Top 5 unique things to do in Paris: discover the best off-the-beaten-path secret spots and unusual attractions you will love!
This is not going to be another one of those boring Paris travel tips posts.
When you’ve already seen the Eiffel Tower and Louvre, and you don’t fancy re-visiting the popular tourist spots, you are in the right place as this article reveals some of the most unusual things to do in Paris.
There are a lot of hidden gems in Paris but I have picked the coolest five you will ever find. So here’s your complete guide to the top 5 most unique things to do in Paris!
Top 5 Unique Things To Do In Paris
Paris is certainly one of the most beautiful European cities and it has so much to offer.
The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Moulin Rouge, Disneyland, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées, Notre-Dame… the list goes on!
It’s one of the most popular European city break destinations.
But what if it’s not your first visit to Paris and you have already seen all of the popular attractions?
Well, I have good news for you as there’s a lot more to Paris than just the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. There are some truly amazing secret spots in Paris you wouldn’t know existed!
I have compiled a list of the top 5 most unique things to do in Paris. These are some of the hidden gems in Paris that you simply must see as they are the coolest and most unusual spots you can ever imagine!
Without further ado, let’s dive into it!
1. Unique Things To Do In Paris: Auberge Nicolas Flamel
The oldest stone house in Paris, former home of the most famous alchemist and a fine restaurant all in one!
It’s definitely a must-see location for all the visitors interested in the unique things to do in Paris.
Every Harry Potter fan knows very well who Nicolas Flamel was. Auberge Nicolas Flamel is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Paris as it combines history, magic, and fine dining.
Nicolas Flamel developed a reputation as an alchemist believed to have discovered the philosopher’s stone and to have thereby achieved immortality.
He supposedly succeeded at the two goals of alchemy: that he made the philosopher’s stone, which turns base metals into gold, and that he and his wife, Perenelle, achieved immortality through the “Elixir of Life”.
Flamel was born in Pontoise in 1330. After receiving a thorough education, he moved to Paris and became a notary and librarian.
His life changed when one day a man sold him a book, “The Manuscript of Abraham the Jew”, supposedly containing the secrets of the philosopher’s stone, also known as the sorcerer’s stone.
Nicolas Flamel thereby became an alchemist and dedicated his life to the search of the philosopher’s stone. Over the next few years, Flamel and his wife allegedly decoded enough of the book to successfully replicate its recipe for the philosopher’s stone.
According to his testimonies, he discovered the secret of the philosopher’s stone, eternal life and the ability to transform base metals into gold, on April 25th, 1382.
Nicolas Flamel and his wife Pernelle lived modest lives and used their wealth to help others. He financed fourteen hospitals, built three chapels, seven churches and houses.
Flamel, after the death of his wife Pernelle, commissioned the house in 1397 and built a three-story house at 51 rue de Montmorency which was completed in 1407.
He made the house into an Inn for the poor and homeless, designed to provide shelter. In exchange, he would ask for prayers, as is inscribed in old French above the front entrance: “We, ploughmen and women living at the porch of this house, built in 1407, are requested to say every day an ‘Our Father’ and an ‘Ave Maria’ praying God that His grace forgive poor and dead sinners.”
The original inscriptions were restored at the beginning of the 20th century.
Flamel officially lived into his 80s (which was unusual as the average lifespan at the time was 45).
In 1410 Flamel designed his own tombstone, which was carved with arcane alchemical signs and symbols. It includes images of the sun and a man along with two others as saints with a key and a book.
His death was recorded on March 22, 1418. His tombstone is still on display at the Musee de Cluny.
The tombstone originally covered Flamel’s grave in the Cemetery of Innocents, but as his gravesite became the target of robbers, the tombstone was moved.
Apparently, the first grave robber was shocked to discover there was no body underneath the tombstone, supporting the legends of Flamel’s immortality.
Rumour has it that Nicolas Flamel never actually died and is still alive today.
Over the centuries, many people have claimed to have seen Flamel. Witnesses reported seeing him in 1761 at an opera in Paris and one witness claimed to have seen him wandering outside of his window in 1986.
Flamel was featured in the best-selling novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and its film adaptation, as well as in the 2018 spinoff film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Flamel and his philosopher’s stone are also a focus of a great horror movie, “As Above, So Below” (available on Netflix). It follows a young female archaeologist who devoted her life to finding Nicolas Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone.
When she learns that the stone is supposedly hidden in the Catacombs of Paris (see attraction number 2 on my list), she assembles a crew to guide and document her mission. As they begin their descent into the uncharted sections of the City of the Dead, they are entering their own personal hell…
L’Auberge Nicolas Flamel is today the oldest house in Paris and a historical monument, as well as a fine dining restaurant serving traditional French dishes with a contemporary take.
The food is spectacular – it’s delicious, top quality and greatly presented. Highly recommended!
Call the restaurant in advance to reserve a table or book online.
Address: 51 Rue de Montmorency, 75003 Paris, France
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday: 12 – 2:30 PM, 7 – 10:30 PM
The closest subway stations: Rambuteau or Arts et Métiers
2. Unusual Things To Do In Paris: Catacombs Of Paris
The creepiest sight in town! It’s both spooky and fascinating.
“Stop! This is the empire of the dead”- reads the sign greeting visitors at the entrance to the two-kilometer long tunnels filled with the bones of more than six million people.
The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries and Europe’s largest communal burial grounds. They were created at the end of the 18th century to eliminate the city’s overflowing cemeteries causing major public health concerns.
Today these tunnels filled with macabre arrangements of bones and strange sculptures are one of the eeriest attractions in Paris.
Although the ossuary comprises only a small section of the underground quarries, approximately 200 miles of tunnels dating back to Roman times are believed to exist. The exact map of the tunnels does not exist.
The quarries that are not part of the official Catacombs have been deemed unsafe by Parisian officials. The only official entrance is by the Denfert-Rocherau metro station.
However, the size and length of the tunnels make it difficult to keep secret societies, thieves, artists, and the curious public from entering the off-limits sections of the network of tunnels through the secret entrances hidden in old basements, canals, churches, and graveyards.
The Catacombs are a place of many legends and they hold secrets much stranger than the bones stacked within them.
Visitors have reported hearing voices, seeing orbs and strange shadows in the tunnels, as well as being touched and pulled by unseen forces.
The Catacombs are said to be one of the most haunted places in the world and have made an appearance on many ghost-hunting TV shows.
In 2004, Parisian police carried out a training exercise in a previously uncharted part of the Catacombs, beneath the Palais de Chaillot.
When entering the catacombs through a drain, the officers came across a sign that read “Building site, no access,” and further in, camera recording images of those who passed. As they approached the camera, a recording of barking dogs was triggered.
The officers descended deeper into the tunnels and discovered a 500-square-meter cavern with a fully equipped cinema.
It included a giant cinema screen, projection equipment, chairs and a handful of films, from film noir classics to modern thrillers. This abandoned underground cavern had been turned into a secret amphitheater with strange symbols painted on the ceiling.
In the next “room,” they discovered a fully-stocked and furnished bar and restaurant.
Three days later, police returned with some experts from the French Board of Electricity to investigate the professional installation of electricity and three phone lines discovered at the scene. The cables had been cut and they found a note on the floor saying: “Do not try and find us.”
I would recommend taking a special type of tour with an expert guide in a small group, with access to the parts of the Catacombs usually closed to the public.
Not only will you skip the notoriously long entrance lines but you will get to step off the well-worn tourist path and go behind locked gates to see special rooms; areas like a small chapel that until recently hosted religious ceremonies. Along the way, you’ll learn the improbable history of this enormous burial ground.
As it’s a popular attraction and the wait to get in is often over an hour, make sure to book your tickets online in advance to avoid long queues.
Special access tour website: https://www.takewalks.com/paris-tours/paris-catacombs-tour/
Address: 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris, France
The closest subway station: Denfert-Rocherau
Opening times: Tuesday-Sunday 10 AM – 8:30 PM (closed on Mondays)
3. Quirky Things To Do In Paris: Le Manoir De Paris
A walk-through haunted house!
Le Manoir de Paris is the first haunted show in France. This unique interactive experience takes place whilst you walk through a haunted mansion.
Set in a prestigious building in the heart of Paris, it brings to life the dark legends of Paris with the help of over 30 professional actors.
In this three-story mansion spread over a surface of 1500 square meters, visitors discover an interactive show of scary Parisian legends in impressively realistic settings.
The attraction’s permanent show, The Legends of Paris, lures the guests into the darkest history of the “City of Light” on two floors.
In the dark, you will come across numerous frightening creatures. You know they are coming, but never know when, where or how!
If you happen to survive all of the monsters, you will become a guest of a very unusual hotel, the Royal Hotel Paradis, based on the third floor, and meet those hiding in the shadow of its corridors.
Visiting Le Manoir de Paris will allow you to discover Paris as you have never seen it before, forever haunted by its mysteries and legends.
What’s special about this attraction is that whilst haunted houses are common, theatre productions within haunted houses are unheard of.
The whole experience lasts approximately 45 minutes which is much longer than other “haunted house” attractions. The mansion is very big and there are a lot of rooms to go through. The level of detail in terms of the props and decor, as well as the makeup and costumes worn by the actors are super impressive.
Is it scary? YES! You WILL scream. This is a must-see attraction for all of the thrill-seekers and a truly unforgettable experience.
Le Manoir de Paris offers an English speaking option for the non-French visitors.
You can buy your ticket for the Manoir de Paris on-site during the opening hours or online in advance, which is highly recommended in order to minimize your waiting time (which can be up to 1 hour on Fridays and up to 2 hours Saturdays/Sundays/holidays).
Address: 18 Rue de Paradis, 75010 Paris, France.
The closest subway stations: Poissonnière, Bonne Nouvelle, and Gare de l’Est
Opening times: Friday 6 – 9:30 PM, Saturday & Sunday 3 – 6:30 PM
4. Unique Things To Do In Paris: Marche Au Puces De St-Ouen
The largest antique market in the world!
The term “Marché aux puces” translates to “flea market”.
The largest Paris flea market, located in St. Ouen, was established around 1870. It earned its name because of the ostensibly flea-infested furniture and other wares sold at the market just outside of the city’s northern fortifications.
Years later, Pablo Picasso walked the markets looking for inspiration. More recently, Woody Allen’s popular film “Midnight in Paris” sent its characters here searching for hidden treasures.
It’s a real gold mine for vintage lovers and antique hunters. The Saint Ouen Flea Market covers seven hectares and hosts 15 markets that offer an authentic and unique atmosphere.
Some of the markets are covered whilst others are out in the open. They offer a wide variety of goods from all periods and countries.
Some sections of the market look more like an art gallery than a flea market. You can also find some really weird stuff there…
If you need a break, you can step into one of twenty cute and trendy restaurants and cafés where you can often listen to a band playing live music whilst you eat.
The Saint Ouen Flea Market receives more than 5 million visitors each year including a lot of foreigners as well as celebrities.
Since 2001, it has been recognized as a “Zone for the Protection of Architectural, Urban, and Landscape Heritage (ZPPAUP)” thanks to its unusual ambiance and atmosphere.
Address: 99 Allée des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-Ouen, France
The closest subway stations: Porte de Clignancourt and Garibaldi
Opening times: Saturday 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Sunday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Monday 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Reduced activity from the 1st to the 15th of August.
I would advise visiting on Saturday or Sunday because some of the dealers are not open on Mondays.
5. Unique Things To Do In Paris: Dodo Manege
This most unusual carousel in the world definitely deserves to be on the list of the most unique things to do in Paris.
The Dodo Manège is certainly the most unusual carousel in the world. Hidden in Jardin des Plantes, this unique carousel is made of extinct and endangered animals.
It was created in 1992 by a scientist in comparative anatomy who wanted to draw more attention to the increasing extinction and biodiversity of species on Earth. And with its close proximity to the Natural History Museum, it’s the perfect educational tool.
As well as endangered animals including a gorilla, a giraffe, and a panda, the carousel features a number of extinct ones, such as Dodo, Thylacine, Triceratops, Horned turtle, Glyptodon, Sivatherium or Aepyornis.
The carousel is beautifully decorated inside with a jungle theme. The outside panels depict other wild animals like lemurs, pangolins, and armadillos, as well as scenes from the Jardin des Plantes.
This quirky carousel of endangered and extinct species with its ecological context is a great educational tool and a nice way for kids to learn about some of the animals they will likely never see in the wild, or in their lifetime. However, it’s not just for kids as it’s a delight for all ages.
Pictures of carousels, as we know, are very popular on Instagram but a carousel with extinct animals is super cool and Insta-worthy for sure!
Dodo Manège carousel photos have been taken by @bianca_gege
Address: Jardin des Plantes, 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France
The closest subway stations: Gare d’Austerlitz, Jussieu, Place Monge, and Censier-Daubenton
Opening times: Monday-Sunday: 11 AM – 6:30 PM
I hope this article has inspired you to create an awesome itinerary for your next trip to the city of love!
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