After seeing the main tourist attractions, you have time for off-the-beaten-path and local experiences In Paris. And Paris does not disappoint!
This list of unique activities is for all tastes, including the oldest traditional cabaret, secret places for dinner and drinks, unique small museums, local food and wine tours, music, secret gardens and creepy underground Paris!
I have been visiting Paris since I was a university student in Rennes and I literally discover new activities and hidden gems each time. It is still my favorite city in the world!
And here is a short list of the best unique things to do:
Best Unique Things to Do in Paris – Quick List
- 🌛 Paris by Night/Electric Bikes: See Paris lights by night on electric bikes.
- 🏆 Paris Ultimate Food Tour: Family-run eateries in the Marais with a local guide.
- 👻Dark Side of Paris: Walking tour with curses, ghosts, scary tales.
- ⛹️♀️ Learn to Play Petanque: Play classic French boules with wine in your hand!
- 🏡Dine with a Local at Home: The ultimate local experience with Parisian hosts
27 Unique Experiences In Paris
Paris is a melting pot of culture and history and of course, interesting experiences.
You could spend a lifetime in Paris and still be discovering unique things to see and do!
I have not been to all of these (yet) and chose them because they are outside the box, local and/or unique.
1. Au Lapin Agile – Traditional Cabaret
Paris’s oldest continuously running cabaret is like a living time capsule in Montmartre. It’s easily one of the most unique (and local) things to do in Paris!
Most tourists visit the Moulin Rouge with its grandeur, but Au Lapin Agile is something much cozier. It’s in a 19th-century stone building, a folk pub space with low ceilings and wooden everything.
Instead of using centre stage, the performers weave through the crowd and sing the old traditional French songs.
Locals mostly come here and sing along lustily with the performers, but you will be welcomed as part of the group, too.
👉 Pro Tip: Arrive early to get a comfortable seat for this intimate show.
- Location: Montmartre – 22 Rue des Saules, 75018
- Cost: Free (but you have to buy drinks)
- Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 9 pm – 1 am
2. See Paris By Night
I took a taxi tour of Paris by night with a friend and it was the highlight of that trip to Paris for me!
Monuments like Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre Museum are illuminated; the light reflects on the Seine and cobblestone streets.
Another option is a night walking tour through some of the best areas to see at night. The guide also shares secret stories and unique experiences in Paris while you are going from landmarks to hidden gems.
3. Dine With a Local Parisian at Home
Getting to know locals isn’t always easy while travelling but if you book this Local Dinner with Parisian Hosts, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a 4-course meal, get to know lifelong Parisians, and see an authentic home in the process.
You might leave with a few local recommendations as well! You will want to book this tour early on in your trip, so you can take advantage of their tips and recommendations.
4. Take a Hot Air Balloon Over Paris
One of the most original things to do in Paris: Fly above the city in a hot air balloon!
You get a birds-eye view of the streets, monuments and gardens in this 10-minute flight 150 meters above the city.
- Cost: 18€ or adults, 12€ or children
- No reservations
- Accessible with a manual wheelchair; pregnant women not allowed
- Tickets and info at Ballon de Paris
5. Tour the Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier is often overlooked but full of cultural relevance; it is the setting for the Phantom of the Opera, one of the most famous works of literature to come out of France.
It was built for the Paris Opera in the mid-1800s at the order of Emperor Napoleon.
The Palais Garnier is opulent and mysterious with grand staircases and ornate ceilings. There is even an underground “lake” here, which you can learn about with the after-hours tour.
There’s the choice of booking a day tour or an after-hours tour (after 5 pm) for a more intimate and less crowded experience.
- Location: Pl. de l’Opéra, 75009
- Cost: €23 for guided tour, €16.50 for those 10-24; €15 for a self-guided tour, €10 for reduced rates
- Hours: Open daily from 10 am – 5 pm
6. Take a Small Group Food (and Culture) Tour – Local Experience!
While trying French cuisine is a must-do, you can turn that into an unforgettable experience by booking a food and culture tour.
If you are in Paris for a weekend, I suggest taking a food tour first to give you an idea of where you might want to go back to and so you can ask the guide for suggestions of where to go later.
These are my favorite small group food tours, each with a unique focus:
🏆 Paris Ultimate Food Tour Best for Overall Paris Food Experience: Explore family-run eateries, and learn about the dishes from the locals who create them.
🍷 Paris at Sunset: Aperitif, Food & Wine Tour. Best for Sunsets and Latin Quarter. Visit the characteristic streets of the Latin Quarter, soaking up spectacular views and incredible food and drinks
🧀 Montmartre Like a Local – Paris Food Tour. Best for Montmartre and Local Experience. Sample cheeses France is famous for with small-batch wine and artisan bread and pastries. If you love patisserie, wine, and cheese, this is the tour for you.
7. Dine on a Classic River Barge
Another one of my favourite things outside the box in Paris is having drinks and dinner on a river barge.
The Péniche Marcounet, in the 4th arrondissement, is a good place to unwind in the evenings. They have a small restaurant and bar, great tapas, plus live music and jam sessions.
It’s also a good place for Sunday brunch, which isn’t widely available in Paris.
It’s open year-round, with heating and a covered terrace. Some nights have a cover fee of around 5€ and other nights have free entry.
Check their calendar to plan your visit.
- Location: Port des Célestins, Quai de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004
- Cost: Varies
- Hours: 9 am – 2 pm daily, opens at 11 am on Sundays for brunch
8. Visit Secret Gardens – Walking Tour
I haven’t done this tour, but I want to!
It has excellent reviews, one person stated it was the highlight of a 14-day trip to France. From the website:
“Your guide will take you into magical gardens, hidden in scenic wilderness, and introduce you to some of the grand French gardens of history…find out-of-fashion rose bushes, chessboards, and even cemeteries and hospitals that leave you alone with the best views of Paris”
- Length: 2 hours
- Cost: 80€
9. Attend a Concert in a Cathedral
Visiting a French cathedral is another must-do in Paris, but you can take it one step further by attending a classical concert in one. This is one of my favorite things to do in Paris.
The music, the architecture, and the mood all combine for a magical and moving experience.
There are always cathedral concerts going on in the city, so take a look at the calendar to find one during your visit.
- Location: Various cathedrals across Paris
- Cost: €22 +
- Hours: Vary
10. Experience a Grand Pipe Organ Concert
Above is Saint-Eustache church just before an organ concert.
Sundays at Église Saint-Eustache in the 1st arrondissement feature morning concerts by the Saint-Eustache singers, preceded by an intriguing introduction to the Grand Organ.
St. Eustache is large enough and impressive enough to be cathedral-like and is worth a visit by itself. The Grand Organ here is one of the most prestigious in France with 8,000 pipes.
I attended the free organ concert which is on Sundays at 5:30 before the 6:00 pm mass.
Other venues like Église Saint-Roch in the 1st arrondissement, Oratoire du Louvre in the 1st arrondissement, Église de la Madeleine in the 8th arrondissement, and Paroisse Sainte-Clotilde in the 7th arrondissement, offer free concerts.
Check this listing for a calendar of concerts in Paris, including the free pipe organ concerts.
Nothing like a macaron-making class in Paris for a local experience in the Latin Quarter!
Over two hours, you’ll dive into the secrets of crafting perfect macarons using the Italian meringue style, plus learn how to make your filling and pipe.
Once you’re finished, enjoy coffee or tea with your handmade macaroons as you get to know your classmates. One of the best things about this Paris macarons class is that you’ll get to leave with a box of your handmade treats – the perfect souvenir!
- Location: Latin Quarter – Le Foodist, 59 Rue Cardinal Lemoine, 75005
- Cost: € 140
- Hours: 3 pm daily
12. French Wine and Champagne Tour
Immerse yourself in the spirit of Paris and deepen your cultural understanding of French wine with a sommelier in an authentic wine cellar.
You will sample five wines and one champagne sourced from various regions across France. The expert sommelier guides you through the unique characteristics of each, demonstrates tasting techniques and teaches you to read a French wine label.
You also learn how champagne is made and what makes it unique.
You can choose a cheese and charcuterie board option to enjoy with the regional wines.
- Length: 2 hours
- Cost: 70€
13. Jazz at Caveau de la Huchette
The historic Caveau de la Huchette is a jazz club just 5 minutes from Notre Dame. It’s popular with both locals and visitors.
When I came here years ago I didn’t know what to expect, and I came away with an unforgettable evening. I still remember the feeling of a strange and cozy underground setting.
The venue feels intimate and a bit grungy. You’ll descend into this small, cave-like space that may seem off-putting at first, but as soon as the music begins, you’ll see why this is one of the best nightlife places in Paris.
It has a friendly, laidback, and inviting vibe that encourages you to dance freely (the drinks also help)
- Location: Latin Quarter – 5 Rue de la Huchette, 75005
- Cost: Weekdays €14, weekends €16, students under 25 €10 daily
- Hours: Sunday – Thursday 9 pm – 2:30 am, Fridays & Saturdays 9 pm – 4 am
14. Make Your Own Perfume
Looking for your signature scent in Paris? None will be more ‘you’ than one you’ve created yourself.
This workshop near the Trocadero Gardens is a small class with just 6-8 people, hosted by a perfume master who will give you a lesson in how to make perfume and help you discover a scent that is all yours.
You will take home your own unique Parisian perfume in a 50-ml bottle. Other great unique experiences in Paris.
15. Shop the Marché Aux Puces (Flea Market)
You can find any hidden treasure imaginable in the Marché aux Puces, the world’s (yes, the world’s!) largest flea market. It is a cultural experience in itself and much like a small village with many unique streets.
Everything from high-end chandeliers to Paris memorabilia is here. Also cafes and food vendors. It is possible to visit on your own but daunting to navigate the 2500 booths.
A good option that also gives you real local experience is this small group tour, where you will meet local vendors, learn to bargain like a Parisian, how to tell the quality and whether something is worth the price.
It’s a complete experience that still leaves you with plenty of time to shop for items.
- Location: St-Ouen Flea Market (Paris Flea Market) 99 All. des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine
- Cost: Free to enter
- Hours: Saturday, Sunday 10 am – 6 pm, Monday 11 am – 5 pm
16. Visit the Gustave Moreau Museum
Wander through the former home of one of France’s most renowned symbolist painters from the 1800s, Gustave Moreau. It’s a small and intimate space with a stunning spiral staircase and tons of sketches and creations by the painter.
This museum is unique since you are in the actual home of the artist filled with his many creations in all stages of design.
It’s like being in a museum within a museum and the spiral staircase is a work of art in itself.
- Location: 14 rue de la Rochefoucauld
- Hours: 10-6 every day except Tuesday
- Cost: 7 Euro. Free the first Sunday of every month.
17. Walk Along the Paris Ceinture
The Paris Ceinture, also known as the Petite Ceinture or “Little Belt,” is off the beaten path, even unknown to many locals. It is a former railway that circled Paris, now turned into a walking trail.
The wooden tracks are overgrown with wildflowers, lush greenery, and untamed vegetation. It’s like a glimpse into the forgotten industrial remnants of Paris’s past.
There are many access points to the Petite Ceinture, but you can follow this guide for info on where to get on the old tracks.
☝ Warning! If you’re planning on walking through some of the tunnels, be warned that they can be very long and VERY dark. You’ll need a strong flashlight as your phone simply won’t do.
- Location: All around Paris
- Cost: Free
- Hours: Trail usually opens around 8 am – 9 am and closes between 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
18. Learn to Play Pétanque (Boules) – Local Experience
Learn the beloved French game of Pétanque (Boules) with a glass of wine in your hand at the charming Place Dauphine. A real Parisian experience!
If you visit any park in Paris, or France for that matter, you’re bound to see people playing pétanque.
In two hours you will learn the rules and practice throwing techniques in a friendly match against the other folks on the tour, which enjoying a glass of French wine.
19. Visit the Museum of Magic and Curiosity
If you’re into magical things, you will enjoy the Musée de la Magie.
It’s not a must-have experience in Paris but is one of the unique experiences in Paris, but it’s interesting if you’re in the Le Marais neighbourhood and have some extra time. It’s also a nice family-friendly activity!
Inside you’ll find optical illusions, interactive games, and a permanent magic show. Most of the captions are written in French, so keep this in mind if you visit.
- Location: 4th arrondissement – 1 Rue Saint-Paul, 7500
- Cost: adults €15.00, ages 3-12 €11
- Hours: Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday 2 – 7 pm
20. Visit the Louvre at Night
While going to the Louvre itself is not unique, visiting it at night most certainly is.
As the world’s most visited museum, The Louvre often hosts special night events or extended evening hours.
Be sure to check the schedule. Sometimes, the museum opens its doors late on certain days. Nighttime openings might require reservations or specific tickets.
You’ll also want to see the Louvre’s exterior and surrounding courtyards illuminated at night – which is free! They make for fantastic photo opportunities and are also among the unique experiences in Paris.
21. Visit the Montmartre Museum and Renoir’s Garden
The Montmartre Museum offers a fascinating journey through one of the city’s most iconic neighbourhoods. It’s housed in a charming building dating back to the 17th century.
It has an intimate feel that portrays the lives and works of renowned artists who once called Montmartre home.
I recommend taking a stroll through the Renoir Gardens (€5 extra). It’s a tranquil space that overlooks the Clos Montmartre vineyard – the city’s last remaining vineyard.
You can buy a combo ticket for visiting the museum and vineyards with a complimentary wine tasting,
- Location: 12 Rue Cortot, 75018
- Cost: General ticket €10 with discounts possible
- Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 11 am – 5 pm
22. Spooky Paris Experience – The Catacombs
The Paris Catacombs, an underground labyrinth stretching beneath the city, offer haunting and unique experiences in Paris.
You descend into tunnels and find yourself in an eerie world of history and mystery – the forever home of some six million people. A little creepy, yes, but it’s certainly one of the most unique things to do in Paris.
You will need to be able to walk about a mile and go down 130 steps and back up again, there is no elevator.
- Address: 1 Av. du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014
- Hours: Daily 9:45 to 8:30 daily. Closed Monday.
23. Secrets of Père LaChaise Cemetery with the Great Mme. Sybille
This unique tour of the secrets of Père Lachaise is budget-friendly, theatrical and fun!
You learn historical, mystical and romantic anecdotes of the cemetery and its famous residents from the vibrant Marie-Anne Lenormand, a woman who played a great role in the French Revolution.
Some of the gravesites included are Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Chopin and Edith Piaf. Comfortable walking shoes are a must.
- Length: 2 hours
- Cost: 20€
24. Drinks or Dinner at Le Comptoir Général
Set along Canal Saint Martin, Le Comptoir Général is more than just a cute bar/restaurant, it’s a melting pot of art, history, and entertainment.
Inside, you’ll find a bar, an art gallery, a thrift shop, a music venue, and a greenhouse all in one.
While you soak up the unique experiences in Paris, enjoy a delicious rum cocktail paired with one of their popular seafood dishes as you take in the eclectic ambience.
If you like rustic chic places with quirky energy, you’ll probably love Le Comptoir Général.
- Location: 84 Quai de Jemmapes, 75010
- Cost: $$-$$$
- Hours: Closed Mondays, Tuesdays 6 pm – 1 am, Sunday 11 am – 1 am, Wednesday – Saturday 10 am – 2 am
25. Drinks at a Paris Speakeasy
There’s something about Paris that feels forever in the 1920s. You can get that vibe at a speakeasy, but they are not that easy to find. Fitzgerald is a restaurant with a hidden speakeasy tucked away in the back.
Location: 54 Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg, 75007
👉 Directions: You head to a completely unmarked door and push on through. Once inside, you’ll find a small venue with plush booths and unassuming flamingos on the walls. It’s characteristic and mysterious, and the cocktails are the average price for a place of this style.
Some other Paris speakeasy bars include spots like Clandestino in the centre of Paris, Secret 8 inside Buddha-Bar Paris (get in by telling the doorman the answer to a riddle from their Instagram @secret8bybuddhabar), and Lavomatic hidden in a laundromat.
26. See the “Oh My God, She’s Parisian!” Comedy Show
This is the only one-woman comedy show in Paris. It’s all in English, by a Parisian woman and it is hilarious!
You get to learn about and laugh about Parisian quirks and customs.
- When: Most Friday and Saturday evenings
- Length: One hour
- Cost: 31€
27. See Hidden Gems of Paris on Electric Bikes
Get access to places and sites not open to the general public and hear little-known stories about historic sites. This tour has a solid five-star rating.
You get to see Secret Paris up close with a guide and you don’t have to pedal up hills! What’s not to like? 😎
28. Breathtaking Views of Paris at Galleries Lafayette Rooftop
The rooftop at Galeries Lafayette’s department store is a less well-known spot with excellent 360-degree views of Paris. Plus, it’s free!
And from June-October you can have drinks and vegetarian snacks at the rooftop bar/restaurant, Créature.
Rooftop access from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
29. Visit Richelieu Library – National Library of France
There are four national library spaces in Paris, and the Richelieu building is the one you want to see for its unique and majestic architecture. There are literally thousands of books.
You can enter and take photos, but to read you must show proof of research.
So this is a short visit for lovers of libraries, books or architecture, and/or for a break from the busy centre of Paris (it is near the Palais Royal).
It is possible to visit some of the other rooms and also possible to book a tour on certain days. Check their website for more info: https://www.bnf.fr/en/richelieu
And a bonus hidden gem: across from the library on rue de la Richelieu is a lovely small garden and fountain on the Square Louvois
- Location: 58 Rue Vivienne, 75002
- Website: https://www.bnf.fr/en/richelieu
Where To Stay In Paris
I’ve stayed in six different neighbourhoods (arrondissements) in Paris and each has its charms.
The main thing you want is to be within easy walking distance of a metro station.
I recommend that people new to Paris stay in the Latin Quarter, St. Germain des Pres or the Marais; they all are excellent locations for wandering and also close to other main attractions.
Here are three high-quality hotels with character, located near a metro.
📍Budget Option: Hotel La Louisiane (St. Germain des Pres) Artsy, original, well located, quiet inner courtyard, sitting room with piano, great walking location http://www.hotel-lalouisiane.com/eng/history.php
📍Mid-Range Option: Hôtel des Grandes Ecoles (Latin Quarter) Unique country house atmosphere, country-like setting, gardens, peaceful. https://en.hoteldesgrandesecoles.com/
📍Luxury Option: Hotel Recamier (St. Sulpice, St. Germain des Pres) former Bourgeois family home, elegant, unique views of St. Sulpice, discreetly nestled behind trees, award-winning https://en.hotelrecamier.com/hotel
Here are some questions about Paris and answers based on many trips there.
What things are unique to Paris?
The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Bastille, The Catacombs
What is one thing not to miss in Paris?
What to splurge on in Paris?
Four-course meal, wine, a good quality hotel in an excellent location.
For those willing to branch out, Paris is full of unique outside-the-box experiences.
Paris is a vibrant and multicultural city with ancient roots, made of many old neighbourhoods, each with its character and hidden gems.
Hemmingway called Paris “a moveable feast” and I would say that applies to activities as well as food!
I hope this list whets your appetite for the interesting and special experiences that Paris has to offer. Enjoy!