Picking up a Tourist Guide for exploring Paris will lead you to the famous iconic landmarks of this historic city such as the magnificent Eiffel Tower, the extraordinary Louvre Museum, the breathtaking Notre Dame Cathedral and the list of gothic masterpieces goes on and on. But there is much more to Paris than what the run of the mill tourist guides offer. For sightseeing enthusiasts, here are 10 of the most unusual things to do in Paris!
- Explore the occult
If you have the nerve to walk into the world of vampires and sorcery, then Jacques Sirgent’s “The Museum of Vampires and Legendary Creatures” is the place to visit. Delve into mysterious relics such as vampire killing kit, Dracula toys and books each of which has a chilling story attached to it.
- 59 Rivoli
In the mid-1800s this Haussmann era building at 59 Rivoli was an artist squat. Although the space was illegally occupied (including dead pigeons and used syringes) by 2001 it was getting 40,000 visitors a year, making it the third most visited gallery for contemporary art in Paris.
59 Rivoli is now owned by the City of Paris and houses the artist collective Chez Robert, Electron Libre. Composed of 30 artists’ studios and an exhibition gallery/events centre, it is open six days a week (closed Monday) all year long (except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) and is FREE to the public.
- Relax at the Grande Mosque de Paris
Built in the 1920’s in the mudéjar style the ‘Mosquée de Paris’ is one of France’s biggest and is dominated by a 33-metre-high minaret. It has a patio surrounded by sculpted arcades and the prayer room is a must-see for its intricate decoration and fabulous carpets. A perfect place for rest and relaxation away from the crowded streets of Paris. It also has a hammam, restaurant, tearoom and shop in the design of a souk of a souk.
- Learn a new skill
Paris is known for being home to numerous skilled artists in various fields such as painting, cooking, photography and language. If you have time on your hands then why not spend it developing a new skill by attending day or night classes. Be it the world famous ‘Le Cordon Bleu’ cooking school or mastering the art of conversing in French. All are great ways to meet new and like minded people.
- Le Cimetière des Chiens
Instead of visiting the Pere Lachaise cemetery which every man and his dog knows about why not try the place where ‘his dog’ is laid to rest. ‘Le Cimetière des Chiens’ (et Autres Animaux Domestiques) in Asnières-sur-Seine – a commune in the suburbs of Paris proper. First opened in 1899, there are tons of dog and cat graves, as well as some horses, at least one monkey, a sheep and even a hen! Alongside their dead cousins many (living) cats prowl around the cemetery, no doubt sniffing out their feline ancestors!
- Go on a shopping spree
Forget all about the posh boutiques and upscale department stores, you haven’t shopped in Paris unless you have picked stuff up from street markets such as Passage l’Homme @ 26 rue Charonne. Here you will find unique memorabilia which will not be available in other tourist heavy street markets. Ps. Don’t miss the hidden magical courtyard at 77 rue de Charonne where you can time travel back to the Paris of Madame de Pompadour!
- Spend some time with friendly bees
It may seem improbable to find friendly bees especially in a city but they are easily found at the southwest corner of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Positioned conveniently close to the meticulously cared-for fruit orchard and housed in the most beautiful bee hives we have ever seen this is a perfect spot to buzz around! Visit these beehives and see how they make local honey and even attend the beekeeping classes which come complete with beekeeping outfit, a netted hat) and a smoker!
- A gallery of pixel art tile mosaics all over Paris
Instead of staring at all the beautiful people (and buildings) in Paris, glance up occasionally and you may see a few pixel art mosaics, like something out of a 1980s arcade game. First popularized in the 1990s by a French, incognito street artist who goes by the name Invader (his distinctive creations can be seen in many highly-visible locations in more than 65 cities in 33 countries) but today there are many more who have taken the idea and run with it. Urban street art is free and open to everyone so make the most of it!
- Spend the night in a writer’s retreat
As far as unusual things to do in Paris go this is definitely one of my favourites. So if you are fond of books and writing, then the utterly unique bookstore, ‘Shakespeare and Company’ is the place to check into as it also serves as the Tumbleweed hotel.
Originally opened in 1951 by an eccentric American named George Whitman who wanted to create a literary hub. He welcomed all writers needing a place to stay and in doing so decided to make the bookshelves open into beds for the night. In return for a roof over your head you are expected to help in the bookstore for a couple of hours during the day and writing a biography. Events such as poetry readings and Sunday tea are regularly conducted.
10. La Promenade Plantée
This elevated tree-lined walkway runs through the 12th arrondissement of Paris and is roughly 4.5 km long. It follows the route of a disused railway which starts behind the Bastille opera. Along its route you will pass the Viaduc des Arts (a line of shops featuring expensive arts and crafts) and the Jardin De Reuilly which is a beautiiul ‘hidden’ garden in the middle of Paris…perfect for a lovers picnic!