You’ve climbed up the Eiffel Tower, taken a boat down the Seine and been to the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. What next? What are the hidden gems in Paris that you need to see? And how do you avoid the tourist crowds?
Paris is a city worth visiting again and again. It’s a city I fell in love with as a student, a city I fall back in love with every time I revisit – whether I’m taking my kids for their first trip or sneaking away for a child-free break.
But I don’t see the same Paris every time I go. In a big city, there’s always something new to discover and I’m constantly looking for hidden gems in Paris as well as returning to old favourites.
I’ve asked travel writers based in Paris and people who know Paris well to come up with their favourite off-the-beaten-track places in the city and I’ve written about some of our favourites too. This is the result, a guide to 25 of the best hidden gems in Paris, from unusual bars and restaurants to quirky museums, leafy city walks and arty hotels.
Table of Contents
Paris à la Marie Antoinette
by Scarlett, Diary of a Londoness
She never actually said “let them eat cake,” but Marie Antoinette did love her sweet things. Just as the Portuguese Queen, Catherine de Braganza, introduced tea to English society, so did Marie Antoinette introduce a Viennese crescent-shaped pastry to France of which she was particularly fond: le croissant! Croissants are now referred to as viennoiseries in France, or Viennese breads. For a slice of confectionary wonder from the city’s oldest pastry shop (and popular with the royal famille), head over to Stohrer.
Le Procope is the city’s oldest café and was once the local hangout for the who’s who of literary and Revolutionary Paris. It’s now one of the chicest restaurants in town, and between courses you can peek at Marie Antoinette’s final letter, sent to her sister-in-law just hours before her execution.
Houbigant is the oldest perfume house in the world, established in 1775 and still going strong. Marie Antoinette loved her Houbigant scents. Legend has it that it was her expensive scent that gave her away to the rebels when she was caught in Varennes. She even carried three phials of Houbigant perfume in her corsage to the guillotine.
If you want to finish with a rococo flourish, book yourself a ticket to the annual Grand Masked Ball of Versailles. Hakim Ghorab choreographs a night to remember in the château’s Orangerie gardens with all the feathery fanfare you would expect of a royal court. Just remember, Marie Antoinette might be watching, so don your best satin gown, powder up your wig and dance the baroque night away in her honour.
Scarlett grew up in Paris and goes back regularly. Don’t miss her blog, Diary of a Londoness for all the best cultural events in London.
La Coulée Verte
Long before New York’s High Line there was the Coulée verte or Promenade Plantée in Paris, a three-mile walkway along the elevated disused train tracks from Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes. Start the walk at the Bastille end by climbing up one of the staircases on avenue Daumesnil and be sure to stop off at the Jardin de Reuilly for a drink from the first sparkling water fountain in Paris.
It’s a lovely walk, surrounded by trees and plants, and one of the best hidden gems in Paris, as you won’t find the tourist crowds here. You’ll go through tunnels and over bridges before you get to the leafy Bois de Vincennes at the end of the line. Film buffs will recognise it from Before Sunset with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.
Sunday dinners with Jim Haynes
Jim Haynes has been hosting weekly dinners for a group of strangers at his Paris studio in Montparnasse for over 40 years. His Sunday evening soirées are a great way of meeting people from all walks of life. Jim, now in his mid 80s, is a really interesting character. An American writer and producer of award-winning theatrical shows, he was one of the founders of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has been involved in experimental art and the underground cultural scene for decades.
For a contribution of around €30, you’ll be given a three-course meal (usually good, comfort food like a stew, with salad and a dessert), pitchers of wine and soft drinks. There are always lots of people so be prepared to stand. Guest spill out into the courtyard on warm evenings in the summer.
Jim’s soirées takes place every Sunday, from 8 until 11pm. Go to his website to add your name to the next guest list.
Street Art Walking Tour of the 13th arrondissement
by Erin, Oregon Girl Around the World
Learn a little French language of the streets along a street art walking tour of the lesser-known 13th arrondissement. Start in the charming and artsy Butte-aux-Cailles neighbourhood, a hilltop Parisian village on the Left Bank. From here you’ll wander with Street Art Paris for a few hours and see some inspiring examples of the varied and unique kinds of public art in France. See how street graffiti differs from large scale commissioned murals with a knowledgeable expert in the field. With examples across a broad range of mediums from spray cans to paste-ups to 3-dimensional sculpture, you’ll explore how artists in Paris entertain, enlighten and enrage the local scene. Are you already familiar with street art? Then maybe you’ll find some of your favourites from around the world, like Invader, Seth Globepainter and Shepard Fairey. Bring your walking shoes and plan for a two to three-hour tour.
Street art tours take place every Sunday at 1pm. Start at the Wallace Fountain, Butte-aux-Cailles, Place de la Commune de Paris. Tickets, €20 or book online for €5 discount. To find out more, read Erin’s post, Take a Walking Tour of Street Art in Paris.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
These magical gardens in the north east of Paris are well off the tourist track and one of our latest hidden gems in Paris – it was such a joy discovering them on our last trip. It’s a romantic spot, with 61 acres of lawns, pathways, waterfalls and grottos, with a lake and a Roman temple perched on top of a cliff, from where there are great views over the city.
Come for picnics in the summer and stay until sunset, for early evening drinks and tapas at the Rosa Bonheur bar.
Hôtel La Louisiane
If you long to experience the artistic atmosphere of the Left Bank in the 1940s and 1950s then you need to book a room at the Hôtel La Louisiane.
This is the hotel where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir lived while they were writing some of their most important works. Lucian Freud painted his famous self-portrait with his wife in one of the bedrooms and jazz musicians like Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker stayed here in the 1950s and 1960s.
The rooms are very simple but you don’t come for the fancy room or the service. You come for the great location in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the history. You come because you want to follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Brigitte Bardot and the Rolling Stones.
Hôtel La Louisiane is at 60, rue de Seine. Double rooms cost from €102.
Musée Gustave Moreau
by Laura, What’s Hot?
Musée Gustave Moreau is the former home of symbolist artist, Gustave Moreau. This magnificent property in the 9th arrondissement has now been turned into a museum dedicated to the painter’s works. You may not have heard of him before but his works were hugely influential in the 20th century and he even counted Henri Matisse as his student!
This is one of the best museums in Paris to visit when you’ve exhausted all the larger, tourist-ridden museums of Paris. It’s a gorgeous space that is absolutely stuffed with pieces of art and there’s barely any wall visible. It’s an incredibly ornate property and each room is filled with 19th century delights. It’s also home to a beautiful spiral staircase, which is one of the most instagrammable spots in Paris.
The Musée Gustave Moreau, 14 rue de La Rochefoucauld, is open every day except Tuesday. Adults, €6; children, €4.
Laura lived in Paris for a year while she was studying for her French degree. Check out Laura’s post, 10 Museums to Visit in Paris that aren’t the Louvre to find more lesser-known museums in the city.
The Hood Paris
by Pola, Jetting Around
The 11th district of Paris is full of cool hangouts that can easily be overlooked, unless you know where to find them. Located on the rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, The Hood Paris is a coffee shop during the day and neo-bistro on some evenings. Their idea is to bring people together over good food, coffee, music, and art.
You can go there to work, catch a live music show, attend various meetups, or enjoy Asian-inspired plates by co-founder and winner of MasterChef France 2015, Khanh Ly Huynh. The other co-founder and music lover, Pearlyn Lee, thought of opening The Hood after seeing a spontaneous jam session in Geneva.
The interior has a cozy, serene feel to it, thanks to plants in every corner (The Hood’s signature colour is green, just look at their pastries). The staff speak English, an added bonus if you’re not comfortable with French.
Pola Henderson is a Paris-based writer, event host, and founder of the Jetting Around blog.
Le Petit Marché
Tucked down a side street off the Place des Vosges, this neighbourhood bistro is the one restaurant I always have to visit when I’m in Paris. I first discovered it when I was researching the Marais for an article for The National newspaper. I love everything about it: the intimate dining room that’s always busy, the friendly staff, the good wine and, most of all, the food.
Food at Le Petit Marche is a divine combination of Asian with French classics so you might get duck breast with banana, veal liver with ginger or a delicious tartare of salmon, avocado and mango.
Le Petit Marché, 9 rue de Béarn
by Violeta, Violeta Matei
The 2nd arrondissement of Paris hides a secret worth discovering: L’Oasis D’Aboukir. Created by architect Patrick Blanc in 2013, L’Oasis D’Aboukir is a vertical garden installed on the side wall of the building at the intersection of rue D’Aboukir and rue des Petits Carreaux. Passage Du Caire is just around the corner. If you go for a tour of the covered passages of Paris, include L’Oasis D’Aboukir in your itinerary.
This green wall consists of over 750 plants. Patrick Blanc created it to take part in Paris Design Week 2013. Since its inception, the vertical garden has grown stronger and more beautiful with every year. If you want to see it at its best, visit Paris between late spring and autumn. You’ll find all the details about this work of art right there, on the wall.
Take a look at Violeta’s post, Les Passages Couverts – How to See the Best of Paris in One Day to find out more about the covered passages in Paris.
by Phoebe, Lou Messugo
Station F in the 13th arrondissement is one of Paris’s new cool (and relatively undiscovered) spots for eating, drinking and hanging out. This beautifully restored old railway station is in fact the home to the world’s biggest start-up campus, but it’s the food court ‘La Felicità’ that’s of most interest. Inside you’ll find an enormous light-filled quirkily decorated space dedicated to (mostly) Italian food, with two bars, several different stands and a café. The idea is that you can choose food from any of the outlets and sit wherever you want. The mismatched vintage chairs, tables, crockery and rugs give it a funky vibe. This continues in the library area upstairs, with books, games and long bench tables with electrical sockets. There are also a couple of old railway carriages serving food. Station F hosts live music, DJ sets, theme evenings, kids’ parties and activities every other Sunday. (Check the Facebook page for up-to-date info). Don’t miss the toilets which are all decorated differently (I had the misfortune of using one with infinity mirrors – a scary sight while seated on the loo!)
La Felicità is at Station F, 55 Bld Vincent Auriol (M° Bibliothèque François Mitterand or Chevaleret).
Phoebe used to live in Paris. She now runs a self-catering holiday rental in the South of France with her French husband. Take a look at Phoebe’s post, What to do in Paris with Teenagers.
La Belle Hortense
This book shop cum wine bar is where hip Parisians come to discuss philosophy and literature over a glass of good Bordeaux. Sit up at the bar or at one of the tables next to the bookshelves and enjoy the excellent wine and atmosphere. Don’t be shy – you’ll be made to feel very welcome. It’s a great place for an after dinner drink – they often play jazz in the evenings.
If you fancy a bite to eat, there are a few tables among the books out the back and food comes from one of the sister restaurants opposite. The wine bar hosts regular book signing events and art exhibitions.
La Belle Hortense is at 31, rue Vieille-du-Temple in the Marais.
Church of Saint-Sulpice
by Sage, Everyday Wanderer
With its flying buttresses, colourful rose windows, and seven decades of history, it’s no wonder the medieval cathedral of Notre Dame is Paris’s most visited church. But the second largest church in Paris, Saint-Sulpice, is every bit as amazing. Located in the Odéon Quarter of the 6th arrondissement, this hidden gem in Paris includes a brass line embedded in the church floor.
Known as the gnomon of Saint-Sulpice, it is an astronomical way of telling time using the sun’s rays in a similar way to a sundial. If you’ve read Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code, you may recall that he incorrectly refers to the gnomon as the Paris Meriden and gives it a fictional name, the Rose Line. (After all, Dan Brown is a novelist, and not a historian.) Separate fact from fiction with a visit to Saint-Sulpice the next time you’re in Paris!
The Church of Saint-Sulpice is at 2 Rue Palatine. Take a look at Sage’s post, Places to Visit in Dan Brown Novels to discover all the other sights from his books.
Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais
This hotel has been a family favourite for years and it’s one of our most loved hidden gems in Paris. It’s packed to its wooden-beamed ceilings with character and charm. The 18th-century town house in the Marais is named after Beaumarchais who wrote The Marriage of Figaro and this sets the tone throughout.
An 18th-century piano, a harp and a card table set up for a game greet you as you enter. The 19 rooms are all small, but exquisitely furnished with crystal chandeliers, antiques and beautiful wallpaper copied from patterns of the period.
Ask for a room with a balcony. It’s just big enough for a table and two chairs and you can order breakfast (a tray with a pot of coffee, freshly squeezed juice, croissants, pains au chocolat, boiled eggs, yoghurt and a kiwi fruit) to have up there while you look down on the comings and goings of the street below.
Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais, 12, rue Vieille-du-Temple. Double rooms start at €145.
Secret remains of the Tuileries Palace
by Elisa, Travel France Bucket List
As most of us know, there are many beautiful châteaux in France, but unfortunately, some of the best castles in France are lost forever. This is the case of the Tuileries Palace, which was commissioned by Queen Marie de Médicis in the 16th century and later became the residence of many of the Kings and Queens of France. This palace, which was once located between the Louvre and the Tuileries Garden, was destroyed by a big fire during the Paris Commune in 1871 and the city council decided to demolish the remains of the building.
However, the most important parts which survived were catalogued and sold in an incredible second-hand market and some of the fragments of the Tuileries Palace are still spread here and there in the city, and they really are hidden gems in Paris. The main places to find them are the Tuileries Gardens, Square Caen in the Marais (on the picture), which is the garden behind Musée Carnavalet, the museum dedicated to the history of Paris, the gardens of l’École Spéciale d’Architecture and the Trocadéro Gardens.
Read Elisa’s post about the best Châteaux in France here.
by Elise, What The Fab
Maison David is a tiny deli in the Jewish Quarter run by the most adorable French gentleman. While the lines can get long while you wait to place your order, he shares samples with everyone waiting. He sells some of the most incredible pâté, spreads, and sandwiches you will ever taste. Even if he offers you a sample of something you wouldn’t usually like (for example, a chicken liver spread), try it. Trust me. You’ll be surprised and delighted by the amazing flavours. Maison David also sells wine, so you can order yourself some charcuterie and spreads and enjoy a glass of wine in his shop. Or order a sandwich to go (he doesn’t speak great English so if he asks you if you want something on your sandwich and you don’t understand what it is, just say “oui”), grab a bottle of wine, and head to nearby Place des Vosges to enjoy.
Maison David, 6, rue des Ecouffes
The tree-shaded banks and pretty cast-iron footbridges of the Canal St-Martin are instantly recognisable from some of the most memorable scenes in the film, Amélie, when Amélie skips stones along the canal. The 19th-century waterway is the bohemian heart of Paris – this is the place to come for shabby chic bistros and little wine bars, or a picnic beside the canal.
You can walk all the way from here to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, one of our latest hidden gems in Paris (see above) or carry on up to the Canal de l’Ourcq.
Le Refuge des Fondus
by Erin, Oregon Girl Around the World
Tucked along a little street atop Montmartre sits the quirky restaurant known as Le Refuge des Fondus. Two long communal tables fit snugly inside this iconic spot, where the walls are graffitied with notes and messages from previous guests. The menu is simple and the choices few. Meat or cheese? Fondue. Red or White? Wine. Here, the wine is served by the bottle. A baby bottle that is. A cheeky workaround for a per glass French tax, your beverage comes in an old-fashioned glass baby bottle. It’s part of the charm.
Fine French dining this is not, but it is truly good fun for the whole family. Check your pretense at the door and step right over the table to take your seat right next to your new neighbours for the night. Soak up the experience with your gooey delicious cheese, but don’t forget to bring cash as credit cards are not accepted here.
Le Refuge des Fondus, 17 rue des Trois Frères, is open every night from 7pm. Read Erin’s guide to visiting Paris with children, Take your Tween to Paris.
La Petite Ceinture de Paris
by Elisa, World in Paris
La Petite Ceinture de Paris is an abandoned railroad around Paris which was developed in the 19th century. La Petite Ceinture was used to transport people and goods for almost 100 years. But with the construction of the métro and the relocation of factories and slaughterhouses out of the city, la Petite Ceinture lost its use and stopped working at the end of the 1970s. Today, some parts of these abandoned railroads have been converted into green spaces and opened up to the public and it’s fun to have a stroll in these places and visit these hidden gems in Paris.
Amongst the sectors opened to the public, the one located in the 15th arrondissement is our favourite. This 1.3 km section still has the original tracks and visitors can see an abandoned train station and some train signs.
Elisa lives in Paris and shares her posts and tips about the city on her blog, World in Paris. Take a look at her post about the Petite Ceinture.
Candelaria Taqueria and Speakeasy
by Alyssa, Ojos Extranjeros
Mexican food might be the last thing on your mind while exploring Paris, but at Candelaria you can find some of the most delicious tacos, guacamole, and elotes you’ve ever had! You’ll find the small restaurant in the Marais with room for no more than 15 people. With seats along a small bar or a table along the window, you can have a relaxing and intimate meal at Candelaria, and some great frozen margaritas too.
Good food is not all Candelaria has to offer. After 6pm you can walk through what looks like the wall next to the kitchen and enter the speakeasy bar which is more than double the size of the restaurant! Here you can enjoy the same delicious food from the restaurant, while trying creative cocktails like La Llorona, El Chupacabras, or La Guepe Verde. It’s no wonder this bar was named in the top 50 cocktail bars in the world, and in the top 10 of Europe.
Candelaria, 52, rue de Saintonge, is open every day from 12pm.
Musée de la Magie
This quirky museum is a must for anyone interested in magic. Its location is almost as thrilling as its exhibits – it’s in a 16th-century underground cavern, beneath the house where the infamous Marquis de Sade once lived.
There’s an impressive display of props from famous magicians like Robert Houdin and lots of secret boxes, magic wands and automated machines. The live magic show will appeal to children and there’s plenty of interactive activities like magical mirrors and illusions to figure out to keep you entertained for at least an hour.
The Musée de la Magie, 11, rue Saint Paul, is open from 2 pm until 7pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, Adults, €14; children, €10.
The number 69 bus
A ride on the number 69 bus is one of my favourite tips when friends ask me what to do in Paris. You get to see some of the city’s most famous sights for the price of a bus ticket (€2). The route goes from the Eiffel Tower and travels past the Invalides, through Saint-Germain-des-Prés and over the River Seine to Bastille and Père Lachaise, the cemetery where Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Chopin and Jim Morrison are all buried.
Cooking class with a local
by Maria, Europe Up Close
French food is delicious, no doubt about it. So when my husband and I visited Paris last December, we decided to take home a souvenir that wouldn’t collect dust: a French cooking class!
We signed up for this private cooking class via AirBnB Experiences and it was perfect. Our chef and instructor Aurore met us in a quiet Parisienne neighborhood and first we went shopping at a few local stores to buy the ingredients for our magret de canard à l’orange (duck breast with orange sauce). Then we headed to Aurore’s apartment and she showed us how to prepare this famous French dish.
As we were chopping and mixing in her cozy kitchen, we chitchatted with Aurore about French cuisine, living in Paris as a family and cultural differences between France and the US. We had an incredible time and all too soon, the food was ready. We sat down and enjoyed a home cooked meal with our chef, who within hours turned into a friend.
Take a look at Maria’s post, Paris Hotel with Views of the Eiffel Tower.
Le Lèche Vin
by Ann Marie, Eco Conscious Traveller
One of my absolute favourite places to head for a quick drink in Paris is a tiny bar called Le Lèche Vin tucked away on a side street in Bastille. If you’re interested in funny themes then you can’t miss this place. It has a religious theme in the front with pictures and statues of Mary and Jesus and then in the toilet there’s a rather more X-rated theme (I won’t give away the secret of what you’ll find but be prepared!). It’s also one of the cheapest bars in Paris. Their happy hour is great – you can get some awesome cheap cocktails, ciders and beer. Although it’s not a late bar, as it’s located in Bastille there are plenty of other places in the area where you can continue the party past midnight.
Le Lèche Vin is at 13, rue Daval. Read Ann Marie’s post, The Best Quotes about Paris to Make you Dream.
Brunch at Colorova
by Gigi, Vicious Foodie
Book ahead for Sunday brunch in Colorova’s pretty, colourful dining room. The pastry case alone is a work of art and the dining room is almost as pretty, with cloth chairs in bright prints, colourful paintings hanging on the walls, and plates in hues of pink, green, and blue.
At your table, a menu awaits with three fixed menus, each with at least two courses, a choice of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, croissants with a trio of house-made jams, and one of those artistic pastries you just admired in the case near the door.
Try the delicate salmon with a poached egg and Hollandaise. Order the intriguing brioche with avocado cream. Or go hearty with meatballs and mashed potatoes for breakfast. The menu changes often, but the flavours will surprise and delight you every time.
Colorova is located at 47 Rue de l´Abbé Grégoire (near the Luxembourg gardens) and brunch is available from 10am until 5pm on Sundays. The average price per person is about €25. Take a look at Gigi’s post, Colorova: The Best Breakfast in Paris, to find out more.
Take a look at some of my other posts about Paris:
What are your favourite hidden gems in Paris? Let me know in the comments.