6 Hidden Gems In Paris

By Katie Lundstrom .

Paris is the sort of travel destination that most of us will daydream of visiting at some point in our lives. Chances are if you’ve got a trip planned here you’ve already covered the big must-sees like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, but what about those little secret spots hidden down cobbled streets your guidebook will never tell you about? Those magical jazz clubs, nestled in an alley lost to time. The truth is; there is an entire underbelly of secret Paris attractions that most will never even hear about! And with so many of these hidden gems in Paris just waiting to be uncovered, how can a mere visitor ever hope to find them? With the help of a local, bien sûr. During your stay in Paris – especially if you’re here for a return visit! – you’ll undoubtedly want to see the best of Paris off the beaten path and experience the city like a local. So here’s a guide to a few non-touristy things to do in Paris for a perfectly authentic visit to an offbeat Paris!

Take in live music at Le Piano Vache

If a quiet night of intimate conversation in what you’re after, then look elsewhere, because this portion of undiscovered Paris is anything but quiet! This venue on 8 Rue Laplace might be cozy, but it’s abuzz with an energetic atmosphere that will have you tapping your toes the minute you cross the threshold. They are open Monday to Saturday from 6pm to 2am. Not far from La Sorbonne – making it popular among students – is a place that truly embodies the spirit of jazz, with the promise of a reasonably priced pint and bone jingling gypsy jazz. Rodolphe Raffalli leads the band most Mondays and Wednesdays (check their Facebook page for upcoming events) with music that will transport you back to the Paris of the 1930s. Keep an eye out for announcements of the ever-festive happy hour (usually between 5 and 10pm) and be sure not to miss this one for a truly authentic French experience that is nothing short of magical.

Grab a picnic at Rosa Bonheur

You can’t miss the sign that spells out Rosa Bonheur’s name with a flourish; delicate blossom pink by day, and an enticing neon by night, with the leafy overhang and twinkling lights of Paris this spot is what little girl dreams are made of. Le Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the north-east of Paris, is a favorite for enjoying the summer weather in Paris. It is open all year round and is close to the Buttes Chaumont, Laumière and Botzaris metros. There is also Rosa Bonheur, located on the eastern side of the park near the Botzaris metro stop, will take your picnic game to the next level. Grab a bottle of wine at a Franprix on your way (I always find that any chilled orange-tinged rosé is best in the heat, and I’ve never been disappointed by a bottom shelf Cotes du Rhône), and then pick up the top-notch tapas-style picnic supplies they’ve got for sale at the back of the Rosa Bonheur restaurant – a real Paris hidden gem of a restaurant. Then wander the park ‘til you’ve found your spot, slurp your wine, and wander some more. Alternatively, stay tucked between the flurry of pink and enjoy one of the many exciting events thrown by this Parisian gem – one of the many cool things to do in Paris at night!

Get a scrub down at La Grande Mosquée de Paris

This stunning mosque is worth seeing whether you’re up for a gommage (exfoliation) or not – but I’d highly recommend it, as would half the ladies in Paris. As you walk in off the corner, just across from the Natural History Museum and the Jardin des Plantes, the open courtyard features a fraction of the beautiful architecture and mosaics that the building holds. So while you could merely sit at a table with a tea and appreciate the beauty of the mosque from here, it’s best experienced from within – in the hammam. It costs 18 euros for an entry into one of my favorites among the hidden gems in Paris – the steam rooms – but the package including a massage and gommage is the way to go! The women there will treat you with a firm, but caring touch, and you’ll emerge feeling like a brand new person, ready to tackle the other secret places in Paris with an au natural glow!

Walk along La Promenade Plantée

Similar to New York City’s High Line, the Promenade Plantée is an elevated walkway flanked by gardens with decorative ponds, trellises and sculptures. What used to just be an abandoned 19th century viaduct was converted in 1993, and it’s become a welcome and peaceful green respite from the busyness of the city streets – as well as the chance to sneak a peek into the secret lives of the Parisians below! Accessible by stairway or elevator, the path starts near Bastille and traverses three miles to the Bois de Vincennes – a large park just outside the périphérique (the highway that goes all the way around Paris’ city limits) to the east.

Sample French (and Belgian) beers at La Fine Mousse

If you’ve had your fill of wine and cheese and are simply lusting after a good old pint, consider your prayers answered by La Fine Mousse. While Paris isn’t known for its beer, there are certainly some excellent connoisseurs in the city, and La Fine Mousse houses the best of the best. With 20 different beers on tap at any given time, the bartenders are always excited to nerd out about beers from all over the world, and recommend libations for a wide variety of palates. Their restaurant across the street pairs the beers with specialized multi-course menus that change regularly, and if you’re willing to splurge a little, it’s certainly worth the visit.

Spend an evening along the canal

Ditch the tourist crowds with this Parisian summer secret. In the warmer months, when outdoor space in the city becomes extremely valuable real-estate, you might find yourself in dire need of a respite from the overheated crowds. Although having wine along the Seine is always a lovely summer treat, the canal up in the 10th Arrondissement, one of the many hidden things to do in Paris, takes you a little further away from the bustle of the city center and promises a fairly tourist-free outdoor break. Lined with authentic French shops, cafés and bars, the canal has a slightly more hip vibe on summer evenings than the city’s main waterway, and it becomes a lively meeting spot for an apéro en pleine air.

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