10 Unusual Things to do in Paris that Don’t Include the Eiffel Tower!

Unusual things to do in Paris, France

What do you think of when you think of Paris? Because I’m guessing that it’s probably the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Élysées. And don’t get me wrong, these are all great places to visit and every first visitor to Paris should definitely climb the Eiffel Tower at least once…

But what about when you’ve seen these locations? What then? Although they are all very beautiful places to see and visit, despite what many guidebooks may lead you to believe, there’s a lot more to Paris than just the Iron Lady and the Louvre! Here’s your complete guide to 10 unusual things to do in Paris that don’t involve the Eiffel Tower:


1. Visit one of the offbeat and quirkier museums in Paris.

Sure, the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay are beautiful museums, but they’re also where everyone goes come tourist season! Picture long queues and so many people that it’s hard to spot the Mona Lisa amongst the crowds! More unusual museums in the City of Love include the Paris Sewer Museum, the Museum of Romantics, the Fairground Museum and the Counterfeit Museum.

The quirkier museums are almost all under 10 euro to visit, with many being less than 5 euro or completely free. The majority of museums around the city are also free to European citizens under the age of 26 and everyone under the age of 18.

Take your pick; there’s something for everyone!

Looking for unusual things to do in Paris? How about visiting the Sewer Museum?

2. Go for a balloon ride in Parc André-Citroen.

You’d do well to find something more unusual in Paris than going up into the skies for a hot air balloon ride. Situated in the André-Citroën Park, the hot air balloon is officially the biggest in the world! What better way to get a feel for the city than seeing it from above?

Another unusual thing to do in Paris is to ride an air balloon at Parc André-Citroen.

3. Pick up an ice cream at Berthillon and wander around the Île de la Cité.

Ah, Île de la Cité; home to Notre Dame and a whole host of other historical sites (including a courtyard paved with old gravestones).

While Italy may have gelato as its claim to fame, Paris is home to Berthillon ice-cream; some of the world’s best ice cream! With dozens of flavours from strawberry (this literally tastes like eating real strawberries) to salted caramel to plain old chocolate, you’re sure to find a flavour you fancy.

Sample Berthillon ice cream!

4. Have your very own Parisian picnic!

If you’re looking for the authentic ‘French’ experience during your Parisian adventure, then there’s nothing more French than picking up a baguette, fresh fruit, a bottle of wine, grabbing a few friends and heading down to the Seine for sunset.

Just make sure that you arrive early enough in order to secure the perfect sunset watching spot!

Looking for things to do in Paris? How about having your very own picnic by the Seine.

5. Wander around one of Paris’ more unusual districts.

Not only is Montmartre one of the best places to head to for eating out or spotting local artists painting street scenes, it also happens to be one of the best places in Paris for snapping photos. Go for sunrise, before all the tourists arrive for the day, and you’ll have the place to yourself! With the sinking house of Montmartre, La Maison Rose and the Sacré-Coeur all within a stone’s throw of each other, you’ll find yourself wishing you could stay longer in this quaint neighbourhood.

Visit Montmartre, one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Paris.

6. Head just out of the city and explore Bois de Boulogne.

There are often serious discussions about the lack of green spaces in Paris proper. Unlike London or New York, there are no vast green spaces in the city centre. Instead, Paris is surrounded on both sides by the dense woodlands of Bois de Vincennes to the East of the city and Bois de Boulogne to the West.

Bois de Boulogne is situated near the end of Metro Line 1. The former royal hunting ground is now home to he Louis Vuitton Art Foundation and the Jardin d’Acclimation – a series of landscaped gardens, a mini golf course and several eateries. There’s even a château that can be visited!

Another unusual things to do in Paris: head to Bois de Boulogne and rent a boat!

7. Pick up a souvenir or two at the Port St Ouen flea market.

The largest flea market in the World is held each and every weekend on the outskirts of Paris at Port St Ouen. Peruse the varied wares and antiques, marvel at some of the more eccentric vintage clothing pieces and pick up a souvenir postcard for as little as 1 euro.

Visit the flea market of Port St. Ouen.

8. Grab your camera and climb up the Panthéon.

Instead of heading up the Eiffel Tower (the queues are hours long, anyway), why not head up to the Panthéon and view Paris from above? Unparalleled views from the top leave you speechless; Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and plenty of other iconic landmarks are all visible from the top of this monument in the 5e arrondissement.

Head up the Panthéon for an amazing view of Paris!

9. In the summer, head to Paris Plages or the Jardin des Tuileries Funfairs.

When it comes to summertime, your best bet is to head where the locals do. Although it’s widely thought that there’s a mass exodus from Paris in August, many locals inevitably stay in the city.

Summer activities are regularly organised by the mayor and city of Paris; these include a fairground in the very centre of the Jardin des Tuileries and a beach very close to Notre Dame. There are also plenty of free music festivals and a whole host of other things to see and do in Paris.

Summer in Paris: head to Paris Plages or the Jardin des Tuileries Funfairs

10. Wander among the Paris bouquinistes.

So iconic are the Paris bouquinistes, that in 1991, they were deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Often referred to as ‘the river that runs between two bookshelves’, no trip to the city of lights would be complete without a quick glance at the vintage books, cards and posters that are sold in these iconic green boxes.

Rather than wander along the Champs Élysées on your trip to Paris, why not wander along the Seine instead?

Paris bouquinistes. Pick up a book or two.

Have you been to Paris?
Are there any other unusual things to do in Paris you’d add to the list?
Let us know in the comments!


  • Brian says:

    Free museums?!! sign me up!
    When my wife and I went to Mexico City in December, we avoided the large, tall lookout tower, because the wait was at least an hour. No thank you! Also, when we visited Tokyo, Japan this summer, the wait to ride the rides at DisneySea was too long. We did not ride any rides, just walked around all day, which was fun, but exhausting.
    Basically, I understand how visiting the most popular tourist locations can mean that the wait time is so long that it can kill many hours of your day. I like this article because it addresses this and provides travelers alternative locales. I now know to expect to wait many hours to ascend the Eiffel Tower.
    Question: does the sewer museum stink? haha.

  • These are some great ideas for the next time I make it back to Paris!
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  • Fatima says:

    Great post! Well I would add the catacombs, not many people know the existence and is quiet interesting the tour around them. Unusual things I have done there hmmm the day I spent walking around the cemeteries of Paris but that’s typical for some people jejeje… I think that Paris is a destination for usual and unusual things.
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  • Maria says:

    So many great suggestions! I haven’t done the tourist-through-Paris yet, but on my must do list is (apart from Eiffel and Louvre): wandering Montmartre, visiting flea markets and book shops, and I’d love a tour through the catacombs as well (have you done that, and if so how was it?)
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  • These are such great ideas! I’ll definitely be adding some of them to my list, for my future travels. Who wants to spend so much time in a line, at the Eiffel Tower? Great post!

    – RW

  • Tiffany says:

    I have been to all the biggest scenic spots in Paris for the first time when I was there, will definitely go back for some hidden treasures of this romantic place.

  • Loved your seasoned guide to the quirky visit in Paris. Have to say, the Carrefour picnic by the river can’t be beat (although yours looked a tad classier than just Carrefour…)

  • I wasn’t aware that balloon riding was an option! And souvenir shopping in a flea market? Definitely on my list! Thanks for the post 🙂
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  • Mary Ann Grant says:

    Been and will be back again! Paris is walking..and climbing: the stairs around Montmartre, the Eifel Tower and the Arch de triumph. Our fit bits tell us we walk between 3 and 5 miles a day. We love the shopping around St. Martin canal like Amelie skipping stones. The shops are wonderful in the Marais, and a look at the Galleria Lafayette is fun to see..maybe not to buy, just go to the floor of food. Good for things like herbs, teas and lump sugar in Paris shapes.
    Just please remember to be kind, and polite. Learn rudimentary French and practice some pronunciation. The folks who say they hated Paris probably felt overwhelmed.

  • Jackie says:

    This is exactly what I was looking for! I will be in Paris in December, and only have two days but after a Eiffel Tower photo shoot I want to explore more culture driven sites! A picnic is a perfect idea as well. Thanks 🙂

  • Maria Aguirre says:

    en Paris un lugar hermoso y poco visitado por turistas es El Jardin de Plantas. Tambien es muy interesante la Arena de Paris en el corazon de una manzana.

  • Ashley says:

    Go to the top terrasse of Galeries Lafayette or Printemps on Boulevard Hausmann. There’s restaurants on both.
    See the Arena lutece in the 5eme.
    Tour the Palais Garnier (opera house that phantom of the opera was based on)

  • Leanne says:

    Thanks for the roundup, Sophie! I’ll land in Paris in February and if things go according to plan, I’ll stay there one month so I have a lot of time to discover this wonderful city. I want to go in unusual spots and discover things that are rarely experienced by tourists. Oh God, I can’t wait to get there!

  • Melissa says:

    This is PERFECT! My husband and I just recently enjoyed visiting Paris. My favorite thing was actually when my husband surprised me by taking me to this spa called Okari (a few kilometers north of the Louvre). The atmosphere is great, got a steam bath, enjoyed some like roman bath house styled pool, massage, and everything!
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  • Bahtiyar says:

    Hello, Sophie. Thanks for this interesting post. I have been to Paris three times. To be honest, I am already fed up with Eiffel Tower. For this reasons, I was looking for something original to do in Paris during my next visit. Your awesome article gave me loads of ideas and plans!
    Thank you very much! It is very convenient to read your blog!

  • MeganB says:

    My husband and I did a bike tour in the Champagne region – best part of our Paris trip!

  • Dee says:

    One of my favourite day trips from Paris is Vaux-le-Vicomte. It’s the castle that is the inspiration for Versailles. And talk about beating the crowds. It was so lovely to wander through the Versailles-like gardens with only a handful of French people. No tourists. No lines. Wonderful.

  • Amanda says:

    Parc de Sceaux. Well worth the trip on the RER B. There’s something that so magical about that park. When I picture heaven on earth, I picture the 2 days we spent there sitting under a tree, drinking wine and reading Le Petit Prince. Also, Parc Montsouris is a great place for a picnic and to watch people. We lived right across from there and loved relaxing there.

  • Jean Marie says:

    All good suggestions, but I have to let you know there is no reason to wait in line at the Eiffel Tower. You can make a reservation for the day and time you wish to visit, and just show up at the appointment time. You get right in and can spend as much time as you like! Just go online, it’s easy.

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