Once these lockdown days are over and the world can slowly start traveling again, you’ll likely want to start traveling again too – minus the big crowds. Fortunately there is lots to discover in the City of Light beyond the most iconic landmarks. These 15 hidden gems in Paris will take you off the beaten path and show you a different side to the French capital.
Imagine yourself strolling along the banks of the River Seine with a warm, fresh baguette and an oozy camembert tucked under your arm, and get inspired to add some of the less obvious French delights to your Paris bucket list.
While you’re at it, check out this hilarious French Netflix show to pick up some French swear-words before you head there.
Hidden gems in Paris for lovers of a romantic jardin
Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet in the busy French capital, hop on a métro to the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil. Located right at the bottom of the big Bois de Boulogne forest, this botanical garden contains five greenhouses each filled with flora from around the world. From Amazonian flowers to Mexican cacti, Japanese carp to Australian parakeets, they’re all here, so you’ll be traveling the globe in just an afternoon.
As it’s off the beaten path, this garden isn’t so well known among tourists and it’s the perfect quiet spot to read a book or have a picnic.
Sports fans might be familiar with this area, as both the Roland Garros stadium and the Parc des Princes Stadium are right next door. The latter is the homeground of famous football club Paris Saint Germain, and fans will be pleased to know there’s a stadium tour on offer. Walk around the stands, the locker room, and the dugout, and imagine yourself standing shoulder to shoulder with stars like Mbappé and Neymar.
Albert Kahn Musée et Jardins
Haven’t yet seen enough plants for the day? Then head down the street to the Albert Kahn Musée et Jardins. A haven of tranquility, few tourists venture out to this museum and its gardens. However, it’s one of those hidden gems in Paris that should make it onto everyone’s alternative Paris bucket list!
An ode to the diversity of nature and cultures around the world, the gardens and museums owe their existence to banker and cosmopolitan philanthropist Albert Khan. He was fascinated by foreign cultures and nature, so, between 1895 and 1920, he established a garden with plants from all over the world. He wanted to display different garden styles, so you’ll find perfectly maintained English, French and Japanese gardens here.
Kahn also aimed to create a “visual inventory” of the changing times in the early 19th century, and so in 1912 he used his fortunes to start an extensive documentation programme, “Les Archives de la Planete”. He sent a team of people to travel the globe and capture the world in photographs and film. This resulted in a vast and beautiful collection that is now on display at the museum.
Another haven of greenery, the Promenade Plantée or La Coulée Verte is a trail of roughly 5km that runs along a disused railway line between Bastille and the Bois de Vincennes. Now a lush, green walkway, this viaduct used to carry trains terminating at the Bastille station, until the line ceased to exist in 1969 and the station was turned into a prestigious opera building. The former train tracks were converted into the world’s first elevated park walkway in 1993, so yes it is older than the New York Highline!
Start your walk at the crossroads of rue de Lyon and Daumesnil and check out the Viaduc des Arts that sits underneath the walkway. The brick archways carrying the viaduct are now home to art galleries and boutiques for local artists and artisans.
A scenic stroll through the 12th arrondissement, the Promenade Plantée offers unusual views of the city from ten metres above street level. Some of the buildings surrounding the path were even built to accommodate the street running through them.
There are many access points to the trail, so no need to do the whole walk of roughly one and a half hours to the end, but if you do you’ll pass lots of beautiful parks on your way, such as the Jardin Charles Peguy, where you can challenge your friends to a competitive game of table tennis. At the end of the walkway you’ll find the Petite Ceinture, another disused railway which used to surround Paris like a belt and now has also partly been turned into a nature trail.
Hidden gems in Paris for culture vultures
A little off the beaten track, hidden in the chic 16th arrondissement, you’ll find the largest collection of Monet paintings in the world. A love letter to Impressionism, the Musée Marmottan-Monet is filled with masterpieces by the movement’s greats. Gaugin, Renoir, Degas, these famous artists all have works on display here.
The museum is also home to the largest collection of Berthe Morisot paintings. She was the first female Impressionist and much admired by her fellow artists. Unfortunately however, she sold fewer works than her male colleagues did and so her work is less represented in museums. The Musée Marmottan-Monet however sets the record straight and traces her artistic development with over a hundred of her oil paintings, watercolours, pastels and drawings on display.
If you’re looking to see beautiful impressionist art but want to avoid the crowds of tourists queuing up for the Musée D’Orsay, the Musée Marmottan-Monet is a perfect addition to your Paris bucket list.
Petit Palais / Musée des Beaux-Arts de la ville de Paris
A lot less famous than its big neighbor, the aptly named Grand Palais, the Petit Palais is one of the hidden gems in Paris that really deserves a spot high up on your Paris bucket list.
Established for the purpose of hosting the 1900 Exposition Universelle, the Petit Palais became a museum in 1902. Featuring work from antiquity all the way through the 20th century, the Petit Palais is a beautiful reminder of how much beauty and creativity this world contains. Make sure to glance up occasionally to admire the painted ceilings in several of the rooms.
The inner courtyard with its intricately detailed mosaic floors, frescoes and exotic plants feels like a little slice of Renaissance Italy and contains a charming cafe.
You can find slices of Provençal France right in the heart of the big capital. Narrow cobblestone streets, art deco architecture and independent gourmet restaurants give the Butte aux Cailles neighborhood a town-like feel.
Like many newly trendy areas in the big city, this is a historically working-class district that has become popular with artists and hipsters, but has remained relatively unknown to the foreign tourist. If you’re a street art enthusiast you should definitely put the Butte aux Cailles Neighborhood on your Paris bucket list, as it’s known for its rich street art culture.
While strolling around the neighborhood, make sure to pay a visit to the Place Paul Verlaine to imagine yourself in the South of France for a few minutes. A 19th-century well sources natural spring water here. Right behind the well you’ll find a stunning art-deco swimming pool. This pool opened to the public in 1924 and is one of only two pools in Paris that are listed as historic monuments.
Travel from the South of France to the Alsatian region by taking a stroll down the Rue Daviel. Several villas in this street have been constructed in the style of the wooden structures found in the Alsace.
Off the beaten path, the small Zadkine Museum is dedicated to the work and life of Ossip Zadkine, a Russian sculptor who lived in this house and its studios in the early to mid twentieth century. In the intimate museum you can see how the sculptor and his wife, artist Valentine Prax, lived and worked for nearly 30 years.
The museum’s beautiful sculpture garden is one of the highlights of a visit here. Filled with sculptures by Zadkine himself, this is a lovely place to calm down in the busy French capital.
Longing for more hidden sculptor-workshop-turned-museum experiences? Make sure to add the Musée Bourdelle to your Paris bucket list as well.
Le Petit Bain
After a day of museum visits you’ll need a place to wind down and enjoy a verre. Le Petit Bain is the perfect venue for doing exactly that. This floating cultural venue is located on the Seine and has a rooftop terrace offering a 360-degree view of Paris and the Seine. It’s the perfect spot to catch the last rays of sunshine at the end of the day. If you’re lucky, there might even be a live DJ to accompany your soirée with some tunes.
Besides having a scenic rooftop, Le Petit Bain is also home to a 450-seat show venue and has a packed programme filled with concerts, performances and workshops.
Next door you’ll find another cool unusual Parisian venue, the Josephine Baker Pool, a public swimming pool, floating on the River Seine.
Hidden gems in Paris for history lovers
Musée de la Libération de Paris – Musée du Général Leclerc – Musée Jean Moulin
Open since August 2019, the Musée de la Libération de Paris is a striking museum commemorating the story of occupied Paris. Sitting atop a former civil defence shelter, the museum aims to help today’s public understand and reflect on the Nazi occupation of France.
Chronologically tracing the story of two French resistance leaders, Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque and Jean Moulin, the museum covers the events that led up to the liberation of France. Maps, photographs, interviews and everyday objects from occupied Paris are exhibited to pay tribute to the men and women who resisted the Nazi occupation.
Descending into the basement, visitors can see a civil defence shelter that has been restored to its wartime state. Augmented reality headsets playing footage of resistance leaders recounting five days spent underground before liberation provide a striking insight into the experiences of people who lived through the last days of the occupation.
La Crypte archéologique de l’Île de la Cité
Sitting right opposite the famous Notre-Dame cathedral, you’d expect the crowds to be much bigger at this underground museum. Instead this is one of those hidden gems in Paris that is mostly visited by real history enthusiasts.
Underneath the busy Parisian city center streets you’ll find a time-capsule taking you back all the way to antiquity. Archeological remains combined with interactive displays and maps provide insight into the urban and architectural development of the French capital. From the remains of a Gallo-Roman bath house to the foundations of a medieval city wall and the basement of an 18th-century hospital, this crypt shows how a large city continuously has to reinvent itself over the course of history.
Paris Sewers Museum
If you can’t get enough of exploring Paris’ underground history, you should make sure to pay a visit to the Paris Sewers Museum. One of the more unusual things to do in Paris, this museum is set in an active sewer facility and is not really suitable for those who have a sensitive sense of smell. For those interested in history and the development of modern cities however, this is a great way to spend an hour or so. Plus, we can all be pretty grateful for the sewer system, which was one of the major steps forward in health standards for big cities.
The museum traces the history of the sewers from their initial development in the late 14th century to their modern structure established in the 19th century. On your visit you’ll see sewer-maintenance equipment from the past and the present, and exhibitions about the role of sewer workers, methods of water treatments and the design of the Paris sewer network.
Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine
The French are proud of their monuments and on a visit to the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine you’ll find out they have a lot of reason to be! Over 1,000 years of architectural history are explored in this museum dedicated to French monuments.
Discover how and why the major buildings of our time and of the past were built while studying some of France’s masterpieces up close. Architectural replications of France’s most famous monuments are displayed alongside frescoes and murals from French churches as well as wall paintings and stained glass. Paris’ most famous icon, the Eiffel Tower, plays a starring role at the museum, where you can not only learn about its construction in an extensive exhibit, but also catch breathtaking views of the tower through the museum’s windows.
Romantic hidden gems in Paris
Picnic along the Canal St Martin
Stretching north from République, the Canal Saint-Martin is a trendy walkway along the water, ideal for a romantic stroll and picnic. While this area is not well known among tourists, it is very popular among locals. In the summer the canal’s quais quickly fill up with Parisians bringing bottles of wine and rounds of fromage to enjoy the long evenings by the cooling water. If the weather doesn’t allow for a romantic picnic, there are plenty of cafés and restaurants in this area where you can enjoy a delicious meal.
Musée de la vie Romantique
Set in a pink house decorated entirely in the style of the romantic period, the small Musée de la Vie Romantique is easily the cutest museum in Paris. The lovely garden and tearoom form the perfect backdrop to a romantic lunch, and in the museum itself you’ll learn lots about the artists and intellectuals that used to attend the soirées here. While you’re walking through the museum try to imagine the likes of Chopin, Dickens and Rossini sitting in the salon enjoying a nice French wine.
These intellectual get-togethers were organized by Ary Sheffer, a Dutch-French Romantic painter, who used to live in this house. The majority of the museum is dedicated to his work. The ground floor is devoted to famous French Romantic writer George Sand, displaying some of the drawings, furniture and jewellery owned by the famous French Romantic writer.
The Musée de la Vie Romantique was the winner of the Tiqets Remarkable Venue Award for Best Hidden Gem in France 2020. Each year these awards celebrate the best museums and attractions in the world. Based on our reviews we nominate our museums and attractions across several categories. The Best Hidden Gem category recognizes unique, niche attractions and this romantic museum makes a worthy winner!
Show off your dance moves at the Saint-Bernard quay
A sultry summer night, a cooling breeze coming from the Seine, city lights glimmering on the water and salsa tunes echoing off the quay, surely those are all the ingredients you need to fall in love (at least for the night)?
Just a stone’s throw away from the Île Saint-Louis you’ll find the Saint-Bernard Quay stretching along the seine from the Jardin des Plantes to the Institut du Monde Arabe. Head there to discover the outdoor sculpture museum, and on a warm summer night make sure to stick around for the dancers flooding the quay. Enthusiasts and beginners alike try out their moves when the weather allows and the elated atmosphere is sure to make you fall in love with Paris, if not with your dance partner.