Top 15 Unique Things to Do in Paris

Paris is a city full of hidden gems and unique experiences beyond the well-known attractions. Whether you are looking for a cultural, historical, or artistic adventure, you will find something that suits your interests and tastes in the City of Light. Here are 15 unique things to do in Paris that will help you discover the city's lesser-known but equally captivating side.

Explore the Petite Ceinture

The Petite Ceinture, which translates to "Little Belt," is a disused railway that once circled the heart of Paris in the 19th century. It offers a glimpse into the city's industrial past and urban exploration opportunities. While most of the railway is no longer in operation, parts of it have been transformed into green spaces and walking paths in different districts of Paris. Walking along the Petite Ceinture allows you to discover hidden corners of Paris, often away from the tourist crowds, and to see the city from a different angle.

Visit the Catacombs

The Catacombs of Paris provide a haunting and unique underground experience. These ossuaries hold the remains of millions of Parisians, transferred there from overcrowded cemeteries during the 18th and 19th centuries. Visitors descend into a subterranean world of narrow passages lined with neatly arranged bones and skulls. The Catacombs offer a fascinating look into the city's history, its intricate tunnel network, and the complex relationship between life and death.

Discover La Promenade Plantée

La Promenade Plantée, also known as the Coulée Verte René-Dumont, is a verdant escape above the bustling streets of Paris. This elevated park stretches for over 2.5 miles along an old railway viaduct, offering a tranquil pathway adorned with flowers, trees, and greenery. Walking or cycling along this linear park provides a serene respite from the city's hustle and bustle, with beautiful views and a chance to connect with nature. La Promenade Plantée was the world's first elevated park, inaugurated in 1993, and has inspired other similar projects around the world, such as New York's High Line or Seoul's Skygarden.

Attend a pétanque match

Pétanque is a quintessential French game that involves tossing metal balls to get them as close as possible to a smaller wooden ball called the cochonnet. Parisian parks and open spaces often host informal games of Pétanque, and you can join in or simply watch the locals play. It's a social activity that offers a glimpse into traditional French leisure culture and a chance to interact with friendly locals.

Uncover the Passages Couverts

The Passages Couverts, or the hidden passages, are a charming and unique feature of Paris. These glass-roofed arcades date back to the 19th century and were the precursors to modern shopping malls. Walking through these passages, such as Passage des Panoramas or Galerie Vivienne, feels like stepping back in time. You'll find a variety of boutiques, shops, cafés, and bookstores, each with its own distinctive character.

Exploring the Passages Couverts offers a glimpse into Paris' history and architectural heritage, all while indulging in shopping and people-watching. For instance, you can find vintage postcards, stamps, and coins at Passage des Panoramas or admire the mosaic floor and the elegant fashion stores at Galerie Vivienne. You can also visit the wax museum at Passage Jouffroy or enjoy a glass of wine at Passage du Grand Cerf.

Experience floating cinema

During the summer months, Paris hosts outdoor film screenings on the Seine River. These floating cinemas provide a unique and enchanting way to enjoy movies. You can watch classic films and recent releases while lounging on deck chairs aboard boats that are moored along the riverbanks. The experience combines the magic of cinema with the romantic ambiance of the Seine, creating an unforgettable evening under the stars. In July 2020, Paris hosted its first-ever "Cinema on the Water," in which 150 lucky winners of a raffle watched a French comedy called "Sink or Swim" from 38 electric boats that were spaced apart to ensure social distancing.

Visit the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature

The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, or the Museum of Hunting and Nature, is a distinctive museum that explores the complex relationship between humans, animals, and the natural world. It houses an eclectic collection of artworks, taxidermy animals, and installations that challenge visitors to reflect on the history and ethics of hunting, as well as humanity's connection to nature.

Some of the highlights of the museum include a room dedicated to unicorns, featuring paintings, sculptures, and tapestries depicting this mythical creature, a bear sculpture by artist Mark Dion that contains various objects related to hunting and nature, and a collection of antique firearms and hunting trophies.

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Take a balloon ride

Parc André Citroën is home to a tethered hot air balloon that offers panoramic views of Paris. The balloon, known as the Ballon de Paris, takes you up to a height of 492 feet, providing breathtaking vistas of the city's landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre. This experience allows you to see Paris from a bird's-eye perspective and is especially enchanting during sunset or twilight.

Experience street art in Belleville

Belleville, a dynamic and artistic neighborhood, is a hub for street art. As you wander its streets, you'll encounter colorful murals, vibrant graffiti, and intricate stencils adorning walls, buildings, and public spaces. This outdoor gallery showcases the creativity and expression of local artists and some famous street artists, such as Seth, C215, or Jef Aérosol. Exploring the street art in Belleville adds a dynamic and contemporary touch to the urban landscape.

Attend a classical music concert

Paris' historic churches provide exceptional acoustics and a serene ambiance for classical music performances. Venues like Sainte-Chapelle and Saint-Sulpice regularly host concerts that feature orchestras, choirs, and soloists. Listening to timeless compositions in these majestic settings offers a transcendent and cultural experience that connects you to the city's rich musical heritage.

Visit the Musée des Arts Forains

The Musée des Arts Forains is a hidden gem that transports visitors into a world of whimsy and nostalgia. This museum is dedicated to fairground arts and entertainment, featuring a stunning collection of vintage rides, carousels, games, and theatrical decorations. Walking through this enchanting space feels like stepping into a carnival from another era, offering a delightful and immersive experience. During your visit, you can interact with some of the exhibits and enjoy rides or games such as the Venetian carousel, the bicycle carousel, or the Japanese billiards.

Explore the covered markets

The covered markets in Paris are a treasure trove of culinary delights and local specialties. The Marché des Enfants Rouges, for instance, is the oldest covered market in Paris and offers a diverse array of international cuisines, from Moroccan tagines to Japanese sushi. Other examples of covered markets in Paris include:

  • Marché Saint-Quentin, which sells fresh produce, cheese, wine, and flowers
  • Marché Beauvau, also known as Marché d'Aligre, which combines an outdoor flea market with an indoor food market
  • Marché Saint-Germain, which features gourmet shops, bakeries, and cafés

Exploring these markets not only satisfies your taste buds but also provides insight into the city's diverse culinary scene.

Take a cooking class

Immerse yourself in the art of French cuisine by joining a cooking class in Paris. Expert chefs guide you through the preparation of classic dishes, allowing you to learn the techniques behind creating delectable treats like croissants, macarons, or coq au vin. These classes offer hands-on experience and a deeper connection to French culinary traditions. Some examples of cooking schools or classes that are available in Paris include Le Cordon Bleu, La Cuisine Paris, and Cook'n With Class. Taking a cooking class in Paris not only allows you to learn new skills and recipes but also to meet new people, have fun, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Enjoy coffee at a literary café

Step into the world of literary legends by visiting iconic cafés like Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. These historic establishments were frequented by renowned writers, philosophers, and artists like Hemingway and Simone de Beauvoir. Sipping coffee or enjoying a meal in these literary havens allows you to soak up the ambiance and connect with the city's cultural heritage. These cafés also host literary events or activities, such as book signings, readings, or discussions. Some of the other literary cafés that can be found in Paris include La Closerie des Lilas, which was a favorite haunt of Fitzgerald and Modigliani; Le Procope, which is the oldest café in Paris and was visited by Voltaire and Rousseau; and Shakespeare and Company Café, which is adjacent to the famous bookstore and offers a cozy spot to read and relax.

Explore Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont offers a unique natural oasis in the heart of the city. Its diverse landscapes include waterfalls, cliffs, a serene lake, and even an island with a temple perched atop it. The park was created in 1867 by Napoleon III as part of his plan to transform Paris into a modern city. It was built on the site of an old quarry and required extensive landscaping and engineering work to create its artificial hills and lake.

Now, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont provides an escape from the urban hustle, inviting you to enjoy leisurely walks, picnics, and relaxation in a setting that feels far removed from the city's bustle. The park also offers some attractions or activities for visitors to enjoy, such as a puppet theater for children, a traditional open-air café for drinks and music, and a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel.

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