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Latest update: 24 November 2023

Are you looking for the hidden gems of Paris? And you want to avoid ending up in a tourist trap? Then I have great tips for you for some unusual things to do in Paris! Discover fun, unknown sights and restaurants.

Hidden gems in Paris

A fresh baguette from the boulangerie, a bottle of wine with cheese, lighting a cigarette on the terrace in the cold evening, cars zigzagging through crowded streets: all typical Paris. Add to that sights such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Sacré-Coeur, and you have all the ingredients for a perfect weekend. But what if you want to discover a different side of Paris? Looking for oddities? Trying to search for the hidden gems of Paris? Then, delve deeper into the neighborhoods and keep your eyes open.

Stuffed animals at Deyrolle in Paris

Deyrolle is a taxidermy shop. For those who have to Google that word like me, they mount and stuff animals at this Paris store. Although it could also pass for a museum. The store was opened in 1831 by biologist Jean-Baptiste Deyrolle. My guess is that most visitors just come to browse instead of buying giant tigers. It doesn’t seem anything special from the outside, and you can easily walk past the store.

On the ground floor, I am initially a little disappointed with the store. Some standard trendy books, jars, knives, and other things are displayed. Only on the nest floor do I understand why Deyrolle is so special. I run into a tiger, an ostrich, a lobster, a giraffe, and an anteater. But that’s not all; hundreds of stuffed animals are in the store. Even a unicorn (okay, a little horse with wings and a horn attached to it).

I secretly find all those stuffed animals a bit uncomfortable and sad. That’s why I pay more attention to the visitors. Butterflies and insects are displayed at the back of the store. People really buy something here. A man lets his grandson pick a butterfly. Along the large display tables, people with a cut-out image in their hands select the correct butterfly. The employees carefully remove the butterfly from the display case with tweezers and place it in a box. It’s nice to see how much care and attention goes into both the buyer’s and the seller’s side.

Google Maps location

Make your own perfume at the Paris Perfume Museum

Do you love nice scents? Then you should visit the Musée du Parfum. Fragonard is one of the oldest perfumeries, and they opened a museum in Paris in 1983. Here, you can learn more about the history of perfume: how it was used and made in the past and how perfume bottles have developed. It’s a good museum, but I recommend you book the perfume museum with a workshop.

The workshop lasts approximately 45 minutes. The guide introduces us to different scents and scent layers. We can then make our own eau de toilette to take home. Once satisfied with our homemade scent, the guide leads us through the museum and then we have an extensive scent session in the store. We get to know the most important perfumes from Fragonard, but we also learn, for example, that when you spray perfume, you should never rub your wrists together (a short tap is allowed) and that many Parisians also spray perfume into the backs of their knees. You can book directly below or here.

Google Maps location

Visit the Galeries Lafayette

This shopping center will make your jaw drop. I mean from the design, and okay: also from the high prices. But of course, you don’t have to buy anything to see the stained glass, the balconies, and all the decorations. Such grandeur!

Take the elevator downstairs near the perfumes. A bellboy or girl will take you to the 7th floor. You can go up to the roof for a nice view of Paris. In the distance, you can see the Eiffel Tower.

Google Maps location

Eating in art deco brasserie Grand Café Capucines

The beautiful Grand Café Capucines is located in the Opera district. On the outside, it looks typically French to me, with the red awning and checkered chairs. It’s even more beautiful inside. The decor is Art Deco, pretty, and over the top. There is a mosaic floor, gold decoration on the ceiling, and velvet seats. Pretty!

And yes, you can eat there too. I’m having breakfast, but you can go to Grand Café Capucines from early to late. Including for fruits de mer at any time of the day.

Google Maps location

Restaurant Derrière

In the Le Marais district, restaurant Derrière is hidden behind (hence the name) the 404 restaurant and cocktail bar Andy Wahloo. The door has no house number and no name on it. This insignificant door leads you to a small courtyard from where you enter the restaurant. Inside I wonder whether I have entered a restaurant or a house. All areas are decorated like rooms in someone’s home. There is a living room with a table tennis table; upstairs people lie in a bed and in the toilet there are no sinks but bathtubs. Confusing!

The restaurant is full of knick-knacks, so I’m definitely amazed. If you go to this restaurant, you can skip a visit to the flea market. And remember that you can eat here too! It’s not cheap (that’s Paris for ya), but it’s good. There are modern French dishes on the menu. Choose a nice glass of wine and enjoy. Make sure you don’t accidentally order one from the ‘If you’re rich’ section of the wine list. One day… maybe…

Google Maps location

Andy Wahloo

Directly next to Derrièrre is the cocktail bar Andy Wahloo. Quite expensive, but they have delicious cocktails. You shouldn’t be in a rush, because the service is sloooooowwww. I later discover that this ‘hidden gem’ can be found in almost every single guidebook by the way. Oops. Nevertheless, I didn’t spot any tourists during my visit.

Google Maps location

Eat super fresh fruits de mer at JUSTE

Restaurant JUSTE is small-scale and casual and specializes in fruits de mer. The service is friendly and happy to provide advice. Fruits de mer are always pricey, but the half liter of house wine for €15 compensates for that.

There is a mix of Parisians and tourists at JUSTE. I’m there for lunch, and I’m glad we made a reservation online in advance because many people are turned down. Or they can sit outside, but the weather is unsuitable.

Google Maps location

Corossol – Marche aux enfants Rouges

The Le Marais district has a small food market called Marche aux Enfants Rouges. It can get hectic here, but I’m lucky and can sit wherever I want to sit. My choice is the Creole restaurant Corossol. And the service staff is extremely sweet! The waitress clearly has difficulty with English, but with her explanation and Google Translate we end up with a strong cocktail and a plate with a little bit of everything to try. Enjoy!

Google Maps location

Do you have any tips for other unusual places and things to do in Paris? Please share them below. I’d love the inspiration for next time!

More inspiration for travel in France?

  • Accommodation. All-time favorites: Booking.com and Campspace for unique camping spots. Rather stay in a hostel? Check out Hostelworld.
  • Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. You can find other good options at WithLocals. Check out Freetour and GuruWalk for ‘free’ walking tours, and for bike tours, try Baja Bikes. If you’re into wine: check out all the wine-related activities at Rue des Vignerons.
  • Attractions and museums. Book museum and attraction tickets with Tiqets and get a 5% discount with this code: KIMOPREIS22.
  • Car rental. My go-to car rental companies are EasyTerra and Sunny Cars as they have all-inclusive / worry-free offers. Want to compare more prices? Check out Discover Cars.
  • Flights. Be sure to check out Transavia, but do compare all your options! Definitely check out Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
  • Money. Your debit and credit cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel. 
  • Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? You have many options! For the Dutch, try ANWB vakanties or Sawadee, or maybe you can find a sweet deal at TUI, Sunweb, D-reizen, or Vakantie Discounter?
  • SIM card. Beware of unexpectedly high calling and internet costs. Buy a local SIM card when you arrive, or arrange one online via Airalo.
  • Train and bus. Travel by train to France with NS International or FlixBus, or find deals on trains and busses in France via Busbud, Omio, or 12Go.
  • Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
  • Travel guides. I love the practical travel guides from Lonely Planet, buy them at Bol.com or Amazon.
  • Yoga retreat. And what about a yoga retreat in France?

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, I might receive a small commission.

First published: December 2016. The article has been updated since.

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