
- Shows and Concerts
- Food and Drinks
- Shops and Markets
- Museums and Exhibitions
- Walks and Itineraries
- joie de vivre
Hidden gems in Paris – Parks and Gardens
1. visit the Gardens of Albert Kahn
The 4 hectares of garden are especially nice in spring – it’s a patchwork of different garden and architecture styles and you find Japanese, French and English gardens, but also roseries, orchards and forests.
2. visit the Parc de Bercy
The Parc de Bercy is a rather small park just next to the Cours Saint Emillion. It has different areas and combines a variety of concepts, if you want to see a tourist free part of Paris, that’s your place to be.
3. Have a walk in the Jardins du Luxembourg
The garden in the very centre of Paris is one of the biggest gardens in Paris. It’s a classical french park with water basins, statues and plenty of free to use chairs to relax, have lunch or watch people.
4. see the Rodin sculptures in the Tuileries
The Tuileries is another big park in Paris but apart from it’s convenient location between the Champs Elysées and the Louvre, the Rodin sculptures should not been missed.
5. visit the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
The 5th biggest park in Paris with some interesting features: a waterfall, an extension bridge, a temple and due to the immense difference in levels a fantastic view over parts of Paris.
..and if you are already there, head a bit south and visit also the Parc de Belleville! Read our complete review and guide to the the wonderful Belleville area here and make sure not to miss the amazing street art that is covering the quartier.
6. have a picnic at Champ de Mars
Probably not the most secret place but a priceless view: the Champ de Mars is just in front of the Eiffel Tower
7. have a picnic at Parc Montsouris and look out for the wild parrots living there
Montsouris is just next to the Cité Universitaire, the big student residence. Hence, the easy going ambiance. Also, there are parrots. (and nice private alleys nearby to take great pics for Instagram (check out the area around Rue Nansouty)
Hidden Gems – Shows and Concerts
8. see the Rocky Horror Picture Show a Studio Galande
No advance sale! Be there 45 minutes early and queue to get admission tickets
9. see a movie at Cinema Harlequin
The cinema plays mainly classic movies but also foreign pieces in original version.
10. attend an open air concert in Parc Floral
Throughout summer plenty of concerts are happening in Parc Floral, mainly Jazz and Classic. Many of them are free, however, the park charges a small admission fee.
11. enjoy live music at fête de la musique
every year on the 21 of June Paris becomes one big stage. You basically have concerts everywhere: in Parks, bars, venues or simply on the streets. Most of them are free.
12. see the parade for Chinese new year at Place d’Italie
The asian community in Paris is quite big and so are the festivities for the Chinese New Year. The most significant is the parade that leads through China Town and starts around Place d’Italie. Get there a bit early to get a good place.
13. see free concerts at the Fnac Summer festival
14. enjoy a free open air cinema session at Parc la Villette
Grab a picnic cover and a bottle of wine and enjoy a warm summer night at Park la Villette. The cinema sessions are usually taking place around august.
15. see a concert at the Batofar, a boat on the Seine that is actually a concert hall
16. attend a free reading session at Shakespeare and Company
the most iconic and famous bookstore in Paris is hosting free reading sessions on most mondays. Be there early to get a seat inside and stay a bit late to share a glass of wine with the author.
Food and Drinks – secret tips
17. eat a Falafel at L’As du Falafel
This restaurant in the heart of the Marais is the favourite Falafel place of Lenny Kravitz. You can either try to get a seat inside or you simply get a Falafel Sandwich as take away. Don’t get put off by the queue though, they are pretty fast.
18. have a drink or join an event at La REcyclerie
19. have some yummy treat at Lafayette Gourmet
20. eat some melon bread or matcha brioche from Aki
A Japanese bakery at Rue St.Anne, the Japanese Quarter in Paris
21. have wine on the Seine river banks
A very popular – and low budget – activity for basically everyone. Beer works as well 🙂 The Jardin Tino Rossi is a good place for it.
22. get some chocolates at Patrick Roger
23. eat a Currywurst at Café Titon
This is probably one of the least parisian things to do (and eat) in Paris but if you are fond of Germany (or soccer matches or Jägermeister or said Currywurst), you should check out this charming little Bar
24. buy some cheese at Fromagerie Quatrehommes
25. have a drink at the Petit bain
A rather unique place in Paris; the petit bain is a barge on the Seine that got converted to a bar and little concert venue.
26. enjoy an outdoor apéro at Le Pont des Arts
27. eat asian food in chinatown in the 13th arrondissement
Paris Chinatown is rather an asian town as it has a very high vietnamese and laotienne populatien. And also excellent Pho. Our Recommendation: try the vietnamese sandwiches from Tang Frère. Alternatively try the Thai restuarant “Basilic & Spice” – click here to see their menu and book your table online
28. eat a real Crèpe bretonne or Galette in Rue du Montparnasse
For example at Crêperie L’Authentique Bretonne – click here to book your table online and get up to 30% off
29. drink some really good coffee at Hexagone Café
This coffee house is a truly hidden gems in Paris if you like coffee. Besides the excellent brew, it’s a nice work café with a good internet connection, a real offbeat tip if you are in for coffee.
29. have some Ramen at Rue Sainte Anne
The Rue Sainte Anne is famous for the best Japanese restaurants in Paris! You can easily find the best restaurant by just checking the lengths of the queue!
30. have some Macaron at Pierre Hermé
Besides Ladurée probably the best Macaron in Paris. They are insanely popular and you most likely have to queue a bit to get some … however, they are as expensive as delicious.
31. have a drink at Rue Mouffetard
A cobbled stone street with about a trillion bars and restaurants. Check Restaurants at Rue Mouffetard at La Fourchette and get reductions up to 50%
32. Have some rhum at La Rhumerie
Apart from a huuuuge selection of rhums of all origins and all kinds, they serve very good food as well
33. attend the Salon des Vignerons Indépendants at Porte de Versailles and try the best wines
Each year in November winegrowers from all over France are gathering in the Paris Exposition Centre at Porte de Versailles to present and sell their grape juice. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, you can taste A. LOT.
Hidden Gems – Shops and Markets
34. stroll over the covered book market at Parc Georges Brassens
If you are searching for old books, that’s your place! The little covered book market is next to Parc Georges Brassens, a nice place to have a walk or relax in the sun. Stop for lunch or dinner at “Gabia”, a french gastronomic restaurant just next to the market – click here to see their carte and book your table online
35. get to know France’s agriculture at Salon de Agriculture
A big trade fair where producers from all over France are presenting their goods. It’s mainly a big feast of cold cuts, wine and sweets, but also a big exhibition of animals, machines and merchandise.
36.visit the Vanves flea market at Porte de Vanves
This lesser know flea market is an excellent off beat location to explore the lesser known south of Paris – especially if you use this occasion for a walk around the area – check our recommendations and get more info about the Puces de Vanves here
37. stroll over the flower market at l’Ile de la Cité
This every day and all day market is famous for flowers – and birds! The latter are only sold Sundays though.
38. shop some vintage fashion in one of the kilo shops near the Mairie de Paris
For more vintage shops – check out the Marais!
39. buy your lunch on one of Paris many markets
Check this link to get a list of opening times of all markets in Paris
40. explore the covered passage
Probably one of the nicest walk you can have in Paris – especially if you want to see a Paris with the flair of past times. The covered passages are all in about the same area and it makes as well a great destination for rainy days.
41. check the market and stores around Rue Montorgueil
another cobblestone street with a lot of delis, bars and restaurant. A good place to either have lunch or to buy lunch for take a way and have a picnic somewhere.
42. Enjoy some village shopping flair in rue de commerce
Hidden Gems – Museums and Exhibitions
43. visit the Museum of Modern Art
With more than 11000 œuvres the MAM is one of the biggest museums in Paris and: it’s free! However, you are kindly ask to donate 5€.
44. see a photography exhibition at Galerie de l’Instant
A tiny gallery with impressive photographies. The admission is free.
45. visit a museum for free on the first sunday of the month (not all museums offer this)
46. visit the Vampire Museum
The Parisian Vampire Museum is run privately by a vampire enthusiast. You need to book ahead to get access.
47. visit the museum atelier of the sculptor Ossip Zadkine
48. admire street art at la Butte aux Cailles
The elevated area just next to Place d’Italie is covered with street art. It’s also a great place to have drinks or dinner – I recommend the Tandem, a classic casual french restaurant. click here to see their menu and their availabilities.
Don’t miss this walking tour if you want to know more about Parisian Street Art.
49. get your cultural input at nuit blanche
50. dive into the arts of theatre and circus at the Musée des arts forains
Hidden Gems – Walks an Itineraries
51. have a walk at the Berge de Seine
The riverside promenade is a relatively newly opened park between the Musée d’Orsay and the Ponte d’Alma near the Eiffel Tower. It’s also great for skating and biking.
52. walk along the Coulée Verte, Paris’ highline on top of the Viaduc des Arts or the Petite Ceinture in the 15th
If you want a see the 12th arrondissement from a unusual perspective, get up the Coulée Verte and walk from Bastille 4.7km until the parisian city limits on the elevated promenade. Alternatively check out the Petite Ceinture in the 15th – the old railway around Paris got newly reopened for public and a must visit for everyone who wants to see a different side of Paris. Read more here
53. have a walk on Ile Saint Louis
It’s an Island on the Seine, just next to the Ile de la Cité with the famous Cathedral de Notre Dame.
One of the nicest things you can do on a sunny day – you can either rent a Vélib and cycle on your own or you take a guided bike tour as a sightseeing trip – check out our post to get the exact itinerary and see the video to get an idea of how beautiful it is!
55. have a walk at Canal St.Martin and if it’s summer, enjoy a nice outdoor apéro
Hidden Gems – more unusual things to do in Paris
56. enjoy the view over Paris from the roofs Galerie LaFayette
Not only for folks on a budget – get up to the roof top on the 7th floor and enjoy the view – for free!
57. see the Statue of Liberty at Allées des Cygnes
But it’s not the only one! There is one hidden in the Jardin de Luxembourg … can you find it?
58. take a picture of l’Arc de Triomphe from La Défense
La Défense is a nice spot to take pictures from the Arc de Triomphe, but also has a great Mall and it’s own arch!
59. play some board games at “le dernier bar avant la fin de monde“
Clearly one of the geekiest place of Paris. Apart from playing boardgames, you can take a seat on the Iron Throne or take a selfie with R2D2. It’s a place to be the geek that you are. If you’re into E-Sports and gaming in general, pass by the Meltdown Bar
60. sit on the stairs at Sacré Coeur and watch street performer and artists
Just grab some beers (or buy some from the guys walking around selling them), have a seat, enjoy the view over Paris and life itself. Check out our complete Montmartre guide for more off-beat tips!
61. see the oldest houses of Paris in Rue de Montmorency
62. read a Manga in Fnac
This bookstore has quite a good Manga section and even though it’s probably not intended, but you always have plenty of people just sitting on the floor and reading their favourite books.
63. visit Paris’ famous university La Sorbonne
well.. you can’t just walk in unless you are a student, but you can try to get into on of their tours that are held almost daily. However, even if you just walk around it’s walls, it’s a nice promenade thought he Latin Quarter, a quirky area with typical student vibes. Fun Fact: La Sorbonne is one of the oldest universities of the world, founded in 1253!
64. see the painted houses at rue Crémieux
65. visit the vineyards in Montmartre
Did you know that there are vineyards in Paris? The most famous one lays just beyond the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. If you are in town in September, make sure to visit the annual vine harvest festival. It’s basically a big street food festival with loads of wine. Sounds great, right? Click here to get more information on Montmartre – we wrote a massive guide!
66. Paris hidden places: arènes de Lutèce
Who would have thought that you can find a real roman arena in the middle of Paris?! Well, you can! check this guide to get more offbeat tips for the Quartier Latin
If you are searching for a restaurant in the area, La Table de Geneviève is a good choice. French cuisine at a moderate price and excellent rating. book here and get 20% off
67. enjoy a summer in the city at Paris Plage
Summer in Paris means: Paris Plage! During July an August the Seine transforms into a beach scene … with changing cultural and sportive offers, pop up bars, music, and all sorts of animation.
68. search Simone de Beauvoir‘s grave at the cemetery du Montparnasse
And while you’re at it, Jean-Paul Sartre rests just next to her!
69. visit la place de la Sorbonne
check also our posts about the best locations to stay in Paris to find out why the Quartier Latin is in!
70. see the modern Paris around Bibliothèque François Mitterrand and avenue de France
The new 13th arrondissement is nothing like Paris as you know it. It’s rather a business and student district with modern glass facades, hip coffee and Bagel stores. If you visit Paris and would like to get it as a total; you shouldn’t miss this are
71. visit the l’hotel de Sens
72. have a swim on the Seine at the swimming pool Piscine Josephine Baker
73. take idyllic pictures for your instagram account at Rue des Thermopiles #parismaville
74. take metro line 6 from Trocadero and Bir Hakeim
and have a special Paris-Metro-moment while crossing the Seine just next to the Eiffel Tower. It’s probably the nicest Metro track section of Paris, with a stunning view especially at night. It’s the best way to approach the Eiffel Tower – read more about it here
75. enjoying the sun in the Tuileries
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