Paris is one of the most-visited cities in the world, and with good reason. Its iconic attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Moulin Rouge, and Champs-Elysées pull in millions of people annually, and everyone should visit them at least once. But once you’ve seen the requisite sites, a whole new world of possibilities opens up. Paris has a fascinating range of hidden neighborhoods, parks, markets, monuments, and activities, and you should do what you can to separate yourself from the packs of tourist roaming its streets and really immerse yourself in local flavor. Here are five of the best things to do off the beaten path:
1. Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Paris is a pleasantly green city even just along its boulevards and avenues, but finding your way into its many large parks gives you a totally new perspective. This one is particularly unique in that in addition to its gardens and bridges, it has huge boulders and cliffs. The tallest is over 30 m high, and is crowned by the delicate belvedere of Sybil. You are unlikely to see any tourists here, just Parisians walking dogs, jogging, or enjoying a little bit of romance.
2. Canal tours
While other European tourism centers like Venice and Amsterdam are far more famous for their waterways, Paris has some great ones too. Whether on a guided tour or negotiation a private boat hire, exploring the canals is a great way to see a different side of the city. Waterside neighborhoods always seem to be the most intimate, as you observe families hanging their laundry and kids playing in the water (which is generally on the murky side, as you might expect). An excellent choice for atmosphere.
3. African immigrant culture
While French society may have some heated arguments about the amount and nature of immigration to their country, residents transplanted from Sub-Saharan and North Africa give Paris an entirely unique feel. Neighborhoods like Goutte d’Or have an entirely different flavor in everything from the South African fashion to the highly-recommended Ethiopian food. Muslim culture has also left its mark, with the beautiful Great Mosque of Paris being a fantastic way to explore (politely and respecting of religious practices and etiquette, please).
4. Flea markets
Overwhelmed by Parisian prices? Try the secondhand markets that have sprung up all over the city, especially on weekends. The St. Ouen, Vanves, Montreuil, and Clignancourt (the biggest in the world!) markets are all great places to find clothes, books, jewelry, antiques, and curios. The Bastille and Ledru-Rollin markets have the added benefit of plentiful and cheap food on sale. Prepare yourself for a little bit of claustrophobia and a lot of fun.
5. Local nightlife
Paris is a great city for nighttime wandering. Finding literally underground places like Caveau de la Huchette is a great way to encounter live jazz, strong drinks, and local color. There are also a multitude of small clubs with dance and electronic music. The scene is constantly changing, so our recommendation is to talk to locals. You might even get invited out with new friends, which is the best way to experience the city.
Paris is wonderful destination, and wherever you visit will be wonderful. But the more you can distance yourself from the herd, the better your experience is likely to be. Have fun!