Undiscovered Paris: A Self-Guided Tour of Paris’ Hidden Gems

We truly believe that Paris is best explored by wandering. Or as the French call it, flâner. And while we could spent a lifetime strolling around Paris, we thought we would save you some time and compiled a list of the top hidden spots in Paris!

Le Palais Royal

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Despite its proximity to the Louvre, this spot gets passed up by many tourists. This garden oasis is a reprieve from the bustle just outside its walls in the heart of Paris. And its black and white columns make for a fun Instagram shot! People watch in the gardens or from atop a column and soak in some sunshine.

Courtyard of the National Archives

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While the National Archives are a tourist destination, the gardens are worth exploring in themselves. For the quietest time, visit on a Tuesday when the archives are closed, but the grounds are still open. Walk through the main gates and to the right for more gardens and impressive building exterior views.

Passages of Paris

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We came across several of these covered arcades, which are easy to walk right by without noticing. These arcades often have shops and restaurants housed on the interior. The Galerie Vero-Dodat is one of 25 remaining passageways built in the 19th century. The passage’s black and white diamond-shaped marble paving give it a beautiful effect, and the parts of the ceiling that are not glass are decorated with beautiful engravings. We found this arcade to be especially enchanting in the evening. And the Christian Louboutin store housed here is perfect for window shopping. After stopping by Galerie Vero-Dodat, catch happy hour in one of the small bars nearby.

Les Arènes de Lutèce

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Did you know that Paris has a Roman Colosseum of its very own? Long forgotten, this remnant from the Gallo-Roman era resurfaced in the 1800s during construction in the area. Situated in the Latin Quarter, this amphitheater could once seat 15,000 spectators for gladiator fights. The Arènes de Lutèce is a fun stop for history buffs, and a walk around the perimeter past beautiful gardens is enjoyable for all.

Neighborhood courtyard parks

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Paris has some incredible parks tucked into its neighborhoods that only locals know about. Square Georges Cain is a little park situated in the trendy Marais district, and provides an oasis of greenery to people who have been lucky enough to stumble upon it. This park is also popular among neighborhood regulars who would like to keep it a secret. Square Georges Cain has two pieces of artwork: ‘L’Aurore’, a bronze statue of a nude woman in the middle of a rose bed by the 17th-century sculptor Laurent Magnier, and ‘Le Rossignol Electrique’ by Eric Samakh (1990), a small electronic bird that starts singing whenever the wind blows.

 

Église St. Gervais & Rue des Barres

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Rue des Barres is a stone’s throw from Île de la Cité but will transport you to a quaint village setting. Chairs line the cobblestone street in the warmer months and are ideal for people watching. Tucked into this street is Église St. Gervais. This church is overshadowed by its more famous neighbor, Notre Dame de Paris, but is equally beautiful. The church was built between 1494 and 1657 and its facade was the first example of French baroque style in Paris.

 

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Everything You Need to Know: Planning a Trip to Paris

Must read when planning a trip to Paris!

Packing

In summary, think minimalism. Stick to one small bag and a personal carry on (like a backpack or purse) if at all possible. You will be much happier to not be lugging giant suitcases up and down the metro stairs (escalators are rare). Classic clothes in dark colors with a scarf are standard for Parisians, plus a comfortable yet stylish pair of walking shoes. Bring just the essential electronics (including converter) and travel sized toiletries, or buy toiletries upon your arrival.

Money

We highly recommend exchanging money to Euros before traveling to avoid getting ripped off at airport exchange booths. Bringing sufficient cash to have on hand is useful since many places in Paris may not accept card or have a minimum. However, we have noticed that more establishments accept major credit cards now. If you end up needing to withdraw cash abroad, there are many ATMs around the city and most storeowners will know where the closest ones are. Check with your bank to see if any withdrawal fees apply. 

IMPORTANT: Call your bank before traveling to inform them of your travel dates. This will prevent your bank from freezing your card due to potential fraudulent activity.

Accommodations

The earlier you book, the better the rates and availability. Paris accommodations fill up quickly, and prices fluctuate throughout the year, being the highest at peak summertime. Le Marais, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and Latin Quarter are centrally located, making it easy to visit most tourist destinations. If you’re okay with a longer commute, Place de la République, Oberkampf, and Montmartre all offer travelers affordable and authentic Parisian housing options in buzzing areas. Paris is full of unique boutique hotels like Hôtel Providence and Hôtel la Belle Juliette. We had great experiences with our two Airbnb’s, which were more affordable than most centrally located hotels we looked at during our travel dates. 

Transportation

Metro is by far the best and most affordable way to get around. The metro’s expansive network will get you to practically anywhere you need to go. If you are in Paris for a full week, purchasing a Navigo card is well worth it. The Navigo pass permits transportation on the metro, RER, and bus systems and at a much better rate than the individual paper passes sold. Weekly pass covers travel Monday (start date) through Sunday (end date), no matter which day you happen to purchase the pass. So if you buy a pass on Wednesday, your “weekly pass” will still end on Sunday. Other Navigo pass options are also available for longer stays. 

IMPORTANT: it is not very clear and the SNCF staff will likely fail to mention that you MUST write your name and attach a photo to your Navigo card ASAP before using. Failure to do so will result in a fine of about 35 euros per person if stopped by police in the metro. You can take a passport style photo in booths set up in train stations where Navigo cards are available for purchase. Or save yourself some hassle and money and print out photos prior to your trip. 

What other questions do you have that you’d like us to answer? Comment below! Continue reading “Everything You Need to Know: Planning a Trip to Paris”