Top 5 secret gems in Paris

Canal de Saint Martin, photo by Pascal Terjan

Paris is famous for its romantic attractions like the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower or Champs Elysees, and these are the attractions that everyone knows about, even if they haven’t visited Paris. But the many arrondissements of Paris hide many secrets that are seldom mentioned in tourist brochures, so often the only way of discovering them is by chance. If you want to discover a face of Paris that is fresh, different and more typically Parisian than anything else, then you should take a look at this list of top 5 secret gems in Paris.

Canal de Saint Martin Neighborhood

Most of the time, Paris is not what one would call peaceful, but this corner of the city can be described better by referring to scenic walks or arched bridges than urban grit. Bridges are, in fact, what make the area around the 4.5 km Canal de Saint Martin so picturesque (you might have seen one at the beginning of the movie Amelie). Visit some offbeat shops and then take a relaxing walk along the Canal.

Rue Montorgueil 

photo by Nicolas Vigier

Rue de Montorgueil is hidden is plain sight, not far from the famous Centre Georges Pompidou and the Cathedrale Saint-Eustache. This quaint little street is pedestrian, and it is a welcome change from Paris’s elegant (but crowded) boulevards. The old, paved street has some of the greatest pastry shops and food markets, plus a bunch of either very hip or very retro cafes.


photo by Jean-François Gornet

Butte-aux-Cailles neighborhood is so very different from the surrounding neighborhoods that you feel like stepping back in time to the Paris of yore, when all buildings where in Art Nouveau style, the streets were winding and narrow, and everything looked like a postcard image. A walk through the Butte is pure delight, especially if you stop on your way at one of the many cafes and restaurants that Parisians especially appreciate.

Little Jaffna

The little neighborhood tucked away between Gare du Nord and La Chapelle is Paris’s own Little Sri Lanka. Rue Saint-Denis in particular feels like you’ve left Paris altogether, and now you’re breathing in the enticing smell of spices and flowers somewhere in Southern Asia. This neighborhood is the place to go if you want to shop for saris, samosas or chai tea away from the high end shops of central Paris.

Pere Lachaise 

photo by Damien Boilly

After being blinded by glitzy elegance and extraordinary good taste, I’m sure every visitor to Paris is curious how is that the Parisians really live. For a peek into that, just go to Pere Lachaise neighborhood, the home of les bobos, the bourgeois-bohemians, at once hated and loved by Parisian society.  Pop into a quirky cafe, or visit the peaceful Pere Lachaise Cemetery – perhaps a little better known that the rest of the top 5 secret gems of Paris, but still blissfully far from the crowds.


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