We traveled off the beaten track in London and New York City – now it’s Paris’s turn. The French capital city is bursting with old treasures and brand new experiences, perfect for both the new tourist and the experienced adventurer. From medieval façades to digital artworks, and even Belle Époque antiquities, there’s always something to find. Read on and let us take you out of the guidebook and off the beaten track in Paris!
ART & CULTURE
This museum in the 12th arrondissement is a fairground of curiosities – literally! Travel back in time to the carnivals of the 19th and 20th centuries with this fascinating collection of antique fairground art. Opened in 1996, the Musée des Arts Forains in the Pavilions de Bercy was built from the private collection of antique dealer and actor Jean-Paul Favand. The museum is open by appointment only, making it a truly special Parisian experience. Not content to be a jumbled collection of knick-knacks, these old mannequins, vintage arcade games, and dozens of carousels have been carefully organized into themed salons. You can even take some of the rides for a spin yourself! Tours are conducted in French, so it’s the perfect opportunity to bring your Duolingo streak into the real world.
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Masterpieces by Klimt, Monet, Chagall, and more come to life in this immersive installation space in the 11th arrondissement. The Atelier des Lumières is Paris’s first digital art center. With over 140 projectors, movement and music transform some of the world’s most famous artworks. Wander through the industrial architecture of the old Chemin-Vert foundry and be taken inside the art projected across its floors, ceilings, and 10m high walls. Interactive exhibits, animated and set to music, are a feast for the eyes. The Atelier des Lumières is a great way to spend an evening living and breathing art. Additionally, its thoughtful setup makes for some truly incredible and unique photos.
Montmartre’s oldest operating cinema opened its neon-lit doors nearly a century ago in 1928. Designed by Jean Cocteau, the cinema was also the backdrop for scenes in the 2001 film Amélie. With just 178 seats, it’s a cozy and intimate spot to catch a modern blockbuster, a classic film, or a little-known arthouse flick. The program changes regularly, with around ten films shown each week. Get there before your film starts to enjoy the popular Studio 28 bar. Its charming attached garden features winter heating and a large black and white mural of classic movie stars.
FOOD AND DRINK
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Serving first-class French cuisine, this restaurant in the 3rd arrondissement is worth visiting for both its menu and its history. The stone house on Rue de Montmorency was built in 1407 by Nicolas Flamel. Legend says that Flamel, one of the world’s most famous alchemists, discovered an ancient text. The mysterious tome allowed him to turn ordinary metal into gold, creating his fortune and prolonging his life. Located a short walk from the Centre Pompidou, Auberge Nicolas Flamel is now an upscale. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy some modern French food while taking in a historic setting.
Tucked away down a side street near the Place du République, Dreamin Man is a tiny coffee shop with a cozy feel. With just three tables and a bar, this hole-in-the-wall serves just coffee and pastries. Their freshly brewed lattes, pour overs, and espresso plus handmade sweet treats make for an ideal morning break. A tape deck in the corner plays cassettes by Pink Floyd, Warren Zevon, and the singer of the cafe’s namesake song – Neil Young. Take a seat at the bar and have a chat with the lovely and knowledgeable barista, who is always happy to give recommendations for both coffee and local must-sees. Try their heavenly homemade flan, which comes piled high with whipped cream.
The Parc de Belleville is an excellent spot to catch stunning views over Paris. At the top of the Belleville hill in 20th arrondissement, the park’s terrace provides a panoramic view over the city, including the Eiffel Tower. Nestled between the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th and the Père Lachaise Cemetery, the park includes a waterfall fountain, an open air theater, and over 400 types of trees. The Parc de Belleville is one of the city’s more modern parks, built back in 1988. The annual flower display in September is a must-see, with gardeners designing and planting flowers up to two years in advance!
This is Paris’s king of hidden fashion gems. Guerrisol is the city’s most popular chain of secondhand stores, or ‘friperies’. Locations can be found across the 9th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements. With so much choice it’s not hard to find clothes, shoes, and accessories spanning all styles and eras of fashion. Take your time rummaging through the racks and you’ll always find a treasure. Those with a keen eye might even spot a designer item hiding in the endless aisles of secondhand tat. The best part is it’s an absolute bargain. Forget the Champs Elysée, this is where many young Parisians, especially art and design students, snag some of their best looks. With 3€ shoes and 1€ dresses, it’s far too easy to leave with armfuls of shopping bags. We hope you saved room in your suitcase!
Paris Flea Market
The last stop on our list is a bit of a trek from the city center, but this weekend market in Saint-Ouen is worth it. The Paris Flea Market is just a few steps from the métro stop Porte de Clignancourt. Open Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, this sprawl of antique and vintage stalls is the largest antiques market in the world. The market is comprised of 15 different areas selling just about everything. From antique furniture to jewelry and vintage clothes, you can find it at the Paris Flea Market. While that might suggest it would be a tourist hotspot, many of the customers are bargain-hunting locals. Take a moment to pause for a bite to eat at one of the many market cafés and soak up the bustling atmosphere at the edge of this remarkable city.
Looking for more things to see and do in Paris? Discover some of the city’s best hidden places and non-touristy activities. While you’re out adventuring, find out where you can safely and securely leave your luggage in Paris with Nannybag!