What are the first things that come to your mind when you think about Paris? Eiffel Tower? Arc de Triomphe? Louvre? I want to take you beyond that and show you the real Paris – artistic, tasty, and raw! Learn about unique experiences in Paris – travel back in time, release your inner artist, eat the history for dinner… Oh, even start baking like a French chef!
Paris is the capital of France and it doesn’t need an introduction. It is a wonderful city that attracts a lot of visitors each year, but this comes with a price. It has become so touristic, that it’s almost impossible to find something authentic and unique.
After visiting Paris more than 5 times, I can honestly say that we have become friends and Paris finally decided to open up to me. Here are 8 unique experiences in Paris that will help you do the same. We can call these hidden gems of Paris and trust me, there are not many left.
1. Make choux (or any other French dessert) with a local chef
Let’s switch it up and let’s start our course with a dessert. French eat cheese for dessert, so we will have choux for a starter. People argue about which cuisine is the best, but I believe that we can all agree on the fact that French desserts are the best in the entire world. The amount of work, attention and even art that the French put into a sweet is mind-blowing to me, so I wanted to become part of that. Wondering how you can do the same?
Sign up for a baking class and become a master of this art! When planning my trip to Paris I looked up more information about this experience and I came across Atenteaute which offers everything from Macarons to Éclairs. I signed up to try one of those things that I never heard of – choux! The experience with Atenteaute is organized in small groups with a master chef who will share all the secrets about this French pastry filled with cream.
This is a hands-on experience which means that in 2 hours you are the artist of French desserts! Or maybe I would like to think so! But I can guarantee that you will have a wonderful time, learn some new things and maybe even make friends. It’s such a unique experience in Paris and it’s perfect for solo travelers, couples, kids, young adults, or the older generation – everyone is welcomed.
Click here to book your baking class and get ready to impress everyone back home once your vacation is over.
2. Reading tour – discover famous bookstores in Paris
Maybe you are wondering how to be a real Parisian and how to blend in with locals? Well, start with a book. If you stop for a moment and look around, you will notice how many people come to sit at the bar with a book or two… And with their coffee… Or a glass of Rouge. In fact, many writers have found their inspiration in Paris, so let’s go around famous bookstores and let’s challenge your inner artist. Photography options are limited in these places, so go there to see with your own eyes!
Shakespeare And Company
The founder of this bookstore explained that he created the shop like a novel and you will understand what it means once you enter. It has many chapters and many little adventures around each corner. And it leaves you with inspiration once you finish it. Nowadays, this bookstore can get very crowded, but it is right next to Notre Dame, therefore, you can fit it so easily into your Paris itinerary. Spoiler alert! There will be a surprise waiting for you on the second floor!
“The First English Bookshop Established on the Continent.”
“Librairie Galignani is a place where books are not mere products meant to be sold, but rather precious objects of wisdom and aesthetic delight.“
“This Christmas they featured a gorgeous display of mini Dior gowns. Even Karl Lagerfeld has been spotted browsing the shelves.“
I think this says it all and you are curious to visit already, but I have to warn you: it does not look historical at all (unlike Shakespeare And Company), however, it still has a great collection of English books and it is right next to Angelina (the best chocolate-everything, remember?).
Le Used Book Cafe Merci
Access to used books, plus, the cafe with tasty food and warm drinks? Yes, paradise does exist and it is located in Paris. I think this is a perfect option for those of you who like to keep open relationships with your books and cannot commit to one particular story. Read a bit of every dish and taste a bit of every book. Note: it is located in Le Marais where you will be going anyway to visit Fragonard and do some authentic shopping in Paris. Keep reading to discover what I am talking about.
3. Hidden treasure hunting
I think most of us can agree that Paris is an open-air museum and you can see art on every corner, however, there are some well-hidden indoor treasures that you should not miss during your visit. One of them is Musée Jacquemart-André.
First of all, this place is not as popular as Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, and with that comes a huge advantage – you do not have to wait in long lines or go through big crowds to appreciate the art. I would say it’s an unusual Paris attraction, yet still had that French charm.
Famous couple Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart moved into this mansion back in the 19th century. Instead of having babies, they decided to travel the world and collect art. After their death, the mansion was handed over to local institutions and nowadays is open to the public… Yes, with all the art that they collected during their travels.
Aside from all the rooms filled with paintings, sculptures, and royal furniture, I really enjoyed The Winter Garden inside the mansion. Imagine this – marble room with a glass ceiling and full of plants, pretty right? On top of that, you get a majestic staircase that brings you up to the second floor. At the end of this cultural meal, there is a dessert, and dessert is served in The Salon de Thé. Stop by for coffee and some sweets to finish up this unique experience in Paris.
Address: 158, boulevard Haussmann 75008 Paris
Opening times: 10 AM-6 PM.
Price: €12(€7.50 if you are 7-25 years old) with an audio guide included.
ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS: Hôtel Particulier in Montmartre or Chateau Chantilly about 50 kilometers north of Paris.
4. Travel back in time with a retro car in Montmartre
Visiting Montmartre is like a lesson in history – you can taste the culture and read the traditions. Did you know that back in the 19th century Montmartre was not part of Paris and did not have any tax obligations? Probably the lack of institutional control turned this place perfect for free spirits and topped it with a bohemian vibe.
If you think that walking around the tiny streets of Montmartre is enchanting, you have to try a drive in a retro car with an experienced local right after sunrise. This was pure magic! Streets are practically empty, hence you see old buildings through the windows of that retro car. It truly seems that you have traveled back to the 19th century and Montmartre is waking up after a busy night full of passions, chit-chats, and loads of wine.
Click here to book this unique experience in Paris and travel back in time as well. I can’t recommend this enough! Here are some of my favorite places that you will see during this tour in Montmartre.
Place du Tertre
BONUS SPOT: Lamarck – Caulaincourt – metro station
5. Hiding from the rain in the passages of Paris
Passages are perfect not only for rainy days but also for those who are looking for a quiet getaway in the middle of the busy city and discover unique Paris. I want to take you around my absolute favorite galleries and explain why you should visit each one of them. Let’s go?
Passage des Panoramas
One of the oldest covered passages of Paris. Right at the entrance, you will find some amazing restaurants like Victoria Station and French Paradox that really take you back in time. In general, most of the original facades of the stores have been kept the same, meaning that the design is authentic and you will notice it as soon as you enter. Deeper you can indulge in philatelist boutiques, and find some unique postcards or stamps. So if you are looking for one-of-a-kind souvenirs, this is your place.
Address: 11 Boulevard Montmartre, Paris, 75002
Opening hours: 6 am – 00 pm.
Bonus point: there is another amazing gallery right in front of this one and it is called Passage Jouffroy.
One of the fanciest covered passages of Paris. This place used to be extremely popular until Champs-Élysées came into the picture. Elegant, sophisticated, charming, and luxurious… Yet not as busy as other shopping centers in Paris. If you are not planning to buy anything, it is still worth a visit! This way you get insight into Parisian luxurious life.
Address: 4 rue des Petits-Champs, Paris, 75002
Opening hours: 8.30 am –8.30 pm, closed on Sundays.
Bonus point: you can find amazing luxury items for affordable prices directly from local designers.
Galerie Véro-Dodat is one of the hidden gems in Paris. Stained-glass ceilings, mosaic floors, and perfect architecture will sweep you off your feet. Just like all the other passages, this one is full of shops, art galleries, and restaurants. It has a little something for every taste. Starting from vintage goodies and ending with designer pieces.
Address: 19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Paris, 75001
Opening hours: 7 am – 10 pm, closed on Sundays.
Bonus point: you know it is a hidden gem when you visit the place at midday and get it completely empty, no need to wake up early for visiting this location.
And the good news is that all these passages are close to each other. This means you can easily combine these places and go passages hunting. That’s another one of those unique things to do in Paris.
6. Rue Cremiex and “le petit-déjeuner”
“Le petit-déjeuner” is simply a fabulous breakfast served in French. It comes with coffee, orange juice, and some pastries like a buttery croissant or fresh baguette with some jams or chocolate. You have to agree that this is not an everyday option, nor for the French, but if you are visiting Paris, you can indulge in all those fresh pastries and forget about calories for a day or two. Start your day right!
Rue Crémieux is the most colorful street in Paris right by Gare de Lyon. And this is a place that you should combine with your breakfast deal. Pedestrian Street with 35 colorful homes is a popular attraction for photo lovers, however, it is not a typical place that you will find in every Paris guide. I highly advise you to add this place to your itinerary so you can experience a colorful getaway in a pastel city like Paris.
Please keep in mind that this is not a museum or the Eiffel tower. This is the actual home of many residents, therefore, please remain respectful and do not cause any trouble. I certainly believe you can take a photo or two without a big fuss, but don’t go there at 8 AM recording videos or screaming out your excitement.
An enormous amount of pastries and hidden colorful corners will set your day!
7. Restaurant hopping and discovering the oldest cafes in Paris
I think we all can agree that local cuisine during your travels is a must. Especially in France. But of course, Parisians decided to take it to next level and bring art into their cuisine. I’m talking about the food in your place, the service that surrounds you, and the environment you become part of. Restaurant hopping is part of every guide, but discovering the oldest cafes and restaurants in the capital of France is another unique experience in Paris that won’t be the same anywhere else in the world. Here are some places that you shouldn’t miss.
Back in the time, Angelina gathered the crème de la crème and now you get to be a part of that as well. Angelina in Parisian means the best chocolate-everything. Okay, I made it up, but this is an institution for cake lovers and hot chocolate, so you simply have to add it to your Paris experiences. You might find a long queue and a lot of tourists, but you will see that locals love this place as well. The truth is, all of us want to try that hot chocolate and this is the price.
Bouillon Julien is another historical restaurant that you shouldn’t miss. It’s like eating in a museum. For a historical place like this, dishes are very affordable and yes, very delicious. Make a reservation and get ready to wait in line once again (remember, it is standard for all the best places in Paris). Amongst the most beautiful restaurants in the city, it’s a well-preserved example of the Art Nouveau style and it was one of Edith Piaf’s favorite haunts. This experience will cost you around €20-€25 per person and I would be willing to spend much more just to taste their tender chicken and get that crunchy chocolate dessert.
The Café Procope
Legendary restaurant in the 6th arrondissement of Paris since 1686, Le Procope is a place full of history where the greatest writers & intellectuals met (Rousseau, Diderot, Verlaine…). Slightly more expensive option than Bouillon Julien, but their menu is one of a kind. And this is actually the oldest cafe in Paris. Not to mention beautiful design and service that takes you back in time to some aristocratic dining room of a wealthy French family.
BONUS POINT: explore secret tables of Paris – these are restaurants hidden inside bookstores, flower shops, and even butcher shops. Code words are Les Provinces, Caché, and Maison Sota, but hey! Let’s keep this between us!
8. Explore old through new in Le Marais
A trendy area that feels like a little village inside Paris? It is called Le Marais and it has it all. Fancy shops, trendy bars, tiny streets, beautiful architecture, peaceful parks, multiple private mansions, and museums. On top of that, you get art that takes you back in time or travels your mind into the future. It is one of those places where you bring your walking shoes and get ready to wander around without a specific plan. You will stumble along with some treasures, trust me!
Rue des Francs-Bourgeois and the Rue Vieille du Temple
Let’s be honest, Paris has great shopping areas on every corner, but these two streets have all the luxury boutiques and high-street flagships you could wish for. And I’m talking about authentic Parisian shopping. You will find Atelier founded in 1896, The King of Cashmere, the poetic French leather goods shop, bazaars and so much more. To be honest, if you are looking for authentic French design with top quality, this is your place… Get your credit card ready!
I learned about the perfume Fragonard back in 2016 when I visited the South of France. In Eze, there is The Laboratory Factory and you can get a free guided tour to learn about their products and how the brand was developed. Visiting Fragonard in Paris brings back all those nice memories from Cote d’Azur. Aside from that, they have very high-quality products for affordable prices, therefore, you will not regret your purchases. There is a shop of Fragonard in Le Marais, but there are also Factories and Museums in Paris where you can get your free tour and learn about iconic French perfume.
The Hôtel de Ville
The main office of the Mayor of Paris and the top Rendez-vous place for most of the Parisians used to be a site of horrible executions. Back in the time, King Francis I decided to give the people of Paris a city hall in 1533. Paris was the largest city in Christendom and in Europe during the time, and he wanted to build a hall worthy of the city. And considering the massive size of the building and royal details, I would say that he succeeded.
COOL IDEA: if you visit during the Christmas period you will find a huge ice skating rink and amazing Christmas markets. They also host many interesting events, therefore check out their schedule and include it in your itinerary.
This is the end of unique experiences in Paris and I truly hope you can manage to experience half of these. If you have been to Paris already and want to get a closer look, this list will help you and make your Paris itinerary unforgettable.
I would love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback or additional tips, leave a comment below. Also, check out my Instagram for regular travel videos and travel inspiration. Or explore other destinations on this travel blog.