Beyond the fame of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, and far away from the glitz and glamour of Rue Saint Honoré or Champs Elysées, there’s the Paris as locals know it. On this side of town, things are equally pretty and interesting, albeit in a more wholesome slow-life, real-world kind of way.
Slightly off the tourist’s map of Paris, there are many hidden gems only Parisians know about. If you’re on a tight schedule, these might be too far off the must-do Paris trail.
But if you have some time at hand, and are interested in getting to know the city of Paris the way Parisians do, exploring these hidden gems will help you see Paris in a whole new light.
Here are some of my favourite spots that I I’d recommend you to visit for a more authentic side of Paris:
The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
This park in the 19th arrondissement is less well-known than some of the city’s other parks, but it’s just as beautiful. As with many places in Paris, this one too has its own share of quaint history.
The area we now know as Parc des Buttes Chaumont was once used as a prime spot for hanging people sentenced to death. Later on, this area became a vast wasteland of filth, rubbish and human waste, filling the surrounding air with rancid smells. Needless to say, the beautiful park we have here today, is a vast improvement.
What I love the most about Buttes-Chaumont is the terrain, which offers a ton of diversity within its 62.5-acre (25-hectare) size. It features rolling hills, a lake, waterfalls, and a temple perched on a cliff.
Stepping within the park will transport you to a green oasis of calm, letting you escape the humdrum of Paris for a bit, while offering up some awesome views of the Parisian city skyline.
Pack a lunch, or a book. Or just spend time watching ducks from the huge hanging bridge in the heart of the park.
Address: Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 1-7, rue Botzaris (Métro Botzaris) 2-6b, rue Manin 55, rue de Crimée
The Promenade Plantée or Coulée Verte René-Dumont
This corridor of greenery is built atop what once used be elevated railway tracks that ran across Paris. Now, it has been converted into a 4.7 kms long green strip full of vegetation and trees, which runs through the 12th arrondissement, until Vincennes on the other end.
The walk provides a unique vantage point on Paris, offering up views of Parisian cityscape from up-above. It’s a great place to take a walk, read, or bike ride away from the crowds.
This is one of my absolute favourite places to go for a stroll especially in Spring. This route gets chockablock with different kinds of flowers, including cherry trees and rose bushes.
Address: Entrance through Viaduc des Arts, 1 Coulée Verte René-Dumont, 75012
This street in the 12th arrondissement is a gem known for its row of brightly-coloured houses and charming atmosphere. This tiny alley is just 144 meters long and 7.50 wide. The colours of the facades here are unlike anything you would see in Paris: it looks like it came straight out the sets of a cartoon movie or a colourful postcard!
Rue Crémieux is especially popular with photographers and Instagrammers who like to pose against the delightfully bright backdrops of the houses.
However, one thing you should keep is mind, is that the houses are private property belonging to regular people who live and work here. So, if you do visit, respect the privacy of the residents.
Do not get loud, cause a nuisance, or try to peek inside people’s homes. Even if you would like to pose away in front of a pretty pink house, remember that it is someone’s private doorway.
Address: Rue Crémieux, 75012 Paris
La Petite Ceinture
This abandoned railway line that circles Paris is now a popular spot for urban explorers and street artists. Not all of it is open to the public, but you can access some sections which the city authorities have deemed safe to visit.
There are also a couple of restaurants in Paris which are built right atop these tracks, giving visitors a chance to sit and get a drink on these railways tracks. These places are especially popular with Parisians during the warmer months, when they become sunbathing spots with music and drinks flowing all around.
Some such popular restaurants are: Le Hasard Ludique and La Recyclerie
Address: It is accessible through several points of entry throughout Paris. For more information, and an interactive map of the Petite Ceinture, visit the official website here.
The Canal Saint-Martin
Canal Saint Martin in the 10th arrondissement is a great place to enjoy some fresh air, and have a picnic or get drinks by the water.
On both sides of the waterway, you also have a number of restaurants, bars and takeaway places which offer a great place to relax with a view of the waters. If you love people watching, you will love this address.
You can also take a boat tour along the canal. While larger cruises run all year around, summer and autumn brings you the possibility of hiring smaller self-pedalled boat to work your own leg muscles. These boats also sell you picnic baskets fulls of food and wine, that you can carry along for an extra charge.
Cruising on the canal, while sipping on wine while watching the sunset is one of my favourite memories from my first summer in Paris. Perhaps it is not as glamorous as a cruise along the Seine, but it holds its own in terms of authenticity, charm and unpretentious fun.
Address: Quai de Jemmapes – 75010 Paris
These are just a few of the many hidden gems that Paris has to offer. Stay tuned for the next instalment of more hidden gems in Paris.
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10 Things Not to do in Paris- Part 1