The top 10 tourist spots – and what you should do instead!
This site contains affiliate links. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
There are a million different ways of visiting Paris. Some folks love to visit the top 10 sights in Paris intensively, they spend half a day in the Louvre and they clearly get up the Eiffel Tower.. they might 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 stores or hang 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.
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 to damn long. Maybe you even have been to Paris already and all those Paris first timer guides aren’t for you – been there, done that!
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 suggestions.
If you search for secret Paris tips and hidden gems, check out our Paris off the beaten path post and get 75 Paris insider ideas on how to make your trip unforgettable
# Eiffel Tower – or: Tour Montparnasse to SEE the Eiffel Tower
For many visitors, the Eiffel Tower is must see monument in Paris. If you have no photo of yourself in front of the iron Lady, you haven’t been to Paris. Honestly, it’s a wonderful experience to see Paris from above – either at day or night time. You also can have a casual Lunch or even a fine Michelin Star dinner on the Eiffel Tower and enjoy an incredible view. Check out our post about visiting the Eiffel Tower to have all information at hand!
OR: you visit the Tour Montparnasse instead! 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.
# Visit Montmartre – or: head over to Belleville
You probably will visit Montmartre, no matter what. The artist quarter with the the little boutiques and the Sacre Coeur with it’s 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 grants you an equally great view and – in my opinion – 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!
# Take a river cruise on the Seine – or: take a private Paris tour in a C2!
Most 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.
Tip: take the tour at night.. I live in Paris and and driving around at night gives me still goosebumps, after all those years.
# Eat Macarons – or: MAKE Macarons!
“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 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 what about the salty version with Fois Gras? Either way, eating Macarons should be on each and every Paris bucket list.
Check our Paris Food Guide and know what else you definitely should try in Paris!
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. Check here to know more about available cooking and baking classes in Paris
# have drinks at Saint Michel …. or at Butte aux Cailles!
Saint Michel lays 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!
# Visit the Louvre – or check out some of the countless small museums and galleries
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 anything major. (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 :D)
Or, if you are happy with the outside layout of the worlds biggest museum but feel equally that Paris has too much art to ignore it, what about visiting a less popular but still good museum? For example the Picasso Museum. Or the National Medieval Museum, Musée Cluny.
# Visit the Tuileries – or head north east to La Villette
The Tuileries between the Champs Elysées and the Louvre is probably the most famous park of 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 north east 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.
# Rue Rivoli … or try some local shopping .. for example at Rue de Commerce
If there’s one thing you can do in Paris, it’s shopping. No matter if you’re up for luxury brands, local designers or second hand – Paris has it all! One of the biggest shopping mile of Paris is definitely Rue Rivoli, but also Rue St.Honoré and Avenue Montaigne (for all the luxury you need).
But you know what? You can basically shop everywhere in Paris! Rue de Commerce in the 15th isa nice place to start – it has the known shops but also a plenty of grocery stores, cheese stores, wine stores, bakeries, butchers … local shopping! Or check out Rue de Rennes near Montparnasse, little Boutiques in Montmartre or second Hand shopping in the Marais.
If you have any questions about Paris or need some advice and how to plan your trip, don’t hesitate to reach out! I created a Facebook group for this matter and I am available to help you out! Click here to join the private Salut from Paris Facebook group!
Disclosure: this page contains affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost for you – I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. I am independent and the opinions expressed here are my own.