Last Updated on 23/08/2023 by secretmoona
When you think of Paris, iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum may come to mind. However, beneath the surface of these famous attractions lies an alternative Paris, filled with hidden treasures and unique experiences waiting to be discovered. Escape the crowds and delve into the offbeat charm of the city with this guide to non-touristy things to do in Paris. Discover sun-soaked beaches and artistic squats as we explore a side of Paris that typical tourists often overlook.
Non-touristy things to do in Paris
Explore a different side of Paris with our exclusive selection of non-touristy things to do in Paris. Avoid the crowds and discover authentic experiences that provide a genuine insight into the local culture. From hidden cafes nestled in picturesque alleys to galleries exhibiting emerging artists, dive into the Parisian lifestyle beyond the typical tourist destinations. Stroll through lesser-known gardens and parks, uncovering peaceful spots for relaxation. Interact with locals at bustling markets and savour culinary gems that are cherished secrets among Parisians. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a foodie, or simply looking for a more intimate Parisian adventure, our guide will help you create unforgettable memories and forge a deeper connection with the heart of the city. Embark on a journey of exploration and make your Paris trip truly exceptional with these off-the-beaten-path activities.
Sunbathing on Paris Plages
Although the Seine River is undoubtedly attractive, you can have a one-of-a-kind adventure at Paris Plages by opting for a change of scenery from the busy riverbanks. Situated between the Seine River and Bassin de la Villette/Canal Saint Martin, these sandy beaches provide a unique beach experience right at the city’s heart. Since 2002, this unconventional Paris experience has been a special and free summer event that lets you soak up the sun’s heat while admiring iconic landmarks.
You can bask in the sun, relax on lounge chairs, and enjoy palm trees, creating a beach paradise in the middle of Paris. You can also interact with the locals or have a relaxing picnic by the riverside. If you want to take a refreshing swim, the Bassin de la Villette is a great option that offers a spacious getaway from the crowds of the Seine River. Additionally, you can participate in water sports such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and cultural and sporting events.
Rent a Boat for Unique Perspectives
To discover Paris uniquely, consider renting a small boat from Marin d’Eau Douce at the Bassin de la Villette and cruise through the picturesque waterways. The boat can accommodate up to 11 people; no licence is required. You can rent it for as little as an hour or up to six hours to explore the northern side of Paris or venture into the suburbs for some peace.
Additionally, you can bring food and picnic on the boat while enjoying the views of Parc de la Villette, Cité des Sciences, Géode, and other landmarks from a brand-new vantage point. This off-the-beaten activity offers a different perspective of Paris that you won’t find anywhere else.
Address: Marin d’Eau Douce is located at 37 Quai de la Seine in Paris.
Cost: The hourly rate for renting a boat varies between 40€ for five places and 70€ for 11 sites, depending on the boat’s capacity. The price decreases if you rent the boat for several hours.
Open: From April to November. It is best to go there on a sunny day!
Attend an Outdoor Cinema Screening
When visiting Paris, there may be other things besides going to the cinema on your to-do list. After all, it’s more enjoyable to take a stroll in the sunshine than sit in a dark room for two hours. However, you shouldn’t rule out watching a movie altogether. With an open-air cinema, you can soak up the sun in one of Paris’ many beautiful parks during the day and enjoy a movie under the stars at night, making for a quintessentially French blend of relaxation and entertainment.
During the summer, Parisians love to watch movies under the stars, lounging comfortably on deck chairs or cushions. Open-air cinemas offer a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere than traditional cinemas, making it a perfect outing with friends. The best part is that these screenings are often free or affordable. For instance, La Villette offers free screenings, and you only need to pay for the deckchair rental. So, why not try something different and enjoy a movie night under the stars on your Parisian adventure?
Address: Parc de La Villette – 75019 Paris
Open: From 19th July to 20th August 2023
Stroll Through Quirky Neighbourhoods
Experience the true essence of Paris by detaching the usual tourist spots. Venture into delightful areas like La Mouzaia and Charonne, where you can discover secret pathways, picturesque gardens, and bustling outdoor cafes that provide a peek into the authentic Parisian way of life. These neighbourhoods are the heart of alternative Paris, brimming with authentic charm.
La Mouzaia is located close to Buttes-Chaumont and is one of the most exotic neighbourhoods in the capital. This charming corner of the 19th arrondissement has hundreds of tiny houses hidden behind beautiful flower gardens. Meanwhile, Charonne is a peaceful village with pretty squares, stunning terraces, and colourful flower pots that add to its charm.
Visit the Puces or Markets
Are you looking for a unique shopping experience different from the high-end boutiques in Paris? If so, check out the flea markets! These markets are perfect for exploring and discovering rare treasures among piles of bric-a-brac. Paris has four flea markets: Les Puces de Saint-Ouen (also known as Clignancourt), Puces de Montreuil, Les Puces d’Aligre, and Les Puces de Vanves. While Clignancourt is the most popular and trendy market, the other three are also worth a visit.
If you love browsing through second-hand clothes, vinyl, antique furniture, and trinkets, then you’ll enjoy the Puces de Montreuil. Although things might not be as well-organized as in vintage shops, you can find great deals for just a couple of euros! Plus, many items you’ll find here can also be found in vintage shops, but at cheaper prices. So take your time, explore the aisles, and see what treasures you can find!
Explore the Street Art Scene at Belleville
Discover Paris’s hidden creative gems by venturing into the street art scene in Belleville. The area is within the 20th arrondissement and is a real melting pot with African stores and Asian supermarkets brushing shoulders with Arabic restaurants and French cafés. Walking in Belleville is experiencing today’s Paris: a multicultural city. You will discover different cultures mixed with artistic vibes from the bobos (bourgeois-bohemians).
Spend an afternoon there wandering the hilly streets, especially the quirky Rue Denoyez, a small street packed with graffiti, street art and murals, have lunch in one of the Tunisian restaurants and followed by a drink at Aux Folies (this is where Edith Piaf started her career) or Café Chéri.
To learn more about the Parisian street art scene, you can take a guided street art walking tour or go on your self-guided tour. Some incredible murals, graffiti tags and stencils are dotted around the streets of the 13th, 18th and 19th arrondissements, specifically in Montmartre and Canal Saint Martin.
Address: Closest metro Station: Belleville (lines 2 and 11)
Visit an Artistic Squat in the Heart of Paris
Experience the alternative side of Paris by visiting artistic squats such as 59 Rue de Rivoli. These unconventional spaces display modern artworks in a unique setting.
In the heart of Paris, among the high-street shops and beautiful buildings, stands 59 Rue de Rivoli. Originally a squat for artists, this multi-storey building is now a residence for a collective of alternative and contemporary artists who produce and exhibit their work there.
In November 1999, a dozen artists forced open the front door of 59 Rue de Rivoli and began to live in the building while setting up their studios, which they opened to visitors. This place, legalised but still steeped in history, allows around thirty artists to express their creativity from their studios, which are open to visitors.
The building itself is a must-see, boasting a large tagged spiral staircase and four colourful floors that immerse visitors in the unique universe of each artist. Weekends often feature concerts, adding to the already fascinating atmosphere. Having visited it in the early 2000s and noticed the notable changes and renovations, this building holds a special place in my heart.
Another famous squat is La Générale, situated in a large building where around 15 people reside permanently, while a collective of roughly 40 people occupies the ateliers and workshops on various floors. They host events throughout the year, such as the neighbourhood party, including concerts, performances, theatre, and an “open scene” for anyone to showcase their talents!
- 59 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
- La Générale, 10-14 rue du Générale Lasalle, 75019 Paris
Eat Like a Local at Cheffes
Discover the authentic flavours of alternative Paris at Cheffes, a charming café-canteen situated in Cité Maraîchère, Romainville. This eatery serves up delicious meals made with locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. The Cité Maraîchère is the first vertical farm in France.
In addition to its food offerings, Cheffes also hosts various events, live music and workshops, making it a lively destination for anyone looking for a one-of-a-kind experience in Paris.
Alternatively, for something closer to the city centre, head to the capital’s oldest covered market, Le Marché des Enfants Rouges. Located in the 3rd arrondissement, the market includes various street food vendors, fruit and vegetable stalls, florists, and other traders. It’s a nice place to have lunch in a different atmosphere.
Cheffes, 6 Rue Albert Giry, 93230 Romainville
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39, rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris – Metro Staions Temple (line 3) and Filles du Calvaire (line 8)
Picnic at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Visiting Paris in summer often rhymes with picnics. Escape the hustle and bustle of Paris’s tourist crowds with a relaxing picnic at Parc des Buttes Chaumont. This extensive park in the 19th arrondissement boasts beautiful greenery, tranquil lakes, and breathtaking viewpoints. It’s one of the top non-touristy things to do in Paris and the perfect place to appreciate the alternative beauty of Paris in peace.
Access: Laumière (ligne 5) et Bolivar (ligne 7bis)
Indulge in Pastries from Pierre Hermé Paris
Indulge in a unique Parisian experience at Pierre Hermé Paris, perfect for satisfying your sweet cravings. Enjoy the delightful artisanal pastries that are a treat for both your taste buds and your eyes. Immerse yourself in the Parisian culture of observing people while relishing delicious treats, creating unforgettable memories that are not just limited to touristy activities.
Marché Pyrénées (Pyrénées Food Market)
Discover the Pyrénées food market for an authentic Parisian market experience. Located behind the iconic Père-Lachaise Cemetery in the 20th arrondissement, this bustling market operates twice weekly, offering a diverse selection of fresh produce and speciality goods. With around thirty stalls, the market showcases various high-quality products, including organic fruits and vegetables from northern and western France. Seafood enthusiasts will find a tempting array of fresh fish and seafood, from oysters to mussels and scallops. Cheese lovers won’t be disappointed either, as the market features a rich assortment of locally crafted cheeses, from creamy bries to robust Roqueforts. Easily accessible via the Jourdain subway station and nearby bus lines, the Pyrénées market welcomes visitors on Thursdays from 7 am to 2.30 pm and Sundays from 7 am to 3 pm.
Address: Rue des Pyrénées, 75020 Paris – Metro station Maraîchers (line 9)
Admire the Architectural Beauty of the Fondation Louis Vuitton
Experience Paris’s unique art and architecture by visiting the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Situated in the charming Jardin d’Acclimatation, this modern masterpiece boasts 11 galleries spread across four levels, an auditorium and panoramic terraces that provide stunning city views. It’s a distinct way to explore Paris’s cultural treasures.
Address: 8, Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi Bois de Boulogne, 75116 Paris – Metro station Les Sablons (line 1)
We hope you found our guide to Alternative Paris helpful. It offers a list of non-touristy things to do in the city, such as exploring unique neighbourhoods and admiring stunning street art. By experiencing offbeat Paris, you can gain a unique perspective entirely on your own.