One of the best things about Paris is that there’s always something new to discover, and it’s usually in the most unexpected of places… From following in the footsteps of a legendary alchemist to wandering around an abandoned railway commission by Napoleon, here are all of the very best offbeat Paris destinations! On this list of 57 unusual Parisian attractions, you’ll find the quirky, the weird and the downright bizarre:
#1 Follow in the footsteps of Nicolas Flamel
Yes, Nicolas was a real person. And he lived in Paris! Two roads in the city centre (Rue Nicolas Flamel and Rue Pernelle) are named for the infamous alchemist and his wife. At 51 Rue Montmorency, you’ll also find Flamel’s old house, which is often thought to be the oldest stone house in the city.
#2 Enjoy the view from Galeries Lafayette rooftop terrace
One of the best panoramic views of the city can be found on the rooftop of the shopping centre, Galeries Lafayette. For, on the free to visit top floor of the department store, which is one of the oldest shopping establishments in Paris, you’ll find an outdoor terrace with 360-degree views over the city.
Read more: Galeries Lafayette rooftop terrace
#3 Wander through the Park of Buttes Chaumont
The magical park of Buttes Chaumont is located in the 19e arrondissement and is far less popular than the likes of Jardin des Tuileries. Of all the non touristy things to do in Paris, this beautiful green space is easily one of the best options!
And with views over towards the Sacré-Coeur, a grotto, a waterfall and even a miniature temple (modelled on the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy), I have no idea why Buttes Chaumont isn’t more popular! Head here for one of the best picnic spots in the city and to escape the crowds of Paris, if only for a few hours.
Read more: Best picnic spots in Paris.
#4 Explore the shelves of Shakespeare and Company
The oldest English speaking bookstores in Paris are located along the left bank. Shakespeare and Co are two independent bookstores sitting side by side. One is a vintage bookshop, while the other sells modern classics. Next door, you’ll also find a cute little café run by the bookshops. Upstairs in the larger of the two stores, you’ll find a lovely antique library complete with little reading nooks where you could easily spend hours…
Read more: the best English language bookshops in Paris
#5 Explore the shelves of the Abbey Bookshop
Nearby to Shakespeare and Co, you’ll find the equally interesting shelves of the Abbey Bookshop. Tucked away on Rue Parcheminerie (behind one of the prettiest churches in Paris), the Abbey Bookshop is bursting with books to the point where they’re quite literally spilling out of the store, and onto the Parisian pavement. The Canadian founder of the store is super friendly and there’s always freshly brewed coffee to drink as you peruse the quirky shop floor.
Read more: The Abbey Bookshop in Paris
#6 Shop for vintage goods at L’Objet Qui Parle
Located near the base of Montmartre, you’ll find the quirky store of L’Objet Qui Parle (literally ‘the Talking Object’). The shop is well worth a look around if only to try and determine exactly what the vintage store is actually selling. After all, inside the shop, you’ll find everything from antique chandeliers to worn parchment…
#7 Enjoy a picnic along the Seine
There are few things more enjoyable in Paris than grabbing a few friends, heading to a local supermarket to pick up some Parisian picnic essentials and searching for a picnic spot along the Seine (I highly recommend finding a spot with a view of Notre Dame).
So what are you waiting for? Pick up some French cheese, French wine, a whole load of baguettes (you always need more than you think- trust me!) and head to the banks of the Seine. Though a picnic is best enjoyed in the summer months, late spring and early fall also offer the perfect opportunity to soak up the last (or first) of the year’s warmth.
Read more: How to prepapre a Parisian picnic!
#8 Explore the Amélie filming locations in Paris
Magical and whimsical, there are few films set in Paris that are better than that of Amélie. Retrace the heroine of the film’s steps through one of the prettiest arrondissements in Paris, Montmartre. See everything from the café where Amélie works, to the steps where she sets a treasure hunt for the man she loves.
Read more: Amélie filming locations in Paris.
#9 Sip on Mulled wine at the Paris Christmas Markets
Throughout Europe, you’ll find some great Christmas markets. And Paris is no exception. Head to the city of lights around Christmas time to go shopping at some of the cutest French Christmas markets France has to offer (and drink some of the best-mulled wine you’ll find anywhere!).
Some of my favourite Christmas markets in the city include that of Jardin aux Tuileries, as well as that of Montmartre. It’s also worth noting that if you’re looking to enjoy some ‘vin chaud’ as it is so-called in French, you can enjoy the local speciality at many a café and many supermarkets sell pre-spiced wine.
Read more: Best Christmas markets in Paris.
#10 Explore the Da Vinci filming locations in Paris
Of all the non touristy things to do in Paris, scouting out filming locations is a must for any movie buff. Much of Dan Brown’s thriller, the Da Vinci Code is set in Paris. Today, you can wander around the city and see much of the French inspiration for the novel. Interesting historic sites in both the book and the film include the church of Saint Sulpice and the Pyramid of the Louvre.
Read more: Da Vinci filming locations in Paris.
#11 Shop for vintage and quirky souvenirs at the Parisian Bouquinistes
The tradition of the Parisian bouquinistes dates all the way back to the 16th century and is now regulated by law… Not to mention that the bouquinistes themselves are classed as a UNESCO world heritage site! These little stalls along the Seine are quirky and easily one of the best offbeat Paris destinations.
Head here to see antiquarian maps, vintage books and many more ancient artefacts. Who knows: you may even pick up a vintage souvenir or two! Plus, if you’re looking for a particularly unusual souvenir or gift from Paris, then this is the place to head to!
#12 Visit Butte Bergeyre (Paris’ most secret micro-arrondissement)
There are very few entryways to Butte Bergeryre so perhaps that accounts for why it is so quiet as you wander along its little, cobbled lanes and passageways. In this most secretive micro-arrondissement, that even many of the locals don’t even know about, you’ll find one of the best offbeat Paris destinations, a secret vineyard. Surrounding it, you’ll also find some wonderful architecture dating back to the 1920s and plenty of quiet space.
Read more: Butte Bergeyre.
#13 Get lost in Cité Florale
Pretty and ivy-clad, Cité Florale is a micro-arrondissement located in the 13e arrondissement of Paris. Head here to see some cute houses, unusual Parisian architecture and to generally escape the crowds of Paris- if only for a few hours!
Read more: Cité Florale.
#14 Wander down the prettiest road in Paris: Square de Montsouris
Rather confusingly, this ‘square’ is actually a fairly long street, meandering its way through the 14e arrondissement. Located very close to a park of the same name, Parc Montsouris, Square de Montsouris is filled with art deco architecture and artist’s ateliers with big, wide windows. Wander down this street and you’ll find a cobbled lane wedged between detached houses dating back to the 1920s and 1930s.
Read more: My secret Paris locations, Square de Montsouris.
#15 Participate in some urbex along the Petite Ceinture
‘Urbex’ (literally ‘urban exploration’) is becoming ever popular among Parisian residents. And one of the prime places to go? The Petite Ceinture. Paris’ secret railway remains a genuine secret and hidden gem even amongst Parisian locals.
The Petite Ceinture (little belt) loops its way around the city and was once used to transport heavy goods around Paris during the era of Napoleon. In the mid-1900s, and with the arrival of the métro, it was eventually replaced. However, many of the tracks remain in place, rusting and left to the elements.
Read more: How to visit the Petite Ceinture legally.
#16 Watch a vintage film in the Latin Quarter
There are plenty of old-school cinemas dotted around Paris, and many of them are focused on the Latin Quarter and Le Marais areas of the city. Head to one of the many cinemas in these districts to see a vintage film. Date night is sorted! While in the Latin Quarter, be sure to also check out the impossibly beautiful (and ever so French) architecture of Sorbonne IV.
Read more: Latin Quarter district guide
#17 Visit the modern part of the city, La Défense
Hop on the métro and head to La Defense if you want to see a side of the city that few tourists ever venture to. From here, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of the city, as well as some great locations for modern architectural photographs.
#18 Take a day trip to Auvers-Sur-Oise, final resting Place of Vincent Van Gogh
Auvers-Sur-Oise is a small town located to the Northwest of Paris. Here, you’ll find the final resting place of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo, an Absinthe Museum and a huge fairytale-like Château. Follow in the footsteps of the great painter himself by wandering the countryside Van Gogh called home and seeing the Inn where he died in 1890.
Read more: Auvers-Sur-Oise day trip from Paris.
#19 Visit the Arènes de Lutèce
Although much of Roman Paris is hidden to us (plenty of Ancient Paris is buried under centuries worth of the two millennia since the Roman period), there are still glimpses of it to be found now and then. One such place where you can find Roman Paris is in the Latin Quarter at Arènes de Lutèce. This Gallo-Roman arena was once an amphitheatre which could seat up to 17,000 people. Today, it is a public park and a popular place to play football.
Read more: In search of Roman Paris (Lutetita)
#20 Visit Musée de la Vie Romantique
This beautiful house museum in the 9e arrondissement lies to the base of Montmartre. Situated in the neighbourhood of ‘New Athens’, the museum was once home to Ary Scheffer and is filled with priceless furniture and paintings. Translated as ‘the Museum of Romantic Life’ in English, it’s easily one of the most romantic spots in the city.
Read more: Feeling nostalgic at Musée de la Vie Romantique.
#21 Marvel at some of the best street art in Paris in the metro!
Some of the best street art in Paris can be found in the most unusual of places: on the metro. Throughout the network, many stations are decorated in various styles and covered in quirky works of art. Some of my personal favourites include Arts et Metiers (a steampunk style bronze covered station) and Palais Royal (the entrance of which is covered in Murano glass imported from Italy).
Read more: Most unusual metro stations in Paris.
#22 See Le Clos Montmartre, one of Paris’ last remaining vineyards
Once upon a time (okay, only a few centuries ago!) much of Montmartre was covered in pasture and farmland. Among all of this greenery, there were plenty of vineyards to be found. Today, only one of the Montmartre vineyards survives and it’s located behind Musée de Montmartre.
The area surrounding Clos Montmartre is peaceful and well worth a visit, if only because you want to escape the crowds that flock to the Sacré-Coeur! Best seen in September when the vineyard is open to the public for the annual grape harvest, during the rest of the year the clos can be spied through the metal grills surrounding it.
Read more: Clos Montmartre, the vineyard of Montmartre
#23 See Napoleon’s final resting place at Les Invalides
Les Invalides, also known as Hôtel National des Invalides, comprises of a large series of buildings, every single one of which performs a different function. Originally built to house wounded army veterans (something Les Invalides still does), the complex also now houses an Army Museum, Contemporary History Museum and the final resting place of Napoleon.
Read more: Les Invalides.
#24 Relax outside Hôtel de Sens
This former city palace now houses the Forney Art Library. The gardens to the back of the library are pretty, manicured and a great place to relax. While you’re there, make sure you try and see the cannonball lodged in the upper wall- it dates all the way back to the French Revolution!
Read more: My secret Paris locations, Hôtel de Sens.
#25 Wander along Canal Saint Martin
Chic, hip and trendy, Canal Saint Martin is situated in the 10e arrondissement of the city. Stroll along either side and you’ll find plenty of coffee shops, quirky bars and independent eateries. In the day time, it’s the perfect place to chill out with friends and enjoy a picnic, while in the evening it’s where everyone comes to drink wine and enjoy their evenings.
Read more: Canal Saint Martin neighbourhood guide
#26 Enjoy brunch at Café Oberkampf, one of the 11e arrondissement’s best coffee shops
The new coffee revolution has arrived in Paris. And with it, come a new array of hip coffee shops, many with great coffee and all worth a visit. One of the best coffee shops in the city has to be Café Oberkampf. While there, make sure to try the house specialty: Shakshuka!
Read more: Café Oberkampf, the best brunch spot in Paris.
#27 Sunbathe at Paris Plages
Each summer, during the month of August, beaches are set up at various points around the city. Here, you can sunbathe, enjoy an ice cream and forget that you’re in the very heart of Paris. One of the most famous of the beaches is set up on the banks of the Seine each year, within sight of Notre Dame Cathedral!
Read more: Paris Plages.
#28 Ride on the Dodo Manège, Paris’ quirkiest carousel
Located in the gardens of Jardin des Plantes and lying in the shadow of the French Natural History Museum, you’ll find a carousel dedicated to extinct species, one of which is the Dodo. In the spring months, the Jardin des Plantes also happens to be the perfect place to spot some of the best cherry blossom trees the city has to offer.
#29 Visit the Jardin des Tuileries Funfair!
Each year, for the duration of summer, a funfair is held in a corner of Jardin des Tuileries. There’s a candy floss stand, a Ferris wheel and many more rides to enjoy. Highlights of the funfair include a swinging chair which gives great views of the Eiffel Tower, as well as a churros stand which serves delicious treats.
Read more: Jardin des Tuileries funfair!
#30 Dive into Paris’ underbelly at the Paris Sewer Museum
Yes, you can really head into Paris’ underbelly, enter the Paris Sewer Museum, and learn all about the city’s waste! This is easily one of the strangest museums in the city, not to mention that it’s probably the weirdest of offbeat Paris destinations on this list! Head here to learn all about sanitation in the city, and how the government copes with waste from an ever-growing population.
Read more: A visit to the Paris Sewer Museum.
#31 Play hide and seek with the Sacré-Coeur
As the Sacré-Coeur is situated at the top of Montmartre Hill, it’s one of the highest points in Paris and can be seen from all over the city. Have fun with your photography and play hide and seek with the Sacré-Coeur while wandering the streets of Paris.
Read more: Unusual places to see the Sacré-Coeur.
#32 Head to the Paris Pet Cemetery
The oldest pet cemetery in the world is located to the North of Paris, a little way out of the city centre. Founded in 1899, it’s the final resting place of many dogs, cats, horses, sheep, chickens, and even a monkey. Built at the end of the 19th-century, it’s the oldest pet cemetery in the world.
Read more: Visiting the Paris pet cemetery.
#33 Play hide and seek with the Eiffel Tower
No matter where you head to in Paris, chances are you’ll find that you can spot the Eiffel Tower. As a result, one of my favourite free things to do in Paris is to play hide and seek with the Eiffel Tower and attempt to capture it from various different angles.
Read more: Unusual places to spot the Eiffel Tower.
#34 See the sinking house of Montmartre
If you’ve spent any time on Instagram searching for Montmartre photos during the past few years, then no doubt you’ve seen the sinking house of the. 18th arrondissement. No, this house isn’t really sinking! Instead, it’s actually a really clever optical illusion. And you can see it from the steps leading up to the Sacré-Coeur.
Read more: Here’s where to find the sinking house in Paris!
#35 Visit the Eglise St Serge (Church of Saint Serge)
One day, we stumbled upon this pretty wooden church quite by accident. L’église Saint-Serge de l’Institut is just minutes away from the magical park of Buttes Chaumont and located a short walk up a little-unmarked alleyway.
Nearby, you’ll also find the Saint-Serge Institute. Founded in 1925, the institute is the oldest orthodox theology establishment in Western Europe and is a centre for higher education. Head here to see a side of Paris that most could never even imagine seeing…
#36 Take a day trip to see the cherry blossoms at Sceaux
Located near the end of the RER line B, approximately half an hour from the centre of Paris, you’ll find the delightful town of Sceaux. It’s easily one of the best day trips from Paris as there’s a town to discover, fairytale château to visit and endless woodland to explore. Come springtime, there’s even a cherry blossom orchard to visit (and take photos of!)
Read more: Sceaux in Spring!
#37 Learn why all roads lead to Rome at Paris Point Zero
There’s a little plaque in the Parvis de Notre Dame that dictates much of Parisian daily life (and indeed much of the rest of France). For, it is from this point that all distances in France are measured! Head to Notre Dame to search for this little piece of engraved stone and learn more about the fascinating history of ‘why all roads lead to Rome’.
Read more: Paris Point Zero and why all roads lead to Rome!
#38 Enjoy a drink at Café de Flore
Established in the 1800s, Café de Flore is one of the oldest- and undoubtedly one of the most luxurious coffee shops in Paris. Located in the ever so chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés district of Paris, wander in at any given moment and you’ll be greeted with excellent service and a mouth-watering wine list.
Read more: The Café de Flore Experience.
#39 Explore the interior (and exterior) of Saint Sulpice
This ancient and mysterious church is located at the corner of Jardin des Tuileries. Built between 1646 and 1870, this Roman Catholic place of worship is well worth a visit, if only to see the grand façade and hauntingly beautiful crumbling interior.
Read more: Da Vinci filming locations in Paris
#40 Be confused and amazed by the candy-like columns of Colonnes de Buren
This wacky artwork is free to visit and located pretty close to the Louvre. Situated in the Palais Royal, this installation has been controversial from when it was first built in the mid-1980s. The candy-like columns amaze thousands of people on a daily basis and are perfect for capturing a selfie on Instagram!
Read more: Colonnes de Buren.
#41 Enjoy sunrise at Trocadéro
Free to see and with few tourists milling about, sunrise at Trocadéro is a magical sight that every visitor to Paris must experience at least once! Head to the Troacdéro metro station (located on lines 6 and 9) for sunrise and follow the signs to the Eiffel Tower. I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed by the view that greets you when you exit the métro!
Read more: The one thing you MUST do in Paris!
#42 Seek out the oldest house in Paris
For the longest time, it was believed that No. 3 Rue Volta was well the oldest house in Paris. However, recently scholars have proven this not to be the case and Nicolas Flamel’s house is probably the oldest! That being said, the timber-framed architecture and sloping roofs have entertained tourists and locals alike for Centuries, and is well worth a look- even if it’s probably not the oldest house in the city!
Read more: In search of the oldest house in Paris.
#43 Go up in a hot air balloon at Parc André Citröen
Yes, this park is named after André Citroën, founder of the famous French car manufacturer. The green space of this park is filled with a beautiful blend of floral gardens meets modern architecture and is situated on the site of a former Citroën factory.
In the middle of the park, you’ll find a hot air balloon which you can go up (for a fee). The balloon offers some of the best views of the city and is open during most of the year! You can find plenty more information on going up the Ballon Generali on the tourist office’s website.
#44 Visit Musée Montmartre
Located along a cobbled lane in the very heart of Montmartre, you’ll find Musée de Montmartre. This former house was once home to the likes of Renoir and dates all the way back to the 17th Century, making it one of the oldest houses in the arrondissement.
Today, the museum has been restored to look like an artist’s house of the 19th Century, giving us an idea of what it must have been for all the great artists of the 1800s.
Read more: Feeling vintage at Musée de Montmartre.
#45 See a courtyard paved with gravestones
Located in the heart of where you’d least expect (and next to one of the cutest cafés in all of Paris, Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole), you’ll find a courtyard paved with repurposed gravestones. This rather macabre site is the result of repurposing grave markers which were removed when a nearby church was demolished during the Haussmannian reforms of Parisian architecture.
Read more: Gravestone Courtyard in Paris.
#46 Glimpse medieval Paris at Cloître des Billettes
Ancient and inviting, at Cloître des Billettes you’ll find one of the last traces of medieval ecclesiastical architecture there is to be found in the city. Located on the Rue des Archives at number 24, in the very heart of the prestigious Le Marais district of the city, you’ll find cloisters dating all the way back to the 15th-century. Head here for some history and amazing architecture.
#47 Wander along Place Dalida
Of all the offbeat Paris destinations on this list, Place Dalida may well be my favourite. With views over the Sacré Coeur, and plenty of ivy-clad houses, it’s a photographer’s dream and feels a little like stepping back into the Montmartre of yesteryear.
Read more: Place Dalida.
#48 Admire the oldest public clock in Paris
Located in a location where thousands pass on a daily basis, you’ll find the oldest public clock in Paris. Though it may look golden and shining, the clock has actually been here since 1370 when it was built by a German engineer. Today, the clock sits on the side of the Conciergerie and is the only remaining part of the Palais de la Cité.
Read more: In search of the oldest public clock in Paris.
#49 Visit a former squat turned artist atelier
Rue de Rivoli boasts some of Paris’ most exclusive addresses. But one of them has been transformed into an artist’s atelier in the very heart of the city. Head to 59 Rue de Rivoli to see up and coming artists, as well as one of the most unusual uses for a Haussmann building you’re ever likely to see. Visiting the atelier is free to visit and the building is open to the public most days of the week.
Read more: An artist’s atelier in the heart of Paris.
#50 Go shopping at Merci Concept Store
This adorable little fiat marks the entrance to one of Paris’ quirkiest concept stores, Merci. Also the word for ‘thank you’ in French, Merci boasts a huge range of clothing and homeware, as well as multiple cute cafés you can eat in.
Read more: Merci Concept Store.
#51 Rent a boat at Bois de Boulogne
One of the most romantic things to do in Paris is to rent a boat on Bois de Boulogne (one of Paris’ largest public parks) and go rowing for an afternoon. Pack a picnic, get lost in nature and admire the Eiffel Tower from afar.
Read more: Bois de Boulogne Boat Rental.
#52 Drink wine from a baby bottle at Le Refuge des Fondus
Of course, no trip to Paris, or indeed France, would be complete without trying at least a little of the local cuisine. After all, you can’t get more French than eating cheese and drinking wine! Head to Le Refuge des Fondus at the base of Montmartre for an authentic and offbeat French dining experience you won’t forget anytime soon.
There are only two options on the menu: meat or cheese. And you quite literally drink your wine (again, only two options: red or white) from baby bottles. Perfection. Address: 17 Rue des Trois Frères, 75018 Paris, France.
#53 Enjoy a Matcha Latté at Café Kitsuné
One of the only places in Paris where you can pick up a matcha latté is located in the heart of Palais Royal (which was once home to Cardinal Richelieu- yep, that guy from the Three Musketeers!). Head to the garden to check out the covered walkways, wonderful fountains and quirky little boutiques. Although the main palace is now closed off, the gardens are free to visit and open to the public.
Read more: Café Kitsune.
#54 Learn about Heloise and Abelard at Père Lachaise
Père Lachaise cemetery is the final resting place of many famous people, include Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. It’s also the final part of an enduring medieval love story and the ending chapter of a love affair that spanned generations. Head to Père Lachaise to wander the streets of the city of the dead (all the roads in the cemetery have their own street signs) and see where Heloïse and Abelard were laid to rest.
#55 See Voltaire’s remains at the Paris Panthèon
One of the greatest honours a French citizen can be bestowed is to be interred in the Paris Panthèon. Located in the Latin Quarter of the city, not far from the Sorbonne University, this great building was once a church dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Saint Genevieve.
Today, it is the final resting place of Marie Curie, Voltaire and many other Famous French men and women. Nearby, the largely forgotten church of St Etienne du Mont contains the relics of St Genevieve and is well worth visiting on any visit to the Pantheon.
Read more: Paris Panthèon, feminism & Voltaire
#56 Hang out in Parc Monceau
In the 8e arrondissement of the city, you’ll find Marc Monceau. Pretty and filled with follies and greenery, it’s the perfect place to hang out, relax and read a book. Head here for some peace and quiet and to escape the crowds of the rest of Paris. Nearby, you’ll also find the Paris Pagoda.
#57 Enjoy some bread at the Paris Bread Festival!
In May each year, a bread festival is held in Paris on the Parvis de Notre Dame. Also known as the ‘Fête du Pain’ in French, here you can see all manner of bread related products. From the baguette to the pretzel, you can find it all here.
Read more: Bread festival in Paris.
#58 Go in search of Harry Potter inspiration
Many people don’t know this, but JK Rowling actually spent a year abroad in Paris while studying for her degree in Classics at the University of Exeter in Devon, England. As such, plenty of magical and wizarding inspiration can be found across the city, if only you know where to look…
Read more: Harry Potter inspiration in Paris
#59 Visit the oldest umbrella repair shop in Paris
Down a little narrow and winding lane in the heart of Le Marais, you’ll find it. The oldest umbrella repair shop in the city. In operation for close to fifty years, the niche store can be found midway along what is often thought of as the oldest passage in Paris, Passage de l’Ancre.
#60 See inside the oldest hospital in Paris
Lying in the shadow of the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral (which also happens to be one of those must-see Parisian top tourist destinations), one of the most unusual things to do in Paris can be found in the form of the oldest hospital in the city. And what you may well not know is that you can see the interior of Hôtel Dieu is free to the public and is open to enjoy during daylight hours throughout the week.
Read more: Secret spots in Ile de la Cité