No matter who you are and what tickles your fancy, I bet there’s always a spot that will capture your heart in the City of Light; even for the most anti-romantic at heart. Paris is not only about Eiffel Tower, macarons, fresh roses, Monalisa and high end shopping. Sure, if it’s your first time, you’ll probably want to spend some time at the world-renowned museums, galleries and monuments; but as you stay a bit longer and wander around more, you will scratch the guidebook surface and fall deeper in love. Find out my 15 favorite Parisian spots and experience!
Julian Green said it best on his book about Ville Lumiere,
Paris is a city that might well be spoken of in the plural, as the Greeks used to speak of Athens, for there are many Parises, and the tourists’ Paris is only superficially related to the Paris of the Parisians.
Anyone can get a guide and tick all the monuments on the list, but it’s the secret, or not so secret Parisian dailies that will lure everyone to keep coming back. The morning bustles and warm croissant aroma from the cafes that serve les meilleurs petit dejeuner in Rue Buci, the cold marbletop table caressing your arm while you’re waiting for your coffee, walking on the broken cobblestone paths hidden inside the passage in Rue Saint-André-des-Arts, the array of dusty hardcover Jules Verne volumes inside the bouquinistes stands by the embankment of the Seine, this is Paris that quietly steals your heart and make you long for it when you’re faraway.
Like everyone and their own Paris experience, I have my list of places and experience in the city that I frequently visit whenever I’m back. Some places are touristy, some are lesser known, while some are typical spots of big European cities. But these are the Paris in my heart. You won’t find Musee du Louvre, Notre Dame or even Eiffel Tower on this list, but trust me you’ll fall in love with them as quick as I did.
Minutes spent at La Galcante will quickly turn to hours without you realising it. La Galcante (a compression of Galerie and Brocante -flea market), melancholically called ‘La Boutique du Musée de la Presse, is a quaint shop hidden behind the streets of in the corner of Rue de l’Arbre Sec, by the highly touristy 1st Arrondisement. It’s within a few minutes walk from the very touristy Louvre but most tourist will never find it. La Galcante is like the secret places your friend whispered to you about, and tell you to never tell anyone about it.
So what is it actually? It’s an “Old Press” shop. Sorry, it’s not just a shop. It’s a treasure trove of every printed publication, archives, photography reproduction, letters, tickets, maps, tickets, bills… basically every type of paper; eight millions of them.
Walking inside, a familiar aroma of old books and papers will welcome you, along with towers of stacked French/international newspapers and magazines, drawers and boxes of archives and photographs; diligently labeled in humble handwriting from floor to ceiling. Paris is indeed a paradise for old books and archive collectors, but this shop goes beyond most others. I can see it being every collector or journalist dream.
You are welcome to enter the shop and browse all the archives for free. Pierre, the shop keeper is very chill with it. However being a memory scavenger, I could never resist the temptation to get one of two things home. My last purchase was the issue Le Monde newspaper dated back on… my birthday.
La Galcante, boutique du musée de la presse
52 Rue de l’Arbre Sec, 75001 Paris
Open Monday to Saturday 10am-7:30pm, Closed on Sunday
Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée
Paris is never short of wonderful Galleries and Museum, but my favorite is hands down the beautiful yet misterious Galerie de Paléontologie et d’anatomie Comparée (Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy) located in Jardin des Plantes near Gare d’Austerlitz. For those who have visited most of art galleries and museums in Paris and want to see similarly (or even more) interesting collection of objects, this is the place.
The gallery, located within Jardin des Plantes complex, is a huge space containing thousands of bones, fossils, eggs, any animal object you could ever think of… even dinosaurs, guys. Dinosaurs! The first time I stepped into the museum, I felt like five year old again when everything is massive and magical and… and… Awesome. I literally stood there with mouth gasped open, almost teary eyed from excitement… exactly the same expression of the little kids who came with their parents there.
The building is HUGE and beautiful, and it’s a whole art by itself. Made entirely of metal and stone, with exposed beams, large windows with flood of lights, and facades decorated with naturalists sculptures. You’ll feel like you’re transported through time. Most of other galleries and museums in Paris are regularly renovated, but this one has stood strong since 1898 -still dusty and musky in some corners-, and up until today remains to look like a relict of the past era.
Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée
2 Rue Buffon, 75005 Paris
Open Everyday 10am-6pm, Closed on Tuesday
Musee de la Nature et Chasse
Definitely not for anti-taxidermy people (although I think zoos are much worse), and if dead animals scare you, don’t go here; because it’s a whole museum dedicated to nature and hunting. Every time I enter this place I always feel like being in a Wes Anderson movie set. The symmetrical interior arrangement, beautiful furnitures and breathtaking taxidermy installations on the wall all invoke a surreal feeling.
Located in a Hôtel de Guénégaud, a private 17th century mansion in Paris’ 3rd arrondissement, The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature) chronicles the history of man’s relationship with the natural world through exposition of objets d’art related to hunting.
Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
62 Rue des Archives, 75003 Paris
Open Everyday 11am-6pm, Closed on Monday
While we’re still on the taxidermy subject, let me take you to Deyrolle, probably the most surreal and obscure shop on the planet. This is exactly the kind of place you visit and you’ll never ever forget in your whole life. Walking inside the store, it only looks like a simple old store selling gardening tools, educational nature prints and books, but go upstairs and I bet the kid inside you will be awestruck.
Deyrolle looks like it’s built straight out of fairytale with the impressive collections of creatures displayed inside an 18-centuries old building, complete with creaky wooden floors and tall windows. It’s like being inside an animal kingdom, or a Noah’s Ark… with the animals only come alive at night when nobody’s there.
Founded 178 years ago, and has survive a huge fire in the recent years, Deyrolle has been a a part of every Parisian life. It’s definitely a natural history emporium with the look and feel of a museum, except that just about everything is for sale. Hence, photography is not allowed in this beautiful space (sorry, shutterbugs!), so above are a few beautiful photos from Deyrolle’s official website.
46 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris
Open Everyday 11am-7pm, Closed on Sunday
Le Comptoir Général
Probably my best kept secret in Paris ever (which is no longer one since I’m sharing it now to you guys). The self titled “Ghetto Museum” is a multi purpose treasure trove that celebrates Franco-african culture through music, film, fashion, and dance. Since my first visit in 2014 (Astrid and Dea brought me here! Thanks girls!), they’ve been doing lots of change and renovations on some areas, but the charm remains magical (mystical would be a more approriate word tho).
Le Comptoir Général
80 Quai de Jemmapes, 75010 Paris
Passage des Panoramas
There’s something old-worldly, nostalgic, Zola-ish and magical about Les Passages Couvert (The Hidden Passages) in Paris. An earlier form of shopping arcades, the passages were built back in the midcentury days to utilize the city’s narrow alleyways and shelter the wealthy Parisian shoppers from the rain. Each passage has a distinct personality–some are dusty and traversed less often, others are packed of visitors. There are many passages in Paris, but most favorite is the Passage de Panoramas.
The beautiful Passage Panoramas is inspired by the Oriental Souks and one of the oldest passageways in the world. This passage was opened in 1834 and in 1880, Zola wrote about this place with a glowing romanticism on his novel ‘Nana’. Take a peek through the cute philatelist shop and stop by for lunch or coffee at the Canard & Champagne.
Passage des Panoramas
11 Boulevard Montmartre, 75002 Paris
Open Everyday 6am-12am
La Silence de la Rue
One of a million reasons why I love Paris is the great numbers of small records shops scattered around the city that still survive being in business nowadays. Among a number of my favorites, Le Silence de la Rue is always my go-to location for crate digging. They have huge selection of new and used records of Hip Hop, Dance, Garage and basically everything else. Even if you’re not looking for anything in particular, the wide price range offers something for everyone.
La Silence de la Rue
39 Rue Faidherbe, 75011 Paris
Open Monday to Saturday 11am-7:30pm, Closed on Sunday
Musée Gustave Moreau
Being a crowd-averse, I always love smaller museums because I don’t have to be in elbow fight just to enjoy my time. One of my favorite is Musée Gustave Moreau. Located in Rue de La Rochefoucauld, this place is Monsieur Moreau’s own humble private apartment home slash atelier that exhibits no less than a thousand paintings, watercolours and sketches, and 5000 drawings. Today it has been beautifully restored and open for everyone to visit.
Musée Gustave Moreau
14 Rue de la Rochefoucauld, 75009 Paris
Open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 10am–12:30pm, 2–5pm, Friday to Sunday 10am-5pm Closed on Tuesday
Yes, it’s highly touristy. But watching the sun slowly setting behind the Iron Lady, on the top of the tallest building in the city remains my old favorite up until this day. Tour Montparnasse offers the most beautiful view of Paris from their observatory deck on the 56th floor, which overlooks the whole city from a height of 200 meters. I love going here at any time of the day, as each hour of the day has its own charm and quality of light. Choose to watch romantic morning charm facing the hills of Montmartre, the magnificent Parisian sunset, or the stunning Ville Lumiere by night. You could stay here the whole day with your ticket (€17, pretty steep price, but the view is like no other.)
33 Avenue du Maine, 75015 Paris
Open Sunday to Thursday 9:30am-10:30pm, Friday & Saturday 9:30am-11:00 pm
Le Déli-Cieux Cafe at Printemps
Here’s another place to enjoy 360° Parisian rooftopview… with a only a cost of a cup coffee (€2… or you can always have your brunch/lunch here.. though the food is so-so.)
Printemps is one of Paris largest department stores, with a huge selections of fashion, beauty and home decor brands. But forget about the sale (yep, it’s hard, but do it), go to one of their four buildings (ask for the Beauté/Maison department) and go straight up to the Rooftop Terrace on the 9th floor.
You’ll enter the space through a humble, self service cafetaria. After you pay your croissant/coffee/water (actually you’re not obliged to purchase anything to access the terrace. But keep in mind they don’t allow outside food or drink.), walk through the glass door and go outside to enjoy the beautiful Parisian rooftops.
Deli-Cieux / Printemps rooftop terrace café
Printemps Beauté/Maison, 9th floor
64 bd Haussmann 75009 Paris
Open Monday to Saturday 9:35am-8pm (8:45pm Thursdays)
Shakespeare & Company
The world’s most beloved bookshop and every book lovers’ dream. That fact definitely make Shakespeare & Company crazy crowded in the weekends, but during non peak hours, the experience of being inside this quirky bookshop in the world can be really exceptional. However, despite the whole touristic / commercial vibe that it can’t help to possess, the store manages to stay sane and authentic. It’s a quirky little place full of charm.
Tall wooden shelves of books completely pack the tiny space to the brims. It’s the kind of bookshop that has slowly disappeared in other parts of the world, so no wonder people come here in flocks, trying to revive their childhood bookshop dream -others are hardcore Hemingway fans (He spent a good amount of time staying and writing about this place in his novel, The Moveable Feast.), and few others of the people are the fans of the movie Before Sunset/Midnight in Paris.
If you’re not a crowd lover, take your book upstairs and read it in the more quiet poetry section. They have cozy seat where you can curl up and read for hours.
Shakespeare & Company
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris
Open Everyday 10am-11pm
Jardin du Palais Royal
Act like one of the locals and bring your
sandwich croissant and coffee here on lunchbreak, along with a good book. Jardin du Palais Royal is a huge garden with tall trimmed trees planted symmetrically. It was created by the Cardinal Richelieu in 1633, located just a short walk from the Louvre. This is one of my most favorite gardens in the city, as it feels more intimate and private than the larger Tuileries, Jardin des Plantes, etc.
The Palais Royal Gardens have a prestigious and peaceful vibe, living up to the Royal Palace name. It’s also surrounded by shopping arcades selling the most random things (vintage couture, medals, toy soldiers, among many others.) In springtime, it’s exceptionally beautiful with magnolia trees blossoming the pink blooms. Read more about Paris in Springtime here.
The Colonnes de Buren in the courtyard near the garden, designed by artist Daniel Duren, is also a beautiful sight to behold. The 260 black and white striped columns become one of the most iconic symbol of Paris and a favorite background for many tourist and fashion bloggers.
Jardin du Palais Royal
6 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris
Open Everyday 8am-8:30pm
If I were to choose between visiting the Notre Dame cathedral and the Sainte-Chapelle, I would choose the latter every time. The Sainte Chapelle is a smaller, more intimate chapel, constructed within the heart of the Palais de la Cité in the middle of the XIIIth century by Louis IXth.
It’s a true Gothic gem. Literally a bedazzling, radiant crown jewel. Saint Chapelle has the most beautiful stained glass windows I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Arranged across 15 windows, each 15 metres high, the stained glass panels depict 1,113 scenes from the Bible’s Old and New Testaments.
The construction took seven years, a really short time considering the magnificent craftmanship of the glasswork. You have to see it for yourself guys, and be prepared to stare up and be truly mesmerized. The beauty and detail is breathtaking. The Sainte Chapelle housed the Crown of Thorns of Christ’s Passion, acquired by Saint Louis.
8 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris
A free entry contemporary art gallery is not to be missed, guys! This hidden gem of a magical world of art is standing tall right in the middle of the big busy high-street shopping district of rue de Rivoli. If you want to look for it, you won’t ever miss it. Just look for the building with the weirdest facade, which constantly changes.
A brief interesting history about the place: after being abandoned by the French state for 15 years, a dozen artists calling themselves”Chez Robert, Electron Libre”, showed up to clean up the messy empty building in 59 Rivoli and decided to ‘squat’ there, using it as their working space. They organized show openings, performances, concerts and opened the building to the public. However within a few months they were risked of getting evicted. After lots of court cases with the government and with a big help of the press and the new mayor Bertrand Delanoë, they can now legally use the building as a hippest venue of contemporary art in Paris.
The building has 6 floors serving as atelier/workshop and showroom for 30 emerging artists from all over the world, connected with a big circular stair. Grafitti, sketches and text are filling the walls and floors, and the staircase is as just artistic as the atelier themselves.
There are 20 permanent artists in the building and 10 temporary residents who stay between three and six months at a time. For this reason, the work exhibited can vary from time to time. Some of the artworks are truly extraordinary, and if you’re lucky, you might find some of the artists there busy at work creating magic. You can even buy some of their work (if the artist happen to be around.) This is the whole point of the building: to see the artists at work, and to interact with them and their space.
59 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Open Everyday 1pm-8pm, Closed on Monday
If I have to include one world renowned museum here, it would be Musée d’Orsay. The building is just as magnificent as the artwork contained inside. Housed in previously a Belle Epoque style train station building (Only the French could have converted a train station into a gorgeous museum), d’Orsay is a national museum devoted to all the arts between the era of 1848-1914, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist.
Even though it’s a very famous art museum, the line is not as crazy as the Louvre and even during peak hours it’s never off-puttingly (over)crowded. I personally love to visit in the morning when there are less crowd, and you can have the whole museum for yourself and just a few other visitors.
The painting collection is very impressive. Everytime I’m there, i feel like being an art student all over again. They house many works of my favorite painters: 43 paintings by Edgar Degas (including all his Ballet Dancer series), 56 paintings of Paul Cezanne, 24 paintings from Van Gogh (including his most revered Self Portrait and the beauuutiful and mystical ‘Starry Night over the Rhône’), 24 Gauguin’s work, an impressive collection of 81 paintings by Renoir and 86 paintings by Monet, ‘The Birth of Venus‘ by Bouguereau … and many, many more. You can simply spend the whole day here without even realising it. See more photos of Musee d’Orsay here.
1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris
Open Everyday 9:30am-6pm, Closed on Monday
There you have if, all my 14 favorite spots in Paris, be sure to check my guide for Paris first timers on this post. Love you!