The Eiffel Tower, the Moulin Rouge, the Louvre – all Paris icons for sure.
But if it’s your second time visiting France’s capital and you’ve seen the touristy things, or you’re a lover of all things quirky and keen for something on the more unusual side, take note: Paris is bursting with surprises to keep you exploring. Here are a few things well worth discovering:
1. Visit a working vineyard
Love wine? Silly question, sure. You don’t need to travel to Bordeaux or Alsace to enjoy a French winery when there’s a working one in the bohemian artsy neighbourhood of Montmartre: the Vignes du Clos Montmartre. Located on the steep slope of Rue des Saules, this gorgeous little winery produces about 1,500 bottles of gamay and pinot noir each year. While public tours of the winery are only available at certain times of the year, visitors can stroll by anytime and enjoy the views, the local artisan shops, cafes and, of course, nearby Sacre Coeur.
2. Get romantic at the I Love You wall
They don’t call Paris the city of love for nothing. Also near Montmartre, the I Love You Wall is over 120 metres of sheer adoration. Created by two artists as a location for lovers to meet, the wall is covered in 612 tiles and features the words ‘I Love You’ in 311 languages. Rumour has it the artists who created it, Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito, collected the phrases by knocking on the doors of embassies and asking their neighbours. You’ll find the wall near Abbesses station and can visit Monday to Friday.
3. Spin around at Point Zero
This geographic marker, located in the public square outside Notre Dame Cathedral, symbolises the exact centre of the city. It’s also the point from which the distance of everything else in Paris is determined. The little octagonal brass plate isn’t anything remarkable to look at, but the locals have a lot of interesting beliefs about this spot. From believing wishes made here are granted, to spinning on it on one foot to win your crush’s heart, to sharing a kiss here to ensure life-long romance… the stories here are endless. Tokens of gratitude are often left here too; the concave marker is sometimes filled with coins and, at Christmas, the Notre Dame Christmas Tree is placed here to bring peace for the year ahead. It’s worth noting however, that while post-fire repairs are being made to Notre Dame, the location may be inaccessible at times.
4. Peek into Gustave Eiffel’s secret spot
While the Eiffel Tower is certainly not one of Paris’ lesser-known spots, the tiny little secret apartment inside could be. When the tower opened in 1889 to much acclaim, designer Gustave Eiffel revealed he’d built himself a tiny apartment near the top, earning him much envy among the wealthy and elite. Located on the third level of the tower, the apartment was off-limits for years, but now visitors who’ve purchased a ticket to the top can take a look inside – via a small window – to see much of the furnishings and two mannequins representing Eiffel and his friend Thomas Edison inside.
5. Take (subtle) snaps at Rue Crémieux
It’s been called Paris’ most photogenic street, much to the dismay of the residents living there. This cobblestone street lined with brightly coloured houses is tucked into the 12th arrondissement and is a popular spot for fashion shoots, particularly between Rue de Lyon and Rue de Bercy (it looks a bit like Venice’s Burano, with all the colourful façades and shuttered windows). You’ll get some great pics here but remember that the street is residential so respect the privacy of those living there.
6. Visit the Bird Market
Paris’ Flower Market at Place Louis Lapine, Rue Aube is a popular spot, when the sweet smell of fresh flowers fills the air. But every Sunday, when the flower vendors take the day off, this market is transformed into the chirpiest place in the city. You’ll find decorative cages, stacked on top of more ornate cages, with a huge variety of birds from pet parakeets to chickens and roosters. While taking a bird home isn’t recommended, it does make for a colourful and interesting place to stroll through.
7. Enjoy a spectacular rooftop sunset
While it might not be the prettiest building in Paris, the views from the bar at the top of Montparnasse Tower are unbeatable, especially at sunset. The trick, though, is to get here well before sunset, keeping in mind you’ll still need to queue for a ticket (or pre-book to save time) and take the elevator ride to the roof. Order a drink or two, then kick back and watch the sun go down with 360-degree views of a spectacular city.
8. Walk La Promenade Plantée
La Promenade Plantée is a little like New York’s High Line; it’s a tree-lined garden walk, built on top of an old elevated railway line. A wonderful way to explore the city, the promenade takes you up and down stairs, over viaducts, and above local streets. The 4.7 kilometre walkway also passes the Viaduc des Arts, a bridge where galleries have taken up residence. Do it on a weekday, as weekends can get very busy.
Visit Paris on a small group adventure through France with Intrepid. Check out our range of trips here.
Feature photo by Catarina Belova.