Secret Paris: 9 Insider Locations You’ll Love

(Credit: Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection © Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, Niney et Marca Architectes, Agence Pierre-Antoine Gatier / Photo Vladimir Partalo)

The French capital is full of iconic sights, but there are some amazing secret spots in Paris too. For hidden gems and insider destinations that locals love, we’ve delved into the heart of secret Paris. From under-the-radar art studios to unexpected concept stores, quirky parks and even a vineyard, here are nine reasons to start planning a trip – or just enjoy some travel inspiration. Paris Perfect’s stylish collection of vacation apartments is another top tip for those in the know!

(Credit: Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection © Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, Niney et Marca Architectes, Agence Pierre-Antoine Gatier / Photo Patrick Tourneboeuf)

Bourse de Commerce

The Bourse de Commerce, an 18th-century stock exchange building in Les Halles district, reopened in May 2021 after an extensive three-year makeover. It has been given fresh life by acclaimed Japanese architect Tadao Ando and now houses the Pinault Collection of contemporary art. Design hunters will love the under-the-radar transformation inside, with Ando adding a striking, nine-metre-high concrete-walled cylinder as a display area within the central glass-domed rotunda. An intriguing blend of old and new, it features 10 exhibition spaces, an auditorium, restaurant and bookshop, plus cutting-edge furniture by French design stars Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. New stairs lead up to a circular walkway atop the cylinder so visitors can admire the grand 19th-century frescoes. 2 rue de Viarmes, 75001

A recreation of Brancusi’s studio (credit)

Atelier Brancusi

Contemporary art fans flock the Pompidou Centre, but few realize that a cultural gem beckons nearby. Modernist sculptor Constantin Brancusi’s studio was reconstructed by Italian architect Renzo Piano on the plaza outside. Born in Romania in 1876, the French-naturalized sculptor, painter and photographer arrived in Paris in 1904 and made his career in France. He became famous for sleekly carved heads, figures, fish and birds in marble, bronze, stone and wood. Unusually, he paid great attention to his plinths, with his studio filled with his tactile works and their bases in whites, creams, golds, greys and browns. Upon his death in 1957, he bequeathed his collection to the state provided his studio – at number 8, then 11, Impasse Ronsin in the 15th – was recreated as it was during his lifetime. Free to enter, this tranquil sanctuary will inspire fans of art and interiors. Place Georges Pompidou, 75004

The charming courtyard entrance of Merci

Merci concept store

In every self-respecting stylist’s little black book, Merci concept store in the Haut Marais is one of the most exciting secret spots in Paris. The hidden courtyard garden greets you first, sporting plants, vines and a button-cute red Fiat 500 car. Inside the cavernous, industrial-chic Merci shop is a haven of covetable fashion and homewares, with a gorgeous canteen and two cafés (The Used Book Café and The Ciné Café). Occupying a 19th-century building once home to a fabric and wallpaper factory, Merci feels like a large house, with generous windows framing lovely views. Founded in 2009 by Marie-France and Bernard Cohen, Merci always surprises, with pop-up exhibitions, themes and art. There’s also The Apartment next door (109), with regularly updated interiors for decor inspiration, and La Civette (113), a space dedicated to collaborations, plus online shopping. 111 boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003

Palais-Royal Paris Perfect

Don’t miss the Palais-Royal – an architectural gem!


It’s easy to visit Paris many times without finding Palais-Royal. This elegant historic arcade hides in plain sight in the 1st arrondissement, but is often missed by visitors seeking more obvious nearby attractions such as the Louvre or Place Vendôme. Originally built for Cardinal Richelieu in the 17th century, then passed to the French royal family, the former palace is now home to an inviting public park surrounded by arcades of luxe designer stores, upscale restaurants and cafés. Verdant hedges, flowers, sculptures, fountains and benches make this a peaceful retreat. For a culture hit, French artist Daniel Buren’s contemporary installation sees candy-striped, black-and-white columns poking up from the floor of the Cour d’Honneur courtyard. Smart Paris Perfect vacation apartment Chopine offers dreamy views over Palais-Royal. 8 rue de Montpensier, 75001

Peaceful moments where Delcroix found inspiration (credit)

Musée National Eugène Delacroix

Charming Musée National Eugène Delacroix in the 6th arrondissement is devoted to the French Romantic artist. This studio-turned-museum is less well known than many of the city’s art galleries but it’s highly rated by local culture vultures. Sketches, paintings, prints and writings by the enigmatic 19th-century artist are displayed in his former apartment and studio, now an intimate museum, alongside his personal possessions and artworks by contemporaries in his circle. Delacroix moved here in 1857 and it became his creative sanctuary until his death in 1863, with a studio set up in the enchanting garden. Changing exhibitions appear alongside the permanent collection. See our earlier blog post for five more must-see Paris art museums beyond the obvious heavy hitters. 6 rue de Furstemberg, 75006

Offbeat Things to See in Paris

See the oldest vineyard in Paris

Le Clos Montmartre

Who knew Paris had a working vineyard? Founded in 1933, Le Clos Montmartre (La Vigne de Montmartre) is the city’s oldest vineyard and one of the most intriguing secret spots in Paris. Nestled in villagey Montmartre behind the Sacré-Coeur, this sloping, hillside patch produces around 1,500 bottles of wine a year. Enjoy postcard-perfect views of its verdant vines from outside the railings on a walk around this delightful, historic area, dotted with colorful-shuttered houses, galleries and cafés. Usually closed to the public, it opens for tours during fall’s harvest festival, Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre (celebrated during October’s second weekend). You can sometimes buy tickets from nearby Musée de Montmartre for a one-hour guided vineyard tour followed by a wine tasting and entry to the museum. Adjacent wild garden Le Jardin Sauvage Saint-Vincent opens occasionally for guided visits too (17 rue Saint-Vincent). Rue des Saules, 75018

Cire Trudon Candle Boutique in Paris - Paris Perfect Blog

Cire Trudon

The oldest candlemaker in Paris, founded in 1643, Cire Trudon is highly prized by connoisseurs of luxury, but its beautiful stores remain a bit of an insider secret. The boutique on the Right Bank radiates old-fashioned charm. Faded blue walls, geometric-tiled floors, opulent doorways and mirrors create a Versailles vibe, coupled with vintage books and antique prints. Home fragrance offerings span signature candles, room sprays, diffusers and scented matches, plus perfumes. Arguably the most seductive scented candle is Abd el Kader, a fresh yet intense waft of Moroccan mint tea, in a sophisticated olive-green glass vessel with a golden label. Candles are covered with glass cloches – lift the jars and smell inside to sample scents. See our blog post for more Cire Trudon buys. There’s a second store in the 6th, two other Paris outlets, and online shopping. 11 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004

Stroll down this charming cobblestone street (credit)

Rue des Thermopyles

Sometimes the best secret spots in Paris are those alluring alleyways that locals love and tourists miss. A rustic oasis in the city, little Rue des Thermopyles is just such a place. It’s a cobblestoned residential street in the 14th arrondissement, lined with potted plants and trailing vines, and dotted with pretty colored shutters, window boxes and doors. You might see a bike leaning against a terrace house or a neighborhood cat wandering its territory. The odd Instagram snapper may also hone into view, especially when the purple wisteria flowers in spring! The name comes from an ancient battle, but the shared garden on this 280-metre-long strip creates a peaceful vibe. Nearby don’t miss narrow Cité Bauer (especially the heart-shaped gate at number 19), Square du Chanoine-Viollet and adjacent rue du Moulin Vert. Montparnasse Cemetery (where writers Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre are buried) and the Paris Catacombs are a stroll away. Rue des Thermopyles, 75014

Sit along the canal on a sunny day at Parc de la Villette (credit)

Parc de la Villette

As the city’s third largest park, Parc de la Villette seems an unlikely contender for a list of secret spots in Paris. Secret Paris isn’t just about small, obscure things though, it’s also about huge attractions that don’t get enough attention from visiting travelers. In the north-east of Paris in the 19th, this unusual, canalside urban park features 137 acres of green space, entertaining cultural sites and 26 bright red metal follies by Bernard Tschumi. The French-Swiss architect designed the 1987-launched park to be interactive, encouraging discovery of 10 gardens with themes from a dragon to bamboo and trellises. Once home to Paris’s slaughterhouses and cattle markets, today La Villette hosts music concerts (at Le Zénith), a major science museum, movie screenings and the summer pop-up Paris Plages beach festival. Canal de l’Ourcq, which divides the park, is a fun place to relax by the water. 211 avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019

2 Responses to “Secret Paris: 9 Insider Locations You’ll Love”

  1. Khalil Ahmed says:

    Delightful information. Thank you.

  2. George H Lesser says:

    The Parc de la Villette is great. But in talking about one of the most dramatically improved parts of central Paris, I would also mention the lovely Canal St. Martin, which more or less starts there, and the spectacular Butte Chaumont, just a few minutes’ walk away.

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