Although Paris is one of Europe’s most visited cities by train, you will always find a secret Paris waiting to be discovered if you look hard enough.
The French capital’s roll-call of famous landmarks is staggering, with iconic sights like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre seducing sightseers to their historic and cultural charms. However, there are plenty more things to see and do in Paris than just ticking the boxes of its most famous monuments. Take time to explore the city’s grands boulevards and hidden corners with some of our top tips on things to do in Paris.
A labyrinth of cobblestone alleys, this once aristocratic neighbourhood is the trendy, beating heart of the city, where vintage shops sit alongside hidden courtyards, Kosher bakeries, galleries, cafes and LGBTQ+ bars. Marvel at the inside-out architecture of the Centre Pompidou; take time out to sit in the beautiful Places des Vosges gardens; and peruse priceless art at the Musée National Picasso-Paris. Le Marais is also home to the old Jewish Quarter, centred around Rue des Rosiers, where you can find Paris’ best falafel at L’As du Fallafel.
Île de la Cité
An island in the middle of the Seine, Île de la Cité’s most famous landmark is Notre Dame. Although the Cathedral’s reconstruction is still underway after the fire of 2019, there are plenty of other historic delights to see on this iconic island. Visit medieval Sainte-Chapelle, once part of Palais de la Cité, Paris’ first royal Palace, to see stained glass windows and French Gothic architecture. At the tip of the island is Square du Vert Galant, where you can enjoy an ice cream from neighbouring Berthillon, the luxury tearoom that is the city’s grande dame de glaces.
Paris has more than 130 museums to choose from. While Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Orangerie and the Paris Science Museum pull in the crowds, there are plenty of lesser-known museums to explore. Head to Musée Pasteur to learn about France’s most famous scientist or the Grande Galerie de l'Évolution housing more than 7,000 preserved specimens, including a dodo menagerie. Feel the flair of French romance at Musée de la Vie Romantique at the foot of Montmartre, or Musée Rodin with its manicured sculpture garden. For one of the most unusual museums in Paris, venture into Musée des Vampires, the world’s only vampire museum where mummified cats, vampire slayer kits and other creepy curiosities are on display.
While the Eiffel Tower offers panoramic views of the city, there are plenty of other spots proffering equally good views and without the hefty price. Montmartre and the steps of the Sacré Coeur basilica are at the highest point in the city. For an equally free and fantastic viewing point, visit Parc de Belleville, a secret corner of Paris’ 20th arrondissement. The top of Paris’ Printemps department store has a viewing platform on its upper level and, although not free, Montparnasse Tower is considered to have the very best views of anywhere in the city.
While the Champs Elysées is the city’s most renowned shopping street, it’s by no means the only place to go. Some of the city’s hippest boutiques are found in the Marais district or along Boulevard Saint Germain, while haute couture fashionistas head to Rue de Rivoli and the Triangle D’Or around Avenue Montaigne, Ave George V and Rue Francois 1er. Bargain hunters flock to Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen by Porte de Clignancourt, the world’s largest second-hand market.
Parks and gardens
Paris is home to some of Europe’s prettiest parks and gardens, and with more than 480 of them to choose from, you can enjoy la vie en vert in its many great, green spaces. Jardin des Tuileries is the city’s biggest and oldest, its manicured lawns offering views of Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe. Jardin des Plantes is France’s most famous botanical garden and it is also right by the Grande Mosquée de Paris, whose architecture, gardens and Salon de thé are all highlights.
For a quieter walk, visit one of Paris’ newest gardens like Parc Citroen, the only green space in Paris that opens directly onto the River Seine, or Jardin Anne Frank, a hidden gem in the Marais with a pond and trellised seats. Jardin de l'Hotel de Sully is also a peaceful corner not to miss in one Paris’ many hidden courtyards, tucked away in the Marais.
You might also enjoy reading our blogs on day trips from Paris, travelling with Eurostar, changing trains in Paris, travelling from Paris by train and top 10 cities in France to visit by train.
Image credits top to bottom: Rue des Rosiers, Le Marais Flickr Commons (cropped) ©Guilhem Vellut, Pont des Arts iStock ©sleg, Rodin's Le Penseur Flickr Commons (cropped) ©Fredrik Rubensson, Sacré Coeur in Montmartre iStock ©TomasSereda, Jardin des Tuileries Flick Commons (cropped) ©Carlos ZGZ
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