Cultural Experience | Paris

10 Unexpected Things to do in Paris

10 Unconventional Ways to Spend a Day in the City of Lights

Paris is incredible. Hands down. With so many popular things to do it can be easy to fall into the numerous tourist traps. This summer I will be traveling to Paris for the sixth time and by now I’ve seen many of the classic Paris icons like The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower (or should I say the Tour Eiffel). By no means do I want to diminish the wonder of these sights and I certainly don’t want to dissuade you from seeing them, but here are some fun activities for those of you that like to wander off the beaten path like me!

1. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with a Chocolate Crawl 

For anyone who loves chocolate, this is a must do when visiting Paris. There are so many wonderful chocolate shops to choose from, so why not try a little from each. When we did this, we specifically followed a route through Saint Germain des Prés. We made stops at Pierre Hermé, Gérard Mulot (my favorite!), Chocolate de Neuville, Pierre Marcolini, Ladurée, and finally Debauve & Gallais.
Now, this may seem like an expensive activity, BUT if you show some restraint and only get one or two chocolates from each stop it can be reasonably priced. Bon Appétit!

chocolate in Parisian storefront image

2. Discover the Paris Waterfall 

This was a true gem to find, and after 5 minutes it was one of my favorite places in Paris. This park is in the northeast part of paris, in the 19th arrondissement. It is the fifth largest park in Paris, complete with a lake, waterfalls, bridges, and a remarkable temple ruins. Little did you know that there were waterfalls in Paris. After you are done lounging on the grass or hiking to the top of the ruins, you can grab a refreshment at Rosa Bonheur, a chic bar, restaurant, and dance hall located within the park. A well kept secret restaurant favorited by many Parisians. Make sure to stop by Sunday nights to catch a show by the LGBT choir!

Parc des Buttes Chaumont images

3. Shop around at the One-Kilo Store 

This is a wonderful maze of a store. It’s a thrift store located in Saint Germain des Prés where everything is sold by its weight. It’s a great place to stock up on light summer dresses that are needed for hot Paris summer days. However, despite its vast selection, the gems are few so be prepared to dig.

one kilo store in paris image

4. Sip Wine From Baby Bottles at Refuge Des Fondus 

Located in the heart of Montmartre, Refuge Des Fondus is so so adorable. It’s a fondue restaurant with a lot of quirk and charm. For starters, it is tiny. Two rows of tables line either wall, and in order to sit on the side by the wall you must step onto a chair and over the table.

Bet you’ve never had wine from a baby bottle before! To add to the restaurants style and to minimize spilling, all wine is on tap and served in baby bottles. Also, due to the close quarters, it is very easy to make friends on either side of you. By the time we finished our meal, we had shared food, stories, and laughs with the couples sitting next to us. The meal is a fixed price, which can be somewhat expensive, but you pay for the experience so enjoy!

storefront of Refuge des Fondus and interior of restaurant images

5. Explore Père Lachaise Cemetery

If you like all things creepy, old, and beautiful then this is the place for you. This cemetery is one of the most famous in all of Paris. Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison, to name a few, are buried here.

Take some time to walk around and admire the beautiful gravestones and tombs, just don’t stay too long! The cemetery closes around sunset and you definitely won’t want to get locked in… or who knows… maybe that’s your next adventure?

Pierre LaChaise Cemetery image

6. Dine at La Maison Rose

So this place looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. Nestled on a beautiful corner in Montmartre, La Maison Rose offers every sort of aesthetic to fulfill your Parisian dreams. Sit outside or inside, upstairs or down, and enjoy delicious food while taking in the beautiful scenery. Also, lets be real, it’s the perfect spot for an insta pic.

exterior of La Maison Rose image

7. Spend the Afternoon Lounging in Luxembourg Gardens 

When the sun is out and the birds are singing, where better to spend the afternoon than the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens.
Now I know many people venture into the gardens (as it is a famous tourist destination), walk around, maybe sit for a moment and then leave. What I encourage you to do is spend the whole afternoon there. Take a book or some homework or just your thoughts, bring a blanket, and lay out on the grass for the afternoon. If you get hungry make sure to stop at one of the numerous crêpe carts scattered throughout the park.

Luxembourg gardens image

8. Wander around Le Comptoir Général

Even after being there I can’t really tell you what Le Comptoir General is, but it’s super interesting. It’s part bar, part restaurant, part boutique. It’s located down an alleyway close to Republic and if you weren’t looking for it, you would never find it. Inside there were hipsters, hippies, families and more hipsters. Stop in and look around, maybe try one of their creative cocktails in the afternoon. There are various seating areas set up to look like living rooms so it’s a great place to stay and relax.

interior and patio of le comptoir general images

9. Meander through the Galeries d’Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie

Ok so this has to be a personal unique favorite of mine. I never even knew this place existed until my last visit, but it is incredible! It’s part of a park called the Jardin des Plantes which is full of a ton of super interesting/unique museums. And the best part? They all have student passes! Now this particular museum caught my attention because it is entirely filled on almost every surface with bones. Bones of animals, insects, fossils, humans, and even dinosaurs. The building itself is also beautiful so it’s definitely worth the visit!

bones museum in paris image

10. Sip afternoon tea at the Grand Mosquée de Paris

Here is another new find! Right outside the gates of the Jardin des Plantes sits the Grand Mosque of Paris. Now I know it seems strange to be sending you to a Mosque for tea, but this particular Mosque has the most amazing tea and pastries, not to mention the incredible atmosphere. The whole coffee shop is outside under the shade of canopies and filled with all types of vegetation. You feel transported out of Paris! They also have hookah you can share with friends as you sit around and relax.

the exterior of the grand mosque of paris image

Here are some of my favorite items to pack for Paris.

Skinny jeans skinny jeans skinny jeans: if there is one thing I learned my first time to Paris it was that everyone wears skinny jeans and the simpler your outfit the chicer and the less you’ll stand out as a tourist.

Comfy slouchy t shirts: these can be graphic or not but they are simple to pair with skinny jeans, just try to avoid bright colors.

Ballet flats: I personally love ballet flats and I found I was able to walk in them all over Paris, they are cute and still fairly practical, for the days though that you do plan to go the extra mile (literally) I would recommend a nice pair of converse.
A small purse with a zipper: no wants to be lugging around a huge purse all day and you especially don’t want to be carrying around more potential things to be stolen, so I recommend a small cross body purse, make sure it has a zipper and limited side pockets to keep your stuff safe from thieves!
An umbrella: Paris is totally beautiful in the sun, but it’s also beautiful in the rain, and it rains quite a bit so make sure you aren’t without one of these!
Black wayfarer sunglasses: okay now these are just a personal preference but I love style and what better city to show your style in than in Paris, a classic black pair of wayfarers will make you feel like your part of a movie.
Finally, don’t forget your LBD (little black dress): make sure it’s one that can carry you from summer to fall to winter depending on how you layer it, but the perfect LBD + Paris = magic.

Have any other uncommon Paris activities that didn’t make the list? Please share below! I’m headed back to Paris this summer and I look forward to finding some more hidden gems!

10 Unexpected Things to Do in Paris

Lauren Mercier

university of california, Santa Barbara | 6 stories

Lauren is a California native who has a love for unexpected adventures, photography, and a well timed sunset. She has been to 16 countries on 4 continents and isn't planning to stop anytime soon! She recently graduated from University of California, Santa Barbara with a double degree in Acting and Communication.

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