Top 10 Unusual Things to Do in Paris

Julia Wytrazek /
Julia Wytrazek / | © Culture Trip
Kathryn Brown and Doni Belau

The French capital has the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre, but if you are a seasoned traveller or just someone who is looking for something different from the Parisian streets then there are other options. Check out an in depth selection of the lesser known activities, tours and sights that make up our 10 unusual things to do in Paris.

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Ballroom dancing at the waterfront at the Jardin Tino Rossi

On warm summer nights the quai along the left bank of Port St Bernard comes alive with people strolling, picnicking and ballroom dancing. Every evening, starting June 1 through the end of August, dancers gather along the river bank near the Institut du Monde Arabe, in the Jardin Tino Rossi, to perfect their salsa, tango, waltz and swing.

Unusual museums

Spend time in some of the other Paris museums. The Museum of Comparative Anatomy and Paleontology provides an amazing look into a the world of 19th-century science with rows and rows of animal skeletons marching shoulder to shoulder against walls lined with old wood and glass cabinets. Within the Jardin des Plantes where the museum resides there is also a botanical garden, zoo and an array of other natural history museums. Other favorites include the Musée de Quai Branly, Musée du Moyen Age and Musée des Arts et Métiers. Check out our full guide to museums in Paris.

Hunting for Roman ruins in Paris

The beautiful capital is still riddled with numerous timeworn traces of its ancient Roman past: a coliseum, baths, and various remains of walls, pillars and carved stones lie strewn about the city, waiting to be discovered by those with an observant eye. While the Roman Baths at Cluny are plausibly the most impressive architectural remnant from the Roman era, the Archaeological Crypt near Notre Dame reveals the center of the old Roman city of Lutetia, right on the Île de la Cité.

Stroll along the Promenade Plantée and Viaduc des Arts

A long, narrow stretch of trees and flowers flourish on what once was an elevated railway track. The promenade, also referred to by locals as La Coulée Verte, stretches from Bastille through the area around Gare de Lyon and Bercy, all the way to the west entrance of the Bois de Vincennes. When you’ve finished enjoying the gardens, drop down to street level and wander along the Viaduc des Arts where ateliers, workshops, cafes and galleries have taken up residence in the vaulted arches below the garden. The main section of both can be found at Avenue Daumesnil, near Bastille.

French 19th-century covered passages

Explore the 19th-century covered passages of Paris: remnants of the post-revolution rise of the middle-class in France, these precursors of today’s department stores and malls have mostly disappeared. Less than 30 still exist today. Some of the most impressive lie strung in a line stretching from Passage Vivienne, behind the Palais Royal, continuing northbound, where they end at rue Cadet, a charming, bustling little street. Passage hopping is perfect for a rainy day in Paris.

Fine wine at the Canal St Martin

Share a bottle of wine at the edge of the Canal St Martin with a friend on a warm evening. Many Paris first-timers (and a lot of long-timers) have yet to experience the Canal St Martin, but it is a popular treat with in-the-know Parisians, artists and the Bobo-Chic crowd. Use a Canal St Martin walking tour to find the most charming areas.

Free Paris street art

The best spot for a graffiti-viewing urban safari is the Canal St Martin in the 10th arrondissement, one of the most exciting and up-and-coming areas in town. Chock-full of wonderful restaurants, artistic shops and great graffiti, the area is a great place for leisurely strolling. To be sure not to miss the best spots for viewing graffiti, try Localers, who offer a space invader tour appropriate for the whole family. Alternatively, do a self-guided tour of Canal St. Martin that will allow you to detour and linger as you like. Check out our full list of places to find street art in Paris.

Trendy Paris neighborhoods

For a hip, off-the-beaten-path neighborhood, visit Belleville’s renowned flea markets and produce stands, filled with bustling shoppers, colorful products, and heckling merchants. Get lost in the tree-lined, picturesque rues of Caulaincourt – a perfect stroll for those seeking a more authentic French atmosphere. Food lovers will want to stroll the charming rue des Martyrs in the 9th arrondissement, one of the best market streets in Paris, where bakeries, cheese sellers and gourmet shops mix with cafés and hot, new restaurants. Visit our guide on the coolest neighbourhoods in Paris to find out more.

Parisian art and culture events

A trip to Paris is best accompanied by a visit to a typically Parisian event. Nuit Blanche, held every autumn, is the one night a year when galleries, museums, and other art and cultural institutions are open all night, free of charge. Those traveling in June should not miss the Fête de la Musique, when the streets will be filled with dancers into the early morning hours. The Journées du Patrimoine (or heritage days celebration), which usually takes place in late summer, is a great opportunity to visit all the government buildings in France, including the Elysée Palace, the National Assembly building and the French Mint.

Local classes

Bring a piece of Paris back home with you by learning a skill you can recreate for friends and family. Sometimes the most memorable experiences arise when you dial back the pace of your visit and take time to view Paris through the lens of a class, whether it’s cooking, photography, calligraphy, writing, or language. Taking a class in Paris is a wonderful way to make some great memories.

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