We’re all familiar with the main landmarks in Paris, right? The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe… 17 million tourists visited Paris in 2019. So it’s no wonder these famous attractions can get a bit overcrowded. We’re not saying you shouldn’t visit them, but we think you ought to know that this city has so much more to offer.
As you stroll the streets of Paris, you’ll stumble upon all kinds of hidden highlights. Even if you don’t follow a map or have your head stuck in a travel guide. Tiny parks in courtyards, covered passageways lined with charming boutiques, and spectacular street art. Paris can be a bit of a maze if you don’t know your way around, but that only makes it more fun to explore!
Keep reading to find out about four special places that us locals love going back to again and again. We also have a special scavenger hunt to tell you about and a sparkling secret to let you in on…
59 Rivoli is an insanely creative artists’ house with cool vibes and so much to take in. Even the front of the building is covered in
huge works of art. And things take a turn for the surreal on the stairs when you realise hundreds of eyes are staring out at you from a mural on the wall.
Artists with all different styles live and work here. You can visit them in their studios, admire their masterpieces and even buy any you’re particularly taken with. The colourful clash of drawings, paintings, photos and collages means there’s something for everyone – whether you have a more classic, modern or even futuristic style.
An artist collective started illegally squatting in the building when it was empty back in 1999. 40,000 people visited in the first year. A court order for their eviction in the year 2000 was dealt with by the mayor who was elected in 2001. The city bought the building and allowed the artists to continue using it. It was closed for a few years while renovation work was ongoing. But it has been open to the public again since 2009.
These days, 30 artists live and work here. Half of them are permanent residents, while the other half are allocated a studio and a room for three to six months. There’s also a small gallery hosting temporary exhibitions to showcase the work of external artists. And there are concerts at the weekend too.
Important information: Price: Admission is free, and artists appreciate donations. Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
Tip 1 ARTIST STUDIOS: 59 RUE DE RIVOLI
Not the biggest fan of flea markets? You still won’t want to miss this one! Take the metro to Porte de Clignancourt and walk underneath the Péripherique (ring road). You’ll soon spot a sea of stands selling all kinds of things at low prices. Now, we have two options for you here. The option you choose will depend on whether you’re looking for Middle Eastern bazaar vibes or you’re hoping to get your hands on a fake Gucci handbag at a bargain price (or all of the above). Just keep walking down the street to find plenty of sellers brandishing the latest designer wares.
Or you can head to Rue Jean Henri Fabré. This is where you’ll find the entrance to our favourite market – Marché Dauphine. (Rue des Rosiers* is another option for direct access.)
You won’t believe your eyes when you get to this wonderland. You might spot a genuine vintage Yves Saint Laurent fur coat among all the jewellery, antiques, art, records, games machines, musical instruments, military uniforms and all the other trinkets you can imagine. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a Tim Burton film set in Marché Dauphine. Make sure you look out for the giant UFO parked up between the stands! That’s Maison Futuro, a prefabricated house designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1968.
If you’re still looking for even more antiques once you’ve finished exploring every nook and cranny here, you could always head to Marché Biron via Rue des Rosiers. If you had a Parisian townhouse and a decent enough budget, this is exactly where you’d head to pick up all the lavish furnishings your heart could possibly desire. Antique furniture, shiny silverware, spectacular chandeliers, exquisite paintings presented in golden frames. Once you’ve started browsing, it’s impossible to take your eyes off everything in front of you. As you admire each treasure trove, the store owners will be relaxing out front, sitting down and enjoying a chat with each other over a cup of coffee. They must be proper Parisians 😉
All that shopping made you hungry? We’d suggest heading straight to ‘Napoli’ (at 136 Rue des Rosiers) for incredible pizza served with a smile.
Important information: Opening hours Marché Dauphine: Friday 10 am to 1 pm, Saturday to Monday 9:30 am to 6 pm Opening hours Marché Biron: Saturday to Monday 10 am to 6 pm
*Looking for this street on a map? This is actually in Saint-Ouen on the outskirts of Paris and not in the city centre, where there is in fact another street with the same name in the second arrondissement.
Tip 2 MARCHÉ AUX PUCES DE SAINT-OUEN
Now, here’s something you might not have expected to tick off your bucket list on a trip to Paris. Did you know there are five (yes, five) Statues of Liberty (or bits of the Statue of Liberty) in the city? And what about the fact that the monument in New York was a gift from France?
You can see the original model of the New York statue produced by sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi at the Musée des Arts et Métiers. In 1889, three years after the original statue was inaugurated, Americans living in Paris repaid the favour by gifting a replica of the statue that is 11 metres tall on a base that’s 22 metres tall. You can find it on Île des Cygnes, an artificial island in the River Seine – not far from the Eiffel Tower, looking towards the bigger original version in New York. Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, it was Gustave Eiffel himself who created the original statue’s strong iron framework.
There’s another version at the Musée d’Orsay, but that one is just three metres tall. Originally located in the Jardin de Luxembourg, it was moved to the museum back in 2012. In response to protests about the statue being removed, the local authorities had another version made and erected in the Jardin de Luxembourg in 2013.
Last but not least, a full-sized replica of the flame from the torch was gifted to France by the USA in 1987 to say thank you for the restoration work performed on the statue in New York by two French companies. This Flame of Liberty became an unofficial memorial to Princess Diana because it is located above the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, where she was involved in a fatal car crash in 1997.
Tip 3 THE STATUES OF LIBERTY OF PARIS
Were you secretly hoping for some romance-related tips ready for your trip to the City of Love? Well, here are two for you at least!
The language of love is universal – and you can even take a selfie in front of it in Paris. Head to the tiny Jehan-Rictus garden square in Montmartre (nearest metro station: Abbesses) to visit the Wall of Love or the Mur des Je t’aime. ‘I love you’ appears on the wall in 100 different languages and dialects. How many can you spot? It’s possibly a little ironic that Pigalle, the red-light district and home to the legendary Moulin Rouge, is just around the corner…
Now, here comes that sparkling secret we promised you… If you’re planning a proposal and thinking that the Eiffel Tower could provide the perfect backdrop, you might want to think outside the box a little. Sure, the Eiffel Tower is the most famous landmark of the City of Love and people get engaged in front of it all the time. But so many of them miss out on the real magic because the iron structure isn’t actually that attractive up close during the day. That all changes at night, though. After dark, the tower is bathed in the glow of 300 spotlights. And it sparkles like a diamond for five minutes every hour on the hour thanks to 20,000 more lights. The Place du Trocadéro is the perfect place to watch the lights – proposal or no proposal. Even if you don’t have an expensive ring in your pocket, make sure you watch out for pickpockets around here.
Tip 4 WALL OF LOVE
Tip 5 SPACE INVADERS HUNT
Remember the 80s computer game Space Invaders? Shooting at aliens never gets old – and all you need is your smartphone when you’re in Paris. You see, there’s an artist in the city who goes by the name ‘Invader’ and has turned the original game into street art by recreating the pixels with mosaics. You can spot them in all major cities around the world. There are over 1400 in Paris, with more popping up all the time.
If you download the ‘Flash Invaders’ app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, you can collect points for every invader you capture with your camera. You can even keep an eye on which invaders are being photographed by other players in other cities live.
Most of the street art is the simple characters you’ll recognise from the old video game. But there are also some more sophisticated works of art, including C-3PO and Chewbacca from Star Wars and a mouse holding a gun just outside the Café des Chats cat café. Some of the pictures are super small and others are absolutely massive. They’re mostly on the sides of buildings but can also appear close to the ground on walls or columns. Beware! Collecting the aliens can get a bit addictive…