Some suggestions for visiting offbeat Paris

The Cemetery of Père Lachaise, the Cité de la Mode et du Design, Drouot, Chinatown, the Catacombes ...

Would you like to see Paris from another angle? A capital with a thousand and one faces, a city that is in turn arty, underground, very grand, popular, aristocratic, exotic and retro-futuristic …

Day one

 The journey of exploration begins with a visit to the artists’ studios of Belleville and Ménilmontant – pulsating cosmopolitan districts. Then, on to the nearby Cemetery of Père Lachaise, where many famous and unknown people are buried. A guided tour ensures that you don’t miss the most famous tombs and unusual anecdotes. Next, head westwards into the 16th arrondissement, for lunch at La Gare, a former metro station converted into a restaurant. 

After which, depending on the weather, you can solve the riddles of the ‘Crime under the arcades’ with the guides from Ma Langue au Chat, or you can reach for the sky with the Ballon de Paris hot air balloon, in Parc André Citroën.

In the evening, your surprising dinner ‘In the Dark’? (« Dans le Noir ? ») is followed by a polar expedition to the Ice Kube Bar.

Day two

Today, you spend the morning discovering the underground mysteries of the Musée des Égouts

Next, a change of scene over at the Hôtel Drouot-Richelieu auction house: unusual lots, a film-like atmosphere, ‘I’ll make a bid!’. If you prefer contemporary architecture and places that are a bit off-the-wall, you’ll also be keen to see Les Docks - Cité de la Mode et du Design, not far from the Gare d’Austerlitz. This centre for fashion, design, culture and creation has huge terraces and a roof terrace with bars, restaurants and the latest most sensational festive spots. An opportunity to go and have a drink at Wanderlust or Communion.

Day three

It is time for a spine-chilling experience in the ossuary at the Catacombes, a labyrinth 20-metres underground. Or for those who prefer festive atmospheres, visit the Musée des Arts Forains, a veritable journey back in time to the fairgrounds of the past. Then, go to the Chinatown district, also the opportunity to enjoy some really classic specialities. Unless, you prefer to have lunch in the red decor of the Palais Garnier Opera House restaurant.

To round off this weekend on a high note, take a guided tour with Promenade des Sens, on the theme of your choice: arts & crafts, gastronomy, fashion, lifestyle, and more.

La Gare: an eatery in a train station

Restaurant La Gare, Terrasse couverte, © OTCP - DR

You don’t come here to catch a train, but to enjoy a meal in an amazing setting. This restaurant with red-brick walls and impressively high ceilings is set in the former Passy-La Muette train station. Restored with great panache, the restaurant opens out onto a 250-seat terrace!

Enjoy traditional cuisine with a modern twist. Every Sunday, delicious brunches are served in the form of a help-yourself buffet.

The Gare has lots of good things to offer and even has a menu and activities for children.

More info about La Gare

Parc André Citroën: colour, water, fun and games

Parc André Citroën, Paris © OTCP - David Lefranc

Inaugurated in 1992 on the site of the former Citroën factory, this 14-hectare park opening onto the Seine is divided into three areas. The White Garden featuring predominantly white vegetation, including Japanese anemones, is a play area for children. The Black Garden, planted with pine trees, rhododendrons and oak trees, has a central area with 64 fountains, and wooden huts, slides … The main park dominated by two 15-metre-high glasshouses has a huge lawned area and lots of fountains, popular with summer visitors.

And there’s more to discover in the many colour-themed gardens (blue, green, orange, red, silver, gold, in Movement, Metamorphoses) and in the air, aboard the Ballon de Paris.

More info about Parc André Citroën

The Ballon de Paris: a bird’s eye view of Paris

Installed in the Parc André Citroën, in 1999, the biggest balloon in the world has already introduced half a million people to the joys of flying in a tethered balloon over Paris. 35-metres-high by 22.5 metres wide and weighing 2 tons, the balloon can take passengers to a height of 150 metres. This ‘aircraft’, visible from 20 kilometres away and operated by a single electric winch is the least polluting in the world.

In 2008, the Ballon de Paris also became the first to indicate the quality of the air. In partnership with

Airparif®, the new Ballon de Paris changes colour according to the quality of the air: ‘green’ for good, ‘orange’ for mediocre and ‘red’ for poor.

More info about Ballon de Paris

‘Dans le Noir?’ (In the Dark?): a meal with a difference

Restaurant Dans le noir ?, La salle de restaurant, © OTCP - DR

This unusual restaurant serves gourmet meals in complete darkness. Guests are welcomed in the lounge bar by a blind guide, who leads them to their table and stays with them throughout the meal.

On the menu … surprise! Everyone has to guess and savour their food, through increased awareness of textures and flavours. As well as a rediscovery of the senses, this dinner is also a fine and surprising human experience because ‘in the dark’, it seems that we are very keen to communicate with other guests.

More info about restaurant Dans le Noir ?

Ice Kube Bar: a thoroughly polar experience

Bar The Ice KUBE, entrée, Paris © OTCP - DR

Minus 10°C, twenty tons of ice worked like crystal by sculptors, a decor reinvented every year and enhanced by multicolour lighting effects and music: welcome to the only ice bar in Paris. Be assured, visitors are provided with appropriate technical clothing to enable them to venture into this unique bar. From the moment you enter, the cold affects your senses and plays havoc with your perceptions and sense of direction. Your breathing slows down, your sense of smell changes, your eyes get used to an unfamiliar luminosity, even the electro music sounds purer. On contact with the glass, your mouth feels the burning of ice then the heat of the cocktail. Unforgettable!

More info about Ice Kube Bar

Musée des Égouts: the little-known side of history

Musée des égoûts de Paris © OTCP - Assainissement Ville de Paris

It was around 1200 that the king Philippe Auguste had the streets of Paris paved, incorporating an evacuation channel. In 1370, a stone sewer was built in rue Montmartre. The network was extended over the centuries, but it was only in 1850 that the current sewers were developed and a water supply system for Paris. A tour of the underground galleries retraces this fascinating history, supplemented by models and authentic machines. Visitors can also discover the different techniques for purifying and improving the quality of the water, from the time of Lutetia to the present day; the current network extends over 2,500 kilometres.

More info about Musée des Egouts

Les Docks - Cité de la Mode et du Design: a festive spot 

Les Docks – Cité de la Mode et du Design, Paris

Situated in former warehouse buildings and renovated and covered with an undulating green structure, this centre for Fashion and Design offers exhibitions, shops, the French Fashion Institute, designer showrooms and several festive venues.

With its vast terrace, level with the Seine, Wanderlust invites you to have brunch, lunch, dinner, a drink, dance to the sounds of a DJ … and even practice yoga and take part in cultural workshops at the weekend. On the planted rooftop terrace, the Café Oz Rooftop – restaurant and lounge bar – stages shows and stand-up comedy acts. As for Communion, it calls itself a musical wooden cabin playing ‘strange sounds, from Haitian groove to electro tropical …’.

More info about Docks - Cité de la Mode et du Design

The Catacombes: a maze 20-metres below ground

Les Catacombes, Paris © OTCP - Henri Garat

‘Stop, this is the empire of the dead’ announces the verse engraved at the entrance to the ossuary.  It is in these former quarries, whose stone was used to build Paris that the remains of some six million Parisians are laid to rest. These bones were transferred in the 18th and 19th centuries when several of the city’s cemeteries closed because they had become insalubrious. In the course of this maze of dark galleries and narrow passages, visitors have every chance of passing unknowingly by the bones of François Rabelais, Jean de la Fontaine, Charles Perrault and famous guillotined figures such as Danton and Robespierre.

More info about Catacombes

Musée des Arts forains: a magical place with an automaton show 

Manège de chevaux de bois, Musée des Arts Forains, Paris © DR

Situated on the edge of the superb Parc de Bercy – also to explore on this occasion – this museum of fairground arts is housed in the Halle au Vin, designed by Louis-Ernest Lheureux a pupil of Gustave Eiffel. It reconstitutes the type of fairground that you would have seen from 1850 to 1950.

There are swing boats and rides on a traditional merry-go-round with wooden horses and a bicycle merry-go-round from the period. You enter the Théâtre du Merveilleux with all its wonderful attractions from the past. You applaud the performance by automatons to the sound of opera in the Venetian rooms. Outside, you wander through the lovely Théâtre de Verdure (a paved leafy garden area)… This is a visit to an unusual place, untouched by the passing of time.

More info about Musée des Arts Forains