Non-Touristy Things to do in Paris

Written by Lily Baron for

Hi, I’m Lily.

A writer, artist, comedian, musician and most importantly (to me anyway) traveller. Originally from Bristol, England, I have a blog where I write about my experience of travel and anything that travel inspires me to write about. For example, I have written about a weekend trip I took to Rome and also about my thoughts on death. The latter came about when I visited a cemetery in Venice. Today I am sharing my list of unique and non-touristy things to do in Paris. 

non touristy things to do in Paris France

My Favourite city in the whole world (so far) is Paris.

I had always loved the idea of Paris growing up. I was lucky enough to visit a number of times as a teenager; on a school trip, with my family to meet my mum at the end of cycling from London to Paris, with my mum and my friend and her mum when I was 12 and finally a trip to Disneyland with my little sister. All of those trips I hold dear to my heart but none of them lasted longer than a couple of days. Then, in November 2017 I decided I was going to move there.

So, a few months later at the end of January I hopped on the Eurostar with all of my belongings, leaving my family home to live alone for the first time in my life. I lived in Paris for about 4 months and I will be going back soon. I spent the first half living in a student flat with 3 students whilst spending most of my time painting at a studio I had while the owner was on holiday for a month. I wasn’t overly thrilled about my living situation so when I found out about the opportunity to live in a bookshop in the centre I packed my bags and was lucky enough to secure a spot. Both of these places have made my list of the most unique things to do in Paris.

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Paris in Winter

When you think of Paris, the first thing that comes to mind is the Eiffel Tower. 

Or La Tour Eiffel in French. Then maybe the Arc du Triomphe, the Louvre or the Champs-Elysees. While these are all great things to do, especially for your first time in Paris, they are popular for a reason after all (see these tips). My recommendations are for if you have done these before or if you want to avoid the busier, more touristy areas.

Related: The Best Hotels in Paris with Eiffel Tower Views

Unique and Non-Touristy Things to do in Paris, France

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Rue de Rivoli

59 Rue de Rivoli: the best art beyond the Louvre. 

This is where I had my studio. It is the most wonderful place to visit if you like art. It is on rue de Rivoli which is a street full of fancy shops and visiting here is like stepping into a whole other world. There is a gallery on the first and second floor where the art changes regularly and there are concerts every Friday and Saturday. Then there are 6 floors containing 30 artist studios that you can visit, 15 permanent residents and 15 artists who change every 3 to 6 months. So, as well as experiencing so much incredible art, you can also talk to the artists, who are all incredibly wonderful, friendly people. It is open to the public 6 days a week from Tuesday to Sunday, 13:00 to 20:00 and best of all, its free.

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Shakespeare and Company Cafe

Shakespeare and Company: a quirky bookstore with a unique story.

This is the bookshop that I slept in for almost 6 weeks, I was a tumbleweed.  It is an English bookshop opened in the 50s by a man called George Whitman. He was a traveller and relied heavily on the kindness of strangers during his adventures so when he opened this bookshop he invited travellers and writers in need of a places to sleep for a while to stay in his shop. That tradition is still going today so when you visit look out for the bed in the library upstairs (there is only one seeing as the rest of us put out mattresses at night and pack them away in the morning.) There is also a Cat, Aggie, and a wishing well in the middle of the floor of the literature section in the main room to look out for. This shop is like a labyrinth of books and it is very easy to get lost for hours there. It is open from 10am to 10pm everyday and only closes twice a year on Mayday and Christmas day.

Concrete: a nightclub on a boat to party the night away. 

Concrete is a techno club in the 12tharrondissement of Paris. It has 2 floors of music and it is on a boat, so it is the perfect place to dance the night away. It’s free to get in before midnight however it doesn’t start to fill up until about 3am and closes at 10am. You can let loose all night long and if you can stick it out to the end you can watch the sun rise from a boat.

parc des buttes chaumont view of montmartre
Parc des Buttes Chaumont, view of Montmartre

Parc des Buttes Chaumont: a charming park with an amazing view.

Paris is full of beautiful parks, the Tuileries, the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Jardin des Plantes, and the Champ de Mars to name a few. My all-time favourite however is the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. It is beautiful and huge and has the most amazing view of Montmartre from a little pavilion at the top of a hill in the middle. More about Montmartre can be found in this Paris Arrondissements guide.

Cimetière du Père Lachaise: a world famous cemetery. 

This cemetery is one of the most beautiful in the world. Also, there are a lot of famous people buried here, including Jim Morrison. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon. You can walk around looking for the famous people or you can come to escape the hustle and bustle of busy Parisian city life. It is a wonderfully peaceful place. If you enjoy visiting cemeteries or the supernatural, perhaps you may even wish to go on one of the infamous Paris ghost tours.

paris picnic

Angelina: to feed your sweet tooth the Parisian way. 

Angelina is a pastry and cake shop on rue de Rivoli. As I mentioned earlier this is an incredibly fancy street and this tearoom absolutely fits the atmosphere. A bit on the pricey side but so worth it for the cakes and the experience. The room itself is magnificent, full of art and mirrors and chandeliers. The hot chocolate is to die for.

seine sunset
Seine Sunset

Seine: a picture-perfect Paris picnic. 

If you want to feel like a local grab a baguette, a triangle of brie and a bottle of pink wine or champagne, and head down to the bank of the Seine for a picnic. You can do this anywhere along the bank of the Seine, but some great spots include on the left bank with a view of Notre Dame or on the far end of Île Saint-Louis.

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Paris is one of those places everyone should visit at least once. If you were to follow my advice you can spend very little money visiting Paris (most of these recommendations are free things to do in Paris, or very cheap). My suggested itinerary for a weekend trip would be to start the day with a stroll through the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, then take the metro to Angelina’s for elevenses, high tea, a snack, or a drink. Then walk along rue de Rivoli or through the Tuileries, stopping somewhere for lunch. After lunch, get to 59 rue de Rivoli for some time just after 1:00pm. When you have finished exploring all six floors make your way across the river to Shakespeare and Company. Next, you could walk along Rue de la Huchette, 2 minutes away from the bookshop, and stop for a crepe. I would recommend Chez Suzette. Then buy your picnic food from any supermarket, there are plenty around that area, and make your way down to the Seine. If you’re planning on dancing the night away I’d suggest heading East along the river towards concrete. Picnic into the night before heading to the club. In the morning, return to wherever you’re staying to sleep for a while. Then end your trip with a visit to Cimetière du Père Lachaise. You can take in the peace of the place after your wild night out. Enjoy Paris, it truly is the best city!

All photos are courtesy of the author, Lily Baron. For more of her photography, follow her on Instagram.
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4 thoughts on “Non-Touristy Things to do in Paris

  1. I love Angelina! I want to see that bookshop too. i love the stories for every recommendation.

  2. Love Paris. If I ever get the opportunity to go again, I’m going to check out the incredible bookstore & that 2story nightclub on the boat! Love doing nontouristy things!!

  3. Wow all of these sound like so much fun! That lil bookstore where you can stay sounds so cute!

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