When you think of Paris, the word “adventure” doesn’t spring to mind, but there’s more to the City of Lights than the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower.
One of the things I love about Paris is that the city has so much to offer if you look beyond the typical tourist clichés. The most visited city in the world, Paris is a foodie’s paradise, and a city you can explore on foot, boat, or even rollerblades! There are loads of unique things to see and experience in this wonderful city, so without further ado, here’s a compilation of unusual things to do in Paris.
Unusual Things to Do in Paris for Explorers
The 90s craze has made a comeback in Paris!
Roller Rallies are weekly rollerblading sessions with up to 10,000 people participating. You can hire a pair of rollerblades and join in the fun for free. On Friday nights, experienced rollerbladers can try out Friday Night Fever with skating throughout the city until 1 am- definitely not for the faint-hearted! If you’re a beginner, then the Sunday afternoon session might be a better choice. Roller Rallies are supervised by police- on rollerblades, of course!
Paris by Boat
Have you ever wanted to try boating but don’t have a license? Marin D’eau Douce allows you to self-drive boats in Paris’ canals. The company provides you with a suitable boat and an itinerary. You can choose to hire a boat from 1 hour to 1 day. I’d recommend spending at least a half day on a boat- you can order an aperitif hamper for a picnic on board or at one of the parks beside the canals. It’s the perfect way to have a lazy day in Paris!
Paris on a Bike
I was surprised by the number of Parisians who cycle throughout the city, being a busy city with gridlock traffic, narrow streets, and pollution. However, bikes are readily available- you can rent a bike from anywhere in the city using the Velib public bicycle sharing system. There are a few cycling paths that you can explore while in Paris. I recommend cycling around Paris on a Sunday morning when the streets are quiet, the riverfront is car-free and the pollution is pretty much non-existent. If you prefer mountain bike riding, then hire a bike and explore the trails in the forest of Meudon which is only 3.5km (around 2 miles) from Paris.
Unusual Things to Do in Paris for Nature Lovers
If you’re a nature lover, you’ll be surprised at how many parks and gardens are found in Paris. Most of the neighborhoods in Paris have at least one large park or gardens. Parisians love to get away from the drudgery of city life by chilling out in a park. Sundays are for picnics and relaxing. But for those feeling active, the larger parks have cycling and walking paths, lakes for rowing and great spots for amazing views of the city. You’ll find that there are lots of hidden gems in Paris, especially when it comes to nature!
Wander Around Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Did you know there’s a waterfall in Paris? One of the biggest public parks in Paris, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, is home to a waterfall, rolling hills, cliffs, a duck pond and an observatory. The park has multi-levels and is great if you like a challenging walk with steep climbs. There are walking and cycling paths throughout the park. To reward you for your efforts, at the top of the cliffs is the Temple to Sybille, which gives you a magnificent view of Sacre-Couer and Montmartre.
You won’t find many tourists at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont- it’s popular with Paris residents and is located in one of the outer neighbourhoods of Paris.
Go Rowing in Bois de Vincennes
The Bois de Vincennes is the largest public park in Paris. This is a great park to explore, with floral gardens, four lakes, a velodrome and a chateau. Hire a boat and go rowing on Lac Daumesnil, or hire a bike and cycle the velodrome. Afterwards, enjoy some lunch at one of the cafes by the lake.
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Unusual Things to Do in Paris For Foodies
For wine lovers, why not try making your own wine? Les Caves du Louvre has a 2-hour winemaking workshop. A winemaker will help you pick the best grape variety for your own blend. You’ll blend your wine, taste it and refine it until you’re happy with the finished product. You’ll also create your own wine label.
Paris Farmers Markets
One of my favourite things to do in Paris is to visit one of the many farmer’s markets and market streets throughout the city. These markets are the best places to buy the freshest fruits and vegetables, cheese, meat and baked goods, as well as get to know the locals! The Batignolles Market, open on Saturdays, caters to the organic crowd, while the Marche Raspail is a trendy market selling high-quality items (expensive, but worth it).
There are also market streets throughout Paris. These streets have food shops and stalls open most days of the week. Market streets worth visiting include Rue Montorgueil (which features cafes, bakeries, restaurants, cheese stores and flower shops), Rue Cler (the most famous market street in Paris) and Rue Mouffetard (popular with tourists).
Find Paris’ Sweet Delights
Looking to satisfy your sugar cravings? There are patisseries practically on every street corner in Paris, but if you want to sample the best of the best, I highly recommend the Sweet Paris tour by Hidden Paris Walking Tours. The tour takes you to the best chocolate bars and patisseries and the tour guides tell you the best places in Paris to buy macarons and other contemporary and traditional desserts. The tour guides are Parisian residents and the groups are kept small to give you a better experience.
And yes, taste testing is included!
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Other Unusual Things to Do in Paris
If you happen to be in Paris in early October, then you won’t want to miss the annual Nuit Blanche Arts festival. It’s a free festival held from 7 pm until 7 am, that transforms the city into a haven for art, music, and theatre. Both Parisians and tourists enjoy the entertainment and events all over the city.
The Catacombs: The Secret Life of Paris
If skulls and bones don’t scare you, then visit the Catacombs for a unique Paris experience.
Below the hustle and bustle of the streets of Paris is a network of tunnels created in the 13th century for mining limestone. After mining was abandoned, these tunnels remained unused until the late 18th century.
At this time, Paris’ cemeteries were overflowing. To solve this problem, the city exhumed the remains buried in its most overcrowded cemeteries and buried them within the walls of the underground tunnels! Today, you can visit a section of the tunnel network and see skeletal remains in what’s now known as the Catacombs.
Hopefully, this article has given you heaps of ideas on what to do in Paris. Amidst all the museums, shopping, and cafes, Paris is a city that has an endless string of things to do. Happy exploring!
Resources: Where to Stay in Paris
Given that Paris is a huge city, choosing where to stay will be a big decision. Based on our trips to Paris over the years, as well as that of friends’ recommendations, here’s our guide on where to stay in Paris, with hostels and hotels that will suit any type of travel budget. Alternatively, if you’re traveling as a family, we recommend checking out this article on the best Paris hotels for families.
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