Forget the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre! Paris is full of unique places that are quite unusual, and perhaps unheard of by many tourists. With popular tourist sites in Paris overshadowing the others, you might think that Paris is only what you read in the guide books. But alas, there is a number of hidden gems in Paris that are often not talked about and you just have to know where to find them.
So in this rather non-exhaustive post, I detail for you some of the Paris best kept secrets and all the nontouristy things to do in Paris so that you get to enjoy the city of lights like the locals do – or at least how we think they enjoy it.
Some tips to consider before you explore the secrets of Paris
- Consider buying all your entrance tickets online beforehand to skip the lines. You can use getyourguide to buy all your skip the line entry tickets to attractions while in Paris.
- To get the most out of Paris, I recommend buying a Paris city pass which guarantees you entrance to over 60 attractions and free access to public transportation. You can buy the Paris city pass from here and then decide whether you want it to work for 2,3,4 or 6 days. But if you plan to visit only museums, this Paris Museum pass will be more effective.
- Although we are talking about the secret places in Paris, there is no trip to this French capital that is complete without visiting the Eiffel tower. And since it’s not included in the Paris city pass, you can buy its skip the line entry ticket from here – yes the queues are insanely long.
Hidden gems in Paris you need to visit
The “I Love You” wall
Paris is known to be the world capital of love and romance – it wouldn’t be a city of love without the “I love you” wall. So feel free to say “Je t’aime” in front of this work of art composed of 612 enameled lava tiles reproducing 311 “I love you” in 250 different languages.
This wall of love, located in the romantic garden of Jehan Rictus Square, consists of a 40 square meter fresco featuring the most beautiful of the declarations. The red-colored fragments on the fresco represent the pieces of a broken heart. It is an unlimited source of inspiration imagined by Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito, ideal for a romantic rendezvous!
The Witch’s Secret Passage
Let’s stay in Montmartre to discover this unique and mysterious place. Located between 23rd Avenue Junot and 65th Street Lepic on a private road that is difficult to access, the “Passage de la Sorcière” is a mythical place whose legend has lasted for centuries.
It shelters a strange rock, considered evil, a remnant of an old fountain that is now dry. It is not known where this rock came from or how it got there, and the inhabitants have long believed that it was a meteorite!
According to legends, the rock hides the entrance to a magnificent residence inhabited by a lonely and slightly mad old lady. Now a Hôtel, you will have to go through its magnificent bar to reach the rock!
The Great Pagoda of Vincennes
If you want to embark on a Paris off the beaten path, then visiting the Great Pagoda of Vincennes should be on your itinerary. It is hard to believe that the largest Buddha in Europe is in Paris!
More than 9 metres high, it is nestled in an 8000 m² enclosure. This building is, in fact, the former pavilions of Cameroon and Togo from the 1931 Colonial Exhibition, now converted into Buddhist places of worship.
This gives an amazing mixture of a Buddha in an African hut! With his eyes closed, serenely seated, this Buddha covered in gold dominates the curious visitors with his benevolent aura.
You can also find a Tibetan temple and Buddhist relics offered by Thailand. The pagoda is not always open to the public so be sure to check before your visit – It’s located in the Vincennes Woods, east of Paris.
The Little Belt
Fan of urban exploration you will be thrilled! The “Little Belt” is actually an old 32 km railway line dating from the 19th century that encircles Paris. Abandoned since 1990, it is now an ideal place for walking and exploring.
Some sections have been completely renovated and adapted for the pastoral walk, like the15th and 16th arrondissement sections, others are completely abandoned and perfect for an exciting exploration session!
Nature has regained its rights here, giving rise to a particular fauna and flora. Most of the line is actually closed, but Parisians are stubborn and the police, very comprehensive, will not bother you.
This kind of deserted and silent place is always fascinating, especially when you remember that you are in one of the largest capitals in Europe! Listen to your adventurous instinct and let yourself be guided towards adventuring the secrets in Paris.
The Pink House
Montmartre over and over again! The “Maison Rose”, opened by Germaine Pichot in 1908, is a canteen frequented by several generations of artists making the history of France such as Picasso, Modigliani, Edith Piaf or Albert Camus.
Today, this small and welcoming restaurant serves delicious French and Italian cuisine. This place, located at the crossroads of the streets of “Saules Cortot” and “Abreuvoir” has become an unmissable photo stopover!
The pink color of the old house is contrasted by magnificent climbing ivy, its green shutters overlooking the paved street make it a picturesque scene worthy of a classic painting.
The countryside in Paris
Want to discover a small french rural village without even leaving Paris? This is the place for you. Nestled in the 20th arrondissement near the “Porte de Bagnolet”, this district with its unique atmosphere simply called “Campagne à Paris” (countryside in Paris) is a veritable mini-village perched on the city’s heights.
And when I say perched, it’s really perched! To get there you will have to climb a good flock of steps and stairs but it is well worth it. Once you get to the top, forget that you are in Paris by strolling along the small cobbled streets with their colorful brick houses and gardens decorated with flowers of wisteria and roses.
Originally created to house the working class in the 1990s, it is now inhabited mainly by the upper classes. The particularity of the place: its absolute silence, extremely rare in the heart of Paris. This small district, witnesses of a Paris of yesteryear, is definitely worth a walk!
Nontouristy things to do in Paris
Give a good rub to Victor Noir!
Who says cemeteries can be boring? In the magnificent cemetery of Père Lachaise lies the tomb of Victor Noir. The unfortunate young man has a picturesque and surprising story. In 1870, the young journalist then aged 21 was summoned as a witness during a dispute between a certain Pascal Grousset and Prince Pierre-Napoléon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I. The meeting escalated and the impulsive young Napoleon shot by mistake at this poor Victor.
The journalist’s death raised the crowds and became the emblem of the class struggle. The tradition of the era, a bronze statue was erected with his effigy in the cemetery of the Père Lachaise. The statue, of astonishing precision and finesse, reveals, however, a “swelling” in the crotch area… The story with a big S took over and it is now said that rubbing the zipper of the statue promotes fertility and has erotic virtues!
It has, therefore, become a tradition to rub blithely the crotch of that poor Victor, it is not uncommon to see women humping the statue and men rubbing with their hands this lump that has become as smooth and shiny as a nickel! So if you’re looking for unusual things to do in Paris, then giving a good rub to Victor Noir is one of them.
Try an original carousel
The “dodo carousel” is a small musical carousel located in the heart of the Jardin des Plantes. There are a lot of rides and carousels in Paris and in the world so what’s different about this one? Well, it is designed around the theme of extinct and endangered animals. Established in 1992, its inventor wanted to draw attention to those endangered species.
So it’s a merry-go-round populated by Dodo (hence its name), Dinosaurs and Horned turtles that you or your kids can ride! Don’t be afraid of their sometimes slightly disturbing appearances and come learn while having fun! The carousel is located right next to the Museum of Natural History. A fun way to make the youngest ones aware of the evolution of species.
Discover the history of the city in a frightening way!
The Manoir de Paris is one of the unique places to visit in Paris that recreates the old urban legends of the city in a haunted old mansion. First “haunted show of France”, the route stretches over several floors and reconstructs the frightening legends of the city of Paris. The themes are regularly renewed. Hang on tightly because it’s really scary – the staging is well done and you’ll quickly get into the atmosphere.
Costumed and masked actors will be there to make you cry with fear but also with laughter! If you are afraid of the dark, go your way because some passages are in total darkness.
I really recommend this haunted mansion, the feeling of fear is guaranteed and you will learn more about the history of the city! Think about booking your ticket on the internet because the queue can be very long.
Relax in the absolute darkness
There’s nothing like a good spa to relax from an exhausting day. I propose you go to this Spa with an original idea: everything is done in the dark! This concept, new to Paris, is actually as old as the world and very popular in China. The treatments are performed by visually impaired people trained in relaxation techniques.
It is known that partially sighted people have an exceptional sense of touch. When you arrive, the staff will guide you so that you can adapt to the darkness. A wide range of care (massages, facial care, aesthetics, and weight loss) are available. Once in the complete darkness, all your senses are exacerbated and the relaxation is total.
A hammam is also available and although for security reasons, total darkness is not possible, it is illuminated by small lights that will remind you of a starry sky. An exhilarating experience not to be missed as you explore the hidden gems in Paris.
Paris hidden gems for Museum enthusiasts: Hidden and unique museums of Paris
The Zadkine Museum
Paris is the world capital of museums. Beyond the Louvre, there are a plethora of small museums. There is something for everyone and you will definitely find what you are looking for. The Zadkine Museum, for example, is, in fact, one of Ossip Zadkine’s workshops, which is in almost perfect condition. In addition to admiring his former workplace, sculptures and photographs are installed everywhere to immerse yourself in the Russian atmosphere of the 1910s.
The museum of romantic life
To stay in a sophisticated theme, discover the museum of romantic life. Nestled in a cozy residence, it is one of the small hidden places in Paris that a few tourists visit. Inside, there is a superb collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, furniture, and jewellery. Feel free to have lunch on its superb terrace.
The fairground Arts Museum
In a totally different style, the fairground arts museum holds the palm of the oddity and presents dozens of old rides (some of which are triable!) attractions and shops. Don’t miss the “Théâtre du Merveilleux” where a great surprise awaits you!
Le musée des Vampires et monstres imaginaires
To continue on the original and hidden gems of Paris theme, “Le musée des Vampires et monstres imaginaires” is a strange and wonderful place that focuses on the stories and legends of popular culture, with books, photos, and objects of all kinds. A daily visit is focused on Vampires and will allow you to learn everything about them, and also enjoy a “sanguine” cocktail!
Other Paris off the beaten track museums
I’d like to talk about a lot of other museums, but the list is so long! Others include The advertising museum, the post office museum, the perfume museum or the phonograph museum… in other words, you could spend months visiting all of these Paris secret places.
Hidden gems of Paris for food lovers: A gastronomic journey away from the touristic restaurants
Pancake Sister – For a good breakfast to start the day
Located in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, Pancake Sister is often cited as serving the best pancakes in the capital. This small minimalist coffee with a yellow colored front was conceived by two sisters Sonia and Karine, who have always been in love with pancakes.
Sweet or salty pancakes are served, each one as delicious as the next. All are homemade and the menu is regularly renewed. For food lovers, the pancake tower is a must-have! There are also healthy and vegan pancakes, drinks are good and the hospitality is impeccable in a modern-retro atmosphere.
Le Potager de Charlotte – For a healthy Parisian lunch
Vegan doesn’t mean dull and this restaurant will show you! If you are looking for vegetarian and delicious cuisine, this is the place for you.
Often cited as one of the best Vegan restaurants in Paris, “Le Potager de Charlotte” is a must for veggie cuisine.
It is located in the 9th arrondissement. The cuisine is sophisticated, tasty and generous. You will discover flavors that you didn’t even know existed like their classic “hard-boiled egg” avocado. It is also a real pleasure for the eyes because a lot of work is being done on the presentation.
The setting is simple and pleasant in the image of its two managers, David and Adrien. Don’t forget to book in advance because the locals are always rushing there!
Pâtisserie Stohrer – For an afternoon snack
What could be better for an afternoon snack than an excellent French pastry! Pâtisserie Stohrer is said to be the oldest bakery in Paris. Located in the 2nd arrondissement, the building is classified as a historical monument. Established in 1730, it is not only the oldest bakery in Paris but also one of the most majestic, embodying the French elegance.
With great finesse, the pastries are stunning! impossible to resist, it is an ode to the delights offered to by this wonderful place! Their specialty is the “puits d’amour”, a round cake filled with custard cream. But don’t worry, EVERYTHING is delicious!
Chilam – For a Mexican dinner…Shall we go, Mexican, tonight?
I know, eating Mexican food in Paris is a bit strange, but why not? Located in the heart of the capital, Chilam is one of the best Mexican restaurants in Paris. Self-proclaimed “gastro-bar” by its owners Juan and Lucia, everything is handmade, from chips to guacamole and Tacos.
The specialty is the Cochinita Pibil, a taco with shredded pork marinated for 24 hours. A real delight it is heaven in your mouth! Once a month the restaurant organizes “taco nights” with original shows and tacos!
The restaurant also offers a well-stocked cocktail menu with a traditional Mexican theme. This restaurant is a true immersion in Mexican culture, ideal for a great night out!
Maison Souquet – to finish a lovely evening
After a day of enjoying all this food, you may feel a bit heavy so it’s hard to go dancing! I suggest you head to the “crème de la crème” of the Speakeasy, a bar Maison Souquet in the 9th arrondissement. This very special, cozy and intimate bar is inspired by the “good old days” of Paris. Hidden in an old brothel, this place exudes sensuality, luxury, and French elegance.
The bar offers many cocktails with assertive names but also quality beers and top-of-the-range tea. Hidden behind a thick red curtain, the sofas and armchairs are surrounded by very refined works of art. A romantic and sensual place, ideal to finish the day with your partner!
Though it is a popular tourist city, I bet you now know that there are a number of hidden gems in Paris that you can explore if you want to escape the crowds. And it’s not just about the same popular activities everyone does, there are a number of nontouristy things to do in Paris to experience the city better.
Do you know of any other unique things to do in Paris or other hidden secrets in Paris, share with us in the comment section for more inspiration.
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- Gloves – these ones are actually touch screen sensitive, so you can use your phone without taking them off.
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- Waterproof Winter boots for women and these ones for the guys
You can also read this comprehensive winter packing list to find out everything you will need to pack for your winter vacation in Europe.
More posts about Europe to inspire your wanderlust
- Budget-friendly ski resorts to visit in Europe in winter
- Packing list for a ski trip
- Amazing reasons why you should travel to Europe in winter
- The complete packing list for Europe in winter
- Best places in Europe to visit in Winter
- Where to go in Europe for winter sun
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