As you probably already know, Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world and there’s a good reason for that. The City of Light is home to some of the most famous tourist attractions on the planet, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, etc. However, Paris has a lot more to offer than the attractions everyone talks about. In fact, Paris has an entire world beyond the iconic landmarks that are mentioned in most tourist guides. So, if you’re looking to get away from the crowds and find some non-touristy things to do in Paris, this post will inspire you to get off the beaten track.
Useful resources for visiting Paris
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Shopping at Pyrénées Market
We’re starting off this list of non-touristy things to do in Paris with Pyrénées Market. If you happen to be in Paris on a Sunday or Thursday, you may want to stop by at Rue des Pyrénnées where you’ll find one of the best markets for organic fruits and vegetables in Paris. If you’re planning to have a picnic in Paris, this is the perfect place to buy your ingredients from and if you happen to be a fan of dark tourism and visiting cemeteries, you can combine your trip to the market with a visit to the famous Père Lachaise cemetery.
Exploring Marche D’Aligre
Speaking of non-touristy things to do in Paris, we have to mention Marche D’Aligre, one of the oldest markets in Paris and one of the best places in town to try some tasty, authentic local food. The market consists of several sections with the biggest one being the farmer market where you can find fresh fruits and vegetables. There’s also a section where you can buy fresh cheese, fish, baguettes, and grab some tasty local snacks, and last but not least, there’s also a very interesting flea market within Marche D’Aligre where you can get some quirky and cheap souvenirs. If you intend to visit, note that the market is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30 AM to 1 PM.
The best way to discover Marche D’Aligre is by taking a tour guided by a local. I took this tour named The Highlights of Marche D’Aligre and I just can’t recommend it enough!
Visiting some not-so-popular museums
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Orangerie, Centre Pompidou, and the other famous museums Paris has to offer but this list of non-touristy things to do in Paris wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t share a few not-so-popular and yet awesome alternatives.
Visiting Musee du Quai Branly
If you enjoy visiting museums and have already visited some of Paris’ most famous ones or just want to get away from the crowds, I’m sure you’ll love Musee du Quai Branly. The museum is located near the Eiffel Tower and it hosts a rich collection of art and artifacts from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. The goal of the museum is to showcase artwork and historic artifacts that originate outside of Europe and the Western Hemisphere because in general, people don’t know a lot about these cultures.
Looking for counterfeits at Musée de la Contrefaçon
The Museum of Counterfeit Goods is a tiny museum located in the 16th arrondissement and perhaps one of the quirkiest museums in Paris. The museum was established by the French Manufacturers Association (Unifab) and it traces the path of counterfeit goods in France, from its origin and production to sale counters and everything in between. The museum displays both, original and fake products just to show how similar some counterfeits are.
Unofficially, this trade accounts for billions of euros every year despite the hefty fines against counterfeiters and people who knowingly buy fake goods. Whatever the case, one thing is for sure- you’ll be surprised by the kind of things people try to pass as original. The list ranges from harmless things like fake ketchup (yes, you read that right) to fake drugs, car parts, weapons, etc.
Visiting the oldest science museum in France- Musée des Arts et Métiers
This museum has a somewhat misleading name- when I first heard about it, I thought that this is just one of the many art museums in Paris. This might be a reason why many people (even the ones who hear about it) decide to skip it but let me tell you, if you don’t visit Musée des Arts et Métiers you’ll be missing out.
Dating back to 1794, this is the oldest science museum in France and it has been protecting and storing scientific instruments since its opening until today. The museum is also an industrial training center filled with telescopes, robots, and furnaces but one of the biggest surprises is perhaps a vintage old aircraft hanging from the ceiling of what was once a catholic church. I have to say, not the things I expected to see when I first heard about this museum…
Musée Carnavalet is one of my favorite hidden gems in Paris. Similar to other museums mentioned on this list, most visitors bypass this museum when visiting Paris. You won’t find too many mentions of it online and you probably won’t see it in many tourist guides but this is perhaps the best place in the capital to learn about the rich history of the city. The only issue is that not all of the exhibits have an explanation in English (even the museum’s website is only in French) but if you are already at least somewhat familiar with Paris’ history, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Browsing for antiques at Musée des Arts Forains
Musée des Arts Forains is one of my favorite hidden treasures of Paris. The museum boasts an incredible collection of antique French fairground items, including statues, carousels, rides, games, tents, masks, and much more. The only thing that might stop you from visiting are the open hours; unfortunately, this museum is open only 2-3 weeks per year, so if you would like to visit, make sure to check the open day dates on their website before your trip.
Getting the chills at Musée des Vampires
When it comes to alternative, non-touristy things to do in Paris, we have to mention the Vampire Museum. Located a stone’s throw away from Pere Lachaise Cemetery, this is one of the quirkiest, yet most fascinating museums in Paris. The museum was founded by Jacques Sirgent, a dark folklore specialist who devoted most of his life to collecting and translating data on demonology, witchcraft, and vampiric rituals. Inside the museum, you’ll find medieval vampire killing kits, ancient shrines, antique texts, mummified cats, and plenty of other oddities.
If this sounds interesting and you would like to visit, note that the museum isn’t open to the public and you can only visit if you have an appointment. The cool thing about visiting this museum is that your guide will be Jacque (the founder) himself and there’s no one that knows more about these things than him.
Update: the museum might be temporarily closed because of the pandemic, so make sure to check if it has re-opened before you plan anything.
Exploring Le Marais
Le Marais was once upon a time the biggest Jewish neighborhood of Paris but today, it’s a melting pot of Jewish, Chinese, and LGBT cultures. The neighborhood is famous for being home to a myriad of unique restaurants and famous cafes, hip boutiques, designer hotels, fabulous art galleries, several interesting museums, and it also happens to be the hub of the capital’s gay community. Le Marais is located on the Righ Bank which means there are also plenty of areas where you can walk along the river and see some of the most beautiful views of the Seine.
If you want to truly experience Le Marais and learn as much as possible about this neighborhood, I warmly recommend this walking tour of the area. The guides are locals that stay nearby and know everything about Le Marais.
Searching for street art in Belleville
Being one of the most modern capital cities in Europe, Paris has a thriving street art scene. In fact, to show just how serious the city is about this art form, the Paris City Hall frequently allocates a lot of money to paying famous street artists for creating beautiful street murals around the city. Some of the most famous street art neighborhoods in Paris are Montmartre, the Latin Quarter, and the area around Centre Pompidou but these also happen to be some of the most touristy neighborhoods in the city.
If you’re a fan of street art and are looking for some non-touristy things to do in Paris, you should definitely check out Belleville. Located in the eastern part of Paris, Belleville used to be a working-class neighborhood, and even today, it’s an area with a lot of affordable accommodation options but it also happens to be one of the main street art hubs in the capital.
If you’re a fan of street art, I think you also might like this half-day tour that covers the best of street art in Paris.
Enjoying the Paris Skyline from an unexpected place
No, I don’t intend to advertise Galeries Lafayette and I’m not mentioning it here in the context of shopping there. I’m referring to their department store in the ninth arrondissement where (from the store’s rooftop) you can get one of the most amazing sunset views of Paris of the Eiffel Tower. So, if you like finding great photo spots that not a lot of people know about, you should definitely add this place to your list.
See La Petite Ceinture
La Petite Ceinture (also known as the Little Belt) was one of the oldest train lines in Paris that was built with the goal to provide a 32 km-long railway that encircles Paris. However, after the 1930s, the railway went into a complete decline after the introduction of the new, improved metro system. Today, the tracks of the train line still aren’t removed but have been reclaimed by nature. Isolated and unseen from street level, the old train line has become a haven for wildflowers, bushes, and even a handful of forest animals.
A part of the train line was turned into a park back in 2013 and visitors can follow a planned walking route but for some reason, the park never really sparked an interest among visitors. If you like visiting abandoned, old sites that were forgotten by everyone, visiting La Petite Ceinture is one of the best non-touristy things to do in Paris.
Taking a walk along Marchés aux Puces instead of Champs Elysées
The Champs Elysées is one of the most iconic streets in Paris but honestly, I can’t help but feel it has lost some of its original appeal throughout the years. So, if you’re a traveler that likes getting off the beaten track and avoiding the big crowds, you might even say that visiting Champ Elysées is one of the most overrated experiences in Paris. Fortunately, there are still some places in Paris where you can find fabulous streets with countless stylish shopping opportunities.
One such example is Marchés aux Puces. Because of its rugged old-fashioned setting, visiting this street often feels like diving into a history book. Many people also wrongly associate this place with a flea market but that couldn’t be further away from the truth. This street consists of fourteen sub-markets filled with authentic vintage products like chandeliers, vintage Louis Vuitton products, fascinating artifacts, mid-century vintage chairs, and many other things for one’s home (or things that make neat souvenirs too). It’s one of the most authentic non-touristy things to do in Paris and personally, it’s a place I keep coming back to every time I visit Paris.
Visiting Quai d’Austerlitz instead of Île Saint-Louis
Don’t get me wrong, Île Saint-Louis is one of the most beautiful places in Paris but more often than not, it gets too crowded. Its scenic terraces, picturesque riverbanks, authentic specialty shops, and stunning sunset views of Notre Dame attract thousands of visitors every day but this small islet can take only a limited number of people. If you’re looking for a similar experience without the crowds, Quai d’Austerlitz is one of the best non-touristy things to do in Paris.
Quai d’Austerlitz is located in the eastern part of the Left Bank, close to the 13th arrondissement, and is one of the rare places in Paris that most tourists never see. Quai d’Austerlitz is home to Art Lique, one of the most underrated museums in Paris dedicated to animated arts, one of the most futuristic buildings in Paris that also happens to be home to the Institut Francais de la Mode (a fashion design university), and a handful of former péniches that were turned into bars.
From what I could see, this is one of the most popular places to hang out and unwind among Parisians living around the Left Bank but as I said before, there aren’t many tourists around.
Discovering Canal St. Martin
Taking a Seine cruise is one of the first things people think about doing when visiting Paris and there’s a good reason for that. Taking a river cruise along the Seine allows visitors to see most of Paris’ iconic landmarks because most of them are located in near proximity to the river. However, if you’re looking for a different and slightly less touristy experience on the water, I warmly recommend cruising Canal St. Martin.
Canal cruising in France can be a very exciting adventure and the canal of St. Martin is a prime example of this. The speedboat tour of St. Martin starts from either Port de l’Arsenal or Bassin de la Villette (depending on your location), it takes roughly 2-3 hours and it passes under some of the city’s most picturesque bridges, the Bastille vault, Parc de la Villette, and Place de la République, before briefly passing through Canal de L‘Ourcq and Canal Saint-Denis. This journey will show you another beautiful side of Paris that most tourists, unfortunately, don’t get to see…
Go to Parc Astérix instead of Disney Paris
I have to admit, theme parks are not really my thing but if you’re a fan of theme parks, you may appreciate this recommendation. Obviously, the Disney Park near Paris is one of the world’s most famous theme parks but Paris actually has another theme park many tourists don’t know about and that’s mainly visited by locals. That theme park is Parc Astérix, located north of Paris.
This park is based on the comic book series, The Adventures of Asterix that takes place in a Gallic village under Roman occupation somewhere around 50 B.C. based. Sure, this park isn’t even close to Disney Park; it’s smaller, less famous, less glamorous, and has fewer rides but some of them are even more entertaining than Disney Park and after all, the theme park is based on a French comic and you are visiting the capital of France…
Note: if you want to visit, it might be a good idea to pre-book your ticket. You can do that by using this link and get up to 10% off.
Exploring the lesser-known gardens of Paris
Paris is famous for its beautiful parks and gardens and these are the perfect places to visit for solo travelers. Even if you didn’t visit Paris, you probably heard about some of the city’s most famous gardens, such as Jardins du Trocadero, Jardin du Luxembourg, and Jardin du Palais Royal, but fortunately, there are still a few hidden gems that aren’t under constant tourist siege. A few of my favorite examples include Jardin des Plantes (that actually dates back to 1626 and is home to a Natural History Museum and a botanical school), Jardin des Serres d’auteli (a small tropical garden not far from the city center), the Aborterium de Paris, and the Medieval Garden of the Cluny Museum.
Stay in an old bookshop converted into a luxury suite
Last but not least, we round up this list of non-touristy things to do in Paris with an interesting accommodation suggestion. Paris Boutik is a marvelous luxury hotel suite that used to be a bookstore. The old bookstore (or should I say, the concept of it) is still present in the cozy interior of this boutique hotel. If you’re traveling with your loved one, this is one of the best places to stay in Paris. Last but not least, its location is great; it’s located in the heart of Le Marais, one of the hippest neighborhoods in Paris.
Did you ever visit Paris? How did you like our list of non-touristy things to do in Paris? Do you think we didn’t mention some other places/things to do that deserve to be mentioned? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!
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