Paris may be one of the top tourist destinations in the world, however there are plenty of lesser known sights to explore. I used to live there and often get asked for my recommendations, so I’m sharing a list of 5 unmissable hidden gems in Paris and some nearby restaurants with you.
1 – Palais Royal Gardens
The Palais Royal is a palace located near the Louvre, with gardens that are a real sanctuary on a Summer’s day.
Flanked by contemporary and vintage fashion boutiques and cafes, it’s a great place to stroll.
If you’re lucky you might come across a mysterious birdman, as I did – a gentleman who attracted all the birds to him. He let me in on his secret, give them bread soaked in milk and they will eat out of your hand. I certainly had fun once I’d got used to them landing on me!
Brut is a great restaurant on nearby Rue Saint Augustin, frequented mainly by the local Stock Exchange workers. The food is simple but very flavourful.
2 – Gardens and Mansion Houses of the Marais
The Marais is one of the most unspoilt areas in Paris and Place des Vosges is a magnificent square, built by Henry IV in 1605. Although the square itself is quite well-known, if you venture into the side streets you’ll come across some lesser-known museums and parks that are really worth a visit.
Under the vaulted arcades of the Place des Vosges, there are some interesting art galleries.
Le Marais has some amazing museums including the Carnavalet Museum, which is all about the history of Paris, and the Picasso Museum shown below.
The Hotel de Soubise is an imposing mansion, housing the Museum of French History and the National Archives.
Robert et Louise is an unpretentious little steak house at rue Vielle du Temple in the Marais. We sat at the communal table and tucked into delicious potatoes, wood-fire cooked meat and a tasty creme brulee to finish.
3 – The Passages of Paris
Paris has numerous passages or covered malls dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. These days they house interesting shops and restaurants. One of my favourites is Galerie Vivienne, built in 1823 with mosaic floors and some great shops including Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Nearby you can find the Passage du Grand Cerf in rue Saint Denis near the Chatelet les Halles shopping area. It was built in 1825 and is almost 12 metres tall, with an impressive glass roof.
The Galerie Vero-Dodat dates from 1826 and was one of the first passages to get gas lighting, in 1830. It houses two Christian Louboutin stores and the “By Terry” renowned make-up range.
A very cool option for a drink before or after dinner is Andy Wahloo on rue des Gravilliers. There’s a lovely courtyard with Moroccan inspired decor – no surprise that it’s owned by the Mazouz brothers who are behind Sketch and Momo in London.
A fun place for dinner is Le Grand Colbert, which film buffs will recognize from the film “Something’s Gotta Give” with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. It’s a classic Parisian bistro serving up simple dishes like the roast chicken that Diane Keaton had in the film.
Below the viaduct, there are quite a few design shops and some good brunch spots like L’Arrosoir on Avenue Daumesnil.
5 – Pershing Hall
Perfect for a late evening drink, Pershing Hall near the Champs Elysees is steeped in history. Now a luxury five star hotel, it was originally built by the Count of Paris at the end of the 18th century. In 1917, General John Pershing made it his headquarters and it later became the HQ of the American Legion.
The building was empty for quite a few years before being transformed by designer Andree Putman in 2001.
There’s a spectacular living wall reaching up to 30 metres, created by famous botanist Patrick Blanc with 300 species of plants and trees. Talking of spectacular hotels, don’t forget to visit The Peninsula Paris which recently opened, the decor is amazing.
The cosy bar is the perfect place for a nightcap! Now after all that sightseeing, what about a bit of retail therapy in the 5 hottest Paris shopping districts? And if you’re a fan of getting off the beaten path, you might want to check out my article on hidden gems in Rome!