This article may contain compensated links. Please read disclosure for more info.
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!
CHECKLIST for your Paris Trip
✔ Hotel booked?
Paris Survival Tips
- Don’t forget your Travel Adapter
- Book your airport transfer
- Know about the common scams
- Download the free survival guide
- Explore the Covered Arcades
- Discover the quaint Bookstores
- Find Paris Hidden Cocktail Bars
- Take an easy day trip by train
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.
You also might like these articles
- A Solo Trip to Paris – How to visit the city of love on your own
- 12 amazing Weekend Getaways from Paris by Train!
- Pack for Paris: Essentials you need in 2023!
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.
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!
#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.
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.
If you are a foodie, you’ll be interested in these posts as well:
- The Paris Food guide – know what else you definitely should try in Paris!
- Best Pastry Workshops in Paris
- The Best Bakeries in Paris – 5 pastry shops you must try!
- 62 Fascinating French Food Facts
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.
#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.)
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.
#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.
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.
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.
Tip: take the tour at night. I live in Paris and driving around at night gives me still goosebumps, after all those years.
PS: Check out these posts, they will help you plan your trip to Paris
- Paris hidden gems: 80+ well kept secrets you shouldn’t miss
- What NOT to do in Paris -23 (costly) Paris Mistakes you need to avoid!
- 14 Hotels with stunning Eiffel Tower views- for (almost) every budget!
- Your Perfect 2 Days in Paris! Itinerary & Insider Tips
- These are the best 5 Cabarets in Paris
- 5 ways to get from Charles de Gaulle airport to Paris – THE complete guide!
- Scams in Paris! How to avoid the most common cons