When I say Paris, what do you think of first? You’re probably thinking “the Eiffel Tower” or “croissants!” While those are two very Parisian things, there is much more than stunning landmarks and buttery pastries. Today I’m going to talk about 10 spots in Paris I only learned about after living there. If you’ve already spent some time in Paris, are a francophile, or a local yourself, this list will not be a surprise to you. This list of Paris Spots Unknown by Tourists is for travelers daydreaming about their eventual trip to the city of lights. Or for the average person who just wants to know what more there is to Paris than baguettes and art museums!
Paris Spots Unknown by Tourists: Parks and Gardens
The two most famous parks in Paris have to be le Jardin des Tuileries, a grand garden situated in between the Louvre museum and Place de la Concorde, and le Jardin du Luxembourg, a charming place for picnics and strolls in the Latin Quarter. Although these two gardens are magical, Paris has so many other green spaces to offer!
1. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
If you want a picnic in a picturesque park and a leg workout, head over to les Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement in Northeast Paris! A butte is a small hill and at the top of the butte is a cute little gazebo like structure called the Temple de la Sibylle. This temple was actually modeled after Italy’s Temple of Vesta. When the sun shines in Paris you’ll be sure to find friends, couples, and families gathered on the lawn enjoying the good weather and company.
Metro Stations: Buttes-Chaumont (7), Botzaris (7), and Laumière (5)
2. Le Jardin des Plantes
This is another popular garden in Paris located in the 5th arrondissement that I didn’t learn about until I moved to Paris myself! This huge garden doesn’t just offer flowers and benches, but there is also a History Museum and a mini-zoo where you can find wallabies! In the winter there is a light festival with giant animal sculptures. Personally I loved going here to sit beneath the trees and read, jog, and eat lunch outside.
Metro: Jussieu (7,10), Gare d’Austerlitz (5,10)
3. Le Parc de La Villette
Like Buttes-Chaumont, La Villette is also located in the 19th, and though it seems out of they way, it is worth the trek! Along the banks of the canal, you’ll find groups of young friends enjoying an apéro. What’s more is that this park is also home to many attractions such as the Philharmonie de Paris, the Zénith concert arena, and more. This is another spot I’m glad I learned about last year because there are always so many events going on and it’s a good change of scenery – though how could one get sick of looking at the Seine in central Paris?
Metro: Porte de Pantin (5), Porte de la Villette (7)
4. Bois de Vincennes
On the Southeastern border of Paris you will find its largest park, the Bois de Vincennes – so big that it translates to the “Woods of Vincennes.” This park is the perfect escape if you are sick of rush of the city and the pollution that comes with it – honestly you will forget you are in Paris while taking a stroll here. In the Spring, I would suggest visiting the Parc floral, a park within a park to visit the botanical gardens. When visiting the park I would also suggest stopping by the Château de Vincennes to see its iconic keep.
Metro: Porte de Charenton (8), Château de Vincennes (1), Vincennes (RER A)
Paris Spots Unknown by Tourists: Churches and More
We all know and love Notre-Dame. Some of you may even be partial to Montmartre’s Sacre-Coeur. However, there are many more churches and cathedrals and other religious buildings scattered all throughout Paris.
5. Église St-Étienne-du-Mont
Nestled behind the Panthéon and before rue Mouffetard is an enchanting little church, that may be smaller than a cathedral, but is no less beautiful. The steps of this church were featured in Midnight in Paris as the spot where Owen Wilson’s character gets picked up by a strange old car and transports into the 1920’s. I didn’t run into anytime travelers walking around this neighborhood, but I did loose track of time admiring the charming little streets. Also lovely on the inside, this church is worth putting on your Paris list!
Metro: Cardinal Lemoine (10), Luxembourg (RER B)
6. La Grande Mosquée
For something different than a Cathedral, try visiting the Grande Mosquée. In a city dominated by Catholic influence, it’s nice to see another culture and religion represented. Also located in the 5th arrondissement next to the Jardin des Plantes, this mosque is one of the largest in France. I love the colors, patterns, and gardens of this beautiful building. Before you leave, don’t forget to stop by the salon de thé and have a delicious cup of mint tea – seriously, fresh mint tea is life changing!
Metro: Place Monge (7), Jussieu (7,10), Saint-Marcel (5)
Paris Spots Unknown by Tourists: Neighborhoods
What famous neighborhoods do you know in Paris? Maybe Montmartre and the Latin Quarter? Paris is divided into 20 different arrondissements (districts), and each one has its own character and charm. I personally loved the Latin Quarter because it’s where I lived and studied, but it’s so much fun just walking around Paris to discover new spots.
The Buttes-aux-Cailles (quaill hill) is a hilly and up and coming quarter in Southeast Paris. Full of trendy bars and restaurants, this neighborhood attracts a useful crowd. Besides the nightlife, I also love the architecture here, which may seem simple compared to the Haussmannian apartments on the grand boulevards, but is actually quite unique and adorable.
Metro: Corvisart (6), Tolbiac (7)
8. La Chapelle
Parisians reading this you might be thinking La Chapelle, really? Why would you put a neighborhood so close to the chaotic train station Gare du Nord on your list? Well, I wanted to include some spots that are off the beaten path. Although crazy busy and not the safest place to be wandering alone at night, I want to put this area on my list because it is not a dreamy touristy part of Paris! My favorite part about La Chapelle is the vast array of Indian restaurants. Sometimes it can be hard in Paris to enjoy meals with friends because French food is very meat focused, but in the quartier de la Chapelle you can find all vegetarian restaurants! I would have to recommend Dishny, an authentic South Indian restaurant I can wait to dine at again.
Metro: Gare du Nord (4, 5, RER B, RER D), La Chapelle (2)
9. Villa Léandre
Okay so this is technically a street in Montmartre, and not an actual neighborhood itself, but it looks like it could be! Believe it or not, with in the streets of Paree’s bohemian headquarters is an English style row of apartments. I found out about this cute lane during a lesser known Montmartre walking tour last summer. A great place for photos and wondering how much the residents pay in rent each month!
Metro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (12), Blanche (2)
Ah Oberkampf! After checking out all these less-touristy parts of Paris all day you might want to check into your airbnb and call it a night. If you want to check out the Paris nightlife however and mingle with locals, head on over to the Oberkampf quarter in the 11th. Here you’ll find a mix of upscale bars and hole-in-the-wall bistros. There are even some clubs, if that’s your thing. Dine here with friends because you can find any kind of restaurant imaginable! One of my favorite activities was practicing my language skills and meeting Parisians, expats, and travelers at the Mundo Lingo Language exchange. You might even meet a cute Frenchie and fall in love here like I did!
Metro: Oberkampf (5,9), Filles du Calvaire (8), Parmentier (3)
That’s it for today’s list of Paris spots unknown by tourists, but I could have included so many other places. If you don’t know much about Paris tell me if you’ve heard of these places. And Parisians, do you agree with my list? Is there anything you would change?
Let me know what you would like to see next – museums, restaurants, boutiques, and more!
À la prochaine,
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