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See Paris Like a Local: 7 Amazing Off-the-Beaten Path Experiences in Paris

See Paris Like a Local: 7 Amazing Off-the-Beaten Path Experiences in Paris

Last Updated on June 21, 2024

Over the years, I’ve gotten to see more of Paris than most tourists, and started to see Paris like a local – beyond the famous landmarks, Paris off the beaten path. You all know about the touristy stuff in Paris, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and Notre Dame, the Champs-Élysées and the Arc d’Triomphe. So today I wanted to share seven of my favorite experiences off the beaten path in Paris – from flea markets to street art to extraordinary city parks. 


How to Experience Paris Off the Beaten Path

Paris est toujours une bonne idée – Paris is always a good idea, Audrey Hepburn famously said, and I couldn’t agree more. I never get tired of exploring this stunning city – Saturday mornings with cheese and baguette picnics in Jardin d’ Luxembourg, and afternoon eclairs from patisserie L’Éclair De Génie, where you find, undoubtedly, the best eclairs in all of Paris. Strolls along the Seine, seeing new art at the Centre Pompidou, meandering through the streets of Montmartre, ending the day with a glass of wine at the Le Baron Rouge wine bar…  I could do it all over and over again, but I also made it a point to discover something new on each visit to one of my favorite cities in Europe.

paris like a local

So let me suggest a few of my favorite things to do in Paris that go beyond the well-trodden tourist trails, showing you a lot more of what Parisians do in their city, or maybe bringing you to a part of Paris you’ve not been before:

And if you do like touristy things but you’re on a tight budget – here are three cool things to do in Paris for less than US$20:


Six cool things to do in Paris off the beaten path

1. Canal St Martin

What the Seine is tourists, Canal St Martin is to locals. This 4.5km long canal, which winds its way through Paris northwest of the Seine River, is a favorite with Parisians who you can see sitting along the edge, enjoying a chat and a bottle of wine. If you want to see Paris like a local, join them – a good place to start your canal walk is Boulevard Jules Ferry, near the Place du Republique, or you could start at the end of Canal St Martin in La Villette Park and then trek back toward Central Paris.

A great spot to stop along the way is Le Pavillon des Canaux, a lovely bar right by the water near the Bassin de la Villette. You could also take a quick detour to Du Pain et des Idees (34 Rue Yves Toudic), one block from the canal, pick up some of the most delectable pastries in the city, and have an impromptu picnic right by the canal, as you’ll see many locals do.

Closest metro stations: Republique (lines 3, 5, 8, 9, 11) or you could start a shorter walk near Jaurès (5, 7), skipping the first part of the Canal. Corentin Cariou on the 2 is the closest metro station near La Villette Park, if you want to start the walk there.Paris Canal St Martin

2. La Promenade Plantée 

What the High Line is to New York, La Promenade Plantée is to Paris: a 4.7 kilometer long elevated green space, which was created, just like the High Line Park in Manhattan, on an abandoned railway line. If you are wondering which one came first: it was the Promenade Plantee, the railroad that it is set on the disused 19th-century Vincennes railway viaduct. The park offers a unique aerial vantage point on Paris and takes you off the beaten path in Paris. Read more about this unique place here: A magical, green walk along Paris’s Promenade Plantée

Note: The park is marked as “Coulée Verte René-Dumont” on Googlemaps.

Closest metro station: Bastille on the 1, 5 and 8 lines – Walk to the staircase south of Place de la Bastille on Rue de LyonParis off the beaten path

3. Belleville

This up-and-coming neighborhood is known for its multi-cultural feel and the colorful street art. Here you find Chinese grocery stores right next to African shops and French cafes. You’ll notice that the neighborhood is grittier than most of Paris’ picture-perfect neighborhoods and get to know a side of Paris only very tourists get to see. It is one of the best ways to experience Paris like a local, and if you’re into street art, you really shouldn’t miss Rue Denoyez, an alleyway known for its many murals and graffiti. Around Belleville Park (both the top and the bottom of the park) you’ll also find lots of great street art.

Closest metro station: Belleville on the 2 and 11 lines.

Tip: I also recommend this fantastic self-guided Paris street art tour which starts at République, goes to Belleville and then loops back to République

Paris Street Art Belleville

4. Les Puces (Saint-Ouen Flea Market)

Officially named Saint-Ouen Flea Market, but among Parisians the city’s largest flea market is known simply as Les Puces, which translates to ‘The Fleas’. The flea market, which takes place every weekend, is with over 2,500 market stalls the largest antiques market in the world and sees between 120,000 and 180,000 visitors every week. Treasure hunters, vintage lovers and souvenir shoppers can’t miss a visit to this market. I love flea markets, and wandering around the market stills with all the Parisians always makes me feel like I see Paris like a local.

Closest metro stations: Porte de Clignancourt on the 4, Garibaldi on the 13, or take the 85 bus right into the middle of it off the beaten path

5. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

parc buttes chaumontParc des Buttes-Chaumont is a giant park in northeast Paris, just north of Belleville (you can easily combine a visit to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont with a stroll through Belleville). It is so much more than just your regular city park, with stunning landscape design and sights that include a Roman Pavilion (Temple De La Sibylle), a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel, concrete cliffs and a man-made lake. Plus: incredible views over Paris! Bring a picnic, or head to Rosa Bonheur, a bar inside the park that has a gorgeous terrace.

This isn’t a park I’d try to fit in on a first-time visit to Paris, by the way – there are other beautiful parks to visit that are closer to the main sights, such as Jardin du Luxembourg, Louvre-Tuileries or Place Des Vosges (my personal favorite), but if you’ve been to Paris several times, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is definitely worth venturing further afield. Another great option for a giant green space would be Bois de Boulogne, which is two and a half times the size of New York’s Central Park, or comparable to London’s Richmond Park.

Closest metro station: Buttes Chaumont or Botzaris on the 7B

6 See the Eiffel Tower from this unique vantage point

Most people want to visit the Eiffel Tower when they travel to Paris, which I personally think is a Must-Do, not just for the views over the city, but also for the experience itself: to get up, close and personal with the over 130 year-old landmark.

Side note: To not just save money, but also get a real good feel for the Eiffel Tower, take the stairs to the observation deck! This also counts as a workout, so that you won’t feel bad about that second croissant or the hot chocolate at Angelina. (Or Carrette, where the hot chocolate may be even better?!) The Eiffel Tower is famous for a reason! However, you won’t see any locals lining up at Gustave Eiffel’s masterpiece.Paris off the beaten pathWhen Parisians have visitors in town, they show off the city’s most iconic landmark from a unique vantage point – such as the rooftop of the Montparnasse Tower. And for less than US$20 (€19 on weekends, €18 on weekdays), it offers is an excellent vista over Paris. For extra value, buy the day and night combo ticket for €28 which grants admission during the day and at night – this is the City Of Light after all! (valid for 48 hours)



7 Take a walking tour with a local

I love taking walking tours when I travel – not just for the commentary that I get about the sights we see along the way, but also for the useful insights I usually get from the local guides. Since they live in the place you’re touring, they usually know the best places to eat, the coolest bars, they have money-saving trips and can tell you which museums are really worth your time. In addition, Paris tour guides can give you other recommendations for off-the-beaten-path experiences that I haven’t listed here. Check out the best Paris walking tours here.




Wednesday 31st of July 2019


As a parisian, I am happy to read that those activities are away from the tourist crowd and closer to the locals. I hope the readers who will be going to Paris will take the time to visit those places. Just an adjustment you can make, you have the metro stations wrong for the Canal St Martin: Corentin Cariou is on the 7 and Porte de Martin doesn't exist, I believe you were trying to talk about Porte de Pantin. In fact, those two stations will bring you to Canal de l'Ourcq (which is above Canal St Martin). If you are talking about the Canal St Martin, I would suggest to take the metro to Jaurès (line 2, 7 and 5) or République (5, 8, 9 or 11). Those stations are at each end of the stroll you can take along the canal. Canal de l'Ourcq is also a great place to hang at, especially during summer when events are organised there. You can also rent a boat, which is a fun activity for a group of friends. Cheers