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!
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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!
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.
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?)
The catacombs are a must. I’ve been 3 times and 2 times were under construction. You know the French aren’t going to advise you publicly when they’re available! I’d allow 2-3 hours when you do go! Fascinating!! Très fantastique!!! Tu dois y aller!
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!
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 🙂
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.
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 🙂
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.
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)
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!
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!
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!
My husband and I did a bike tour in the Champagne region – best part of our Paris trip!
Hi! Could you give me more details about your champagne tour?? That sounds right up my ally!!
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.
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.
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.
Spent 7 months in Paris…..One of my favorite things to do was to ride the carousels, especially in the rain.
I worked at a travel agency in the 17th when I was much younger. I loved lunching in the nearby Parc Monceau and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a romantic getaway. Since then I have also discovered the nearby Musée Nissim de Camando and the Musée Jacqumart André, both treasures of les arts décoratifs (decorative arts). No crowds and well worth the visit.
Visit Levallois and say “Hi” to the Mayor he’s wonderful. They also have one of the Absolute Best patisserie for bread in all of France ! Can’t miss it the line is down the block !
I loved this article, so many wonderful ideas for our trip next month. Can anyone tell me where that beautiful picture right up top with the sunset would be?
Most likely the Pont de la Tournelle since the view is of the East face of Notre Dame on Ile de la Cite.
Hello what an amazing post, just wanted to warn you that a website for hotels are using your photo on pinterest for advertising their website I almost didn’t find this post at first. Thank you for sharing ❤️
Hi Amina, thanks for letting me know. Could you share a link to that pin either here or via email. I wouldn’t want anyone using my photos in a misleading way. Thank you!
Le Musée Cluny (famous and beautiful medieval tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn) and tours of the Gobelin tapestry workshops
Once you visit Norte Dame, walk around to the “back/front” of the church. Across the street and down some stairs at the tip of the isle you’ll find a small holocaust memorial…
LMAO I’m a parisian and I’m telling you : don’t go to Paris Plages, I repeat, don’t go to Paris Plages!!! Also, the Bois de Boulogne can be dangerous, the Parc de Vincennes is a lot better!
Great post, all are good recommendations, thanks for sharing! One more suggestion I might add to the list, a night at the theatre. You can see subtitled performances in many playhouses in Paris with a small company called Theatre in Paris, you don’t even need to speak French!
The Coulée verte René-Dumont or Promenade plantée (French for tree-lined walkway) or the Coulée verte (French for green course) is a 4.7 km (2.9 mi) elevated linear park built on top of obsolete railway infrastructure in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, France. It was inaugurated in 1993.
My wife and I hiked this a few years back and enjoyed it. It offers very different views of Paris with some pleasurable gardens along the way.
Hi. Love Paris!!! Going back in april for the 10th time or so. Really want to do the catacombs but unlike someone here postet…a lot of people know about it. Tried to visit twice and both times the lines were about a 2 hour wait…What many don’t know is that you can get tickets online,cost more but no waiting…
What I would also include in your article is a Parisian show…for example in the Lido. But many more and cheaper to find.
Also—–> The wall of LOVE. Very nice to see all different kind of languages that say “I love you”. Situated in the Montmartre area in the romantic garden at the square of Jehan Rictus, place des Abbesses. Visit and find your language and many others. Mine is ” ik hou van jou” Can you find it?
Greetings from Belgium
My boyfriend lives just outside Paris, so I spend a LOT of time here. One of my favorite things to do for some easy, free entertainment is hunt for Space Invaders mosaic street art. There are well over 1000 of them all over the city, and you never know where you’ll find one. Some look like old school video game characters, Looney Tunes, or even a couple of Star Wars mosaics. It’s great for when you’re aimlessly wandering the city, and there’s an app called Flash Invaders that’s free to use and will give you points for every Invader you successfully find. There are Invaders art all over the world, so you can keep hunting for them in other cities as well, but since the artist is Parisian, the highest concentration by a long shot is in Paris.