Hidden Gems in Paris

Hidden Gems in Paris

The landmarks of Paris are so iconic that it might seem impossible to plan a visit that detours from the tourist trail. However, there are still plenty of lesser-known locations to discover during a day trip to Paris or long weekend. While it’s hard to entirely escape the crowds when visiting the French capital, these hidden gems in Paris are some of the city’s best-kept secrets. From a tower tourists often miss to an opulent chateau that isn’t Versailles, explore our favourite places to pretend we’re Parisian.


  1. Montparnasse Tower
  2. Portrait of a Lady from the Court of Milan
  3. Chateau de Malmaison
  4. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
  5. Église de Saint Germain des Prés
  6. Galerie Vivienne


Montparnasse Tower

Tower views with shorter queues

While tourists flock to the Eiffel Tower, another our favourite lofty spot that’s well worth a visit  in Paris is the Montparnasse Tower. Day or night, the panoramic views from the observation deck are a delight. And since no snap of the Paris skyline is complete without its most famous landmark, this is the premier place to photograph the city in all its glory –  the Eiffel Tower la tour Eiffel included. Further up the Montparnasse Tower, there’s an outdoor terrace which offers a 360-degree vista of the city; look out for the Louvre museum, the Arc de Triomphe and the Basilica of Sacré Coeur. But the best bit is simply savouring the sights of Paris from above; the tree-lined avenues, the romantic rooftops, the glow of the limestone buildings in golden hour. And the hours you save not queuing for the Eiffel Tower equal more time to enjoy the other hidden gems in Paris on our list..


Portrait of a Lady from the Court of Milan

Move over Mona Lisa

Visit the Louvre museum and you may find yourself caught in a cultural conga line dancing hastily towards the Mona Lisa. Many visitors speedily skip whole galleries to reach Leonardo da Vinci’s famous muse with her beguiling smile. But there’s so much more to see in the Louvre, including another of Leonardo’s ladies. Portrait of a Lady from the Court of Milan (also known as La Belle Ferronnière) is considered one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most accomplished portraits. And while she’s less well-known than the lovely Lisa, her expression is equally intriguing. Is she smiling? Or is she giving someone some serious side eye? Stop by to say hello next time you’re in town and decide for yourself.


Chateau de Malmaison

Goodbye to Versailles

Immense, iconic and intricately -gilded, the Palace of Versailles is popular for a reason. But while the lavish living quarters of Marie Antoinette are a firm fixture on the tourist trail, there’s another grand historical abode that remains under the radar. Ornate, opulent and perfectly preserved, the Chateau de Malmaison was once home to the French Emperor Napoleon and his wife Josephine. And although not quite on the same scale as Versailles, the chateau and its gardens are a time capsule of the Paris of the past. Bought and furnished by Josephine for her husband (legend has it he wasn’t impressed by how much money she spent on the house), the Chateau de Malmaison is one of the best-kept secrets in the city. Take a guided tour to journey back through time without the crowds of Versailles.


Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Lounge with the locals

The uniquely French verb flâner (meaning ‘to wander aimlessly through a city’) has no English equivalent. And there’s no place quite like Paris to indulge in this pastime. The formal jardins (gardens) of the city are its most famous outdoor spaces; the Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin du Luxembourg are two top spots for une flânerie (one of those aimless wanders). Yet our pick of places to stroll without a sense of direction is the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. It’s often overlooked by city breakers and long weekenders, but it’s one of our favourite hidden gems in Paris. A gorgeous expanse of greenery complete with meandering walking trails, this pretty park is the perfect place to embrace the laid-back pace of a flaneur. Get your saunter spot on and you might even fool the locals into believing you’re a true Parisian.


Église de Saint Germain des Prés

Notre-Dame it’s not

Currently closed to visitors following a devastating fire in 2019, Notre-Dame remains an icon of Paris. While the cathedral undergoes extensive restoration, other churches have emerged from the shadow of Notre-Dame to enjoy a spell in the spotlight. Our favourite is Église de Saint Germain des Prés, the oldest in Paris. It was the main place of worship in the city until the birth of Notre-Dame, so it seems fitting to return here while its more famous friend is under repair. The highlight of the church are the frescoes that embellish the walls; restoration of these was completed in 2019, so each piece is recently refreshed and ready to impress. If you’re here on the last Sunday of the month, a free organ concert is held in the early afternoon, while ticketed concerts take place on Thursdays and Fridays – a great way to enjoy the glory of the church with an equally-glorious soundtrack.


Galerie Vivienne

Secret shopping

The grand old Galeries Lafayette is as much a tourist attraction as it is a department store, with its luxury fashions, gourmet food and Art Nouveau architecture drawing both shoppers and sightseers alike. But for serious shopping (or a spot of window shopping), we prefer Galerie Vivienne. Built in 1823, this is an architectural wonder as well as a place to spend your euros; a luxurious, mosaic-tiled arcade beneath a gorgeous glass roof. Old bookshops, wine merchants, purveyors of Parisian delicacies, elegant tea rooms – they’re all here in Galerie Vivienne. Almost impossible to believe that in the 1970s this hidden gem was in danger of being demolished. We’re very glad it wasn’t.