paris things to do
Europe,  Travel

25 Must-see Paris Hidden Gems

Paris can be overwhelming with its iconic attractions and epic museums. Here’s an ultimate guide to Paris hidden gems and the less touristy side of the city.  

Paris draws in millions of tourists every year with its chic cafes and the Eiffel Tower synonymous with romance.

But it can easily get overwhelming. There are enough landmarks to fill up days of sightseeing, and tempting sidestreets with cozy restaurants.

Here’s my guide to travel slow and experience the city’s authentic, everyday life.

Must-see Paris hidden gems:

1. Le Marais

paris hidden gems

paris hidden gems

paris hidden gems

Many tourists flock to Montmartre to experience the artsy side of Paris. But Le Marais is where Parisians actually go for art, shopping and nightlife.

Le Marais has been a haven for many groups throughout history. Nobles in the 17th century built imposing mansions in this area. But after the French Revolution Le Marais became the city’s Jewish quarter. Today, enclaves of Paris’ Jewish, Chinese, and LGBTQ+ communities make their mark on its vibrant streets.

France’s biggest collection of modern art isn’t at the Musée d’Orsay, but at the Centre Pompidou in the heart of Le Marais. This stand-out building is easy to spot with colored tubing along its facade. Its entire structural and mechanical systems are exposed in what’s the first major example of an “inside-out” building. The permanent collection inside includes Kandinsky, Chagall and Miro.

Dozens of other smaller museums and galleries dot the neighborhood’s cobblestoned streets.

Le Marais is also known for its incredible shopping. Parisians head to shops along Rue Vieille-du-Temple and Rue des Francs-Bourgeois to find brand names alongside quirky vintage shops. The Village Saint-Paul-Le-Marais is filled with antiques from hundreds of independent dealers.

Foodies will want to spend an afternoon in the Marché couvert des Enfants Rouges, the city’s oldest market. It’s brimming with fresh produce and local atmosphere.

For easy access to Le Marais, take the metro to Hôtel de Ville, Rambuteau, Metro Republique or Bastille. To explore the area on foot, start at the Place de la Bastille and its splendid July Column. Then head to the nearby Place des Vosges – Paris’ oldest square and the perfect introduction to Le Marais. After some people-watching, wind your way northwest and stop at whichever boutique, museum, or cafe catches your eye.

– contributed by Mary of Bucket List Places 

2. Parc Monceau

paris hidden gems

Parc Monceau

Parc Monceau is a lush and quirky park filled with winding walkways, statues of famous French figures and scaled-down features including an Egyyptian pyramid and a Dutch windmill.

It was designed to surprise an amaze visitors as a natural garden that’s both natural and full of fantasy. Commissioned in 1779 by a cousin of King Louis XVI, Parc Monceau boasted a Roman collonnade, a water lilly pond, a tatar tent and other wonderous curiousities.

The park’s main entrance is a fancy wrought-iron, gold-tipped gate near a stately rotunda. Enter here and wander the wide paths, passing a pond decorated with columns, a carousel, and statues among the grass of everyone from Chopin to Maupassant.

The natural English-style of this garden sets it apart from the highly landscaped Jardin de Tuileries or Jardin de Luxembourg. Instead of trees planted symmetrically, nature at Parc Monceau grows where it will.

There’s lots of grass to relax and locals playing frisbee or enjoying a picnic. Parc Monceau is a fantastic picnic spot, so pick up some bread and cheese for a relaxing afternoon on your Paris itinerary.

Or walk down the middle path towards the west entrance for a great view of the Arc de Triomphe via Avenue Van Dyke.

The park also has a fascinating history. It was the site of the first silk parachute jump in 1797. It famously inspired Claude Monet, who painted a series of three paintings of the park. And it was the site of a massacre of Communards in 1871 after the crushing of the Paris Commune.

– contributed by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast 

3. Montparnasse Tower

Montparnasse Tower

Montparnasse Tower

Montparnasse Tower is the tallest building in Paris and the city’s only skyscraper – which means spectacular views of Paris.

You can see the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe and many other Parisian landmarks from the tower’s observation deck. And while many visitors flock to the Eiffel Tower to get a bird’s-eye view, remember that you can’t see the Eiffel Tower from there!

Montparnasse Tower was designed by architect Campenon Bernard between 1969 and 1973 and was France’s tallest skyscraper until 2011.

The building has 59 floors and the Observation Deck is on the terrace. There’s also an incredible restaurant called Le Ciel de Paris on the 56th floor.

Tickets to the observation deck are 18€ for adults. And they’re absolutely worth the price. The panoramic view you’ll get is jaw-dropping, and even better at sunset. Visit at golden hour for a photogenic sunset.

Finish with a drink or two at the rooftop bar next door – the highest one in Paris.

– contributed by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad

4. La Samaritaine

La Samaritaine

La Samaritaine

This stunning Parisian icon opened in 1870 as an apparel shop. Today La Samaritaine is a luxury department store that boasts more than 650 designer brands wrapped in a glorious Art Nouveau facade.

Listed as a historic monument, the original building offered quality goods with an innovative (for its time) service where clients could actually try on garments with clearly marked prices. With the slogan “One can find everything at Samaritaine,” it quickly became a shopper’s paradise.

Hundreds of artisans worked on the building including painters, sculptors, gilders and ironmongers. They used more than 16,000 gold leaves to restore the railings of the central stairway and carefully repaired the gorgeous tiling.

This stunning building has an undulating glass facade that shields its brilliant Art Deco details within a modern protective shell.

La Samaritaine now contains over 650 designer brands, a spa, and a private shopping experience called L’Appartement that cocoons you in luxury during a private consultation.

If you love fine food, there are 12 restaurants to tempt you with their Michelin-starred chefs whipping up fabulous lunches and dinners. You can enjoy some of Paris’s finest dishes and cocktails. There are caviar baguettes, wine and tapas, a gourmet coffee roaster, decadent pastries and innovative vegan and vegetarian dishes.

Take a guided tour of La Samaritaine to bring its fascinating history to life. There are also wonderful exhibits, pop-up experiences, exhibitions and designer events – check their website to plan your trip.

La Samaritaine has recently re-opened in the first arrondissement of Paris after extensive renovations. Paris once thought it had lost an icon, but the building was purchased in 2001 by LVMH and has been lovingly restored.

– contributed by Faith of XYU And Beyond 

5. Bouillon Chartier

paris hidden gems

paris hidden gems

paris hidden gems

A Parisian meal by candlelight is one of those things people dream about. Magret de canard or boeuf bourguignon. A red from Bordeaux. Everything loaded with lots of butter. Because that’s the French way – and it’s grand.

But restaurants in Paris can be eye-wateringly expensive, and they don’t often provide the value you’d expect.

Can you eat well in Paris outside of a fast casual bistro?

Enter Bouillon Chartier. This Paris hidden gem is everything you’d expect from French dining – tuxedoed waiters, fast-poured glasses of wine, gold-tinted decor and noisy yet refined conversation in a massive hall. But for strikingly reasonable prices.

Located in the 9th arrondissement (one of the best neighborhoods to stay in Paris), this restaurant first opened in 1896. They’ve since served more than 50 million meals.

Almost every main dish on the menu, from duck confit with apples to Alsatian choucroute, is less than 12 euros. With those prices you can easily add on an appetizer and dessert.

But there is a drawback – Bouillon Chartier is insanely popular. You’ll likely have to wait in line or share a table with a stranger. It’s one Paris restaurant where an early dinner is a good idea.

Bouillon Chartier has recently opened a second location in Montparnasse (top photo), adding Left Bank flavor to their enterprise. It’s a Parisian gem you’ll remember forever.

– contributed by Kate of Adventurous Kate

6. Jardin du Palais Royal

Jardin du Palais Royal

Jardin du Palais Royal

Jardin du Palais Royal

Jardin du Palais Royal

The Jardin du Palais Royal – with its stately fountain, fragrant rose bushes and chestnut trees – is just steps away from the popular Jardin des Tuileries. But it feels much more intimate – and it’s one of the most tranquil parks in the city.

Cardinal Richelieu once called it home and Sun King Louis XIV spent his early years at this palace. The palace is also the birthplace of Parisian comedy. It still houses two theatres: the Comédie Française and the Beaujolais Theater.

The Jardin du Palais Royal is framed by three splendid mosaic-tiled neoclassical galleries. These shopping passages still house some of Paris’ most exclusive boutiques. The upper levels consist of residences that come with front row seats to this wonderful garden.

The Jardine du Palais Royal is also a meeting place for locals. And it’s a great spot for a picnic in the heart of the bustling 1st arrondissement.

The south side of the park includes a series of courtyards with some interesting artworks. The Cour d’Orléans is home to two sphere-shaped fountains that reflect their elegant surroundings and bring life to the monumental complex. And the Cour d’Honneur is dotted with the iconic black and white columns by sculptor Daniel Buren.

– contributed by Sarah of CosmopoliClan

7. Canal Saint-Martin

Canal Saint Martin

Canal Saint Martin

The Canal Saint Martin enchants with beautiful locks, Venetian footbridges, green parks, chestnut trees and lovely spots to enjoy the water.

It’s a popular meeting place for locals for picnics along the banks. In some places, you can even rent a small boat and explore the landmarks along the water.

Walk along the canal and enjoy the scenery – or take a bottle of red wine and a nice lunch. There are also dozens of retro bistros and bars in this iconic neighborhood.

This 4.5-kilometer shipping canal was ordered by Napoleon I to supply the city with fresh water and help avoid diseases like cholera. Traffic dwindled in the 1960s and today it’s a popular route for cruises and passenger boats .

The most stunning stretch is between Rue Dieu and Rue des Récollets, and there are many eateries and bars along the water. There’s also the historic Hotel du Nord, which served as the location for the film Hôtel du Nord.

And don’t forget your camera – this Paris hidden gem offers some incredible photo opps. Nearby is the gorgeous Parc de la Villette where you’ll meet Parisians playing pétanque.

– contributed by Martina of PlacesofJuma

8. Cafe de Flore and Les Deux Magots

Cafe de Flore

Cafe de Flore

les deux magots

Cafe de Flore and Les Deux Magots are two gorgeous Parisian cafes that have a long history as hubs of famous writers, artists and intellectuals.

Both are in the St. Germain neighborhood and still boast a lively atmosphere and much of their original decor.

Cafe de Flore opened in the 1880s and is one of the oldest coffeehouses in Paris. It’s been frequented by famous writers, philosophers, actors and artists like Pablo Picasso and Eugene Ionesco. It keeps to its literary roots with the Prix de Flore, an annual literary prize that’s awarded at the cafe.

It takes its name from a statue of Flora, the goddess of flowers, across the street. And its facade is always overflowing with greenery. The interior is Art Deco style with red seating and plenty of mahogany and mirrors.

Les Deux Magots was once frequented by Pablo Picasso, Joyce, Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus. Even American cookbook author Julia Child was a patron.

Like its rival Cafe de Flore, it also awards an annual literary prize to a French novel.

“Magot” means a stocky, Far East figurine, and the cafe still has two wooden figurines inside – left over from the building’s bygone days as a fabric shop.

Both brasseries offer a full menu including breakfast and dinner. Stop by anytime to enjoy their vibrant, Parisian atmosphere.

– contributed by Keri of Bon Voyage With Kids

9. Passage des Panoramas

Passage des Panoramas

Passage des Panoramas is the city’s oldest covered walkway and still boasts a charming mix of artisanal shops, classic eateries and old postage stamp collectors.

First opened in 1800, it was innovative for its glazed roofing and gas lights. It attracted postcard and postage stamp merchants, and its vibrant atmosphere was described in Emile Zola’s novel Nana.

As a distant ancestor of the modern shopping mall, the Passage des Panoramas boasts a beautiful glass roof that’s an especially warm refuge on a rainy day.

It’s lined with boutiques, eateries and some iconic postage stamp and postcard shops that retain their old-world spirit. Craftsmen line the passage alongside fine dining and casual restaurants. A stroll, some shopping and dinner at one of its cozy restaurants is one of the best date ideas in Paris.

Don’t miss the Chocolatier Marquis and Stern printing house for a glimpse at the remaining 18th century architecture. The Théâtre des Variétés is still open and hosts a variety of concerts and plays.

The different shops and services inside the passage have lovely signage that makes it even more old-world and photogenic.

Spend an afternoon browsing its antique shops, bars, bookstores and knick-knack stores for a taste of classic Parisian charm.

– contributed by Dymphe of Dyma Abroad 

10. Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette

This gorgeous upmarket department store has an impressive stained glass dome and amazing rooftop views – and some incredible shopping.

Take the escalators all the way to the roof where you’ll be greeted with fantastic views of the surrounding areas and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

There’s also a bar up on the roof for some drinks and birds-eye people watching. It’s a fantastic spot to visit at sunset for photography.

Or experience the city of light in the evening when the neighbourhood lights up. The gorgeous rooftop is definitely one of the best free things to do in Paris.

The interior boasts the iconic glass an steel dome, illuminated arches and Art Nouveau staircases dating back to 1912. The 70,000 square metro flagship store boasts brands from haute couture to budget, and plenty of restaurants and cafes. There’s a weekly fashion show for visitors every Friday at 3 pm – buy tickets online before your visit.

Galeries Lafayette is also magical at Christmas, when a giant illuminated tree looms over the 6 floors of the department store.

– contributed by Noel of Travel Photo Discovery

11. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is an elevated park with an artificial lake, waterfall and incredible views of Montmartre.

It’s a welcome escape from the city crowds – and a beautiful spot for a picnic. It’s frequented by locals in the 19th arrondissement and well off the beaten tourist path.

The park is massive, lush and hilly, filled with wonders including waterfalls, caves, exotic trees and seagulls, moorhens and mallards.

The 25-hectere park was built on a quarry as one of Paris’ original green spaces. It was commissioned by Napoleon III and opened in 1867.

The Temple de la Sibylle is the park’s most iconic landmark, modeled after a famous ancient Roman temple in Italy. It’s perched on a cliff overlooking a lake.

There’s a suspension bridge over a lake designed by Gustave Eiffel, the famous designer of the Eiffel Tower. Another bridge, now fenced with mesh, is known as the “suicide bridge” after a series of suicides at the site.

There’s also an artificial grotto with a waterfall on the south side of the park made inside the old gypsum and limestone quarry. The grotto even includes man-made stalactites.

The top of the hill offers stunning views of Paris. You can admire the hill with the temple while you watch mallards swimming along the lake.

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is full of lounging Parisians on sunny days. It’s also popular with runners for its more intensive, hilly paths.

Whether you have one day in Paris or a few, a picnic here is always a delight.

– contributed by Kat of France Voyager 

12. Rue Rivoli 59

Rue Rivoli 59

Rue Rivoli 59

Rue Rivoli 59

Rue Rivoli 59 is a colourful art gallery known for its fantastically brightly painted building.

The gallery is inside an old bank building that was abandoned for 15 years until a group of Parisian artists occupied it in 1999 and transformed it into exhibits and workshops.
Though the city initially tried to kick out the artists, they eventually legalized the setup in 2006.

The art gallery had proven itself as one of Paris’ best contemporary art galleries, creating a unique space in a city known for its museums. The city of Paris eventually bought the old building for the artists to perform, create and exhibit. And of course to boost tourism.

The building has six floors connected by a spiral staircase. The entire building is filled with colourful paintings and murals around every corner.

You can see the resident artists at work during your visit.

The Rue Rivoli gallery is great for getting to know the artists, seeing exhibits and buying unique souvenirs or artwork. It’s also one of the most photogenic spots in Paris.

– contributed by Maartje of The Orange Backpack 

13. Promenade Plantée

Promenade Plantée

Promenade Plantée

The Promenade Plantée, or Coulée Verte René-Dumont as it’s also known, is an old elevated railway track that’s been transformed into a beautiful planted walkway.

If you think it sounds a bit like New York’s High Line, then you’re right. But the Coulée Verte is actually the original. It was inaugurated in 1993 – or 16 years before Manhattan’s famous linear park. It’s also nearly double the distance of its Big Apple counterpart at 4.5 kilometers.

The Promenade Plantée stretches from Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes park. The lush, leafy walkway cuts a green pathway through the city. It’s also very popular with joggers and worker en route to their offices. It’s a very different way to see the city.

The walkway gives you a fresh perspective of Paris – and a bird’s eye view of its boulevards and architecture. Being at eye level lets you see wonderful details that you’d otherwise miss at ground level. The views down Paris’ tree-lined avenues are magical.

The Promenade Plantée is open year round, but it’s most colorful in the spring and summer (Paris in springtime is perfect). Don’t let the colder seasons put you off though. The experience of walking through Paris from this vantage is unbeatable.

And with regular exits, you can walk the whole path or divide your strolls into sections. Don’t miss the artisanal shops built into the original archways at the start of the pathway.

– contributed by Hannah of Hannah Henderson Travel

14. College des Bernardins

College des Bernardins

College des Bernardins

Pancrat, CC BY-SA 3.0, Groume, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nestled in the heart of the Latin Quarter, the College des Bernardins is an architectural marvel and one of Paris’ oldest medieval buildings.

Built in 1248, it was founded as a part of the University of Paris to train Cistercian monks and students. The College des Bernardins became state property after the French Revolution and was later used as a jail, a warehouse, a fire station and a police school.

It was purchased in 2001 by the Diocese of Paris and restored to its original objectives: a meeting place for scholars, culture and religion. Nowadays, it’s a theological and biblical studies centre that hosts public conferences, art exhibitions and concerts.

After major renovations, the College des Bernardins opened for the first time to the general public in 2008.

It’s now a stunning spot to admire the sobriety of Cistercian architecture and its mesmerizing geometry. The site is quiet and inspires reflection. It feels like you’ve left the buzzing city behind – and it’s magical on a Paris rainy day.

There’s a small café in a glorious room that used to be the monks’ living area, classroom, kitchen and canteen. Wander around the old gothic sacristy and its majestic 11-meter roof and striking 70-metre nave.

There are one-hour guided tours daily at 4 pm (except Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays) around the large and small auditoriums and the medieval cellar – the biggest one in Paris.

– contributed by Eloise of My Favorite Escapes 

15. Musée de Montmartre

paris hidden gems

Musée de Montmartre

The Musée de Montmartre chronicles the history of this famously bohemian neighbourhood – and the lives of the artist (including Renoir) who called this 17-century building home.

The museum boasts a permanent collection on the history of Montmartre, from its days of mills and vineyards to its heyday of cafes, bohemian artists and cabarets. It’s also about the artists who’ve lived on the property, including Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo.

Immerse yourself in paintings, photos and posters that depict Montmartre’s artistic past, including works by Toulouse-Lautrec and the famous poster for Le Cabaret du Chat Noir.

Explore Suzanne Valadon’s recreated atelier apartment for a look at her tumultous life. Valadon lived in the apartment with fellow artists Maurice Utrillo and André Utter, and they became known as the “cursed trinity” because of their alcoholism and frequent quarrels.

Wander through the Renoir Gardens, named after the famous impressionist who once lived on site and painted several masterpieces at this apartment. Don’t miss the vineyard views and wildflowers.

And stop at Le Cafe Renoir for lunch before you explore the rest of Montmartre. The cafe offers a snack menu and gourmet products, all under a glass roof with views of the Jardins Renoir.

If you’re spending 4 days in Paris, the Musée de Montmartre is a great spot to explore this artistic neighbourhood off the beaten path.

– contributed by Kat of World Wide Honeymoon 

16. The Catacombs

paris hidden gems

catacombs of paris

This ossuary, located right under the Parisian boulevards, holds the remains of more than 6 million people – and makes for a very haunting experience.

The Catacombs of Paris are one of the most unusual places to visit in the city. They’re full of tunnels with carefully arranged bones that will really make you wonder about the lives of all those people.

The Catacombs cover a whopping 11,000 square metres and only a section of them is open to visitors. They may not be for everyone. But they’ll teach you about Parisian history and make you think about life and death.

The catacombs were built in the late 18th century to take some load off the cramped local cemeteries that were causing sanitary and health problems for locals. The remains from the cemetery Les Innocents were moved to these abandoned stone quarries under the city.

At the time, these quarries were outside of Paris. But as time went on (and more cemeteries were emptied) the catacombs grew and expanded.

The catacombs were opened to the public in 1809 and quickly became a popular tourist attraction amongst the royalty.

Today anyone can visit these fascinating ossuaries – though it’s recommended to buy a ticket in advance. Also note that touching the ossuaries or using a camera flash is prohibited.

– contributed by Laura of Laura Wanders 

17. The Panthéon

paris hidden gems

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is in the Latin Quarter, but it looks like it’s been dropped into Paris straight from Rome.

The Panthéon was originally built to be a church to Sainte Geneviève, the patroness saint of Paris. But the Panthéon’s purpose changed after the French Revolution and it now serves to honor those who’ve made significant contributions to France.

The Panthéon’s grand entrance is graced by imposing columns and frescoes. Its interior is finely decorated from the patterned floors up to the paintings within the lofty cupola and domes.

The paintings and statuary are a blend of religious scenes and depictions of important events in French history.

Many notable Frenchmen (and women) are honored with tombs in the crypts: Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Emile Zola, René Descartes and Voltaire, to name a few. Josephine Baker was the first Black woman entombed here in recognition for her role in the French Resistance during WWII.

And you’ll be surprised to find Foucault’s pendulum inside. The brainchild of French physicist Léon Foucault, this pendulum is a heavy weight suspended from the ceiling on a long steel wire. The back-and-forth movement of the pendulum slowly inscribes a circle over the course of 32 hours (due to the relative motion of the Earth). It’s an early scientific demonstration of the Earth’s rotation.

Visit the Panthéon from April through September and climb to the top of the dome for a birds-eye view of Paris.

Entry to the Panthéon is included with the Paris Museum Pass. There are several other famous Paris attractions within walking distance.

– contributed by Lisa of Waves and Cobblestones

18. Musée Picasso Paris

paris hidden gems

Musée Picasso Paris 

Wasily, CC BY-SA 4.0, Daniel Lobo, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Musée Picasso Paris boasts the world’s richest public collection of the enigmatic Spanish artist – all housed inside a splendid 17th century mansion.

The museum offers a more intimate experience than many of the capital’s renowned art meccas. It showcases the breadth of Picasso’s work and the numerous times he reinvented himself. It houses more than 5,000 works – from his first drawings to those made just before his death.

From Young Ladies at Avignon to large Cubist paintings like Man With Guitar and Mandolin, the museum shows how this genius developed over time.

Picasso had different artistic periods including the Blue Period, Cubism and Surrealism. The collection represents all these aesthetics through his paintings, ceramics, engravings and more.

Picasso’s personal art collection is also on display, including Renoir, Cézanne, Degas and a selection of his beloved African art.

Finish your visit with cocktails, tapas and live music at the museum cafe. And check the museum’s website for special events.

When you’re visiting one of the most beautiful cities in France, don’t miss this Parisian hidden gem.

– contributed by Jenifer of The Evolista 

19. Place Dalida

paris hidden gems

Place Dalida

Place Dalida is an offbeat Montmartre destination that pays tribute to the iconic French singer with a (literally) much-loved statue in a leafy square.

The square’s bronze bust of Dalida holds some interesting local lore. There are some juicy tidbits you can learn from the locals. Some say that touching the statue of the iconic singer will bring you good luck. Others say the statue is more golden across the breasts because tourists are always touching those parts. Stay in the square long enough and you’ll see tourists snapping photos and touching the statue’s chest.

Dalida, born in Egypt to Italian parents, is well loved for her heartfelt ballads and catchy pop music. Her melodic ballad Helwa ya baladi is Egypt’s unofficial anthem.

Dalida lead a rocky, tragic life that ended in her suicide days after her last concert. But her passionate music is still loved worldwide. She gained success in several different genres, and holds the world record for the song with the most weeks at the top of the charts.

Stroll around the square an admire the beautiful homes an leafy trees of Montmartre, the neighbourhood Dalida loved and called home.

Or pay your respects to Dalida at the nearby Montmartre Cemetery, where she’s buried alongside Edgar Degas, Nijinsky and Emile Zola.

Combine Place Dalida with one of the many amazing attractions in Paris for an afternoon of sightseeing off the beaten path.

– contributed by Loredana of Earth’s Attractions

20. Rue Saint-Dominique

paris hidden gems

Rue Saint-Dominique

Rue Saint-Dominique is a great street to get shots of the Eiffel Tower from a distance – without the city and tourist crowds.

This lesser known street is full of Parisian charm, cozy cafes, shopping and specialty stores. It’s easily one to the prettiest streets in Paris – even if it’s attracting more and more fashion bloggers.

Rue Saint-Dominique is nestled in the 7th arrondissement with two very adorable – and photogenic – cafes. Le Recrutement Cafe and Brasserie Au Canon des Invalides not only has great coffee, but some delicious dishes too. Don’t miss that classic French photo with the red and white cafe awning and the Eiffel Tower looming in the background.

The street got its present name in 1643 after a Dominican monastery was set up towards the street’s eastern end.

Rue Saint-Dominique is also great for shopping. Many chic French brands have their boutiques here, including Berenice, The Kooples, Claudie Pierlot, Comptoir des Cotonnieres, Des Petits Hautes, and Gerard Darel. Take some time to browse for some unique souvenirs and French fashion.

And pick up a coffee and baguette from one of the street’s numerous cafes. Le Moulin de la Vierg is a great one for a true Parisian experience.

– contributed by Jackie of Jou Jou Travels

21. La Maison Rose

paris hidden gems

This Instagram-famous restaurant has a long history as a gathering place for Montmartre’s artists and intellectuals. And it’s one of the most photographed facades in the city.

Painter Ramon Pichot bought this little house in 1905 and later painted the walls a rosy pink. He soon turned it into an affordable canteen that attracted his circle of artistic friends.

In its heyday in the 1960s and 70s, clients included Albert Camus, Picasso and Dalida. La Maison Rose is also famously depicted in a painting by Maurice Utrillo.

La Maison Rose is nestled in a narrow cobblestone street near the Sacre Coeur. It recalls the time when Montmatre was just a hilltop village full of windmills and vineyards.

The menu is based on seasonal and local products, and offers a mix of French farm-to-table and Italian in a cozy atmosphere. It gets crowded, so reservations are recommended.

22. Au Lapin Agile

Au Lapin Agile

Au Lapin Agile is the city’s oldest bar-cabaret, and a Montmartre icon since 1860.

Shows at the Lapin Agile include old-time French drinking songs, Edith Piaf melodies, poetry and songs where the audience sings along in the cozy, packed little bar.

The Lapin Agile was once popular with Montmartre’s eccentrics, anarchists and students from the Latin Quarter.

Today the cabaret maintains its down-to-earth, unpolished and artsy atmosphere with shows that feature poets and songs as old as the fifteenth century.

In its heyday, the Lapin Agile drew in artists like Modigliani, Apollinaire and Utrillo. It was once called the Cabaret des Assassins and featured portraits of famous murderers on its walls. Legend says it gained notoriety when gangsters killed the owner’s son during an attempted robbery.

Picasso famously painted a scene at the Lapin Agile that’s become an icon of life in Bohemian Paris. The painting depicts Picasso himself, dressed as a Harlequin sitting at the bar he frequented in his youth.

Make reservations online to secure your place – and bring cash only. Drinks are served but food is not.

23. Rue de l’Abreuvoir

Rue de l’Abreuvoir

Rue de l’Abreuvoir is a quiet cobblestone street lined with picturesque homes and old-time Montmartre charm.

Known as one of the prettiest streets in Paris, Rue de l’Abreuvoir dates back to the 12th century. It includes the famous La Maison Rose, a picturesque restaurant once frequented by Picasso and Utrillo. And it ends at Place Dalida, where you’ll find a bronze bust of the French music icon.

This picturesque (and very photogenic) street is filled with charming 1930s homes. It recalls a time when Montmartre was just a village full of orchards and windmills.

24. The Sinking House

Sinking House

The Sinking House near the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre is a great optical illusion that photographers love to shoot.

The house beyond a green hill looks like it’s sinking if you tilt your camera to the left and straighten out the horizonal line.

Though it is tricky to find. When you’re walking up the steps to the Sacre Coeur, look to the right towards the bank of grass. The orange house is just beyond that hill.

25. La Petite Ceinture

La Petite Ceinture

La Petite Ceinture is an abandoned railway line that once circled the city and has now become an eerily overgrown, graffitied paradise for urban explorers.

The 19th century railway line was build under Napoleon III and designed by Baron Haussmann. It once carried passengers on a steam train. But it fell into decline after Paris built its metro – and it was finally abandoned in 1934.

La Petite Ceinture now includes developed stretches open to the public with communal gardens and playgrounds. It’s popular with bicyclists and joggers.

But there are also rougher patches overgrown with lush vines and dark tunnels with plenty of rats, foxes and other wildlife. Some 200 species of flora and fauna now call these tracks home, and it all comes alive in spring with colorful wildflowers.

La Petite Ceinture draws in nature lovers, hipsters and those seeking some quiet in the city.

A few former stations have now become bars and restaurants. Favorites include the Poinçon in the 14th arrondissement and the Brasserie Auteuil in the 16th arrondissement.

There are access points from the 12th to 20th arrondissements. But pack a powerful flashlight before you go – and don’t wander alone.

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60 Comments

  • kagould17

    Excellent post. We were in Paris for 2 1/2 days this past May. It was our 4th trip and while we did some things again, we did a lot of new things. Walking to the top of L’Arc de Triomphe is a highlight for us. Watching the traffic chaos below is like watching waves or a fireplace. We went on line our last morning to see if we could get on a tour of Palais Garnier and were rewarded with the last 2 tickets for the English speaking tour. We walked and walked and did not go into many of the tourist stops. Instead of the Louvre, we went to Musee d’Orsay. We were staying in the Marais this time and we need to go back to wander this area some more.

    • Dee

      Thank you! I’ve heard such great things about the Marais, and it sounds like a beautiful neighbourhood to wander around.. There’s always so much to see in Paris, no matter how many times you go! The Louvre definitely needs a full day on its own.

  • Photo Richard Canada

    Love your Paris post Dee. I have been there numerous times and there is always something new to see and/or photograph . . . or some same things in a different light and time of day. Looking forward to reading more!

  • 1944april

    Thank you – you brought back all my memories of Paris, I think we must have had the same inner guide :- ) at least when we did it only rained once, but even in the rain, particularly in Paris there is magic.

  • Sita

    Loved your post on Paris… The Montmartre area, with the beautiful Sacre Couer is a lovely place to stroll around & people watch while sipping coffee in one of the roadside cafes. Another area I love walking around is Saint Germain & nearby St. Sulpice. Loads of lovely cafes and patisseries, with the Jardin du Luxembourg just round the corner.

    • Dee

      Thank you, Sita! It’s a beautiful city, and the cafe life in all of those neighborhoods is wonderful to experience too and really makes you feel like you’re part of everyday Paris life.

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