You know Paris by its hundreds of iconic monuments and museums. But I’m not going to talk about those here. Here, I’m writing about the hidden gems for your Paris honeymoon that aren’t often mentioned in articles because their more famous counterparts hog the conversation. If you want to enhance your Paris honeymoon or vacation with ideas that are outside the box, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive in!
1. Electric Bike Tour
Do you like going fast? In the middle of directionless traffic? Then this tour, my friends, is for you! When we told our friends we were going to Paris, the first thing they recommended we do was this electric bike tour of the city. Never been on an electric bike before? Neither had I and let me tell you, it’s super fun. Wind whipping through your hair as you take in the sites from a “bike” that motors you around town. It’s like being on a moped without needing a driver’s license to rent it.
Not only is the electric bike a thrill of an experience, but our tour guide, Lemon (nickname), was one of the best guides. His storytelling made history fun! He told us about Louis XIV brother, Philippe, who loved the more promiscuous things of life and turned the royal palace into a 24/7 party destination. The only way anyone at the palace knew the time was when the little cannon in the royal garden exploded promptly at noon each day.
While breezing around, we went to historic places that don’t make it into tourist guides. Did you know that Paris is home to Arènes de Lutèce, a sporting arena built by the Romans where events like gladiator fighting took place? If this sounds like Rome’s Colosseum, you’re spot on. This arena was built to accommodate spectators who lived in or close to Paris.
All this and more is what you’ll discover on this electric bike tour. We booked through Paris Charms and Secrets and I would highly recommend this company. Like I said, our tour guide, Lemon, was fantastic!
2. Moulin Rouge
Do not be fooled. Moulin Rouge is not a tourist trap. It is a unique experience worth your time. Just walking into the cabaret threw me back to the 1900s. All across the room, you will hear a familiar "pop" -- of a champagne cork. Greg and I wondered why there were no other drinks being served. It appeared only as if you could order champagne. I was intrigued and needed to know why so I looked it up. The Moulin Rouge was a celebratory destination. Parisians would go there to have fun, celebrate and let the good times roll. As champagne is the drink for celebration, that was what was served. Mystery solved. Moulin Rouge is now the largest purveyor of champagne in the world each year.
Did you know that the Moulin Rouge was burned down in 1915? It was rebuilt in 1921 and now has a history of over 125 years. The show itself dazzles. If you think you know what to expect, think again. You will be surprised by intermittent delights which I will keep to myself. When you experience it, email me at Kristen@LoveNotery.com and let me know what curiosity was your favorite. I’ve got mine!
We went to the 11 pm show and beforehand, we explored Montmartre, the neighborhood adjacent to Moulin Rouge, also home to the second most visited monument in Paris, Sacré-Coeur. Catch amazing views of Paris from hundreds of feet above the city, and, of course, the Sacré-Coeur itself is second to none. Behind the historic church are winding, quaint streets with dozens of restaurants and bars to discover.
Make this destination a romantic date night by seeing the Sacré-Coeur, sharing a kiss looking out at the entirety of Paris, strolling the streets of Montmartre and then going to the Moulin Rouge.
3. Seine River tour
I can think of few things better than seeing Paris, the City of Light, by boat at night when the city lights up and you get to discover it from a whole new perspective. Many of Paris’ most famous monuments (the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre) all reside on the edge of the Seine River. Seeing the Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling while cruising down the river is a memory I will never forget.
It’s easy to catch this tour after a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Just take the stairs down to the river where you will see signs to buy your tickets. We got the 8 pm boat. It departed just as the Eiffel Tower started its nightly twinkling show (on the hour every hour at night). That set the mood and we were off to take in all the sites by water. The tour embraces everything about this romantic city and lasts about an hour. After, make some dinner reservations and reminisce on everything you experienced that day.
This whole category is dedicated simply to walking around and seeing what you see. Our trip was less about going to every monument and museum in Paris and more about living a few days like the locals do -- stopping into shops and restaurants when we felt like it and ordering coffee and pastries to our hearts' desire.
While every neighborhood in Paris has its highlights and crazy cool architecture, I loved Le Marais, St. Germaine and Montmartre. These three were just the most charming and full of life to me with a more local vibe than the others we went to. I absolutely adored all the cafes with their sidewalk seating. It was great seeing people laughing, connecting and having a good time like there was nothing better to be doing in that moment. The fashion is also another big highlight of exploring. Parisians are some of the best dressed I have ever seen. They are so put together and it makes me want to step up my game. The one neighborhood I didn’t get to explore but wish I had was the Latin Quarter. I hear it is not as touristy and also a hot spot for watching soccer games when the local teams have a match (so says Lemon).
While exploring, you will run into a number of beautifully-maintained gardens. They just don’t do gardens like this in the U.S. Take a picnic of charcuterie, bottle of wine and cheese and spend a few hours enjoying the view.
To get around, we preferred walking in most cases to counteract all those pastries we were eating but the metro system is extremely efficient as well. In a few cases like on our journey from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower, we took those motorized scooters, Birds, from place to place.
I know it’s weird that I put hotel on my list, but more and more, I have realized how important a nice, even a luxury, hotel is to the travel experience, especially on your honeymoon. You don’t want to dread going back to your hotel in Paris as this is your place of respite from long days out on the town after adventures and explorations. If you’re like me, you’ll be really tired and excited to relax. It’ll enhance your experience if the hotel feels like home as much as possible.
We stayed at the boutique Le General hotel in Le Marais and really enjoyed it. It was within walking distance to many restaurants and cafes for our morning caffeine fix. It was close to the metro. The staff was accommodating. They offered breakfast each morning. Even though we didn’t partake, it was nice knowing that it was there if we needed it. It had free Wifi and I liked that they gave us a new bottle of water each day. It’s the little things that go a long way. We also reserved our hotel in a less touristy area of town. If you want to be off the beaten path, plan your hotel’s location accordingly.
6. Pastry Baking
The next couple of to-dos that made my list are all food and drink related. Because, well, that’s what you do on a honeymoon or vacation. Ha! Or at least, that’s what I do.
I signed us up for a pastry baking class through Airbnb experiences. Pro tip - this is a great way to do something different while you’re traveling and meet interesting natives too!
We met our pastry chef Oliver, along with four other eager-to-learn bakers at his apartment on the cutest street in St. Germaine. Soon, we were pouring flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla and other ingredients into bowls, pans and pastry bags to make three different French pastries – eclairs, cheese brioche and sugar brioche. It was so fun not only to learn new recipes and try not to mess up the directions, but also to meet people from all over the world and hear about their life experiences. At the end of the class, we got to eat our delicious treats and take some home with us too!
Speaking of not messing up the directions… I have a story to share! We had filled up the pastry bags with custard and were about to squirt it into the eclairs when a drop of the custard got on my hand. Oliver looked at me and said, “Well, I guess you’re going to have to try it.” I did not hesitant and licked that custard right up. But what I tasted wasn’t sweet. It was salty! Salty, my brain couldn’t compute because it was supposed to be sweet. I tried again, thinking maybe I got some salt on my hand. Nope. Still salty! My face said it all and Oliver changed his expression. “It’s salty?” he asked surprised. Then, I gave the custard to him for a try. No need to answer., we could all tell from the look on his face. Everyone in the class laughed hysterically. The sugar and the salt must have gotten mixed up!! I saved everyone from eating salty eclairs.
7. Food & Drink
French food is some of my favorite in the entire world. Who doesn’t love steak frites, French onion soup, crepes, cream puffs… come on! I got to say that this is Greg’s forte. He’s great at researching top-notch restaurants for us to try.
Here are some of my tasty recommendations:
1. La Jacobine for French onion soup
4. Chez Aline for jambon y bure
5. Berthllion for ice cream
7. Miznon for the BEST beef bourguignon pita you will ever taste!!!
Basically, we ate our way through Paris and I wasn’t mad about it. It’s easy to stumble into a restaurant by a major tourist spot because it’s convenient but it’s often not the best food. Do a little research before you leave and have some places in mind to avoid this trap.
We love to get our day started with a good cup of coffee and delectable pastries. My personal favs are almond, chocolate or pistachio croissants. Then, mid-afternoon, we stopped for round two. Fortunately, coffee is a way of life in France and you don’t have to be near as discerning about it as you do food. But, there were some standouts to mention:
Ob-La-Di in Le Marais
Ten Belles in Canal St. Marteen
The Boot Cafe in Le Marais
We spent five days in Paris and that felt like the right amount of time to see and do what we wanted to. We didn’t put too many activities in any one day to leave time for a random adventure to unfold like when we got tied up at a restaurant talking to an English teacher in Korea about his future career goals (he is just out of school and still deciding what he wants to do).
These are my 7 hidden gems of Paris for your honeymoon or vacation with a few hints on how to unlock some amazing experiences in this city of love outside of the museums and monuments that are normally on other lists. If you have any specific questions, shoot me an email at Kristen@LoveNotery.com and I’ll see what I can do to help.
Now I want to hear from you – what Paris must-dos are on your list? What do you recommend for my next trip and to others who are looking for other hidden gems?
Here are a few more pictures because they're so fun!