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Museum of Natural History Paris

Unusual Things to Do in Paris

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Looking for something other than the typical museums and monuments which attract tourists? Then check out these unusual things to do in Paris. Mostly off the beaten track, these unusual attractions will have your friends back home saying “you did what while you were in Paris?”


Looking for free attractions? Read my 5 part series of free things to do in Paris which includes parks, gardens and outdoor attractions, cultural and historical attractions, visiting churches and cemeteries, touring museums and browsing through the many markets and shopping centers that the city has to offer. 

Ballon Generali

Balloon Generali, one of the more unusual attractions in Paris
Balloon Generali, one of the more unusual attractions in Paris, by CpaKmoi on Flickr

Park André-Citroën – 75015, Paris

Float 150 meters over the Paris skyline in the worlds largest hot air balloon. Balloon Generali is a tethered helium-filled airship located at André-Citroën Park in the 15th arrondissement. Departing every 15 minutes in good weather conditions, 30 riders are able to hop aboard the gondola for a 10-minute ride above one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Cost: Adults: €12, Age 3-11: €6, Age 3 and under: Free
Hours: Every day from 9 am until 30 minutes before the park closes. Flights depend on weather conditions.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
How to get there: Metro Line 10 – Javel
RER C – Javel

Point Zero

Point Zero
Point Zero by serge melki on Flickr

Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II – 75004, Paris

Centrally located next to Notre Dame, Point Zero marks the center of Paris. It’s from this sunken brass plate in the ground that all distances throughout France are measured. It has become a tradition for tourists to perform a ‘ritual’ of sorts at this legendary spot. Some of these rituals include dropping a coin, performing a dance, spinning on one foot while making a wish, and kissing a loved one while standing on the spot together.

Cost: Free
Hours: Always open
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
How to get there: Metro Line 4 – Station City or St. Michael
RER B or C – St-Michel Notre Dame

La Promenade Plantée

The Promenade Plantée, which is an unusual place for a stroll in Paris
The Promenade Plantée, which is an unusual place for a stroll in Paris, by Guilhem Vellut on Flickr

Avenue Daumesnil – 75012, Paris

Take a stroll along La Promenade Plantee, one of the most unusual paths in Paris. This abandoned railway line stretches for 3 miles and is lined with shrubs and trees. Often frequented by locals, this is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Cost: Free
Hours: Monday to Friday 7:30 am – 8:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday 8:30 am – 8:30 pm
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
How to get there: Metro Lines 1, 5 or 8 – Bastille

La Petite Ceinture

La Petite Ceinture, which is an unusual green space in Paris.
La Petite Ceinture, an unusual green space in Paris. Image by Thomas Claveirole on Flickr

This former orbital railway was built in the mid-1800’s to transport people and goods around Paris. Today it is largely abandoned and overgrown with over 200 species of plants. Some small sections are privately owned, others are inaccessible, and a few are open to the public.

These public green spaces are located; in the 16th arrondissement, between the Porte d’Auteuil and the Gare de la Muette; in the 12th arrondissement, accessible from 21 Rue Rottembourg; the 15th arrondissement, between the Place Balard and the Rue Olivier de Serres, entrance at 99 Rue Olivier de Serres, in the 13th arrondissement between the Charles Trenet garden to the Moulin de la Pointe garden, accessible from 60 Rue Damesme; and in the 17th arrondissement between Porte Maillot and Pereire.

Several of the abandoned sections of the railway are unofficially accessible through various access points in the fence. Use caution exploring these areas as there is said to be petty crimes as well as homeless camps. There is also a €3750 trespassing fine.

Cost: Free
Hours: Times vary according to the different sections of the trail and the time of year.
Opens between 8 am and 9 am and closes between 7:30 pm and 8:30 pm.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
How to get there: 12th Petite Ceinture Metro Line 8 – Michel Bizot
13th Petite Ceinture Metro Line 7 – Maison Blanche
15th Petite Ceinture Metro Line 12 – Porte de Versailles
16th Petite Ceinture Metro Line 9 – Ranelagh
17th Petite Ceinture Metro Line 13 – Guy Môquet

Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie Comparée

Museum of Natural History Paris
Museum of Natural History Paris

2 rue Buffon – 75005, Paris

Walk among the dinosaurs and other skeletons in this ‘can’t-miss’ section at the Museum of Natural History. The long lines of animal skeletons feature rare species such as the African okapi and the narwhale, as well as the famous rhinoceros skeleton which belonged to Louis XV.

Cost: Full price: €9, Children 3 and under: Free
Hours: Wednesday – Monday 10 am – 6 pm (last admission 45 minutes before closing)
Wheelchair accessible: No
How to get there: Metro Line 5 – Austerlitz, Line 7 – Censier Daubenton, Line 10 – Jussieu or Austerlitz
RER C – Gare d’Austerlitz

La Grande Galerie de l’Évolution

La Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, one of the most unusual attraction in Paris
La Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, one of the most unusual attractions in Paris, by Lynn D. Rosentrater on Flickr

36 Rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire – 75005, Paris

Parading through the center of this gallery is a herd of lifelike wild animals.
This exhibition displays 7000 animals from all parts of the globe. The most notable specimens include; Kiki, the Giant Tortoise of Seychelles who passed away at the age of at the assumed age of 146 and weighing close to 250 Kg, LiLi, President Pompidou’s Panda, which was a gift to French President Georges Pompidou by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, and Wheke, the Giant Squid which was fished off the New Zealand coast in 2000.

Be sure not to miss the Room of Endangered and Extinct Species (La Salle des Espèces Menacées et des Espèces Disparues) for a glimpse at creatures such as the extinct quagga, a Tasmanian Tiger, Barbary, and Cape lions, the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger, and so much more.

Cost: Full price: €10, Reduced price: €7
Hours: Wednesday – Monday 10 am – 6 pm (Last access 45 min. before closing)
Wheelchair accessible: Partial
How to get there: Metro Line 5 – Austerlitz, Line 7 – Censier Daubenton, Line 10 – Jussieu or Austerlitz
RER C – Gare d’Austerlitz

Deyrolle

Deyrolle, one of the most offbeat shops in Paris,
Deyrolle, one of the most offbeat shops in Paris, by Aaron Fellmeth Photography on Flickr

46 Rue du Bac – 75007, Paris

Stopping in at Deyrolle feels like you are visiting a strange museum. This cabinet of curiosities in the 7th arrondissement has been in operation since 1831 and specializes in taxidermy and entomology. Their eclectic collection of stuffed animals, insects, shells, botanical prints, and other curiosities will impress any visitor seeking an offbeat experience in Paris.

Cost: Free
Hours: Monday 10 am – 1 pm and 2 pm – 7 pm, Tuesday to Saturday 10 am – 7 pm
Wheelchair accessible: No
How to get there: Metro Line 12 – Rue du Bac

Le Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine, Université Paris Descartes

The Museum of the History of Medicine
The Museum of the History of Medicine by Kotomi_ on Flickr

12 Rue de l’École de Médecine – 75006, Paris

Marvel at the evolution of medical equipment at The Museum of the History of Medicine. Not for the faint of heart, these collections are somewhat reminiscent of medieval torture devices featuring displays of diagnostic tools, surgical equipment, physiology tools, and rare medical and surgical bags from the 18th and 19th century. Be sure not to miss the bizarre side table made entirely of human body parts! Note that the signage is only in French.

Cost: Adults: €3.50, Students and children: €2.50
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 2 pm – 5:30 pm.
Wheelchair accessible: No
How to get there: Metro Lines 4 or 10 – Odéon
RER B – Cluny la Sorbonne

FlyView Paris

FlyView Paris, one of the city's most unusual attractions
FlyView Paris, one of the city’s most unusual attractions, by Rotana Ty on Flickr

32 Rue du 4 Septembre – 75002, Paris

Strap on your headset and buckle up your jetpack for views of Paris like you’ve never seen before. After taking off in this realistic flight simulator, visitors are able to soar over the city to admire the panoramic views and many famous landmarks.

With the ability to stop and go, change speeds and turn in any direction, this virtual reality experience is thrilling for the whole family. The minimum height for entry is 1.20 m (4 feet) tall.

Cost: €15
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11 am – 7 pm  Friday and Saturday 11 am – 9 pm
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
How to get there: Metro – Lines 3, 7 or 8 – Opera
RER A – Auber

Musée des Egouts

The unusual Musée des Egouts in Paris
The unusual Musée des Egouts in Paris. Image by deadmanjones on Flickr

93 Quai d’Orsay – 75007, Paris

Currently, the Paris Sewers Museum is closed for renovations. It plans to reopen in 2020.

Designed in 1850 by Baron Haussmann and engineer Eugène Belgrand, there are roughly 2,100 km of sewer tunnels under the city of Paris. Today, the Musée des Egouts (Paris Sewer Museum) provides visitors with the unusual opportunity to explore the slightly smelly bowels of the city. There are several exhibits detailing the history and engineering of the sewer system. As well as education about water treatment methods and the roles of sewage workers.

Cost: Adults: €4.40
Hours: Saturday – Wednesday 11 am – 5 pm
Wheelchair accessible: No
How to get there: Métro Line 9 – Alma-Marceau
RER C – Pont de l’Alma

Gustave Eiffel’s Secret Apartment

Gustave Eiffel’s Secret Apartment
Gustave Eiffel’s Secret Apartment by Greger Ravik on Flickr

5 Avenue Anatole – Paris, 75007

Look down on all of Paris from the secret apartment on the 3rd floor of the Eiffel Tower. Designed by Gustave Eiffel himself, this simple and cozy apartment was the envy of all Parisians. From 305 meters above ground, Eiffel entertained his famous guests including American inventor Thomas Edison. Presently, the apartment is open to visitors and has been restored to its original condition.

Cost: Adults: €25, Ages 12-24: €12.50, Ages 4-11: €6.30, 4 and under: Free
Hours: 21 June – 2 September 9 am – 11 pm   The rest of the year 9:30 am – 10:30 pm
Wheelchair Accessible: No
How to get there: Metro Line 9 – Trocadéro, Line 6 Bir-Hakeim, Line 8 – Ecole Militaire
RER C  – Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel

Musée De La Magie & Musée des Automates

11 Rue Saint-Paul – Paris, 75004

Pop into the Museum of Magic and Curiosity (Musée De La Magie) and learn about the history of magic. The exhibition features peculiar collections of funhouse mirrors, optical illusions, posters, and magicians’ props. Every tour ends with a brief magic show.

The same building houses the Museum of Automata (Musée des Automates). This bizarre display features over 100 mechanical automatas. Each one comes to life with the simple push of a button.

Cost: Adults: €14, Children ages 3 – 12: €10
Hours: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday  2 pm – 7 pm
Wheelchair Accessible: No
How to get there: Metro Line 1 – Saint Paul or Bastille, Line 7 – Sully-Morland

Les Catacombes de Paris

The Catacombs in Paris
The Catacombs in Paris

1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy –  Paris, 75014

“ARRETE! C’EST ICI L’EMPIRE DE LA MORT” (‘STOP! THIS IS THE EMPIRE OF DEATH’)

Venture underground to explore the catacombs of Paris. Human skulls and bones line the walls from floor to ceiling in this world-renowned ossuary.
When the cemeteries of the city could no longer accommodate all the dead, French authorities moved the bodies over 6 million people in the quarries beneath the city. Human remains were taken by the wagonload and unceremoniously disposed of underground. It wasn’t until Napoleon came into power that the bones were arranged in a decorative manner, with the hopes of attracting tourists. Presently, a small section of this 300km tunnel network is open to the members of the public looking for unusual things to do in Paris.

Cost: Full rate: €13
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday  10 am – 8:30 pm
Wheelchair Accessible: No
How to get there: Metro Line 4 – Denfert-Rochereau

La Conciergerie

La Conciergerie
La Conciergerie

2 Boulevard du Palais – Paris, 75001

At the Conciergerie, visitors can tour the Medieval royal palace which was converted into a prison and made famous during the French Revolution. It was here that Marie Antoinette and more than 2500 others were held before being beheaded by guillotine. Today, a small part of it is open to the public, and other areas belong to the Paris court system.

Visitors can explore the dungeons, learn about the French Revolution, read the names of those who were executed, tour the medieval kitchens, and admire the Gothic architecture in The Hall of Men at Arms. Adjacent to this notorious prison is Sainte-Chapelle, home to the most impressive stained glass windows in Paris.

Cost: Adults: €9, 18 and under: Free   Combined ticket with the Sainte-Chapelle: €15
Hours: Daily 9:30 am – 6 pm
Wheelchair accessible: No
How to get there: Metro Line 4 – Cité

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