So you liked your first trip enough to plan a second? Well that’s great. Good thinking.
Hopefully you’ve already read all about getting Paris right the first time. We can thus safely assume you ticked off all the main tourists sites and you’ve probably even found a favorite cafe. On your second trip to Paris you’ll want to get off the beaten path and see the city in a new way, which takes some planning in advance.
Here are some insider tips for getting Paris right the second time:
Above: Ali Postma. Below: Midlife Leap.
Find a hidden bar
Paris is a haven for speakeasies: hidden bars behind unassuming doors. As a second time visitor you should feel equipped with the courage to push one open and walk in. Try the Lavomatic in a Laundromat in the 10th arrondissement or Candelaria, hidden behind a door in a taco joint in the 3rd.
You can learn more about Paris’ speakeasies and find one that’s perfect for you on this episode of The Earful Tower.
Do a day trip outside of Paris
Do as the Parisians do and spend a day outside of the city. Most people – especially tourists – would head for the Versailles and its incredible palace. But you’re a seasoned visitor now so why not try the opulent Fontainebleau with its own stunning palace? Extra points if you check out the enormous forest that surrounds the town.
Find the remnants of the old city wall
800 years ago there was a massive wall that surrounded what is now central Paris. Of course, most of the wall has now disappeared, but cunning explorers can track down some pretty amazing remnants. The best example: Along the Rue des Jardins Saint-Paul, where you can find the longest remaining stretch of the wall, running alongside a basketball court.
Try an unusual museum
First-time visitors tend to stick to the classics like the Picasso Museum, Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre, or the Rodin museum. And quite rightly! These places are gobsmackingly wonderful. But on your second trip, impress your friends with tales of the Paris Sewer Museum, the Musée de la Chasse et da la Nature (the hunting museum), or the Museum of Magic! It’s a great way to get off the tourist track.
Find a hidden park
The big parks in Paris are gorgeous. You could spend a day in Buttes Chaumont or Parc Monceau, not to mention the Jardin de Luxembourg or Tuileries. But guess what? There are cool little ones dotted about that you’d never find if you didn’t know they were there. Grab an ice cream or a croissant and seek one out. And sometimes they’re totally empty, so you can enjoy your little Paris moment without anyone else. Pro tips: The Jardin Anne-Frank in the Marais district and the Jardin Saint-Gilles Grand Veneur – a very well hidden rose garden.
Track down the Place Furstenberg
This place is often touted as one of the most charming little squares in the city, but if you blink you might miss it. It’s only a tiny little road with a roundabout, but it has a certain je ne sais quoi that might take your breath away. It’s tucked away in the heart of the Left Bank, and not far from the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church. The Place Furstenberg has been the inspiration for countless artists, thinkers, and more recently movie directors, so why not stroll through and get inspired too?
Try a specialty coffee
For decades, Paris coffee was not worth writing home about. Perhaps the Parisian cafe owners knew they could get away with the beautiful terraces and people watching opportunities without putting much thought into the actual coffee. Good news for all you coffee lovers out there – there’s a massive coffee push going on right now with new and cool places opening every week. Delicious coffee, friendly baristas, and Instagram opportunities galore (if you’re into that kind of thing). Pro tip: Try Coutume on the Left Bank or Le Peloton on the Right.
Top left: Jean Marie Heidinger. Top right: Ali Postma. Below: Julien Hausherr.
Order a planche mixte
So let’s assume you’ve been to all the restaurants you’ve wanted for dinner. Now, on your second visit, it’s time to do as the locals do and order a planche mixte– essentially a chopping board filled with a mix of cold cuts of meat and various cheeses. Now, you can do this just about anywhere and you never know what you’re going to get – but that’s the fun of it. On the plus side, it’s a very cheap way to feed a handful of people.
Top: Meghan Cunningham. Below: Ali Postma
Find Invader’s street art
When you think Paris art, you probably think of Rodin’s sculptures and the Mona Lisa. But there’s a Parisian artist known as Invader who for years has been putting up little mosaic-based artwork all over the city. Literally thousands of them. And the best bit is that no one knows who he is. Real fans download an interactive app and take photos of his work. But it’s just as fun to keep an eye out and surprise yourself every now and then by spotting these funky little designs.
Left: Ali Postma. Right: Jean Marie Heidinger.
Look for corner guards
Did you know that at the base of most big doorways in Paris, you can find chasse roues (corner guards) that once protected the walls from the wheels of the horse-drawn carriages. Nowadays, these corner guards are just remnants of yesteryear – but the real fun is in finding the unique and interesting ones. Some are wildly ornate, some are enormous, and some are shaped like mythical animals like dragons. Most Parisians and certainly most tourists pass these treasures without a second glance, but be sure to keep one eye to the ground as you walk this brilliant city… you never know what you’re going to find.
Oliver Gee is the host of the popular Paris podcast The Earful Tower. If you like this list, you’ll probably like his show. And it makes for perfect listening if you’re planning a Paris vacation.
- For more alternative arts venues, read about Parisian squats.
- Are you a street art lover? Check out our guide for the urban explorer.
- The Culture Trip lists the top 10 unusual things to do in Paris.