The Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysses – been there, done that! Making another trip to the City of Lights? This post is especially for you. Paris is one of the few cities in the world that really deserves a second visit. If you want to escape the crowded tourist hotspots – have a look at this list of the top things to do in Paris for returning visitors.
With so many things to do in Paris, there were some hard decisions to be made when compiling this list, but here we go.
10. Join the cabaret at the Moulin Rouge
Metro station: Blanche
Long before nightclubs and annoying hipster wine bars, Parisians got their dose of nightly entertainment at the cabaret. None are as famous as the Moulin Rouge. Though I haven’t met too many modern day Parisians who’ve seen a show at the Moulin Rouge, I would still recommend paying a visit if you’re in Paris. You are a tourist after all, so it’s OK! The cabaret show, featuring beautiful topless dancers, draws thousands of visitor every year from around the world. But this is by no means a strip club. Topless dancers aside, the Moulin Rouge puts on a great show, filled with special effects, elaborate costumes and even some comedy. Tickets will start at around €80 and VIP packages can go up to over €200 per person. There are three shows per night and expect to pay an average of 110€ per ticket, including a (highly recommended) bottle of champagne.
9. Walk along the Canal Saint Martin
Metro stop: Republique
If you only stick to the center of Paris, you might not ever realize there’s a canal cutting through the eastern section of town. But the locals certainly know this and they tend to congregate on the banks of the canal on sunny weekends and pleasant evenings. The canal was constructed to cut the travel time along the Seine but today, the neighborhood is transforming from a working class hub to hipster central. Come here if you want a different taste of Paris and don’t forget to grab a cocktail in one of the coolest bars in Paris – Le Comptoir General.
8. Hang out in the sculpture garden at the Rodin Museum
Metro stop: Varenne
Over the weekend, this part of the 7th arrondissement is pleasantly quiet, and inside the gardens of the Rodin Museum things are even more laid back. The museum is actually a beautiful mansion dedicated to the famous French sculpture, but you can just chill in the gardens for a mere €2 if you feel like you’ve got museum phobia. This ended up being one of the highlights of my 3 month visit to Paris. The gardens are simply beautiful, and scattered across the property are famous iron works likes the Gates of Hell and The Thinker. It’s the perfect spot to laze around for a few hours on a sunny day.
7. Go back in time and visit Medieval Paris at the Cluny Museum
Metro stop: Cluny – La Sorbonne
The bottom line is that the Museum of Medieval Art, better known as the Cluny, is one of the best museums in Paris (€8). The museum is housed in a 16th century mansion and on the grounds of the best preserved Roman baths in all of Paris. What you’ll find inside is a collection of fine art from the Middle Ages coupled with a visit to the massive Roman baths. The highlight of the visit however, is the exquisite series of 15th century tapestries known as The Lady and the Unicorn. Nobody knows their meaning with certainty, which certainly adds another dimension to the beauty of this collection.
The Cluny is in the must see Latin Quarter. Here’s a Latin Quarter guide to help you plan your visit
6. Say hi to Napoleon Bonaparte in the Église du Dôme
Metro stops: Varenne, École Militaire
If you’re wondering why Napoleon is not buried in the Pantheon, you must visit this place to understand that he got a much better deal. Le Tombeau de Napoléon, housed under the massive golden dome of the Église du Dôme, is one of the many places in Paris where you’ll really feel tiny – this place is massive! Your €9.50 ticket also includes the military museum, but the church is the main event around here. Napoleon’s sarcophagus lies in a massive open pit right beneath the dome – a fitting resting spot for one of the biggest military figures in history (though one of the smallest in size).
5. Find your artistic muse at Monet’s garden in Giverny
Train station: Gare Saint Lazare
Giverny is a small and picturesque village located only 80 km’s outside of Paris. It makes for a perfect day trip from Paris on a sunny day. In fact, this village is so cute, that Claude Monet built his home and garden right here (€9.50). The highlight of your visit is a stroll along the water lily pond, the scene of many of Monet’s most famous works. You can then stroll through the lush gardens and step inside his former home – admiring the inspirational views from his bedroom. Most tourists will head to Versailles for their Paris day trip but Giverny trumps it, in my opinion.
4. Say hi to Jim Morrison & Edith Piaf at the Père Lachaise Cemetery
Metro stops: Philippe Auguste, Père Lachaise
For the legendary figures who didn’t make it into the Pantheon, the Père Lachaise Cemetery is the next best thing. In fact, this is how the cemetery’s founder pitched the idea to the authorities. Perfect in any season, strolling around the grounds of the celebrity cemetery is so pleasant, that you’ll forget there are people actually buried here. It’s super difficult not to get lost in the maze of lanes but that’s also part of the fun. You’ll find yourself in a kind of weird ‘scavenger hunt’, trying to pinpoint all the famous residents of Père Lachaise. It’s one of the coolest places in Paris and definitely up there on the list of off the beaten track things to do in Paris. Say hi to Jim Morrison for me, will you?
3. Buy fruits & vegetables at the coolest market in Paris – the Marche Aligre
Metro stops: Ledru-Rollin, Bastille
Open everyday except Monday, the Aligre market is best visited in the morning hours. That’s when dozens of fruit & vegetable stalls spring to life, animated by loud Algerian sellers who’ll do anything to court you to their ubiquitous stall. The place is just buzzing and prices in the outdoor market are super cheap. When you’ve stocked up on some seasonal delights, head to the adjacent Marché Beauvau and complete your shopping list for a perfect picnic.
There’s lots to see around the Aligre Market! Read more about exploring the Bastille area of Paris
2. Relax like a royal at Place des Vosges
Metro stop: Saint-Paul
When things got too crowded on Ile de la Cite & Ile Saint Louis, the aristocrats of Paris erected their mansions across the right bank of the Seine in the former marshy ground known as the Marais. Even King Henri IV took notice, planning his royal palace right here – complete with a beautiful garden to catch some fresh air. Lucky for us, the palace moved to Versailles and the garden is now open to the public. Place des Vosges is one of the prettiest spots in Paris. It’s the perfect spot to catch some sun, have a picnic or catch up on some sleep – and the best part is that it’s in one of the coolest neighborhoods in Paris.
The Marais is best explored on a Sunday in Paris. Read more about this neighborhood and plan your visit
1. Head underground and explore the Catacombs of Paris
Metro stop: Denfert-Rochereau
By far one of the coolest things to do in Paris, the Catacombs are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. You’ll probably head underground to use the Metro and maybe even pay a visit to the Paris Sewer System Museum, but can you imagine seeing the world’s largest underground cemetery right beneath the streets of Paris? They say Paris is like a huge Swiss cheese, and that’s because the land beneath the city was quarried for centuries – when these parts of town were a desolate place. The result is hundreds of miles of tunnels, many unmapped until today. So how did the bones get here? Well, in the late 18th century, the cemeteries of Paris were overflowing and the city was already facing a sanitary crisis. So the king decided to use the abandoned quarries and transfer the cemeteries below ground. Today, you can visit a small portion of the underground cemetery for an eery trip down memory lane (€10).
There’s plenty more to see in Paris in your next visits, but this is a good start. I hope you’ve found this list of the top things to do in Paris for returning visitors useful! Do you have more time in Paris? Check these out: