Paris is the world’s 3rd most visited destination, with more than 15 million visitors annually. With numbers like this, calling it touristy would be an understatement. With so many things to do in Paris, it can get quite packed around the main attractions, especially during peak seasons.
However, the popularity of Paris is anything but a coincidence: picturesque neighbourhoods, inviting bistros, unmatched art collections and some of the most famous landmarks on the globe are enough to seduce the most cynical of travellers. After all, the streets of Paris have served as a backdrop for some of history’s most romantic films.
However, it is precisely this irresistible charm that makes Paris a magnet for the worst kinds of tourist faux-pas. Truth is, if you blindly follow your guidebook, you’re in for a disappointment, as you won’t really catch this famous Parisian vibe. But don’t pack your bags for Bristol just yet! We’ve gathered inside information to make sure your Parisian holiday will feel like a day straight out of Midnight in Paris.
Unconventional Things to Do in Paris
While it is kind of impossible to blend in if you don’t speak fluent French, nobody deserves to get trodden by swarms of selfie-taking tourists paying £20 for a croissant and a coffee on the Boulevard St. Germain.
That’s why we have put together a local’s guide for things to do in Paris, including places to eat, underrated museums and little-known markets. So, if you hate waiting in long queues and want to experience what’s so special about the “City of Light”, read on.
Where To Eat
Food around touristy places is guaranteed to be overpriced and mediocre, at best. That’s a universal truth. You will never find locals dining at areas around the main attractions (Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, or the Marais district) and busy avenues like the Champs Elysees. Unless you are willing to spend your hard-earned money on an unsatisfactory meal, you might want to take a look at some of the following tips.
Have a Picnic
If the weather is good, have a picnic on the banks of the Seine or at one of the parks around Paris. Many Parisians do that during the summer months, and it’s a great day to spend your time around the city centre.
You can get anything you want from a supermarket or a takeaway place, and enjoy yourself far from the tourist hordes. Try the Jardin Tino-Rossi, the Jardin du Luxembourg or the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont to avoid crowds on really sunny days.
Try the Asian Food in the Parisian Chinatown
You will find a bunch of Laotienne, Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants around the Tolbiac subway station. A bowl of Pho around these places will set you back about £5 and will be more than enough to fill you up for a day full of walking. Also, try the exotic sandwiches at Tang Freres if you want a tasty snack on the go.
Reasonably Priced Restaurants Around Paris
If you are looking at something more conventional, there are plenty of options around. Mind you, by “reasonably priced”, we mean £20ish for a three-course meal. Try the Chez Gladines for a dive into Basque cuisine, or If you are dining alone, a visit to the Polidor or Pouchla is a must.
If you are looking for a place to work and have a snack Le Comptoir Général is a perfect choice. Also, don’t miss out on a breakfast (or brunch) over at the Holy Belly cafe. These guys make some mean pancakes that are sure to fill you up for an action-packed day!
Finally, for the finest Breton crepe experience in Paris, head over to La Crêperie Bretonne. From traditional crêpes sucrées with sugar and lemon to savoury galettes, they really have it all!
Discover Hidden Neighbourhoods
In a city with a population of 2,3 million and eight times as much tourists each year, there is hardly anything left to discover when it comes to things to do in Paris. However, there are still some neighbourhoods that are more secluded, away from the prying eyes of tourists. Sure, Montmartre is stunning and worth a visit, but there is something special about finding your own favourite spot around Paris.
Affectionately called BoBo (bourgeois bohemian) by the cool kids that inhabit it, the area around Canal Saint-Martin was once an old part of the north-eastern 10th arrondissement. Nowadays, it is the heart of the Parisian (hipster) youth, with a vast collection of cafes, studios and bars. Definitely worth a visit if you’re into the alternative charm of such places.
La Butte aux Cailles
This absolutely lovely neighbourhood can be found in the 13th arrondissement, between Montparnasse and Chinatown. Strangely ignored by tourists, La Butte aux Cailles is reminiscent of another era, lined throughout with stunning art deco houses, romantic paths and cosy bistros.
Like many hip districts around the world, this neighbourhood also used to be an area populated by working-class people, before it became a trendy hotspot for young creatives.
Lying between four different arrondissements, this quirky part of Paris has been built and shaped by the immigrant populations that made it home back in the 1920s. However, since the 1980s, Belleville experienced a resurgence, as cheaper rents made it very attractive to artists, musicians and immigrants.
Nowadays, Belleville is an artist hub, full of diversity and creative spirit. Definitely not as touristy as other places around the centre of the city, this part of the town is the place to be if you love original art, squats and quirky shops.
Coulée Verte René-Dumont
Although it’s not a neighbourhood per se, this promenade is built on the abandoned tracks of the Vincennes railway line that linked Bastille station to Verneuil-l’Étang for about 100 years (from 1860 to 1969). When the line was discontinued, it was turned into a 5km elevated pedestrian area.
The path begins at the Opera Bastille and goes all the way to the square Charles-Peguy. There are some shops along the way, but they are quite expensive so it might be wise to avoid buying from them altogether. Although hardly a secret, the walk will take about an hour, and it’s one of the most romantic things to do in Paris
Interesting Museums (That Are Not The Louvre)
Don’t get us wrong: the Louvre is absolutely one of the must things to do in Paris. But with a collection as vast (and with a waiting line that long), it is impossible to see everything in one sitting.
Our recommendation is to see only the sections that really interest you, and, perhaps the Mona Lisa (if you manage to get close enough). Below, we have listed some other exciting museums you could also visit.
Museum of Modern Art
The MAM is one of Paris’ largest museums and offers free entry to the permanent exhibition, while special exhibitions cost between £4-10. With a collection of more than 10,000 works of 20th-century art movements, this museum is definitely worth a visit.
- Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (last admission 5.15 pm) Evening opening for exhibitions only, on Thursday until 10 pm (last admission 9.15 pm)
- Admission Fee: Free (permanent exhibition), £4-10 (temporary exhibitions).
- Address & How to get there: 11 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris, France
- By subway: Alma-Marceau or Iéna (line 9)
- By Bus: 32, 42, 72, 80, 82 or 92
Musée Marmottan Monet
Claude Monet was the founder of the French impressionist movement. To this day, the Marmottan Museum is home to the most extensive collection of his work. It houses a selection of more than 300 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Paul Signac, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and others.
- Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am till 6 pm. Night-on Thursdays till 9 pm
- Admission Fee: £9 (full price), £4 (reduced)
- Address & How to get there: 2 rue Louis Boilly 75016 Paris
- By subway: Ranelagh, La Muette (line 9)
- By Bus: 32, PC1
Auguste Rodin is considered one of the most influential sculptors of his time. You can see some of his works at the Tuileries park, but most of his work is included in the collection of the Musee Rodin. Built in 1919, the museum’s collection includes more than 6,000 sculptures, and tens of thousands of photographs, drawings and art objects.
- Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 10am till 5.45pm. Last tickets sold at 5.15pm
- Admission Fee: See the admission fees here.
- Address & How to get there: 77 rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, France
- By subway: Varenne (line 13) or Invalides (line 13, line 8)
- By Bus: 69, 82, 87, 92
Find The Best View
Contrary to what your guidebook says, the best view in Paris isn’t to be found on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower. If you want to spend money and time climbing all the way up, only to see the Parisian skyline without its most important landmark (the Tower itself), then go ahead. Some suggest the Arc de Triomphe as an alternative, but the £10 admission fee seems a bit extravagant just for admiring the view.
Instead of queueing up for either of the above options, bask in the glory of the Parisian sunset the smart way – the view from the terrace of the Galeries Lafayette is stunning, less crowded and free.
Unless you are a brand addict, steer clear off the storefronts along the Champs-Elysees and the large department store chains. There is nothing there you can’t find at home at a more reasonable price. If you want to go shopping (which you probably do), try one of the unconventional options.
Paris is home to many open air and flea markets. Some of them are quite famous and crowded, like Les Puces at Porte de Clignancourt, which is the largest antique market in Europe. If you love the smell of old books, you can visit the book market at the Parc Georges Brassens to get your fix!
From there, the Vanves Flea Market is only a short walk away. Worth a visit if you want to discover a much more unexplored part of Paris.
If you like a challenge, try to find all the Covered Passages on the right bank of the Seine. Built in the mid-19th century, these shopping arcades have now been transformed into pedestrian streets with glass ceilings and vintage decoration.
Although there used to be about 150 of these all over Paris, now only a few remain. See if you can spot them all! You might discover the next most instagrammable spot in Paris!
Luggage Storage in Paris
Discovering all the unknown things to do in Paris is easier when you’re not dragging your heavy bags around. With nearly 50 StashPoints all over Paris from the Louvre to the hills of Montmartre, we have luggage storage locations wherever you need them so that you can discover the real vibe of the city, hands-free! Our prices start from only £6 per item for 24 hours. Learn more here.