From cozy shopping arcades to secret gardens, here’s my ultimate guide to the must-see hidden gems in Paris.
Paris boasts some of the world’s most iconic landmarks.
But if you really want to see a more local and authentic side of Paris, then add a few hidden gems to your itinerary.
Stroll through an artsy district lined with murals, have a luscious picnic on the Seine and sip an espresso at a centuries-old cafe.
Get off the beaten path and you’ll experience the charming Parisian haunts that most visitors never get to see.
And if you’re a first-time visitor, then combine your tours of famous landmarks with some of the city’s best-kept secrets.
You’ll get a more memorable trip that goes beyond the guidebooks.
And you’ll get a much-needed break from the Paris tourist crowds!
I always take an afternoon in Paris to wander the avenues and explore without a plan.
And I’ve uncovered some incredible gems along the way.
So here’s my ultimate guide to the best hidden gems that Paris has to offer – and some insider tips from some of my favorite travel writers:
1. Le Marais
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 minority groups throughout history. 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. The permanent collection inside includes Kandinsky, Chagall and Miro.
Dozens of other smaller museums and galleries dot the neighborhood’s cobblestone streets.
Le Marais is also known for its incredible shopping. Head to shops along Rue Vieille-du-Temple and Rue des Francs-Bourgeois for brand names and quirky vintage shops. The Village Saint-Paul-Le-Marais is filled with antiques from hundreds of independent dealers.
Insider’s tip: To discover Le Marais 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. Wind your way northwest and stop at the boutiques, museums and cafes that catch your eye.
If you’re a foodie, spend an afternoon in the Marché couvert des Enfants Rouges, the city’s oldest market. It’s brimming with fresh produce and local ambiance.
To explore Le Marais, take the metro to Hôtel de Ville, Rambuteau, Metro Republique or Bastille.
– contributed by Mary of Bucket List Places
2. Parc Monceau
Parc Monceau is a lush and quirky park filled with winding walkways, statues of famous French figures and scaled-down models of Egyptian pyramids and Dutch windmills.
It was designed to surprise and amaze visitors as both a natural and fantastical garden. Commissioned in 1779, Parc Monceau boasted a Roman colonnade, a water lily pond and other curiosities.
The park’s main entrance is a wrought-iron, gold-tipped gate near a stately rotunda. Enter here and wander the wide paths. Pass a pond decorated with columns, a carousel and statues of everyone from Chopin to Maupassant.
The garden’s English style sets it apart from the highly landscaped Jardin de Tuileries or Jardin de Luxembourg.
Nature at Parc Monceau grows wild and free.
The park has a fascinating history. It was the site of the first silk parachute jump in 1797. And it famously inspired Claude Monet, who painted a series of three paintings of the park.
Insider’s tip: Relax in the grass and watch the locals play frisbee. Parc Monceau is a great picnic spot so pick up some bread and cheese for a slow afternoon on your Paris itinerary.
Walk down the middle path towards the west entrance for a great view of the Arc de Triomphe via Avenue Van Dyke.
– contributed by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast
3. Montparnasse Tower
Montparnasse Tower is the tallest building in Paris and the city’s only skyscraper.
And that means spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysees and 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 built from 1969 and 1973 . It 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.
Insider’s tip: Have a drink or two at the rooftop bar next door – the highest one in Paris.
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 the best photo ops.
La Samaritaine is a stunning 19th-century Parisian icon that boasts more than 650 designer brands wrapped in a glorious Art Nouveau facade.
It 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.
Insider’s tip: 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 recently re-opened in the first arrondissement of Paris after extensive renovations. Hundreds of artisans worked on the building and used more than 16,000 gold leaves to restore the railings of the central stairway.
Listed as a historic monument, the original building offered quality goods with an innovative 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.
– contributed by Faith of XYU And Beyond
5. Bouillon Chartier
A Parisian meal by candlelight is one of the things travelers 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.
Insider’s tip: 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, 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
The Jardin du Palais Royal boasts a stately fountain, fragrant rose bushes and chestnut trees 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.
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.
Insider’s tip: The Jardine du Palais Royal is 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 artwork. 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.
Cardinal Richelieu once called the Palais Royal 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 theaters: the Comédie Française and the Beaujolais Theater.
– contributed by Sarah of CosmopoliClan
7. 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 spots you can 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 Recollets, 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 Hotel du Nord.
Insider’s tip: Nearby is the gorgeous Parc de la Villette where you’ll spot Parisians playing petanque.
And don’t forget your camera. This Paris hidden gem offers some incredible photo ops.
Passage des Panoramas is the city’s oldest covered walkway and boasts a charming mix of artisanal shops, classic eateries and old postage stamp collectors.
Spend an afternoon browsing its antique shops, bars, bookstores and knick-knack stores for a taste of classic Parisian charm.
First opened in 1800, Passage des Panoramas 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 also a warm refuge on a rainy day.
Insider’s tip: 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.
Passage des Panoramas is lined with boutiques, eateries and some iconic stamp and postcard shops that retain their old-world spirit. Craftsmen line the passage alongside fine dining and casual restaurants.
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 hosts public conferences, art exhibitions and concerts.
Insider’s tip: There’s a small cafe 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
16. Musée de Montmartre
The Musée de Montmartre chronicles the history of this famous bohemian district – and the lives of artist like Renoir who called this 17th-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 lived on the property, like 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 Valadon’s recreated atelier apartment for a look at her tumultuous life.
Valadon lived in the apartment with Utrillo and André Utter. And they became known as the “cursed trinity” because of their alcoholism and frequent quarrels.
Insider’s tip: 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 district off the beaten path.
– contributed by Kat of World Wide Honeymoon
17. The Catacombs
This ossuary right underneath Paris 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 make you wonder about the lives of the deceased.
The Catacombs cover a whopping 11,000 square metres. But 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.
Insider’s tip: 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.
The catacombs were built in the late 18th century to take some load off the cramped local cemeteries that were causing sanitary problems. The remains from the cemetery Les Innocents were moved to these abandoned stone quarries under the city.
The quarries were once outside of Paris. But as time went on the catacombs expanded.
The catacombs were opened to the public in 1809 and quickly became a popular tourist attraction for royals.
– contributed by Laura of Laura Wanders
18. The Panthéon
The Pantheon looks like it’s been dropped into Paris straight out of Rome.
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 also the first Black woman entombed here in recognition for her role in the French Resistance during WWII.
Insider’s tip: 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.
The Panthéon was originally built to be a church to Sainte Geneviève, the patroness saint of Paris. But 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.
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
19. Musée Picasso Paris
Musée Picasso Paris boasts the world’s richest public collection of Picasso 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 his numerous reinventions. 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.