Are you planning a trip to Paris but craving something more than the same old cliché Paris attractions? The Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and the Champs-Élysées are all beautiful sights to see, but we know you really want a more authentic experience; a chance to really get to know the place. There’s no better way to do so than to rent a real Parisian apartment, live among the locals, and get out and explore some not-so-common areas and attractions. We’ve made our own travel guide to give you some ideas of off-the-beaten-path things to do, plus some truly unique apartments to match, so you can experience the City of Lights in a whole new light.
Neighborhood markets are full of local flavor
If you’re interested in history, art, and shopping, drop by Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. Founded in the late 19th century, it’s one of Europe’s largest markets. The stalls are divided into 15 markets, each with its own specialty from art to clothing and furniture. It’s where history, art, and shopping all effortlessly intertwine. The market has built up since the 19th century. Today, in the maze of tiny, interlacing streets, you’ll find over 2,000 stalls loaded with vintage fashion, furniture, art and nostalgia from Paris’s past to the present. It’s an interesting place to spend the day strolling and browsing, or find the perfect little memento of Paris to take home.
Take in a different view
Instead of the view from the Eiffel Tower, experience a panorama of Paris from the Montparnasse Tower, one of Europe’s tallest buildings. This 200-meter-high office skyscraper can be found in the Montparnasse section of Paris. There are no queues and tickets cost half as much as the Eiffel Tower observation deck, so it’s a great alternative if you’re on a budget! Head to the 56th floor open-air observation deck that’s open day and night with 360-degree panoramic views. We suggest visiting the Montparnasse Tower at night, when the sight of the Paris skyline and its grid of streets in glowing lights creates an unforgettable experience. There’s even a rooftop champagne bar (open March thru October only) so you can have a glass of bubbly with your love while overlooking Paris — does it get more romantic than that?
If you want an apartment with impressive views, the ones from the terrace of this 1-bedroom penthouse apartment in the Bastille neighborhood of Paris’s 11th Arrondissement are like scenes from a storybook. Large French windows open up to a private terrace with seating where you can enjoy the sunrise over the Paris rooftops along with your morning croissant and coffee. Wood floors and an open kitchen keep the floor plan flowing with a creative use of space throughout, especially in the sleekly designed bathroom. An ergonomic sink, modern metallic tiles, and glass-enclosed shower with rainfall showerhead create a spa-like ambiance in a small space. The blue kitchen backsplash and throw pillows compliment the blue of the sky right outside your living room window, while the white walls reflect the natural sunlight and are accented with colorful artwork. As this apartment is situated on a small street, you can get a real neighborhood vibe and feel what it’s like to live like a local Parisian while also being just blocks away from the Place de la Bastille and the bustle of city life.
Embrace the light in Sainte-Chapelle
Speaking of impressive light, don’t miss the experience of being immersed in the sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle. Located on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, this 13th-century Gothic wonder was built to house Christian relics and was completed in only seven years. When you consider it has 1,113 stained-glass scenes depicting the Old and New Testaments, that’s quite a feat! It is no doubt architecturally impressive, with sculptures and gargoyles gracing its façade, but the light that pours through the soaring 15-meter-high stained-glass windows and envelops you in a multicolored masterpiece is showstopping. After a painstakingly delicate six-year restoration of the façade and stained glass panels (completed in 2014), the inside of this breathtaking chapel is once again illuminated in a rainbow of colors.
Go underground and explore subterranean Paris
Many tend to overlook this somewhat creepy attraction: the Paris Catacombs. Beneath a modest building in Place Denfert-Rochereau is the gateway to a subterranean world of tunnels, grottos and mass graves beneath the city that houses the remains of more than 6 million people. These macabre tunnels were created in the 12th century to mine gypsum and limestone for some of Paris’s most notable buildings, including Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre. In 1786, Paris’s cemeteries were overflowing and more burial space was desperately needed, so the abandoned quarries were blessed and consecrated and became the Paris Catacombs. Here, the skulls and bones of former Parisians are arranged into artistic displays like some sort of gallery. Their impressive span stretches 175 miles below much of the unsuspecting city above, so when you’ve had enough of the frenzy of the city streets above ground, consider taking an eerily quiet stroll underneath and unearth a bit more of Paris’s history.
Discover Belleville, a new local spot
If Le Marais and Montmartre are getting too familiar and overcrowded for you due to their popularity with tourists, head to Belleville instead. This working-class neighborhood is home to Parisians from a vibrant mix of cultures. Some may vaguely know the area from visiting Père Lachaise Cemetery (where famous people like Jim Morrison are buried), but there is so much more to discover here. Spend a day and get to know the neighborhood. The area of Belleville is rather a local secret. Since the 1800s, Parisians seeking a bit of quiet have been heading here on weekend escapes to picnic in its hilly green spaces. Belleville was also featured in the 2007 biographical film La Vie En Rose about the life of iconic French singer Edith Piaf. Home to many galleries and artists’ studios, it is worth a visit especially if you like street art, in which case Rue Denoyez is a must! This quirky lane is a sort of open-air gallery packed with graffiti, street art, and murals! A local phenomenon is Bonom, a mysterious artist who climbs to the top of Parisian buildings and draws strange animals on the walls that are only noticeable to passers-by who raise their eyes.
Sometimes impromptu and unscripted is the best
Something that mixes classic Paris with low-key local custom is picnicking by the Seine. What could be a better way to end the day than spending the evening away from the bustling streets near the tranquil banks of the Seine? Just grab a baguette, some local cheeses (you know you’re dying to try them all), and some wine from one of the local markets and head to the water with the locals for a relaxing evening and maybe some new friends. Here you can enjoy a delightful peachy sunset and listen to the faded street music in the background while taking in a breathtaking view of Notre Dame!
If you like dining al fresco and truly one-of-a-kind accommodations, we’ve got just the place for your next stay in Paris. This unique 2-bedroom property in Saint-Germain-des-Prés beautifully combines indoor and outdoor living space. A large sofa provides comfortable seating space next to the fireplace and flat-screen TV. Off the living room, you and your guests can adjourn to a lovely enclosed atrium space to relax among the peace of nature. Enjoy a home-cooked meal at the outdoor dining table surrounded by lush planted greenery. There’s even an office desk on the terrace so you can work under natural sunlight instead of fluorescent office lights. Step through another set of doors and you’ll be fully outdoors in the open-air terrace surrounded by lattice and vines. The indoors blend effortlessly with the outdoors throughout the apartment, so you never feel enclosed and are always open to the fresh air and outdoors. The modern kitchen features stone countertops and colorful cabinet accents, as well as modern amenities including dishwasher and washing machine. Beautiful wood floors accent the first bedroom, which offers two single beds and access to the outdoor atrium area via French doors. An elevated area housing an en-suite bathroom with modern curved shower and a wall accented with glass tiles allowing light to pass through and illuminate the space is a feature as well. The second bedroom with queen bed also has gleaming wood floors, a wall of custom closet space, another en-suite bathroom, and access to the terrace.
Aside from its open-air cafés, Paris is known for literature and the arts, so why not surround yourself with both? This 2-bedroom vacation rental in Port Royal is a culture lover’s dream. With its literary collection, paintings, and eye-catching artwork, you’ll be immersed in French culture. If you’re looking for an accommodation in Paris besides a cookie-cutter generic hotel room, it makes sense to rent a truly Parisian home with a welcoming right-at-home feel. This one-of-a-kind property retains its original character with parquet floors, exposed-brick walls and high ceilings accented with detailed crown moulding. What is more quintessentially Parisian and quaint than large French windows overlooking a cobblestone courtyard? Just because you’re in a big city doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy nature as well; large windows let sunlight flood in and provide views of the surrounding greenery. Inside the apartment, built-in bookshelves line the rooms with an array of the owner’s handpicked favorite books, and you can also stroll along the nearby Seine with its traditional secondhand booksellers and create your own reading list. The kitchen is a blend of modern cabinetry and retro style, with exposed-brick walls and a bright orange refrigerator that provides a pop of cheerful color. The bathroom adds a modern twist with built-in glass shelving, a washing machine, and a deep soaking tub for relaxation after a day pounding the Parisian pavement.
We hope you’ll check out some of these off-the-beaten-path places on your next visit to Paris and discover the less touristy side of the city. Skip the crowds, stroll the local streets, and take off in your own direction — you’re sure to discover a side of Paris that’s all your own! Browse our website and start planning your trip by finding the perfect rental apartment that’s just your style!