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Last updated on the 9th of December 2022 by Lena

Are you traveling to Paris soon and wondering what are the top 10 things to do in this fabulous city? But you are equally keen on exploring some hidden gems and cool alternatives to the popular sights? Then I wrote this post for you. Read on to learn more about the most visited sights and what you could do instead – or as well.

No matter what your travel style is, it’s always good to have an alternative activity in case of an unforeseen event or just because the queues are just too long. Maybe you even have been to Paris already and all those Paris first-timer guides aren’t for you – been there, done that!

Bars and Terraces are open in October
Maybe the last chance of the year to enjoy the Parisian Terraces

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There are a million different ways of visiting Paris. Some love to visit the top 10 sights in Paris intensively. Including half a day in the Louvre and a visit to the summit of the Eiffel Tower. Maybe they even shop a little at Louis Vuitton.

Others are happy to see the Parisian landmarks from far or just walk by and spend the rest of their time browsing small stores or hanging out in cute cafés.

There are even travelers that are not interested at all in famous and iconic places but are searching for hidden gems and secret places that Paris has to offer plenty.

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Read on and know what to do in Paris, as a first or second-timer, or just as an alternative Paris program. Not completely off the beaten path but a good alternative to the standard sightseeing program.

#1 the Eiffel Tower – or: the Tour Montparnasse to see the Eiffel Tower

Reserve your tickets here: Eiffel Tower | Tour Montparnasse

For many visitors, the Eiffel Tower is a must-see monument in Paris. If you have no photo of yourself in front of the iron Lady, you haven’t been to Paris. Even climbing up to the 2nd floor or even taking the elevator the summit belongs to the bucket list of many.

And to be honest, it’s a wonderful experience to see Paris from above – either by day or by night time. But there is one thing missing in your view: the Eiffel Tower itself. Instead, you see the rather unattractive black Tour Montparnasse sticking out like a sore thumb.

best things to do in Paris – Visit the Eiffel Tower OR: Visit Montparnasse to take the best photos from the Eiffel Tower!

There is a very easy solution to it: visit the Tour Montparnasse instead! From the Observation Deck on the 56th floor, you have the most amazing view of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower.

It’s not lightning up in the evening and it’s not a fancy building, but you got to see Paris from above and the killer argument: You see Paris WITH the Eiffel Tower! I think there is no better view in town than Paris in it’s totality.

#2 Visit Montmartre – or: head over to Belleville

See our guides: Montmartre | Belleville

You probably will visit Montmartre, no matter what. The artist quarter with the little boutiques and the Sacre Coeur with its iconic shape are a must-visit. But if you’re visiting Paris at peak times, you might easily get tired of the masses that are pushing through the narrow alleys and that are blocking any nice view. 

But did you know that Montmartre is not the only hill in Paris? Belleville in the east of town, It’s also the mecca of Parisian Street Art and grants you an equally great view. In my opinion, it even tops the village flair of Montmartre by far!

And, that’s the best about it, is rather a local than a touristy hot spot. Wanna know more? This way! Know where to eat, go, stay and what to see in Belleville!

Belleville is a laid back and friendly neighbourhood to discover the hidden Paris
On the hill top of the Parc de Belleville you have this lovely square with a few bars and pubs – check out the Vieux Belleville for french musical evenings, good food and a little pause on a relaxing patio

#3 Take a river cruise on the Seine – or: cruise the Canal St.Martin

Book your Cruise: Seine River Cruise | Canal St. Martin Cruise

Some Parisian are finding the idea of taking a Cruise on the Seine absurd and cheesy – like something a tourist would do! Yes, that’s right.. and you know why? Because it is super nice! I very often get raised eyebrows when I am advocating for Seine River Cruises (read here more about our experience and why we LOVE it!). It’s a fantastic way of seeing Paris and opens up a whole new perspective – even for folks that been living in Paris for years.

But, if you did this cruise already or want a more off-the-beaten-path experience, opt for a cruise on Canal St. Martin.

Many visitors even never heard of this channel, that is connecting the Seine with northern areas. If you decide on this cruise, you are in for an amazing journey. You’ll get to sail through an 1 km-long underground vault beneath the Bastille, cross 7 locks all through the Channel and learn tons of fascinating anecdotes about this lesser-known area of Paris. You can reserve your seat here.

St.Martin Locks
One of the many locks at the Canal St.Martin in Paris

4#  Eat Macarons – or: MAKE Macarons!

Book your Macaron Baking Workshop here

“I don’t like Macarons” said no-one ever. Macarons are fluffy, sweet, not too sweet, delicate.. they give you the feeling you’re eating something really precious. And they come in tons of flavours. Depending where you purchase them, you get chocolate, vanille, caramel, pistachio.. the classics. But there are even stores that offer Mojito taste or even savory Macaron versions with Fois Gras. Either way, eating Macarons should be on each and every Paris bucket list. 

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Or: you could learn how to MAKE Macarons! There is probably no better place on earth to learn how to bake Macarons than food heaven Paris. The best-rated and luckily also the most affordable Macaron workshop is offered by the Galerie Lafayette. Follow this link for rates and booking.

Grape Harvest Fest in Paris - Montmartre Sacre Coeur
Macarons – one of the most famous french dessert – learn how to make Macarons in Paris, the best souvenir to impress your friends

#5 Have drinks at Saint Michel – or: at Butte-aux-Cailles!

Also interesting: Best Cocktail Bars | Best Speakeasy Bars

Saint Michel lies quite in the centre of Paris, close to the Marais, Notre Dame, St.Germain and the Jardin Luxembourg. The cute and narrow streets left from the famous fountain are made for strolling and the restaurants are inviting to stop and have dinner.

Especially as they are cheap and promote French and international specialties. Just.. don’t do it. Just don’t. The food is cheap for a reason and the guys that are trying to drag you in are most likely paid on a commission basis. You get better food for not more basically everywhere else in Paris.

If you want to go for dinner and drinks off the beaten paths, head over to Butte aux Cailles next to Place d’Italie in the south west of Paris. The streets are even cuter, the drinks cheaper and the guests locals. Plus, the Butte aux Cailles is known for it’s street art!

Paris Travel Literature for your Trip:

Rick Stevens 2023

French Phrase Book

Fodor’s Travel Guide

#6 Visit the Louvre – or: some of the many small museums and galleries

Find an overview of Paris’ best museums here

The Louvre is a mind-blowing place, not only for art lovers and amateurs. Even philistines are easily fascinated by the beauty that lays beyond those walls – and outside, the Pyramid of the Louvre and the near by Tuileries garden are equally worth a visit.

If you are not a specialist in the field, I strongly advise to get the Audio guide (it’s a Nintendo DS!) and take the masterpieces tour. It takes around 2 hours and you can be sure that you did not unknowingly walk by the most famous artworks in the Louvre.

(No worries, you won’t miss the Mona Lisa, it’s the one that is hidden behind some hundreds of people trying to take pictures.)

The Mona Lisa – Probably smaller than you imagine

Or, if you are happy with seeing just the outside layout of the worlds biggest museum, what about visiting a less popular but still good museum? For example the Picasso Museum. Or the National Medieval Museum, Musée Cluny. I strongly can recommend as well the Musée Carnavalet. It’s a free museum about the history of Paris.

#7 Visit the Tuileries – or head northeast to La Villette

Know where to find the loveliest parks in Paris

The Tuileries between the Champs Elysées and the Louvre is probably the most famous park in Paris. And no doubt, it IS nice. It’s a classic afternoon activity to just grab one of the green metal chairs and do some serious people-watching.

If you’re keen to visit a park that is not both, fancy and touristic, you should head northeast to La Villette. The park along the basin de la Villette has a rather industrial style. In summer it’s the best place to see some movies in the (free!) open-air cinema, you can play football or frisbee or simply have a casual picnic.

The park is also known for cultural events – exhibitions and concerts, but also the Philharmonie de Paris and the Paris science Museum.

Jardin de Tuileries
The iconic green metal chairs in the Tuileries

#8 Visit the Galeries Lafayette: – or explore the Covered Galleries

Know where to find the covered arcades (map included)

The Galeries Lafayette is a high-end luxury Department Store and is the perfect place to take a shopping break! It customers with its fabulous Belle Epoche interior and decadent decorations. Especially around Christmas Time, when you can find Paris biggest Christmas tree right in the center of the store.

Not only does the Galerie Lafayette offer a plethora of fashion and lifestyle shops, but also an incredible rooftop terrace with a breathtaking view of the whole city – completely free of charge! So if you’re looking for some retail therapy, head over to Galeries Lafayette for the ultimate indulgence.

Covered Galeries in Paris

But, you could also explore some of the beautiful covered Arcades in Paris. The glass-covered galleries date back to the 19th century when the Parisian high society could shop in more than 180 of these weatherproof shopping streets.

Today, only around 20 are left, and are a wonderful destination if you are either looking for an activity for rainy days. But also, if you look for exclusive boutiques and gift shops that are off the beaten track. Don’t miss our guide on the covered galleries.

#9 Visit the Château de Versailles – or: the Château de Chantilly

Versailles, one of the most popular places to visit in France, is a beautiful, must-see destination. It’s just a short day trip from Paris away, which makes it obviously very popular for everyone who visits Paris.

The extravagant palace not only offers impressive architecture but equally mesmerizing gardens that make for an enchanting sight. The Hall of Mirrors inside the castle is as beautiful as the cute Hameau de la Reine, that you find in the gardens. It’s the fairytale-like rustic retreat of Marie Antoinette, that dates back to the 18th century.

Or: You could visit the lesser-known Chateau de Chantilly! You find this small castle in the north of Paris. Just a short 30 minutes train ride away and a perfect getaway from Paris.

Train Trip from Paris - visit Chantilly in a day
Château de Chantilly

In Chantilly, you can explore rooms full of French antiques and intricate artwork collected by Henry d’Orléans over the centuries. The Musée de Condé, the museum inside the castle, is one of the biggest art collections in France. Among others, you even find 2 original paintings from Raphael.

But the estate has as well a beautifully landscaped garden, smaller than Versailles, but not less pretty.

So if you fancy taking a break from sightseeing in the City of Lights, head on out to Versailles or Chantilly. for an unforgettable day out exploring storybook-like landscapes and centuries-old gardens.

#10 Take a Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing tour, or: take a tour in a vintage 2CV

Book your Sightseeing Tour: Bus Tour | Vintage Car Tour

If you want to see much of Paris in a short time, a sightseeing tour is the absolute best thing to do. But it’s also a good idea to go on a tour if you want to get a good first impression of Paris, or if you want to wrap up your stay.

Either way, the most popular sightseeing tour is to simply join a Hop on Hop off bus tour.

But, if you are keen on a more tailored and private experience, the loveliest and most iconic tour you can take is in a classic vintage 2CV.

Romantic Sightseeing Tour through Paris
a vintage citroën 2CV

Tip: take the tour at night. I live in Paris and driving around at night gives me still goosebumps, after all those years.

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