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 your guidebook will never tell you about? 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 is 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 6 pm to 2 am. It 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 10 pm) 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
Photo credit: Timeout.fr
You can’t miss the sign that spells out Rosa Bonheur’s name with a flourish; blossom pink by day, and an enticing neon by night. Rosa Bonheur is located on the eastern side of the Le Parc des Buttes Chaumont park near the Botzaris metro stop. For the perfect picnic in the park, grab a bottle of wine at a Franprix (I always find that any chilled orange-tinged rosé is best in the heat). Pick up some top-notch tapas-style picnic supplies from the Rosa Bonheur, it's a real hidden gem. Wander the park until you’ve found your spot, sip your wine, and wander some more. Alternatively, stay tucked between the flurry of pink and enjoy one of the exciting events thrown by this Parisian gem. It's also 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 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
Photo credit: La Fine Mousse Facebook
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 break 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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