I’ve been living in Paris for the last year, as part of my ongoing quarter-life-crisis, and some of the best things I’ve done and enjoyed while living here have actually been fairly low-key, out-of-the-way activities. Don’t get me wrong, the Eiffel Tower and L’Arc de Triomphe are incredibly beautiful and well worth visiting, but sometimes the little things can be just as fascinating, and can make you feel like you’re getting to know the city on a deeper level.
Whether you live in France, or you’ve been here a couple of times and want to do something a little different, or you’re just too petrified of heights to go up Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower (same), there are loads of off-the-beaten-track attractions in Paris to go and see.
Here are 12 of my favourites.
Sainte Chapelle is a small chapel just a short walk away from Notre Dame. It’s much quieter than some of the bigger tourist destinations, and it’s stunning. There are stained glass windows wrapping around the whole top floor, and on a sunny day it’s breathtaking when the light filters through the glass. It’s free for people under-26 so it’s worth a visit if you’ve already been to Notre Dame.
8 Boulevard du Palais, 75001
If you’re staying in the south of Paris make sure you go to Parc Montsouris, it’s one of the most beautiful parks I’ve seen. It’s a good size, it looks like a damn meadow and there’s even a really cool abandoned railway on one side called the Petite Ceinture which is really pretty and slightly spooky. Worth a visit if you’re staying in the 14th arrondissement.
The Catacombes are underground ‘ossuaries’ which are filled with the skeletons of SIX MILLION people. This place is honestly the strangest and creepiest attraction I’ve ever been to. Almost all the way around the underground passages you’re surrounded by skulls, and I went by myself so I feared for my life the whole time… But it’s really fascinating, and definitely a unique experience.
1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014
Rue Crémieux is a little road near Gare de Lyon filled with really sweet candy-cane-coloured houses. There’s nothing to do here really aside from having a look around, but if you’ve got a spare afternoon and you’re near the area it’s a really nice spot to take some photos and enjoy the scenery.
Square des Batignolles
If you’re staying in the 17th arrondissement, Square des Batignolles is a really cute park with a gorgeous stream, loads of trees and beautiful flowers all over. It’s very small so if you’re on the other side of Paris it might not be worth the journey, but if you’re in the area it’s a gorgeous spot to stop off and have a picnic.
La Cordonnerie is just a tiny little bar, but it’s cozy, friendly, and in a great location so it’s perfect for if you’ve been out in the centre of Paris all day… And beers are €3. Cocktails are also really cheap (and pretty strong) so if you’re strapped for cash it’s a great spot.
28 Rue Greneta, 75002
Le Potager du Marais
As I’ve learnt, Paris can be pretty tough if you’re vegetarian or vegan, but Le Potager du Marais has loads of choice and it’s all delicious (and pretty reasonably priced as well). I had a vegan lasagne when I went and it was really good. The restaurant is also in a great area, so there’s loads of stuff to do – like the Centre Pompidou – before you eat.
24 Rue Rambuteau, 75003
59 Rivoli is an art collective in a former squat in the middle of Paris. Filled with about 30 artists’ studios, the building is amazing to walk around, because you can see so many different styles and works-in-progress all in the same place, and maybe even catch an artist at work. It’s also free to enter, so if you’re on a budget this is a great gallery to visit.
59 Rue de Rivoli, 75001
Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen are a gorgeous set of flea markets on the outskirts of Paris, and they’re filled with amazing finds, like records, vintage postcards and old discarded film rolls. I bought a set of camera negatives from 1934, which are amazing to look through. If you’re an antique nut or you really like history and old trinkets this flea market is definitely worth going to.
Berthillon does the best ice cream in Paris, no question. Try the ‘wild strawberry’ flavour and thank me later.
29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, 75004
If you’re looking to spend an evening somewhere or go for a drink, Belleville is a great place to go. It’s fairly cheap, has a fun atmosphere for bars and restaurants, and there’s loads of cool street art on most of the roads. Belleville Park also has one of the best views in Paris, and is worth a visit for the unique skyline alone.
It might seem a little morbid to walk around a cemetery as a tourist activity, but Montmartre Cemetery is filled with winding boulevards, gorgeous trees, and little rolling hills. It’s less busy than famous Père Lachaise so it’s a really peaceful place to walk around, and it’s on the way to Montmartre Village, so you can easily incorporate it into the rest of your visit.