20 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Paris

The city of Paris is one of the most famous popular vacation destinations on the planet. Situated in Western Europe, the city happens to be a dream tourist destination for people everywhere. This interest in the city is clearly evident when you look at the number of tourist arrivals every year. Tourists from all corners of the world, ranging from other European countries to those located very far away such as Japan; visit the city to experience its many charms.

France is quite often the most visited country in the world, often holding the rank year after year. One of the places that these tourists visit in large numbers is the city of Paris.

The city itself has an ancient history, dating back thousands of years. The earliest history of the city is that of Stone Age settlements and those of the Celtic people, who inhabited the area a long time ago. In addition to this, the place was also a part of the Roman Empire and so on, who used the place for settlement, trade and more.

Today, the city is a major center in Europe for finance, business, fashion, and education. In addition to this, the place is also well known for its unique culture, architecture, and way of life, which is often very distinct from other parts of France as well. With regard to the people, it is today home to about two million or so people, known as Parisians, who call it home.

With regard to looking at Paris from a tourist point of view, you could say that the city is essentially a travelers dream.There is much to do in the city, ranging from the famous Eiffel Tower and the museums, to them any wonderful dishes that the French are famous for.

But there is more to Paris than the more cliché stuff that has become mainstream. You could say that there is a whole world of activities and more that have been ignored by many tourists, in favor of mainstream attractions.

There are many such attractions in this beautiful city. Some of the most important are listed in the points given below:

1.) Roam the Lesser Known Streets of Paris

This is perhaps one of the best things that you can do when you get to Paris. There is more to the streets than just the main ones of Paris that you see in the itinerary.  

Parisian streets by sunset

Work on exploring these streets, and see what you find out. There is much more to be seen in Paris, than just the main ones on tourist brochures.

Just get lost in Paris and take one street after another, to get the real spirit of Paris. This is a great way if you want a real ground-level experience of what this beautiful city has to offer.

2.) Ride across Paris in a Scooter

There are plenty of companies that offer two-wheeled vehicles on rent, such as bikes or Vespas. Get yourself one of these vehicles and ride away throughout the city, from one end to the other.

There is a lot to be explored while riding on the streets of Paris. In addition to this, it’s also a great way to move about in the city and discover new things.

Riding Scooter in Paris

One of the advantages of driving a scooter or some other two-wheeled vehicle is that you’ll be able to navigate across most streets in the city. And this is because many of the streets in Paris are very narrow, and often to the extent that cars cannot pass through them. This is where scooters and other such vehicles come in handy.

And while you are traveling in the city, do make sure that you follow the traffic rules and wear helmets. Some areas of the city have a heavy flow of traffic every single day, which can make it very dangerous if you are not careful.  

3.) Get to Know the Local People

When you visit the city, spend some time talking with the local people.

It can also be a very interesting learning experience, as you may get to know the city a lot better than what would be the case through a tour guide.

The local people are especially friendly, so you will not find it weird to go about talking to them.

4.) Spend Time with a Local Family

This is just an extension of the previous point. If you are spending your time with a local, why not take it to another level and stay with them?

There are plenty of services like Airbnb, which allows you to stay at people’s homes, rather than a hotel.

In addition to getting yourself a place to stay, you will also be able to know someone in the city, like never before. Who knows? You might even make a friend before your trip ends.

And if you are going to be staying with a local family, ensure that you follow proper etiquettes and more. As long as you treat them like your own family members, you should do fine.

While you are at it, try to get them something as well. It would make for a kind gesture.  

5.) Eat What the Locals Eat

If there is one thing that is common for a lot of tourists, it is the planned food offered by their tourist package.

When you think about it, this doesn’t make any sense. Why would you come from another part of the world, just to eat the same food you ate back home?

It just doesn’t make any sense.

Parisian breakfast in front of the Eiffel tower

Don’t do what is the norm. Figure out what the locals eat, and dig in! And while you are at it, eat the food that you get at the local diners and restaurants, rather than the upscale ones as they are tasty as well as affordable to the average traveler.

You might just find a new dish that will delight your taste buds.

6.) Explore the Catacombs

Paris may seem like a modern-day metropolis. But there is more to the city than just steel and concrete.

If you were to go underneath the surface of the city, you’ll come across the Catacombs of Paris. They are in simple words, the stored remains of more than six million people, which have been built into the stone mines that once existed in the city.

The walls are especially creepy, particularly when they are contrasted with the lighting in certain places. With human skulls and bones studded into the very walls of these tunnels, they make for a very eerie experience and quite unlike anything else in this world.

Paris Catacombs

It is one of the lesser-known attractions of the city and one to which access is heavily controlled. Given that the network of tunnels and passages are vast, you are only permitted to enter some of the places, rather than all of it.

In the catacombs, you will see a vast netherworld that you wouldn’t have suspected to ever existed.

When visiting the catacombs, don’t wander off from the designated areas. Although the many passages of the catacombs are fairly barricaded and sealed off, you wouldn’t want to get lost here.  

7.) Wander through the Local Markets

How do you plan on doing your shopping in Paris?

… At one of the more upscale locales of the city?

How about something else for a change?

If there is one thing that Paris is known well for, it is its local markets. Used by local Parisians for the most part, you will find just about everything you need to run your daily life, and more. These markets include everything from the places for general supplies to flea markets, where you never know what you’ll find.

Paris Aligre Market

Wander through the many markets in the city, and you’ll see a world unlike any other. Some of the best ones you can start with are Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen and Marché des enfants rouges. And yes, those are their names.

Just make sure that you have enough free cash on hand to spend while you visit these places unless you had planned on window shopping and nothing more.

8.) Explore the Seine River

One of the things that many people forget is that a river runs across Paris.

You don’t really notice this, unless you go near the Eiffel Tower, for that’s where the river is located. Called the Seine, it is a river that flows through the city from one end to the other.

Paris Notre dame Seine River

And there are many things to look forward to along the river banks. From quiet walks and gardens to just observing the steady flow of the water, there is nothing like the Seine in bustling Paris.

9.) Munch Away In French Bakeries

That French cuisine is amazing is well known.

With a rich history dating back centuries and beyond, the cuisine of France has undergone much development.

Pauline Bakery- Paris

One of them happens to be that of the bakeries. From a variety of bread to mouth-watering pastries, the French people know their baking.

Find out a local bakery and start trying out a bit of everything. You’ll be surprised at how much variety and taste there is to be experienced.

10.) Discover Some of the Lesser Known Museums

One of the things that Paris is well known for is its museums.

One example of such a museum is the Louvre, which is located in the heart of the city. And just like the Louvre, there are other museums as well, covering a wide range of subjects, from art and culture to history and the environment.

However, not all museums in the city are as famous as say, the Louvre.

Do a little digging and discover some of the hundred plus museums that exist all over the city. There is much more to the exhibits than just the Mona Lisa.

11.) Enjoy an Open Air Restaurants  

One of the things that Paris is famous for, is its open dining culture.

If you move away from the more crowded areas of the city and enter the smaller suburbs and alleyways, you will notice a vast expanse of small open-air restaurants.

Venghour restaurant – La défense Paris

With a great view of the surrounding areas, these restaurants offer everything from traditional Parisian dishes to international menus.

If you would like to get your taste buds delighted, don’t forget to enjoy a bit of open-air dining in this city.

12.) Go for a River Cruise in the Seine

There is more to the Seine River than just exploring its banks.

At certain places along the city’s river banks, you will find boating trips that help you move from one part of the city to another.

To a certain extent, the rides are used by the local Parisians to get from point A to point B. But at the same time, the rides have become a sort of tourist attraction of their own, albeit a lesser known one.

13.) Practice on Your French

Where better to practice your French than in the capital city of France?

If you are a student of French and would like to know how good your French language skills are, Paris is a good choice.

Just find a local and start conversing away.

Sure, you will make a few mistakes and your accent may not be like that of the locals.

But that’s just part of the learning journey.

14.) Ride across the Parisian Metro

The city of Paris has a vast network of metro trains that stretch across from one end to the other.

This is a great way to traverse the four corners of the city and reach even the far reaches of the city.

Parisian Metro 

And given that the rates for the metro are fairly affordable in comparison to the local cabs, you can look forward to a cheap way of exploring this city.

15.) Discover the Art & Architecture of the Parisian Metro

There is more to the Paris metro system than just the trains.

In addition to the metro trains, the stations themselves are a masterpiece unto themselves. Boasting of a vast variety of unique architecture, vast murals, artistic depictions and more, you could actually say that the metro system of Paris is a museum unto itself.

So if you are planning to use the Paris metro system, make sure that you don’t miss out on the artistic and wonderful aspects of the city’s metro system. There is a little something at every station along the way.

16.) Appreciate the Architecture of the Local Buildings

If there is one thing that Paris is well known for, it’s the architecture.

One such famous landmarks of the city are that of the Eiffel Tower. Located just across the Seine River, it is one of the most iconic symbols of Paris.  And then there are the many museums, government buildings, heritage structures and more, all of which depict an architectural style reflective of France.

To most tourists, it is these buildings that matter the most when appreciating the city’s architecture. But there is more to the city’s architecture, than just this handful of buildings. The fact is that the whole city has something to offer regarding architecture if you’re willing to look.

So in addition to these famous architectural landmarks of the city, also observe and appreciate the architectural styles of the local buildings. Paris is not just the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre museum. It is every single building that exists across its vast landscape.

17.) Discover the Local Gardens

Paris may be a concrete jungle in many ways.

With much of the land built up and paved over, it would seem like there isn’t sufficient greenery in Paris. And indeed, that is the reality for many parts of Paris, where you don’t even find a tree standing; for the reality is that it’s mostly asphalt and cobblestone in many parts of the city.

Luxembourg Garden – Paris

However, that doesn’t mean all of Paris has been transformed into a concrete jungle. On the contrary, a vast network of greenery exists, from parks and open lawns to other such green spaces. From Luxembourg Gardens to the small parks along the Seine River, the city offers a good mix of both civilizations as well as nature.  

So if you are seeking some rest and relaxation after wandering across Paris, spend some time in these lovely spaces. You will be surprised at just how beautiful these places are.

You don’t really have to look far to find these gardens. The city has been designed in a way that allows you to be within a short distance of a green area at all times.

18.) Explore Parisian Street Art

Art has always been a part of the Parisian spirit.

This is evident whenever you explore one of the many different museums in the city.

From some of the most famous like the Mona Lisa to the lesser known impressionist art styles, the city has something to offer for all art buffs.

And while they form one part of the city’s art culture, there is another one just outside the city’s many different museums. One of the art styles that are quite famous in the city is street art. And it is something that you can find scattered across all corners of the city.

So if you are interested in street art, know that Paris is one city where you will find lots of it.

19.) Get Your Portrait Drawn By Local Artists

You could say that this is an extension of the previous point.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Parisian art culture are the artists. If you would like to experience a piece of this art for yourself, you can get to have your portrait drawn by the many local artists in the city.

Artist painter drawing a portrait in place du tertre in montmartre – Paris

There are several places that you can get this done. One of the most popular locations where you can have your portrait drawn is a place called Montmartre.

Taking pictures is one of the best ways to remember your vacations. And you could say that portraits are just as good.

20.) Helicopter Ride in Paris

This is something that most tourists don’t really do in the city.

But what better way to experience this jewel of France, than to get a bird’s eye view of it?

Riding across the city in a helicopter is a great way to see the city as well as the distant horizon. With rides lasting for several minutes to over an hour, you can expect to get a new perspective of Paris, quite literally.

Do note that it will be on the pricier end, and not come cheap.

Frequently Asked Questions

Last but not least is FAQs or Frequently Asked Questions.

These are the questions that people tend to ask repeatedly. While there happens to be plenty of such questions, given below are some of the most important.

What would be the price for the food at local restaurants?

It would be difficult to give an exact estimate for the amount.

Each restaurant charges its own fare, and therefore, is something that will vary from one place to another.

However, the further you are away from the city, the cheaper the food will be. This is a trend that is fairly evident, given places closer to the city center command a higher price for things like real estate and property taxes.

Do I need a license to hire a Vespa?

If you plan on hiring a Vespa or some other vehicle in Paris, you will need to know about this.

You do not need to have a license to rent a scooter or something similar while in Paris. There are certain exceptions as well that applies here. This is something you will need to check with the company offering the vehicle rentals.

At the same time, however, you will be asked for some form of identification at the time of renting the vehicle. Among the documents that are most commonly accepted, is your passport.

How much time will I have to spend in Paris to do everything on the list?

There is much to do in Paris.

From the trivial to the complex, the city has much to offer everyone.

The exact time it will take to do all of the things mentioned on the list, will vary depending on how much time you intend to spend on each activity.

If you were to get the most out of your trip, you can probably spend about a week in Paris and you will be able to get the most value out of it all.

How much will it cost to travel by subway in Paris?

The cost of travel by subway depends on how much you intend to use the metro system.

In general, a Paris Metro Ticket costs 1.90€ for a single ticket. If you were to make a bulk purchase of the same, you will be able to get a discounted price of 14.90€, when you buy 10 subway tickets.

How much do the Seine River Ferries cost?

If you are interested in using the Seine river ferries, you will need to know about this.

The exact price of the tickets will vary on the kind of package you are looking for. In general, a single ticket will cost about 10€, while special romantic packages such as candlelight dinners, can be upwards of 200€.

How much does it cost to shop at the local markets?

The exact amount of money you will need at the local markets will depend on how much shopping you have in mind.

But if you have a few hundred Euros or more, you should be able to enjoy a good shopping spree.

These prices are of course, dependent on where you do the shopping. Some of the markets in the city, even if they are local ones, tend to charge a premium. It is only by comparing the prices a little, that you will be able to figure out what the prices will be.

What would be the cost of a meal in the city?

If you are going to eat in one of the local restaurants, rather than the upscale ones, you should be able to eat on a budget in the city.

The cost per meal will range anywhere from 10-20 €, depending on what you order. Do this is the cost per person and not a meal course. So if you are traveling as a family, you will have to pay that much per family member.

How much will helicopter rides cost?

The price of the rides will depend on the company.

In general, the price for a single ride can vary from 200€ to over 1000€.

This is, of course, the price for a single person. So if you are planning on getting a helicopter ride for your whole family, you might have to shell out a bit more for it.

Where can you find street art in the city?

Paris is rather famous for street art. You don’t have to look much to find it.

Just spend some time roaming around the city, and sooner or later, you will be able to locate a mural of some sort.

In general, look out for walls and other flat spaces, which make for a good canvas. They are the kind of that attract street artists the most.

Is Paris a safe city to visit?

The answer to this question is generally yes.

Given that the city is an important tourist hotspot in France, you can expect reasonable levels of safety in most places.

There are certain places in Paris that you need to avoid as well, but they are towards the fringe areas of the city. In other words, as long as you don’t wander to these far-flung areas, you will do just fine.

As long as reasonable precautions are taken, you should be safe. If you ensure that you pay some attention to this, your Parisian adventure can be made reasonably safe and sound.

Can you roam everywhere in Paris?

Given that roaming is a central theme of this article, you will probably be asking this one question a lot.

And the answer is no. It is advisable to avoid roaming everywhere in Paris. Certain depressed areas in Paris are better to stay away from, as it can prove to be dangerous.

These are however situated towards the outer edges of the city. If you can avoid roaming along the city’s outer edges, you will do fine.

Additionally, you could download an app that gives you information about the places to avoid. It shows, often in great detail, about the places that are safe to visit.

Should I carry a map with me while in the city?

This is probably not a good idea, as carrying a map will only grab the attention of people, many of whom may have bad intentions.

If you do want directions, learn about the maps beforehand and not while on the go. However, feel free to use a map, preferably a digital one such as those on apps, in relatively safe places such as cafes.

Likewise, if you need directions, ensure that you ask the right people and use your discretion. The locals are generally friendly and are more than happy to help out a lost tourist.

How will the French people treat me?

The French people are human beings, just like you and me.

If you can be normal, respectful and dignified, you’ll do fine. Also to note is that the French people are generally very friendly to everyone, as already mentioned.

Another thing to be added is that the French people love their language. So if you can speak to them in their own language, you’ll find out that they’re more than happy to interact with you.

As a whole, if there is one amazing city to visit in the old continent, it would certainly be Paris.

With an abundance of experiences and stunning sights, this is one city you will remember for a very long time.

So when you drop by in this amazing city, don’t just stick to the popular tourist spots. Instead, try to make your own road and create a travel story different from that of others. You’ll never know what your next step has to offer.

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