15 Of The Best Secret Spots In Paris

September 6, 2015

Home to millions of Parisians and many more millions of visitors, there are still a few spots in Paris that are relatively undiscovered. I had the privilege of living in Paris for three months and got to explore both its iconic sites as well as the hidden gems of Paris. In this post, I’ll share with you my list of the 15 best secret spots in Paris!

Paris is a city that rewards those who explore it on foot and many of the places I’m sharing with you here were randomly discovered on one of those magical days spent walking the streets of Paris. I’m going to list places that every visitor to Paris can afford. So no luxury restaurants and fancy hotels here – just interesting places that are not on every tourist’s to-do list.  So don’t tell your friends about what you’re about to see and let’s keep these Paris secret spots just between us, ok?

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Rue Cremieux – Bastille

It’s got to be one of the happiest streets in Paris and will surely put a smile on your face. You might even think you’ve been teleported to some Caribbean island. Rue Cremieux is a small pedestrian street that’s lined on both sides by cute houses that are painted in all the bright colors of the rainbow. It was a covered street until 1897 and was even partially flooded in the great flood of 1910. Surprisingly, there weren’t any tourists when we came here over the weekend, just residents reading the weekend papers in the sun. However, over recent years, residents have faced soaring numbers of visitors and are turning to the authorities to rescue them from the tourists.

It’s (was) one of the best secret spots in Paris that I came across. The best time to visit is around noon on a sunny day, when the sun perfectly illuminates the brightly colored houses. Come here en route to a picnic lunch at Port de l’Arsenal, after you’ve paid a visit to the most colorful food market in Paris – the Marche d’Aligre. 

Rue Cremieux - one of the best secret spots in Paris

If you’re looking to see a different side of Paris, check out this itinerary guide to the Bastille area.

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont – Northeastern Paris

If you want to see how local Parisians spend their sunny weekends, head over to one of the best parks in Paris. It’s way out in Northeastern Paris, where rents are still somewhat sane – making it one of the last remaining areas in town where young families can live, without ‘God forbid’ heading out passed the Boulevard Périphérique and into the suburbs. Like quite a few other Parisian parks, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont was created out of an abandoned quarry. Opened in 1867, the park’s main feature is a towering rock rising out of a central lake. You can make it there via a suspension bridge or just grab a spot on the grass with your picnic lunch.

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont east paris

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont paris

 

Canal Saint-Martin – Eastern Paris

Between the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees, and all the other must-see attractions in Paris, the eastern part of town is often overlooked. That’s what makes parts of the Canal Saint-Martin one of the best secret spots in Paris. The canal was dug to shorten the distance for boats traveling along the Seine but these days, the neighborhood at the southern end of the canal is one of the most diverse in Paris. Traditionally a working-class center, the 10th arrondissement is slowly being taken over by hipsters and young couples – changing the vibe of this neighborhood but still retaining a unique cultural mix. During the day, grabbing a spot along the canal is super romantic. But the real magic starts when the sun begins to set.

Canal Saint Martin Paris - best secret spots in Paris

Canal Saint Martin eastern Paris romantic

Canal saint martin paris

It seems like all the area’s young residence begin to make their way to the canal for an evening of catching up with friends, and just good quality time. Bringing your drinks is a good idea.

Canal Saint Martin Paris on warm night

Visit the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont & the Canal Saint-Martin with this itinerary guide.

The Terrace at the Printemps Department Store

The fact that Le Printemps has been one of the iconic Parisian department stores since 1865 is by no means a state secret. However, only a small percentage of shoppers who frequent this store, ever venture to its terrace for panoramic views of Paris! Take the elevator to the top floor and then head up the escalator one more floor, to Cafe Déli-Cieux. Step outside to the terrace and treat yourself to a 360-degree view of Paris!

You can see from Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower and you are super close to the Palais Garnier, the most beautiful building in Paris. You can also get up and close and personal with the signature gilded domes that are the hallmark of Le Printemps. The best part of all of this is that it’s completely free. I would highly recommend coming here for a light lunch or an early evening glass of wine – but that’s totally up to you. UPDATE: Cafe Deli-Cieux has closed its doors but it’s still worth checking if rooftop access is possible. I assume a new establishment will shortly open at this location if it hasn’t already by the time you visit Paris. 

Printemps terrace Paris panoramic view

Printemps terrace Paris panoramic view

Printemps terrace Paris panoramic view palais garnier

There’s lots to do aside from shopping in this area. Check out this guide to the Grands Boulevards of Paris.

Rue Mouffetard – Latin Quarter

It’s one of the best market streets in Paris and with so many must-see Parisian highlights nearby, it’s often overlooked by visitors. That’s what makes Rue Mouffetard one of the best secret spots in Paris! The street itself is a cobblestone lane that winds its way up the hill to Place de la Contrescarpe. It was an ancient Roman road that led from Paris to Rome, and this area still retains a medieval look and feel. The bottom of Rue Mouffetard is where you’ll find excellent spots for breakfast, along with the bulk of the fruit & vegetable shops. As you head up towards Place de la Contrescarpe, you’ll come across excellent bakeries, wine shops, and cheesemakers – oh and how can we forget about the roasted chicken! I just love how the potatoes at the bottom are flavored by the magical power of gravity!

Rue-Mouffetard-latin-quarter-breakfast

Rue-Mouffetard-food-market-street-paris

Cheese shop rue mouffetard paris

Rue Mouffetard Paris Latin Quarter Street Muscians

Rue Mouffetard Paris Latin Quarter

As you near Place de la Contrescarpe, there are lots of pretty solid restaurants that stay in line with the down to earth neighborhood vibe and offer good meals and good prices. Over at Place de la Contrescarpe, grab a chair in a sunny terrasse and get your caffeine levels up before heading to explore the rest of the Latin Quarter.

Place de la Contrescarpe Latin Quarter Paris Mouffetard

The Medieval Latin Quarter simply cannot be missed on your visit to Paris. Have a look at this Latin Quarter itinerary guide.

Rue des Barres – Marais

If Rue Cremieux was a picturesque street, Rue des Barres is both picturesque and lively. Located at the edge of the trendy Marais neighborhood, right by the Seine, you’ll be snapping photos like there’s no tomorrow over here. It’s one of the most charming lanes in all of Paris and also holds two distinct highlights. The first is St-Gervais-St-Protais church – one of the oldest in Paris and with exceptionally beautiful stained glass windows. The second is L’Ebouillante – a great spot for brunch, and the kind of place that’ll keep you sitting outside in the sunny terrasse for hours.

L' Ebouillante in rue des Barres nicest Paris street

The Marais is best visited on Sundays when many parts of Paris take a break. Check out this guide to the Marais and plan your Sunday in Paris.

The Balcony of the Musée d’Orsay – Saint Germain

You don’t come to the Musée d’Orsay for the views but this little treat awaits those who venture to the top floor. The Musée d’Orsay is one of the best museums in all of Paris, covering the Impressionist and Post Impressionist eras. Come here on a spring evening, when the museum is open until late and the days are longer. After paying a visit to Cézanne, Picasso, Monet & their friends, step outside to the terrace and catch amazing sunset views of the Seine and Montmartre. You just might have the balcony all to yourself.

Paris twilight photo from musee dorsay terrace

The Musée d’Orsay is one of the best in the world! Here’s a guide I wrote to help you plan your visit.

Continue to the next page for more of the best secret spots in Paris!

Parc Monceau – Grands Boulevards

So close to highlights like the Arc de Triomphe and the Grand Palais, yet far enough – Parc Monceau is a local favorite for the residents of the affluent 8th arrondissement. Popular with joggers and families, if you’ll come during the week you’ll see schoolchildren playing at lunchtime and if you come during the weekend, picnics are the signature mark of the park. Not too many tourists make it here, but with one of the best markets in Paris just 5 minutes away at Rue de Levis – a picnic in one of the most beautiful parks in Paris is not a bad idea.

Parc Monceau Paris - yoga in the park

Parc Monceau Paris picnic

Parc Monceau Paris Gates

Palais Royale – Grands Boulevards

Wrapped by government offices, the central courtyard of the Palais Royale is one of the most beautiful spots in a city that already has so many. Whether you’re relaxing in a cafe, playing a round of petanque, or just chilling by the water fountain – the gardens of the Palais Royale are a world away from the madness of central Paris just a few meters away. It’s also one of the most romantic spots in Paris and you’re almost guaranteed a superb musical performance, like this one, as you exit at its southern end.

Paris romantic spot Jardins du Palais Royal Paris

Jardins du Palais Royal Paris

Playing petanque Jardins du Palais Royal Paris

Palais Royal Paris

The Louvre and so much more are right next to the Palais Royale. Have a look at this guide to the Paris Grands Boulevards.

Beneath the Pont Alexandre III – Eiffel Tower District

There’s no better way to end a perfect spring or summer evening in Paris, than on the left bank of the Seine just beneath the beautiful Pont Alexandre III. As the days get longer and sunnier, pop up bars and riverboats (péniches) spring to life and bring with them a magical vibe that makes you want to stay out as long as possible, or at least take the long way home. Grab a spot by the bar or bring your own – it doesn’t matter. You’re in one of the best spots in Paris so just cherish the moment.

Paris romantic spot by pont alexandre

Picnic by the pont alexandre Paris

Pont Alexandre III chilling

See what else is around with this itinerary guide to the Eiffel Tower district.

The Paris Sewer System Museum – Eiffel Tower District

The underground of Paris is said to be more like Swiss cheese. As a visitor to Paris, there’s no doubt you’ll venture underground at some point as there’s just no way to avoid using the exceptionally efficient Metro. Like thousands of others, you might even try and make it to the underground cemeteries of the Catacombs (highly recommended). But few visitors know that there’s another way to explore Paris underground and that’s at the Paris Sewer System Museum. For a mere €4.50, you’ll head underground and learn about the history of water and waste management in Paris. You’ll get to walk along real sewer tunnels, running right beneath the major Parisian boulevards, and see the machines that do the real dirty work. It’s surprisingly not that stinky down here and was mostly visited by locals when I came on a beautiful Saturday morning.

Paris Sewer System Museum

Paris sewer system museum tools2

Paris-sewer-museum-visit-underground-sewers

Read more about planning your visit to the Paris Sewer System Museum

Place Saint-Sulpice – Saint Germain

One of the most beautiful squares in Paris in one of the coolest parts of town, whether you’re grabbing a spot in the terrasse of Café de la Mairie overlooking the square or just grabbing some shade beneath a chestnut tree, you won’t want to leave Place Saint-Sulpice. The church for which the square is named after is one of the prettiest in town and The Da Vinci Code fans will just love it. Outside on the square, the gushing waters of the fountain are as soothing as things can get in a megacity.

Place saint Sulpice saint germain Paris

Café de la Mairie Saint Germain Paris

You do not want to miss exploring Saint-Germain-des-Prés! Check out this Saint Germain itinerary guide and plan a day in Paris that you’ll never forget.

The terrasse at Le Relais de la Butte – Montmartre

The former village of Montmartre commands the highest point in Paris and it’s one of the most romantic parts of town. For a little bit of extra romance, grab a seat on the terrasse of Le Relais de la Butte. The service might not be the best but it’s all about the location. Get some wine and maybe something small to eat – and just enjoy the views!

Le Relais de la Butte montmartre paris

Le Relais de la Butte montmartre paris 2

Have a look at this itinerary guide to Montmartre and plan a super romantic day in Paris.

Bois de Boulogne – Western Paris

Modeled after London’s Hyde Park, the Bois de Boulogne is a place that Parisians flock to if they want to visit the countryside without leaving town. Miles and miles of tracks snake their way across this massive park, which seems more like a forest at times. The highlight is no doubt renting an old-fashioned rowboat and hanging out with the ducks in the giant lake.

Bois de Boulogne Paris romantic park

Bois de Boulogne paris park rowing

Butte-aux-Cailles – Southern Paris

Known as the ‘poor man’s Montmartre’, the former village of Butte-aux-Cailles (‘the Hill of the Quails’), is a little less high than Montmartre, a little less picturesque, a little bit further out from the center of town – and therefore gets a lot fewer visitors. But that shouldn’t stop you from coming here, especially if you want a no-frills dinner and drinks. The tiny former village still retains that old-time vibe and at night, the cobblestone lanes are packed with locals out for a good time.

narrow alleys in paris butte aux cailles

cafes in butte aux cailles

Have a look at this Montparnasse & southern Paris itinerary to explore further

So now that I’ve shared my list of the 15 best secret spots in Paris, you’ll have to tell me yours after you come back.

What’s Next?

Plan the perfect trip to Paris with free and in-depth Paris travel guides, including the Best of Paris collection and a guide to all major Parisian neighborhoods.

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2 comments

  1. Beautiful spots in this post! Haven’t you made it to the little mountain that is surrounded by Parc des Butte Chaumonts? It gives a great view of the green park!

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