Les Jardins du Ruisseau, Clignancourt Les Jardins du Ruisseau, Clignancourt © Palmyre Roigt

10 things you never knew existed in Paris

Paris might seem a little conventional at first but be prepared to be caught off-guard. The city conceals some wonderfully quirky shops, curious sights and unexpected viewpoints.


Paris Editor

1. Food trucks

In Paris, the burger, meatballs and the hotdog are at the height of food fashion with the food truck as the mother ship. There are about 20 food trucks that work their way around the city, but our favourite is the original Camion Qui Fume, one of the very first to grace the city’s kerbs. www.lecamionquifume.com

Related: Where to find the best burgers in Paris

2. The human zoo

On the north-eastern border of the Vincennes woods, Paris once had a human zoo known as the Jardin d'Agronomie Tropicale. The giant park was built for the 1907 'Colonial Exhibition' and comprises replicas of villages inhabited by locals of each country that was a part of the French colonies: Indochina, Madagascar, the Congo, Sudan, Tunisia and Morocco. The human exhibition closed some years later and its vestiges remain abandoned to this day. Click here for website.Sculpture au Jardin dAgronomie Tropicale

 3. Unusual shop combinations

The strangest shop combination is one in les Batignolles where a DVD rental place also sells clothing like fleece jogging bottoms with flashes of lightning on one of the legs. But the shop-slash-tearoom you’ll probably prefer visiting is Le Plongeoir (the diving board), a beautifully designed Hermès store housed inside the former pool of the adjoining Art Deco style Lutetia Hotel (currently closed for renovation).

Plongeoir Hermes

4. Renovated brands

Move over Ladurée macaroons and Louis Vuitton handbags, the Paris souvenir to take back is a brought-back-from-the-dead heritage object made in France like a Calepino notebook or Limoux espadrilles. www.bleudefrance.fr

Bleu de France Calepino notepad

5. Angels high

Very few people know this, but as writer, photographer, and campaigner for the conservation of the city’s heritage Rosemary Flannery discovered while writing her book Angels of Paris: An Architectural Tour through the History of Paris, the city is full of angels – about 70 in fact. If you look carefully at Paris’ stone façades you will find plenty of angels sculpted in buildings. One of the most impressive has to be the giant angel of the rue de Turbigo that spans three floors of a block of Haussmannien flats. Rosemary also conducts Angels of Paris tours. www.angelsofparis.com

Angels of Paris three foot angel

6. Amazing views from an ugly building

When in Paris, having a drink as close to the stars as possible is a must. The best views of the city, with the Eiffel Tower as the star attraction, are from the very top of what has to be the ugliest building in the city: the non-descript Montparnasse Tower. The sprawling city unfolds before you pinned together by the Grande Dame herself. And there’s even a small champagne bar to quench visitors’ thirst. www.tourmontparnasse56.com


Related: Restaurants with a view: Paris

7. Bistro and wrestling den

Paris has more than its fair share of bistros and restaurants, some of which are among the most unusual we’ve come across in the world, like at La Lucha Libre, a Mexican cantina and…wrestling den. www.laluchalibre.fr

8. Risqué business

Bordellos, or maisons closes in French, were woven into the fabric of the city in its 19th century bohemian heyday. Most closed down a century later, but one of the most evocative has now reopened – as a boutique hotel. Maison Souquet is designed by baroque designer Jacques Garcia and is located in SoPi (South Pigalle) Paris’ newest neighbourhood. 

Souquet-Chambre-3 R

9. Buddhist village

Although not quite on par with London or New York, Paris is slowly becoming more cosmopolitan. However, surprisingly enough there has been a Buddhist centre, the Pagode de Vincennes, in the Vincennes park since the 70s. The mini village of pagodas where Buddhist monks live and meditate is open to visitors on specific days of the week. Click here to visit website.

Buddhist pagoda.Bouddha de la Pagode de Vincennes

10. Unexpected garden belt

For a view of Paris that snakes high above the city and plunges down below, walk the Petite Ceinture, or ‘PC’ as it locally known (small belt), which is an abandoned railway that runs all around Paris. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the PC in the 18th-arrondissement neighbourhood of Clignancourt at Les Jardins du Ruisseau community garden and move on to the bar La REcyclerie, which opened disused Ornano train station across the tracks from the Jardins last year. Alternatively visitors can explore the section of the PC in the 15th arrondissement in the elevated garden created by Mayor Anne Hidalgo in 2014 that recalls the New York High Line. www.jardinons-ensemble.org and www.larecyclerie.com



1 Jardin d'agronomie tropicale (The Human Zoo)
2 Le Plongeior
3 Bleu de France
4 Montparnasse Tower
5 La Lucha Libre
6 Maison Souquet
7 Pagode de Vincennes (Buddhist Village)
8 La REcyclerie