Top 15 unusual and unique places to visit in Paris
“Unusual, adjective. Different from others of the same type in a way that is surprising, interesting or attractive”. The scene has been set… Even though Paris is a large city, rich with its mixture of inhabitants & seeped in history, the “unusual side” is a personal taste. The following propositions correspond to my idea of “unusual” but knowing that I have not included short lived plans (my friends still remember an incredible underground (secret) restaurant which I discovered in Belleville), certain artistic squats or too “Rock & Roll” (trips on the old train track around Paris un-monde-a-velo.com
The Flea Market (Clignancourt)
Now last but not least as we say, I have kept the best for the end. On the Richter Scale this Market gets the drum roll ! And the good news is that it is just two minutes away from the flat. Imagine for one moment the biggest Antique Market in the World with 1500 antique dealers located in 9 hectares displaying the rarest, the craziest & the most unusual furniture and objects. Here you will find my guided tour in the flea market with some very subjective propositions allowing you to miss nothing: design, the 30’s, Louis XV, stuffed zebras, airplane engines & even cinema seats and of course a musical break at a bar well known for it’s live Gypsy Jazz music!!
Let’s make things clear! Visiting the Catacombs means walking around a communal burial ground of the remains of 6m Parisians. Not very glamorous… but this visit deserves the detour as it is a fantastic discovery of Paris’ history, the building of the quarries and some underground chef d’oeuvres. I highly recommend you to take the guided tour failing that a take an audio guide, if not you will miss out on some very precise explanations and be seriously disappointed (all you’ll see are bones blah blah blah).
Some practical details : the visit lasts 45 minutes, the temperature is constant… 14° all year round, 130 steps going down and 83 going up. No toilets & no cloakroom.
Open every day from 9.45 am to 8.30 pm except Mondays & some bank holidays. The ticket desk closes at 7.30 pm. Full rate is 14 EUR, reduced rate of 12 EUR for young people (18 – 26) and free for under 18 years old (and people living in Rome !!). The audio guide is 5 EUR.
More info: www.catacombes.paris.fr
The number of visitors is limited to 200 for the 2 km route, so you will surely understand that there will be a long wait (between 1 and 2 hours, check it out on Trip Advisor), not very comfortable either as the queue is outside on the street. There are no short cuts! You wait winter & summer, during school holidays, the morning before the opening up to late evening, in other words all the time. See here for the waiting time: waiting time catacombs
To cope with this sudden increase in demand the mayor of Paris negotiated for several years (it’s true !) with the unions in 2015 to extend the opening from 5 pm to 8.30 pm. To keep up with the times the mayor also proposes to buy the tickets online, enabling you to jump the queue, on www.billetterie-parismusees.paris.fr
It goes without saying that I recommend this option but there is a small detail: the price. Full rate is 29 EUR (with the audio guide) and for the young (4 – 17) without the audio guide is 5 EUR. Not very reasonable prices for the general public decided by a socialist mayor!
Another tip? It’s your lucky day today… Imagine there are no tickets left on line and you have decided to visit the catacombs despite my precious advice: don’t wait in the queue but go directly to the front ticket desk. Certain days (don’t ask me which as it is them who decide) they give a voucher with no queuing for the afternoon. All you have to do is go is go somewhere else (the top of the Montparnasse Tower, discover the Latin Quarter or the gardens of Luxembourg) then come back at the time given to buy your tickets and enter straight away.
Thanks to who???
Discover Paris in a 2CV Citroën
As you have surely understood I have a certain weakness for the 2CV and I am far from being the only one! For several years now a young team full of ideas propose several trips around Paris: Paris Eternal, Paris Gardens, Paris Cinema, Crazy trips etc. Imagine yourself in the back of an old CV convertible, being driven by a guide & chauffeur looking like a street urchin taking pictures on the Champs Elysées. Great stuff!! It costs for 1 car (3 passengers) 80 EUR for 45 minutes and 180 EUR for 1h30.
More info: www.4roues-sous-1parapluie.com
The Museum of Fairgrounds
This unknown museum hosts a superb collection of old fairground equipment & attractions from the period 1850 / 1950. Completely restored young & old will have great pleasure in trying them out: wooden horses, merry- go- rounds and waiter races. Lots of emotion, patina, magic & beauty and the observation that these apparently old & antiquated attractions take us straight back to our childhood. The visits are by appointment only & it is necessary to sign up for one of the guided tours.
For your information the museum is situated next to Bercy Village. An area once used as wine & alcohol depots which has been renovated & turned into restaurants & boutiques. Finally the very nice park of Bercy is just two minutes walk away.
More info: www.arts-forains.com
Since 1888 Deyrolle has been the most famous taxidermist & natural history shop in Paris. Halfway between a museum and a curiosity shop it allows you to take a fascinating voyage in time amongst its natural science collections. You will discover stuffed birds, multi-coloured insects, incredible sea shells, snake skeletons & other exotic animals.
During my last visit a full-sized mounted giraffe was being sold for 25 500 EUR, a lion for 29 000 EUR & some enormous trapdoor spiders at 200 EUR. No need for me to insist but I definitely recommend this visit which can then be extended by eating an excellent pastry at the “Patisserie Philippe Conticini” (www.philippeconticini.fr) or “l’Epicerie du Bon Marché” (www.lagrandeepicerie.com).
Dinner – Cruise on the Seine
Comfortably installed on this Riverboat from the year 1939 you will see passing before your eyes the Notre-Dame, L’ile de la Cité, The Invalides & the Eiffel tower… An atmosphere apart in a neat décor with musicians accompanying you at your table. Two hours in which to dream & why not make a romantic declaration. Count 67 EUR per person and only one departure time per day. You can find less expensive elsewhere but it is like the difference between your favourite shop and the supermarket.
More info: www.calife.com
It’s raining and you don’t want to spend the day in the museum so why not discover the “Les Passages de Paris”. I thoroughly recommend it. Dating from the end of the 19th century these glass covered alleys are a little like a Souk. An atmosphere very Parisian and really authentic. An excellent way to cross Paris away from the cars and the noise and why not eat in one of the numerous little restaurants very lively during the day.
Don’t miss out on this website as it is the only one which gives a printable map of the routes to take.
More info: www.passagesetgaleries.org
Back to the 21st century…
For something completely different the “Ice Bar” where the temperature stays at minus 10. And I am not joking! Everything is made of ice the chairs the glasses & the curtains. Atmosphere to say the least… cold with neon lighting & flashy colours. The entrance is not cheap (38 EUR) but for this you can drink for 30minutes as many of the choice of 4 vodka based cocktails as you can. Fortunately the metro is not far.
More info: www.kubehotel-paris.com
Cruise on the Saint Martin Canal
Paris has 2 waterways: the Seine with the famous Bateaux Mouches and the Saint-Martin Canal. One is the Motorway and the other is the Country Lane… On the Canal don’t be in a hurry it takes 2h30 from Bastille to Parc la Villette a distance of only 9 km. The children and Lovers will adore it: locks, moving bridges, footpaths, 100 year old trees, preserved riverbanks and of course the famous “Hotel du Nord”. A really nice way to discover the other side of Paris full of greenery & very relaxing. Please note one daily departure each way at 9h45 & 14h30 (reservation obligatory from October to March) & one extra boat from June to September.
More info: www.canauxrama.com
If you love classic cars, the “Conservatoire” Citroën is the place to go. This private collection of 370 vehicles, inaugurated in 2001, is located in a building of the Aulnay production plant (between Paris and Roissy Airport). Don’t expect a conventional museum, because this is just an atmospheric carpark… but what a carpark!! Tractions, 2CV, DS, SM, CX, half-track and helicopter, models and prototypes, rally cars and other unusual cars like the “James Bond” 2CV or the 2CV “petition” (covered with signatures of fans asking Citroën not to stop its production).
More info: www.citroen.fr
The “Galeries Lafayette” department store
Hey Bertrand! Since when has the “Galeries Lafayette” been unusual?
A little moment of weakness with this selection? What nonsense! Everything is under control. I just wanted to share with you 2 interesting events…
1// Fashion shows
The store organises every Friday at 3 o’clock (except in August) a fashion show with professional models. Aimed more for a (rich!) international clientele the show lasts 25 minutes and allows you to discover the latest fashions. Admission charge applies.
2// Panoramique terrace
Surprising as it may be there exists a 7th floor of this store dedicated to fashion, with a very large terrace open to the public offering a superb view of 360° of the capital and it is possible to have a drink when the weather permits. The difference between this one and the terrace of the “Printemps” department store next door is that this one is much bigger and it is easy to find a seat. A little anecdote is that on January the 19th 1919 a small plane actually landed on this terrace, making this the first ever landing to be made on a building. It also picked up a 25 000 francs reward offered by the management of the store for a challenge made 10 years earlier to achieve this exploit.
The Galeries Lafayette Store, 40 bd Haussmann, 75009 Paris, open during the usual store hours.