Secret Places in Paris
With over 30 million people flocking to Paris’ tourist attractions each year, escaping the crowds in Paris is no easy feat.
Whilst most will spend their time dedicated to climbing up to the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Louvre Museum, or exploring Montmartre, the city has much more to offer beyond its major drawcards. There’s a secret Paris, a hidden Paris most tourists never see well worth the detour.
Below is a list of our favorite hidden gems in Paris to experience ‘when in Paris’. With these Paris hidden gems, you’re set for a unique trip – whether you’re a first time explorer or a repeat visitor to France’s capital.
Ssh don’t tell anyone…
TIP: To find your bearings in Paris, check out our Districts of Paris Quick Guide.
Passage du Grand Cerf
145 rue Saint-Denis, Paris 2
The Covered Passages of Paris are secret places in Paris to get lost, a world apart from the crowded tourist attractions or busy Grands Boulevards.
Built by the end of the 18th century, the Paris walkways were also the new bourgeois’ favorite stroll, the place to show up and socialize in their cafes, traditional bistros, or small theaters.
Amongst all the beautiful covered passages, Passage du Grand Cerf remains one of the most secret because it is not easy to find. Its pleasing interior is home to many artisan shops and high-quality jewelry boutiques.
Don’t miss its spectacular 12 meter-high structure made of metal and wrought iron with a beautiful glass roof and its flourished balconies on the first floor.
La Petite Ceinture of Paris
La Petite Ceinture Paris (the Little Belt railway around Paris) was a 32 km railroad line that circled Paris. Developed during 1852-1869, La Petite Ceinture transported passengers and merchandise.
La Petite Ceinture’s decline started with the construction of the Parisian Metro in 1900. As a result, the passenger service stopped in 1934, when the metro reached its maturity.
At the end of the ’70s, with the disappearance of the slaughterhouses, and the relocation of the Citroën factories, the freight traffic fell drastically and La Petite Ceinture stopped operating.
Today, some short sections of abandoned railroads and phantom train stations are converted into public green spaces and they are secret places to visit in Paris great for a stroll far from the crowds.
Paris Sewer Museum
93 Quai d’Orsay, Paris 7
Despite being located in one of the touristy districts of Paris, not far from the Eiffel Tower, the Paris Sewer Museum is still one of the hidden gems in Paris and it does not see many visitors.
The Paris Sewer Museum explores the galleries of the sewer system in Paris. Along 500m of underground tunnels, this unusual museum details the history of drinking water in Paris and the sewer system in the French capital, from the former Roman city of Lutetia to its modern infrastructure.
The Coulée Verte
1 Coulée Verte René-Dumont, Paris 12
The Coulée Verte, in the 12th district of Paris, is a public park built on the historic Vincennes Railway Line in eastern Paris. Saved from demolition by neighborhood residents and the City of Paris, the Coulée Verte opened in 1993 as a hybrid public space where visitors experience nature, art, and design.
This hidden Paris walk starts behind Pace de la Bastille and crosses tunnels, trenches, and parks. The section which is elevated 10 meters above the streets of Paris, was the world’s first elevated park walkway that later inspired the Highline in New York City.
La Coulée Verte is one of the hidden places in Paris perfect for a relaxing nature walk far from the crowds and to see Paris from another point of view.
35 rue de Picpus, Paris 12
The Picpus Cemetery is a small graveyard out of central Paris with a thrilling history.
This tranquil place located in the neighborhood of Picpus is the final resting place of 1,306 headless bodies who lost their lives at the guillotine that was set up in the former Place du Trône-Renversé (current Place de la Nation).
This place, located not far from the Place du Trône-Renversé, became the perfect place to dump all headless bodies baking in the sun.
Today the cemetery is reserved for the victims of the guillotine and their descendants and it is a beautiful and tranquil place for a stroll. Here, you can visit the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette, escorted by an American flag. He rests beside his wife, who lost her grandmother, mother, and sister to the guillotine.
Jardin des Abbesses in Montmartre
Passage des Abbesses, Paris 18
Whilst walking around Montmartre don’t miss Jardin des Abbesses, one of the top-secret places in Montmartre. It is located just behind the famous (and touristy) Love Wall but the access is through a gate located at the foot of the stairs leading up to rue des Trois Frères.
In medieval times, the site was occupied by an abbey (Abbaye des Dames de Montmartre) but like many other religious places, it was destroyed during the French Revolution.
The garden – one of the rare hidden gems in Paris Montmartre – tries to recreate the atmosphere of a medieval cloister, with a well in the center and medicinal plants. It is a beautiful and tranquil place for meditation or for a pause from the tourists in Montmartre.
Carrières des Capucins
27 rue du Faubourg-Saint Jacques, Paris 14
Les Carrières des Capucins, in Paris 14, is one of the most exciting secret places in Paris underground.
This underground limestone quarry was exploited between the 12th and 17th centuries and it was consolidated in the 18th century. Today, the medieval quarry is maintained and enhanced by a non-profit association in the form of a museum.
Unlike the Catacombs of Paris – also former quarries – the Carrières des Capucins were never recycled for other purposes.
The unusual and rather confidential guided tour organized by the association is done under the light of a torch. Explore meters of underground galleries, a secret Paris running parallel to the city aboveground. Learn about the world of underground quarries and other interesting curiosities.
The Arenes de Lutece
49 rue Monge, Paris 5
The Arènes de Lutèce is the oldest monument built in Paris and also one of the most impressive. It was built during the 1st century AD, a construction date only exceeded by the Luxor Obelisk in Paris (but built out of the country).
Despite this honor, and its central location – in the Latin Quarter, behind the Panthéon in Paris – these Roman ruins in Paris do not see many tourists so it is a great place to explore. It is also a usual place for locals to play pétanque and it is fun to seat on the stands and watch them play.
The Arènes de Lutèce was built by the Romans to host different kinds of entertainment. It consists of a stage, a set of stands, and an oval arena and it could accommodate up to 17,000 spectators.
The Vampire Museum
The Vampire Museum in Paris is the only museum in the world dedicated to vampires and other curious creatures. It is managed by a private – a professional ‘vampirologist’ – and it is the most quirky of the hidden gems in Paris and a must for vampire passionates.
The Vampire Museum is set in a private haunted house in Les Lilas neighborhood, just out of Paris. It consists of a big room with an interesting collection of books, documents, posters, and old objects related to vampires.
Amongst the most interesting things, there is an anti-vampire protection kit from the 19th century, the autographed photos of almost all the actors featuring Dracula, and some rare vampirology books.
Square Georges Caïn
Square Georges Caïn, Paris 3
The Square Georges Caïn is one of the beautiful hidden gardens in Le Marais. It is located just behind Musée de Carnevalet, in Paris 3.
The Square Georges Caïn is decorated with a central statue named Ile de France and some trees and benches. This tranquil garden is also the museum’s lapidary depôt, a kind of burial place for many vestiges of disappeared public buildings and private mansions. Amongst these objects, the curious wanderer will find ruins from the disappeared Hôtel de Ville and the Tuileries Palace.
Luxury Shopping in the Pool
17 rue de Sèvres, Paris 6
Even if you are not interested in luxury shopping, don’t miss the Hermès’ amazing concept store in the 7th district in Paris.
This new concept store is set in a former 33 × 10 m artificial wave pool built in 1935 in Art Decó style. This awesome swimming pool, which still keeps the original mosaics and other decorations, is listed as a French historical monument since 2005.
Originally, it served as a private swimming pool for the Hotel Lutetia, one of the few historic hotels in Paris Rive Gauche located nearby. In 1940, during the occupation of Paris, it was requisitioned by the Gestapo. When Paris was liberated, General de Gaulle made it a reception center for survivors of Nazi concentration camps, and later it was used as a public swimming pool.
Closed to the public in the 1970s, it then hosted various activities. After some renovation works the swimming pool hosts since 2010 Hermès’ concept store.
rue des Rosiers, Paris 4
The Pletzl is the most famous Jewish neighborhood in Paris. It is located in the heart of Le Marais, in Paris 4, not far from the metro station Saint-Paul.
Its name means ‘little square’ in Yiddish but here it is much more than that. The area hosts a diverse Jewish community and is now characterized by its synagogues, butchers, Jewish delicatessens, and falafel vendors. The cobbled streets dotted with traditional lampposts contribute to the village atmosphere of this area.
The Pletzl is a picturesque place to explore in Le Marais, a totally different world from Place des Vosges and the private mansions of the Marais. Don’t miss the Jardin des Rosiers – Joseph Mignared, an intimate park perfect for a lunch break with your favorite kebab or falafel.
Les Serres d’Auteuil
3 avenue de la Porte d’Auteuil, Paris 16
This is one of the most colorful hidden spots in Paris. Far from the city center, in Paris 16, it does not see many tourists.
The Garden of Serres-d’Auteuil is one of the most unique gardens in the French capital. A paradise for botanical and horticultural enthusiasts, the garden has 6,000 plants grouped into different collections.
The Garden of Serres-d’Auteuil is located inside the Bois de Boulogne and it is one of the four sites of the Botanical Garden of Paris, together with Parc de Bagatelle, Parc Floral, and the Arboretum.
It was commissioned by King Louis XV in 1761. The king wished to have a garden decorated with greenhouses and a place of horticultural production.
Visitors can see a large central lawn adorned with pretty floral decorations, an architecture of classical style, typical greenhouses from the end of the 19th century, a landscaped English garden, a garden of Japanese inspiration, and a small garden with Mediterranean essences. The mascarons that decorate the retaining walls were designed by Auguste Rodin.
Passage de l’ Ancre
Passage de l’Ancre, Paris 3
The Passage de l’Ancre is a private pedestrian alley that connects rue Saint-Martin to rue Turbigo in Paris 3. Inside this timeless crossroad, one of the oldest in Paris dating from the 17th century, you will find multicolored old-fashioned shops and workshops, and the entrance to some private buildings.
Here, the residents love to take care and entertain this peaceful passage and it is always full of flowers and shrubs in pots which give the place a rural atmosphere. The little shop that you can see in the foreground is the last shop dedicated to repair umbrellas.
This is definitely a place of secret Paris worth exploring when visiting the Marais!
And there you have it, the list of top hidden gems in Paris for a unique trip to the French capital