When we think of Paris, our minds immediately rush to thoughts of standing in the shadow of the towering Notre Dame, or cruising down the river Seine and slowly passing the iconic Eiffel Tower. Every year, millions of tourists flock to the city to see these world-famous attractions, many without realizing there are spectacular homes for rent in France instead of staying in expensive hotels.
I agree that doing some touristy things, like having a night out at the Moulin Rouge or picnicking beside the Eiffel Tower, are fun when visiting the city of lights.
However, most never get away from the main tourist trail to find all the wonderful hidden off the beaten path. Many of these unusual things to do in Paris are located in the city’s tiny nooks and overlooked neighborhoods. Venturing into Paris off the beaten off the beaten path let’s you escape overpriced tourist attractions which helps you cut down your backpacking Europe cost.
Let’s discover some unusual things to do when you visit Paris off the beaten path.
Paris Off the Beaten Path
Explore the Unknown Cathedral Basilique Sant-Denis
Notre Dame’s stunning Gothic architecture is why almost every single tourist in Paris visits it. But when exploring Paris off the beaten path, try visiting another fine Gothic structure: Basilique Saint-Denis.
This is a fantastic Gothic cathedral that almost no one seems to visit. History and legend collide at this amazing work of art.
It is named after the patron saint of Paris, Saint-Denis, who suffered an ill fate when he was beheaded by the Romans. Local lore says that after his gruesome execution, Saint-Denis picked up his head and carried it to the top of Montmartre.
Catch a Movie at La Pagode
No matter where you are in the world, you can always find those travelers carrying a thick cloud of judgment who stick their nose in the air when you say you are going to the movies in another country. Personally, I love going to the Cinema in other countries. It gives the typical moviegoing experience a fun little twist. La Pagode is a perfect example of a unique movie theater you can only visit in France.
La Pagoda is decked out in 7th-century style décor and set inside a Japanese pagoda. There is also a cultural garden where you can sip tea and indulge in tasty treats after the film.
Night Tour of the Louvre
Even if you took the Mona Lisa out of the picture, the Louvre is still one of the most famous museums in the world. The quality and quantity of historical artifacts, paintings, and statues it curates make it a remarkable place to visit. But is there anything more frustrating than waiting years to visit a place only to have long lines (starting before sunrise) and crowds (I had to elbow my way through throngs of people to see the Mona Lisa) ruin the experience?
I can’t argue that any Paris itinerary must include a trip to the Louvre, but if you plan your visit correctly, you can experience the Louvre when it is almost empty. The best way to visit this incredible museum is at night, when you practically have the place to yourself.
Luckily, our friends at Walks of France have a incredible Louvre Night Tour with Specially-Timed Mona Lisa Visit that I highly recommend. While the Louvre is definitely on Paris’s beaten track, visiting at night is an unusual thing to do in Paris.
Hang Out With Locals
Being a tourist has certain drawbacks. Sure, we get to see famous sites and attractions, but because we are always roaming, we only see a small glimpse of life in a city and are rarely given the opportunity to make friends with locals.
But now we can use sites like Withlocals to book experiences with the best Paris experts in the world, the people who call the city of lights home. They offer unusual things to do in Paris, including home dinners, odd tours, and “live like a local” days.
If we are trying to explore Paris off the beaten track, then locals are the best bet.
Stroll Through the Les Passages Couverts
Less than 30 of these Les passages couverts (covered passages) remain. The 19th-century passages date back to the middle-class rise of the French Revolution. Today, the glass-covered passageways are filled with little shops where store owners showcase their wares, which include everything from stamps to stones.
Some passages are adorned with artwork and mosaics. These passages are one of my favorite places to visit when getting off the beaten path in Paris.
Eat Your Weight in Chocolate at Germain-des-Pres
Paris off the beaten path isn’t all movies, cathedrals, and hanging with locals. For our next unusual experience, let’s turn our attention to a treat we all love: chocolate. If you are a chocolate addict (like myself), then pull out your notebook and write down the name Saint- Germain-des-Pres.
\This area has over a dozen of the city’s best chocolatiers. Yes, all the chocolate you could imagine is housed on just a few city streets. In Sant-Germain-des-Pres, they take their love of chocolate to the next level—it’s made into animal shapes like fish and dogs. Any visit to Saint- Germain –des-Pres makes for a fun day of eating, a tighter waistline, and at least a couple funky chocolate souvenirs.
Luckily, flight from New York to Paris and Los Angles to Paris are cheap so now is the perfect time to visit this wonderful city. Exploring Paris off the beaten path lets you break away from the touristy spots and feel the true heat beat of the city. These are some unusual things to do in Paris that will capture your imagination, break away the tourist facade, and show you the true Paris. If you’re backpacking through Europe Paris is a must see city. If you want to get out of the city there are some great Paris day trips to explore as well.