Paris is one of the few cities I could visit again and again. In fact, I very much hope to live there one day, but I digress. There are dozens of unusual things to do in Paris and many visitors don’t know about them. Experiencing Paris off the beaten path will make you fall just as in love with the city as the touristy attractions will.
Before reading this, you may be interested in:
- What to Do in Paris, According to Parisians
- 10 Chic Airbnb’s in Paris
- Vegan Restaurants in Paris
- How to Spend 24, 48, or 72 Hours in Paris
1. Visit the Catacombs
There are 6 million people buried below the streets of Paris, and that’s one of the coolest things about the city. I can be completely morbid, I get that. The catacombs below Paris should be at the top of everyones to do list when visiting this city. Grab an audio tour and skip the line ticket to this attraction that many may have heard of, but have never taken part in.
Once upon a time these catacombs where closed to the public and then only available for tours. Now there are actual concerts and other events held here. This is a great opportunity to learn the history of the catacombs and find out exactly why people were buried down there to begin with.
2. Spend the Day in Provins
Provins, not to be confused with Provence, is a medieval town in north-central France. It’s just a little over an hour from Paris but well worth the day trip and may even be better than, dare I say it, a day trip to Versailles.
When we think of France we tend to think of beautiful architecture, the river Seine, or the countryside. We rarely think medieval. The best part about this town is that it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, so if checking these sites off your bucket list sounds cool to you, go for it.
3. Take a Bike Ride Through Bois de Vincennes
Bike riding may not seem like it belongs on the list of unusual things to do in Paris, but it’s all about the location. I never knew that there were huge parks just on the outskirts of Paris, and because most visitors are unaware of them, they tend to be pretty empty at peak times.
Bois de Vincennes has plenty of paths to spend your time bike riding and exploring the area. You can also hang out for a picnic, or even visit the zoo while you’re there. If you prefer to stay in the city, there’s an awesome 3 hour bike tour that takes place south of the Seine.
4. Wander Through a Cemetery
Don’t worry, not all of the dead of Paris are buried below the streets. They have cemeteries like everyone else too. While I don’t always get to roam through a centenary (I’m morbid, remember), it’s still on my list of things to do. I’ve taken cemetery tours in New Orleans, got dropped off at one in Lisbon, and it’s on my list for the next time I’m in Paris.
Take a guided tour through the Père Lachaise Cemetery. Here you can see the graves of icons such as singer & songwriter Jim Morrison and musical genius, Chopin. This cemetery was first opened in 1804 and is the largest one in the city. It isn’t just interesting, it’s history.
5. Check Out a Vintage Bookshop
Paris is filled with vintage bookstores, and while I always want to pop in, I still don’t speak or understand French all that well. There happen to be two independent bookstores on the left bank of Paris, near Notre Dame, that happen to be English language. If your souvenir for yourself is books then this Shakespeare and Co is a great place to visit. Here you can find new, second hand, and antique books.
6. Les Invalides (Napoleon’s Final Resting Place)
Les Invalides is Napoleon’s tomb and army museum. It’s easy to get here since it’s not only in the heart of Paris, but also a stop on the metro. This is one of the top 5 visited museums in France, so if you’ve already checked out the Louvre, you might as well head here to see what the fuss is about. When you’re done exploring the church and museum be sure to roam the grounds as they’re stunning and photo worthy.
7. Eat Your Way Through Montmartre
If you’ve never taken a food tour, then it should be the first thing on your itinerary whenever you visit a new city or country. I had the opportunity of taking the Secret Food Tours – Montmartre tour and was hooked. We didn’t get to just sample the sweet treats of Paris, but meats, cheeses, award winning baguettes, and an assortment of wines perfectly paired with each course. If you have the time or just need a reason to visit Montmartre, I highly recommend taking this tour specifically.
8. Check Out the The Saint-Ouen Flea Market
While shopping isn’t one of the most unusual things to do in Paris, visiting quirky flea markets is. The Saint-Ouen Flea Market is located at Porte de Clignancourt and the largest flea market in Paris. It’s also undisputedly the largest antique flea market in the world.
Visitors recommend a full day here to see everything as well as venturing into the buildings for the best finds. The open air market isn’t for everyone but it’s definitely worth a gander. Saturdays and Sundays are the most popular days to visit but it’s said that Mondays have the smallest crowd.
9. Create Your Own Parfum
I was on youtube, as usual, looking at one of my fav youtubers on an influencer trip in Paris. Imagine my surprise when she ended up making her very own bottle of perfume! There are probably many ways to do this, but I came across Le Studio des Parfums Paris and just knew I had to add it to my list of unusual things to do in Paris It’s a dream of mine to have someone ask me what fragrance I’m wearing and for me to say I made it myself. So if you have a similarly weird daydream, then this is the activity for you.
10. Visit the Paris Sewer Museum
Talk about Paris off the beaten path. A museum dedicated to the sewage system? Really? Yes, really. Because the Parisian sewage system has been around since the 13th century, it’s safe to say that there’s plenty of history behind it.
Here you can actually venture down into the tunnels and not only see how it all works, but you can view old and new maintenance equipment. I’m sure this would probably interest parents and grandparents mostly, but it’s unusual to say the least.
11. Go Thrifting
Ever since my last visit to Los Angeles, thrifting while traveling has been my thing. It’s also something I’ve always wanted to do in Paris because if I had to describe my style, I’d say it’s more Parisian than anything else. Also, the French just know a thing or three about fashion.
I’d google “popular thrift stores in Paris” to figure out which ones to visit as I’m sure there are new ones popping up all the time. I think it’s a great way to practice sustainability and one of the easiest ways possible, but it’s also a great opportunity to find out what type of secondhand luxury goods you may stumble upon.
Is there anything I should add to my list of unusual things to do in Paris? Let me know!