Experience Paris in a different way! Discover places off the beaten path.
Hunt for Parisian street art. Have a drink in a concept bar.
Enjoy lunch in an unusual restaurant. Take an alternative city tour.
Stay in the unusual hotel that will impress you.
Incredible Paris is waiting for you.
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IN THE GUIDE
Alternative Route: Know Where To Go
Art & Culture: Alternative Options
Drink: Concept Cafés & Bars
Food: Unusual Restaurants
Things To Do: Unusual Tours & Activities
Shopping: Design, Vintage & Concept Stores
Where To Stay: Unusual & Concept Hotels
PARIS ALTERNATIVE ROUTE: KNOW WHERE TO GO
Yes, we all love and dream of visiting the Eiffel Tower and taking endless pictures with it. Me too :) But this travel guide is not about it.
I want to take you away from the Eiffel Tower and away from the tourist crowds.
I went to Paris dozens of times and was exploring alternative attractions and points of interest. I am very happy to share my favorite places with you.
La Butte-aux-Cailles - it's a hidden street art district located in Paris' south-eastern 13th arrondissement.
When you are there, it feels like a different city inside of the city, where the walls became the canvas for many French and international artists.
This neighborhood attracts young and trendy Parisian population who love not only the art of colors but also the art of food.
In the Butte-aux-Cailles you will find numerous bars and restaurants serving delicious food and often for "a democratic price."
In my favorite restaurant "Chez Gladine," you can enjoy their famous salad "Salade 5 diamants" with French goat cheese, gizzards, chicken liver, bacon, and eggs for just 12,5 EUR. This salad is so huge and so delicious! "Chez Gladine" also offers a great selection of Basque specialties.
The prove that this restaurant is amazing is a daily long queue of hungry clients waiting for a table. Check it for yourself. I promise you won't be disappointed!
Belleville is a neighborhood on the borderline between the 20th arrondissement and the 19th along its main street, the Rue de Belleville.
It's a colorful and multi-ethnic district called by locals "Babelville."
For some time it was a "No-Go" district, but now it's a bohemian and trendy neighborhood where a cultural and artistic fervor reigns.
You will find here numerous workshops of artists, art galleries, and street art. The Belleville is a home to La Bellevilloise, a Parisian center of independent and multidisciplinary culture where you can spend enjoyable evenings.
For nature lovers, there is a beautiful Parc de Belleville - Paris’ highest park offering a magnificent panoramic view of Paris.
Château-Rouge is a district in the 18th arrondissement, known as "A Little Africa of Paris."
It was the place where I was "couchsurfing" during my first trip to Paris. My host was from Columbia, and as a real Latin-American, he had a hammock in his apartment. In that hammock, I spent my first night in Paris. It was hilarious!
Château-Rouge is a very busy area during the day, with numerous exotic markets, specialty shops, and African restaurants.
Here you can buy unique products that you can't find anywhere else: colorful fabric and clothing, delicious tropical fruits, spices, and natural cosmetics from African countries.
Visiting this mostly African district of Paris brings you straight to the Congolese market in Freetown, the Serrekunda market in Banjul, the Sandaga market in Dakar, the Adjame market in Abidjan.
Your eyes will be immediately attracted by the colorful stalls of fresh produce, arranged in all directions on the street.
You will suddenly find yourself in Africa on a typical market day.
ART & CULTURE IN PARIS : ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS
Paris is definitely a capital of art and a source of inspiration for the world's greatest painters. Of course, you can't leave Paris without seeing "July 28: Liberty Leading the People" by Delacroix, "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci, "An Odyssey in Colour" by Matisse, or "Impression" by Kandinsky.
But Paris is so much more than Louvre and Centre Georges Pompidou! There are hundreds of small unusual museums, modern art galleries, and alternative cultural centers.
I really love the quote of the French actor and writer Sacha Guitry "Être parisien, ce n'est pas être né à Paris, c'est y renaître" - "To be Parisian is not to be born in Paris, it is to be reborn there." It's what art in Paris does to our souls.
1 | Canal St. Martin
An open air art gallery in Paris is Canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement. It's a great alternative to walking along the Seine river: there are no crowds of tourists, it's peaceful, charming and hip.
The walls of the Canal are not just for keeping water. They tell the story in colors. Artists made the Canal St. Martin an excellent place for street art-viewing urban safari.
If you have time, plan a day or two for strolling along the Canal, exploring murals and graffiti, taking very "instagrammable" pictures and chilling in the relaxed and trendy bars and restaurants that you would see on your way.
A spot not to miss is Le Point Ephémère, a former dock from the previously industrial life of the Canal St. Martin that now became a quirky underground artistic center. It hosts concerts, exhibitions, and workshops and promotes all the arts in all their forms, supporting unclassifiable concepts!
2 | Rivoli 59
Walking along Rue de Rivoli, it is impossible not to notice one house standing out among all the others, kept in one style. This house is painted very brightly with colorful door and windows. Everything inside is painted and decorated by the artists who live and create there.
Rivoli 59 is an infamous artist squat that was renovated into legal studios. It's open to the public; everyone is welcome to visit this place six days a week except Monday and observe the process of art creation, talk to the artists or purchase artwork.
The entrance is free. Find out about other free museums in Paris in the blog post 44 Paris Travel Tips.
3 | "I Love You" Wall
Generally, a wall is a symbol of separation and division. Think of The Great Wall Of China, The Western Wall in Israel, the Berlin Wall…
But this wall in Paris is different. It’s the Wall of Love. Covered in 612 lava tiles, the wall features the worlds “I love you” in 311 different languages, including all 192 languages of the United Nations. You will find it on the Square Jehan Rictus in Montmartre. This unusual artwork became a meeting place for lovers. Come here with someone precious to you and express your love in all the languages of the world.
Metro: Abbesses on Line 12
GPS Coordinates of the Wall of Love: Lat 48.884741 - Long 2.338795
4 | Palais de Tokyo
The Palais de Tokyo (Palace of Tokyo) is a less known museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art. It’s one of the largest centers for contemporary art in Europe that hosts exhibitions, events and performances all year round.
Not many people know that underneath the Palais de Tokyo there is a secret cave with street art. It’s called the LASCO PROJECT (launched back in 2012). Since that time more than 60 international artists participated in this unusual project and created art in the underground passages and stairways.
At that time this wonderland of subterranean murals was inaccessible to the public. Now it became possible, but only via the guided tour organized by the Palais de Tokyo. The guided tour is free (reservation is required). It’s organized every day except Tuesdays at 12:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Please double check the website of the Palais de Tokyo for the latest info.
But that’s not all. The Palais de Tokyo has one more secret. In its basement there is also a night club YoYo hosting parties with top French and international artists.
13 Avenue du Président Wilson (near the Trocadéro, 16th arrondissement of Paris).
DRINK IN PARIS: CONCEPT CAFES & BARS
The Anticafé Louvre
The Anti Cafe Louvre is an atypical place in the heart of Paris. The Anti Cafe is a super cool concept: you pay for the time you spend, with all the coffee, tea, sweet and savory snacks included.
The Anti Cafe charges €5 per hour (for non-members) and €24 for the day. It’s a fantastic place to not only have a cup of excellent coffee but also to work, to meet people or to play games. Check the agenda on their website: they also host numerous events and workshops.
Address: 10 rue de Richelieu
Mon-Fri: 9am - 10.30pm
Sat-Sun: 10am - 9.30pm
The Anti Cafe has several locations in Paris: near the Centre Georges Pompidou, metro Olympiads, and la République. And every Anti Cafe has its unique story.
Zero de Conduite
I didn’t expect to find something like this in Paris! This bar is truly unique. If you like cartoons, drawing, and board games, you are going to love Zero de Conduite.
Why is it so unique? This bar brings you back to childhood! How? Because there you not only play, but also drink from the baby’s bottles! Pink ones for the gilrs, and blue ones for the boys :-)
All the cocktails (they do have alcoholic cocktails as well) have the names of the cartoons. To make an order, you have to draw the cocktail name on the whiteboard in a way that the barman guesses the cartoon character you have in mind.
The cocktail costs 14-16 Euro and that includes the price of the bottle. The baby’s bottle serves as the membership card, and if you come again to Zero de Coduite with this “membership card”, you will pay only for refilling your baby’s bottle (4-6 Euro).
The bar has countless board games that you can play while enjoying your drink in the baby’s bottle. It’s definitely a cool place to come with a group of friends. You will have lots of fun!
102 rue du Théâtre
Metro: Avenue Emile Zola
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 18:00-2:00
Special events on Fridays and Saturdays: 8:00, 20:30 and 23:00
FOOD: UNUSUAL RESTAURANTS IN PARIS
I love unusual, conceptual restaurants. And of course, in Paris I also went in search of such places. Here are some cool and quirky restaurants in Paris that I recommend to visit:
Sur un arbre perché
One more place in Paris that returns you to childhood is Sur un arbre perché. It is an unusual restaurant where you eat on swings or in small huts. We all liked to swing when we were kids. But when we grow up, we don’t do it anymore - while it’s so much fun!
Come to Sur un arbre perché and enjoy your dinner on the swing. Design of the restaurant is unusual as well, with the artificial trees, wooden furniture and forest-themed decor. Food is delicious and presented in a sophisticated way. The average dinner there (starter + main course or main course + dessert) costs 35 Euro. A great place for a cozy and romantic evening.
Address: 1 rue du 4 Septembre
Le Coustaud des Batignolles
Le Costaud des Batignolles is an art gallery in the restaurant. Or, rather, a restaurant in the art gallery.
What can you expect there? A beautiful and funky design, artworks all around, colorful furniture and tableware, and, of course, original cuisine such as salmon tartar a la mango or chicken sauté in coconut milk.
If you like admiring art and unusual places, you will love Le Costaud des Batignolles.
Address: 10 rue Brochant
Le Festin Nu
If you were to discover only one unusual restaurant in Paris, it would be this one. Located in the 18th arrondissement, Le Festin Nu will not fail to intrigue you or to disgust you!
It is the first insect bar in the French capital. What can you find in the menu? Worms, bugs, scorpions and grasshoppers served with hummus. Does this sound tempting? :-)
There is also a wide selection of artisanal beers from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. Come here for a new gastronomic experience.
Address: 10 rue de la Fontaine du But
Metro Lamarck / Caulaincourt
Le Café des Chats
Le Café des Chats is a perfect place if you want to have a delicious brunch in Paris in the company of cute cats. The restaurant adopted their cats from the shelters. Le Café des Chats works in collaboration with animal welfare associations to design an environment where the cats are happy.
Apart from all the happiness you get from stroking cats, you can taste here one of the best Croque Monsieur in Paris: Croque monsieur à l’ancienne - with béchamel souse, cheese, Poilâne bread and white ham cooked in a tea towel!
Address: 9 Rue Sedaine, 75011 Paris, France
THINGS TO DO IN PARIS: UNUSUAL TOURS & ACTIVITIES
If you are reading this guide, visiting the city on Hop On Hop Off bus is probably not for you :)
Here I prepared a selection of original Paris tours and activities that will let you explore this city in a different way!
Did you ever wonder what differs Parisians from the rest of the world?
Learn how think and act like a real Parisian at the comedy show “Paris: How to Become Parisian in one hour”.
Discover the cultural differences between French people and other nations, and and get one hour of laughing.
Humor and Laughter are good for your health. :)
What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.
On a tour "Secret Paris Guided Tour" you can discover the most secret places of Paris and learn the mysterious and scary stories about the Notre-Dame Cathedral, astronomical tower of the Black Queen and the dark rue Courtalon.
If you want to get fit while traveling, you can opt for a Paris tour by bike. Cycling around the Champs Elysées, Jardin des Tuileries, along the banks of the Seine and other picturesque Parisian places is much more pleasant than moving around the city with a metro. Have you already ridden a segway? If not, it's a good opportunity to try it while exploring Paris from a different angle. With a Segway Paris Tour you will be able to cover more ground that you could on foot and meet new people.
Get a taste of Paris and explore an authentic local food scene with The Best Ever Paris Food Tour. Are you ready for the artisan foie gras, cheese, wine and
products from the Abbeys of France? For chocoholics and "sweet teeth", Paris is just a heaven. Taste the trends in French pastry and chocolate during the 3-Hour Chocolate and Pastry Paris Tour. The guide will take you to the upscale confectioneries
in Saint-German-des-Prés district where you will savour sweet masterpieces created by famous Parisian chefs. Did you want to know how the French bakery looks from inside and discover the secrets
of making French crispy baguette and traditional croissants? With the Behind The Scenes Bakery Tour, you can do it. It's a culinary
experience that will make envious even Parisians.
To not only taste but also learn to cook French dishes, check out the fantastic cooking classes in Paris. They include a guided visit of the local fresh market and shopping for the best ingredients, learning cooking techniques and culinary stories from the French chef, and then enjoying the meal you cooked. Learning a new skill (especially if it's a cooking skill) is the best souvenir to bring home :-)
PARIS ALTERNATIVE SHOPPING: DESIGN, VINTAGE & CONCEPT STORES
Visiting the capital of global fashion, you have no excuse for not shopping there. Paris is not only a headquarter of the haute couture, it’s also a perfect place for getting unique products that you will really love, something not mass-designed that you can buy in any other country.
Check out some addresses where you will find French designer brands, concept stores, Parisian independent boutiques and funky vintage shops.
Merci is a concept store that is half-fashion, half-design, half-restaurant, half-bookshop, half-flea, and half-florist in the heart of Haut-Marais. You will find here almost everything, it's a real treasure trove with a strong Parisian feeling and look. The items are created by known and upcoming designers, so you can discover some new names. If you are looking for some original gifts and decoration, there is something for you.
Address: 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais
The FrenchTrotters line is entirely designed and crafted in France. You will find in this flagman store stylish, beautiful and excellent quality pieces. In addition, it offers collections from renowned designers such as Les Prairies de Paris, Le Mont Saint Michel, Jérôme Dreyfuss, Michel Vivien, Comme des Garçons among others.
Address: 30 Rue de Charonne
128 Rue Vieille du Temple
Kilo Shop Kawaii
If you are ecologically oriented, concerned with sustainability matters and love fashion, don't miss the Kilo Shop Kawaii. It's vintage store with carefully selected colorful and unique items where you pay per weight. Moreover, the shop recycles old clothes and gives it a second life. It's a true hot spot for someone who wants to stand out from the crowd.
Address: 65 Rue de la Verrerie
Artazart is a hip design and bookstore located in the Canal St. Martin. I found it by chance during my long walk along the canal and was surprised to find such an incredible selection of books on visual art, design, photography and many cute design objects. The Artazart has also a section of rare books: check it out for broadening your horizons. What I really didn't expect to stumble upon there was the Atlas of the Countries that Do Not Exist (Atlas des pays qui n'existent pas) where among other countries with a contested sovereignty I found an article on the place where I was born - Transnistria :-)
I recommend visiting this bookstore for anyone looking for inspiration.
Address: 83 Quai de Valmy
WHERE TO STAY IN PARIS: UNUSUAL AND CONCEPT HOTELS
To sleep in Paris, you’ve got the choice! Indeed, Paris is the most visited city in the world and to welcome its millions of annual tourists, there is no lack of hotels. But finding an original and concept hotel is not that easy.
For truly unique Parisian experience, try to Couchsurf with a local or stay in the atmospheric Parisian apartment via Airbnb.
By the way, if it’s going to be your first time using Airbnb, you can get a 20-35 EUR discount by registering through my promo code.
Here is the link: get your Airbnb discount.
If you prefer to stay in the hotels, I prepared for you the list of the hotels in Paris to spend an unusual night.
Hotel Original - The World of Extravaganza
If you are a fan of the unusual design, have a stay in the extravagant hotel Original. It’s a hotel with a unique feel where each room is individually themed and designed by Stella Cadente. The hotel Original is up to their name. Moreover, the location is excellent, too, close to Le Marais and next to la Bastille train station that will make it easy for you to visit the city.
Address: 8, boulevard Beaumarchais
Boat House - Exclusive & Romantic
How about a floating bedroom with one of the finest views of Paris? A romantic night aboard a boat on the Seine will be an unforgettable experience. This boat is very centrally located, right in front of the Orsay Museum and Tuileries Garden.
As you pay for the whole boat that can host at least four people, it can be quite a good deal.
Check for the current rates here.
Address: Rue Solferino, 75007 Paris
Mama Shelter Paris - The Meeting Place
The concept of the hotel Mama Shelter is "Luxe for less", or a quality designer hotel for a democratic price.
All the decor was created by the famous French interior designer Philippe Starck. He is the one who designed the Mondrian in Los Angeles, the Royalton in New York, and the Sanderson in
Offering ultramodern rooms with with funky design and superheroes masks near every bed, an amusement area with an island bar, a restaurant, a pizzeria, a terrace and a rooftop in summer days, Mama Shelter one is for travelers who like their hotel stay to be a little bit different!
Address: 109 Rue de Bagnolet
Solar Hotel - Keep Calm and Be Green
Experience the first ecological hotel in Paris and become the actor of sustainable tourism.
The Solar hotel uses solar panels for illumination, practices strict water, waste, recycling and
energy policies, provides with organic body wash products, and serves you an organic breakfast. In addition, they also offer free bikes for you to visit the city and the charming and lively the
14th arrondissement where the hotel is located.
All this comes at a very economical price for Paris, starting as low as 59 Euros for a double room including breakfast and free bicycle.
If you are environmentally conscious or want to learn about sustainability, check out the Solar Hotel. You will meet like-minded people there.
Address: 22 rue Boulard, 75014 Paris
That's all for now.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you found this blog post useful and that it inspired you to try something new on your trip to Paris!
If you know about some other cool concept places with a story, don't hesitate to share it in the comments or via a contact form.
Sasha & The Alternative Travel Guide
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, nice to meet you! I'm Sasha, a “free spirit” and a world citizen at heart who was born in the country that does not exist: Transnistria. I am on my adventurous journey to discover alternative, quirky, unique and unusual things to do and to visit in cool cities around the world. Join me and try something new! I write in Globish, since English is not my native language, so feel free to correct me or to make fun of me :).