Secrets of Historic Paris: Neighborhood Walking Tours

There are six main historic districts in Paris. Montmartre on the northern edge of the city, and five in the center: the Islands (Ile de la Cité and Ile St Louis), the Latin Quarter and St-Germain on the Left Bank, and the Marais and Louvre districts on the Right Bank.

  • Secrets of the Islands: Learn about the birthplace of Paris over two millennia ago on the Ile de la Cité, once settled by the Romans, home to the 12th-century Notre Dame Cathedral, Ste-Chapelle and La Conciergerie, the flower market and the oldest bridge in Paris, Pont Neuf. The smaller neighboring island, Ile St Louis, with its charming, 17th-century architecture, art galleries, gift boutiques and food shops, including the famous Berthillon ice cream shop. The oldest hospital in Paris, Prefecture de Police HQ and Palais of Justice Courthouse give the Ile de la Cité an official air with a strong police presence, but pockets of hidden tranquility of you know where to look. Half Day.

  • Secrets of the Latin Quarter: Dismissed by many as a tacky district for students and tourists (and the infamous “Dysentery Alley”), the Latin Quarter nevertheless holds many fascinating secrets of the city’s history: ancient medieval streets, Gothic churches, Roman ruins, the prestigious 13th-century Sorbonne University, the Panthéon, and the Cluny Medieval Museum. Venturing further, you’ll also discover the colorful market street where Hemingway used to stroll, the mosaic-tiled tearoom of a 1920s mosque, the oldest public gardens in Paris (with play areas for the kids), and the charming cobblestone streets lined with bookshops, crêpe stands and arthouse cinemas. Half or Full Day.

  • Secrets of St-Germain: The Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church is all that remains from the powerful abbey that dominated this district from the 5th century until the French Revolution in 1789. After a period of jazz clubs, Existential artists and Lost Generation writers hanging out in the famous sidewalk cafés, it’s now known for its luxury fashion and interior decorating boutiques, high-end dining and wine bistros. Some of our favorite pastry shops and quirky museums are hidden in the passages of this bustling neighborhood, including the strange and creepy Museum of Medical History -- not for weak stomachs! Half or Full Day.

  • Secrets of the Marais: This ever-changing historic district was a swampy marshland in the Middle Ages, an aristocratic district in the 17th century, and a crumbling Jewish ghetto in the early 20th century. It has experienced a complete rebirth over the last 50 years to become one of the city’s favorite shopping, dining and sightseeing districts with up-and-coming fashion designers and cutting-edge art galleries. Tours may include the 17th-century Place des Vosges,  the Place de la Bastille where the French Revolution kicked off, the 20th-century Pompidou Center, or former mansions converted into museums like the Carnavalet History of Paris Museum or the Museum of Nature & Hunting. It’s also a foodie haven, with three of the city’s best open-air and covered food markets and several hidden gardens for enjoying a picnic. Half or Full Day.

  • Secrets of the Louvre District: This isn’t a museum tour, but an exploration of the historic neighborhood surrounding the Louvre, where you’ll find everything from luxury boutiques and stunning historic gardens to cobblestone market streets and elegant covered passages all within less than one compact square mile! First you’ll discover how the 12th-century fortress protecting the heart of Paris eventually transformed into a royal palace and finally the museum as we know it today with its iconic Pyramid. Then we’ll venture beyond the Louvre and its crowds to visit some of the area’s unforgettable sights, including the Tuileries Gardens with its Orangerie and Jeu de Paume museums, the ritzy Place Vendôme with its high-end jewelry shops, the tranquil hidden gardens of the Palais Royal with its scandalous past as the 18th-century “Vegas of Paris”, and the locals’ favorite sidewalk cafés and wine bistros at the Marché St-Honoré. A full day is best to experience everything in this district. 

  • Secrets of Montmartre: Of all the historic country “villages” that were annexed to Paris in the 19th century, Montmartre is the most famous, with its Sacré Coeur Basilica, open-air artists on the Place du Tertre, charming hillside vineyard and racy heyday as home to some of the wildest cabarets, bars and dance halls immortalized by artists like Toulouse Lautrec, Picasso, and Renoir. Some of the city's oldest religious chapels are here, including the crypt where St-Denis was martyred and the Jesuit order was founded in 1534. This neighborhood can be explored in a half day tour, and its location makes it ideal for a full day combined with a visit to the St-Ouen Flea Market or the 19th-century Covered Passages and their charming boutiques. 

Other Neighborhood Walking Tours 

All Secrets of Paris Tours