My Personal Paris Picks: 8 Underrated Tours for the Traveler Seeking Solitude
As a devoted globetrotter, I’ve always been drawn to Paris’ magnetic charm.
That’s part of the reason I now live here. But, even with that said, we all need a break from the masses now and then – including me!
That’s why I’ve put together this unique list of eight lesser-known tours that let you soak up the City of Lights without the crowds.
So, my fellow travelers, let’s skip the lines and explore Paris like true insiders. At the end, I’ve included references to English versions of French websites where you can look up more information.
[*Also, you’ll notice I already embedded various trips and tours into my article for you. Just click on any of them for more information, timings and tickets, etc. I have to add that if you book one, then they pay me a small commission which helps fund my writing efforts and websites. It’s my full-time job after all. So thank you.]
- Private guided tours
- Sainte-Chapelle and Conciergerie combined tour
- Musée de l’Orangerie tour
- Paris’ covered passages tour
- Musée Marmottan Monet tour
- Père Lachaise Cemetery tour
- Canal Saint-Martin cruise
- Walking tour of hidden courtyards and gardens
1. The Ultimate Personalized Adventure: Private Guided Tours
There’s something truly special about having a private guided tour – one that’s tailor-made just for you.
When I took one such tour in Paris, my guide, Pierre – an experienced French local – picked me up from my apartment and took me on a customized adventure based on my interests. It felt like I had a friend showing me around the city.
One of the highlights of my private tour was visiting the picturesque Montmartre neighborhood, famous for its bohemian charm and artistic history. Pierre led me through its winding, cobblestone streets, offering fascinating insights into the lives of renowned artists who once lived and worked there, such as Picasso and Van Gogh.
We also stopped at lesser-known spots, like the tranquil Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet, where I marveled at the stunning views of Paris.
As the day went on, we explored secret gardens, hidden courtyards, and charming local markets (see below).
I truly appreciated the flexibility of the tour, as I could ask my guide to adjust our itinerary according to my preferences. We could spend as much time as I wanted at each location, and Pierre even suggested some off-the-beaten-path eateries for lunch.
The beauty of a private guided tour lies in its exclusivity and customization. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, share stories, and create a truly memorable experience. Plus, your guide will know the best times to visit popular attractions, helping you avoid the crowds and busiest areas as well as make the most of your time in Paris.
2. Time-Travel to Medieval Paris: Sainte-Chapelle and Conciergerie Combined Tour
I’ll never forget the first time I stepped foot into the mesmerizing Sainte-Chapelle, located in the heart of Île de la Cité.
The stunning stained-glass windows, which depict over 1,000 scenes from the Bible, cast a breathtaking kaleidoscope of colors throughout the chapel (1).
Our knowledgeable guide shared intriguing details about the building’s history, its connection to King Louis IX, and the painstaking process of restoring the stained glass.
Just a short walk away, we visited the Conciergerie, a medieval palace turned prison during the French Revolution. Our guide painted vivid pictures of the building’s storied past, from the opulent royal banquets held within its walls to the chilling final moments of Marie Antoinette, who was imprisoned there before her execution (2).
As we explored the dimly lit cells and the stunning Hall of the Soldiers, I felt transported back in time.
This combined tour of Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie provides an intimate glimpse into Paris’ medieval history, away from the more crowded attractions like Notre-Dame.
The knowledgeable guides ensure a memorable experience that will leave you spellbound.
3. My Tranquil Art Retreat: Musée de l’Orangerie Tour
Nestled within the idyllic Tuileries Gardens, the Musée de l’Orangerie has always been my sanctuary for quiet contemplation amidst Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.
The museum houses a stunning collection of works by renowned artists such as Renoir, Matisse, and Picasso. But the crown jewel of the collection is, without a doubt, Monet’s famous Water Lilies series (3).
During the guided tour, our art historian guide shared fascinating insights into the creation of the Water Lilies series and Monet’s innovative techniques.
As we moved through the two oval rooms displaying the massive, immersive paintings, I was struck by the tranquility and beauty they evoked, as if I was standing beside Monet’s own pond in Giverny.
We also explored the museum’s lesser-known lower level, which showcases a diverse range of works by artists like Cézanne, Modigliani, and Soutine. Our guide’s passion for the subject brought each piece to life, adding depth and context to our experience.
If you’re an art lover seeking respite from the bustling Parisian streets, the Musée de l’Orangerie tour is a must. The serene atmosphere and captivating art make for a truly unforgettable experience.
4. A Journey Through Time: Paris’ Covered Passages Tour
One of my favorite ways to escape the hustle and bustle of Paris is to wander through its enchanting covered passages. These hidden gems, dating back to the 19th century, offer a delightful glimpse into the city’s past.
On this guided tour, we meandered through a selection of these passages, admiring their elegant architecture, unique shops, and cozy cafés.
Our guide regaled us with stories of the passages’ vibrant history, from their fashionable beginnings as the go-to spots for Parisian high society, to their decline and subsequent revival (4).
As we strolled along, I couldn’t help but be charmed by the intricate glass roofs, ornate mosaics, and antique bookshops.
Some of my favorite passages from the tour include the Galerie Vivienne, with its beautifully restored Neoclassical décor, and the Passage des Panoramas, home to an array of quirky boutiques and vintage postcard sellers. Each passage exuded its own unique atmosphere, making the tour a delightful journey through time.
For those seeking an offbeat and leisurely experience, the Paris’ Covered Passages Tour is a must. You’ll feel like you’ve discovered the city’s best-kept secrets, while also enjoying a respite from the crowds.
5. A Monet Haven: Musée Marmottan Monet Tour
As a fervent admirer of Claude Monet’s work, the Musée Marmottan Monet has always held a special place in my heart. This charming museum, located in a quiet residential neighborhood, boasts the largest collection of Monet paintings in the world, including his iconic piece, “Impression, Sunrise” (5).
During the guided tour, our expert guide shared captivating stories about Monet’s life, artistic evolution, and his famous Giverny gardens. We also explored the museum’s diverse collection of works by other Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, such as Morisot, Renoir, and Gauguin.
One of the highlights of the tour was learning about the museum’s history as a former hunting lodge and the fascinating story behind its transformation into an art haven. I was also pleasantly surprised by the museum’s collection of illuminated manuscripts, which added another layer of intrigue to our visit.
If you’re an art enthusiast seeking a more intimate and serene experience, the Musée Marmottan Monet Tour is the perfect choice. With its tranquil setting and exceptional collection, this tour is sure to leave you inspired.
6. A Peaceful Oasis Amidst the City: Père Lachaise Cemetery Tour
For a serene and reflective experience, I recommend a guided tour of the Père Lachaise Cemetery, the largest and most famous cemetery in Paris. The cemetery’s lush greenery, winding pathways, and stunning funerary art create a tranquil oasis that feels worlds away from the bustling city.
As we meandered through the peaceful grounds, our knowledgeable guide shared the fascinating stories and legends behind the cemetery’s most famous residents, including Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison (6).
We also explored the lesser-known corners of the cemetery, admiring the ornate tombs and mausoleums that showcase the artistic mastery of their creators.
One of the most memorable moments of the tour was visiting the poignant memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, a sobering reminder of the tragic events that unfolded during World War II. Our guide’s sensitive and informative approach deepened our understanding of the site’s historical significance.
The Père Lachaise Cemetery Tour offers a unique and contemplative experience that allows visitors to connect with the city’s rich history and vibrant cultural tapestry.
7. A Relaxing Escape: Canal Saint-Martin Cruise
For a truly laid-back and picturesque experience, I can’t recommend the Canal Saint-Martin cruise highly enough. This hidden gem winds through a charming, bohemian neighborhood, offering a glimpse into the laid-back, lesser-known side of Paris.
I adore hopping aboard a leisurely cruise along the canal, where I can watch locals picnicking along the water’s edge and admire the charming footbridges and greenery (7).
This soothing cruise is a refreshing change from the usual Seine River tours. As we glided past street art-adorned walls and quirky houseboats, our guide shared fascinating insights into the canal’s history, its connection to Napoleon, and the intricate system of locks and bridges that keep the waterway functioning.
The relaxed atmosphere on the Canal Saint-Martin cruise is perfect for unwinding after a day of exploring the city.
You’ll not only enjoy the scenic beauty but also gain a deeper understanding of Parisian life away from the typical tourist hotspots.
8. A Peek Into Paris’ Artistic Underground: Street Art Tour
I highly recommend joining a guided tour that unveils the city’s captivating murals, graffiti, and other urban art forms. You’ll gain insight into the stories behind the creations and the local artists who crafted them (8).
The tour takes you through diverse neighborhoods, showcasing the city’s ever-evolving street art landscape. From intricate stencils to large-scale murals, the variety of styles and techniques on display is truly impressive.
Our guide’s passion and expertise brought the artwork to life, providing context and meaning to each piece.
This offbeat tour is an excellent way to experience the city’s contemporary pulse while avoiding the more crowded, mainstream attractions. You’ll leave with a newfound appreciation for the creativity and talent that flourishes in the streets of Paris.
What We’ve Learned
Paris is a treasure trove of hidden gems and lesser-known attractions waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re an art lover, history buff, or simply looking for a quieter experience away from the crowds, these eight underrated tours are sure to provide unforgettable memories.
By venturing off the beaten path, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the City of Lights and its many layers.
Remember, the best way to explore Paris is to embrace the city’s unique charms and immerse yourself in its rich history and culture. So, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and embark on these exceptional tours – you’ll be rewarded with a more intimate, authentic, and memorable experience.
Happy travels, and enjoy your journey through the captivating streets of Paris!
- Centre des monuments nationaux. (n.d.). Sainte-Chapelle. https://www.sainte-chapelle.fr/en
- Centre des monuments nationaux. (n.d.). Conciergerie. https://www.paris-conciergerie.fr/en/
- Musée de l’Orangerie. (n.d.). History The Water Lilies. https://www.musee-orangerie.fr/en/node/33
- Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. (n.d.). Covered Passages.
- Musée Marmottan Monet. (n.d.). The collection. https://www.marmottan.fr/en/la-collection/
- Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. (n.d.). https://www.pere-lachaise.com/
- Paris Canal. (n.d.). Discover the Saint-Martin canal. https://www.pariscanal.com/en/cruises-canals-paris/cruise-paris-seine-waterways-2/
- Street Art Tour Paris. (n.d.). https://streetarttourparis.com/