Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris
Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Skip the Tourist Traps, Experience Paris Like a Local
Paris is filled with famous sites and tourist attractions, from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre. While these icons are worth seeing, visiting only the main tourist spots means missing out on the real Paris that locals love. Avoid the crowds and tourist traps to experience the Paris that Parisians adore.
Instead of waiting in an endless line at the Eiffel Tower, head to the Trocadero across the river. This area offers stunning views of the iconic tower without the headaches. Or for a quirkier experience, check out the mini Statue of Liberty replica on the Île aux Cygnes. At only 11.5 meters tall, it makes for a fun photo opp without the fanfare.
Skip the packed cafés on the Champs-Élysées and instead wander down Rue Cler in the 7th arrondissement. This pedestrian market street offers an authentic Parisian experience, complete with charming cafés, specialty food shops, and locals going about their daily routines. Grab an espresso at Café du Marché and do some prime people watching.
Avoid the crowds and high prices of Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur and head to the historic Belleville neighborhood. Once home to Edith Piaf, this working-class area offers a different perspective with its street art-covered walls and diverse culture. Don't miss the Parc de Belleville for stunning city views.
Instead of fighting the hordes at Versailles to snap a quick selfie in the Hall of Mirrors, check out the Musée Nissim de Camondo in the 8th. Housed in a lavish mansion, this museum provides an intimate look into 18th century aristocratic life without the hassle.
Ditch the touristy bike tours and opt for a self-guided ride along the paths in the Bois de Vincennes. Covering nearly 1,000 acres, this sprawling green space allows you to explore at your own pace. Stop to visit the beautiful Parc Floral gardens and Château de Vincennes along the way.
Avoid the long lines and inflated prices of Montmartre’s Sacré-Cœur Basilica and head to Saint-Sulpice Church instead. This ornate church in the 6th arrondissement rivals Sacré-Cœur’s architecture without the tourist crowds. Make sure to see the famous obelisk and gilt frescoes.
Rather than jostling with crowds at the Love Locks on the Pont des Arts bridge, walk along the lesser-known pedestrian Pont de l’Archevêché bridge. Romantics can add their own lock to this bridge while enjoying gorgeous Seine River views with fewer tourists.
Skip the mobs in the Tuileries Garden and relax in the Luxembourg Gardens instead. These exquisite formal gardens offer over 60 acres of fountains, statues, and flowerbeds to explore. Watch locals play chess or grab a book and relax under the shade trees.
Avoid the long waits at Ladurée and instead sample macarons from Pierre Hermé, Sadaharu Aoki, or Jean-Paul Hévin. These renowned pâtissiers create incredible French pastries without the hype. You can even take classes at some locations to learn baking secrets.
What else is in this post?
- Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Skip the Tourist Traps, Experience Paris Like a Local
- Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Hidden Gems Off the Beaten Path
- Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Navigate the Arrondissements Like a True Parisian
- Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Where to Find the Best Pastries Outside of the Main Bakeries
- Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Local Markets: The Beating Heart of Each Neighborhood
- Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Neighborhood Cafes: Relax and Watch Local Life Unfold
- Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Packing Tips: Avoid Looking Like an Obvious Tourist
- Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Getting Around: Tips for Using the Metro Like a Pro
Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Hidden Gems Off the Beaten Path
Leaving the well-trodden tourist path reveals Paris's hidden charms. While the major sites dazzle, getting off the beaten track provides intimate glimpses into Parisian life. Meandering the backstreets unveils a different side of the City of Light.
Skip the packed cafes along Canal St. Martin and cross over to Quai de Valmy. Here locals bask along the canal's shaded banks and enjoy the relaxed pace. Grab a coffee or crepe and blend in. For a picnic with stellar views, head to Square du Vert-Galant overlooking the meeting of the Seine and Marne rivers. Watch boats ply the waters while enjoying a baguette.
Leave the bustling Marais and opt for a stroll down Rue des Rosiers in . Once the heart of Paris's Jewish quarter, this atmospheric street brims with kosher restaurants, bakeries, and Judaica shops. Pop into Sacha Finkelsztajn for heavenly baked treats like rugelach. Don't miss the adjacent Rue des Écouffes, the narrowest street in Paris.
Avoid the crowds at Père Lachaise and explore Montparnasse Cemetery instead. Wander past the impressive monuments to France's intellectual elite, like Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge Gainsbourg. For excellent people watching, snag a seat at Le Select cafe, legendary hangout of expats like Hemingway and Picasso.
Shun the hordes descending on Sacré-Cœur and head to the offbeat Butte-aux-Cailles neighborhood. Once a rural village swallowed by the growing metropolis, its unspoiled streets provide a peaceful escape. Enjoy live music and cheap eats at authentic bars like Le Merle Moqueur.
Ditch the tourists amassed at Versailles and make the quick train ride to Chantilly instead. Far fewer visitors pack this magnificent chateau housing an impressive art collection. Its sprawling gardens inspire with lush greenery and fanciful follies. Visit on race days to experience the excitement of the horses thundering past.
Avoid the crowded cafes on Île Saint-Louis and cross over to within shouting distance of Notre Dame. Tucked beside the Gothic masterpiece, Square Jean XXIII hosts locals playing boules or simply taking in the magnificent church. Grab a crepe from the unassuming West Country cafe and take in the views.
Leave the packed promenade along the Seine and take to the quieter walkways behind the riverfront mansions. Cross over to Rue de l'Université where well-heeled Parisians live in Haussmann-era splendor. Peek through the gates at private courtyards filled with greenery. Around the corner, gourmets grab pastries at Pierre Hermé or fresh fare at upscale La Grande Epicerie. This neighborhood elegantly seduces.
Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Navigate the Arrondissements Like a True Parisian
Paris’ 20 arrondissements each have their own unique vibes, from the chic boutiques of the 8th to the bohemian cafés of the 11th. While many visitors stick to the central 1st and 2nd arrondissements, getting out into the other districts provides an authentic glimpse of daily Parisian life. Wandering beyond the margins of your map unveils Paris’ diverse personalities.
Venture over to the 10th arrondissement near Canal St. Martin for an artsy atmosphere. Formerly a gritty industrial area, the 10th now overflows with creative energy. Hip boutiques, art galleries, and a flourishing cafe culture make this area a magnet for young Parisians. The streets come alive on Sundays when cars are banned along the canal. Locals flock here to browse the book stalls and watch street performers.
Just south lies the 11th arrondissement, beloved for its revolutionary spirit and vintage vibes. Years ago, radical thinkers plotted the overthrow of kings in the cafés around Place de la Bastille. Today the area still pushes boundaries with an edgy arts scene. Grungy nightclubs and indie cinemas pack the streets. The Marché Bastille hosts an amazing selection of produce and food stalls, perfect for assembling a picnic.
Venture west across the Seine to encounter the tonier side of Paris. The posh avenues and mansions of the 8th arrondissement ooze old money elegance. Window shop the luxury flagship stores lining Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. For people watching, grab an outdoor table at Ladurée and watch fur-clad matrons lunching on macarons. Nearby Parc Monceau provides a peaceful urban oasis with its English-inspired landscaping.
Just south lies the sedate 7th arrondissement anchored by the Eiffel Tower. The orderly streets surrounding the iconic landmark exude a refined residential vibe. The wide esplanade of Les Invalides makes an ideal spot for resting weary feet after climbing the Eiffel Tower's steps. Afterward, browse the antiques shops on Rue du Bac. Stop at Ladurée for macarons in their original location.
Venturing east across the Seine again leads to the buzzing heart of historic Paris. The 1st arrondissement forms the core of the city with showstoppers like the Louvre and Palais-Royal. Yet just beyond the glitz, atmospheric narrow streets tempt exploration on foot. The bustling shops of Rue de Rivoli and Place des Victoires showcase Paris' fashion pedigree. After the crowds thin, the Opera district's grand cafés invite lingering over vin chaud.
Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Where to Find the Best Pastries Outside of the Main Bakeries
Parisians know that the tastiest pastries hide outside the major tourist bakeries. While Pierre Hermé and Ladurée attract crowds, local purveyors craft divine treats loved by those in the know. Searching out these spots takes insider knowledge but rewards with melt-in-your-mouth magic.
Venture over to Rue Poncelet in the 17th arrondissement near Parc Monceau to discover Du Pain et des Idées. Named the third best bakery in Paris, it draws locals from across the city. The traditional wood-fired oven turns out marvelous country breads, but the pastries astound. The chaussons aux pommes overflow with juicy apple filling and flaky crust. Sink your teeth into the light-as-air flan pâtissier, or try a magnifique millefeuille. Don't forgo the ultra rich chocolate éclair.
Hardcore chocolate lovers salivate for the creations of Patrick Roger. This renowned chocolatier dazzles with jewel-like bonbons and silky ganaches. But his pastries elicit true rapture. The Opéra reimagines the classic with lush chocolate sponge layers and truffle cream. For the ultimate indulgence, try the émotion chocolat combining chocolate brioche, ganache, and salted caramel. Stop by his workshop in the 15th or his tearoom in the 7th for a taste of heaven.
In the 6th, Hugo & Victor thrills with luminous displays almost too beautiful to eat. This relative newcomer concocts edible art like the raspberry lychee tart topped with mini meringues. Their Paris-Tokyo stuns with yuzu cream, red fruit, and matcha macaron. Or simply surrender blissfully to their vanilla or chocolate eclairs. Don't deny their chocolate boxes either - pure magic.
Meander away from the Seine to the 13th arrondissement and find Gâteau d'Emotions. Tucked away on a side street, this homey neighborhood bakery churns out some of Paris's dreamiest pastries. Indulge in their excellent Paris-Brest choux pastry oozing praline cream. Try the stunning fraises façon Sacher, combining chocolate cake, strawberries, and whipped cream. Or bask in the glory of their crunchy-creamy millefeuille. You'll spot many regulars sitting down to savor the goods with a café au lait.
In the multicultural 20th, Maison Saigon beckons those craving Asian-French fusion. This beloved spot fuses French pastry techniques with Vietnamese flavors like pandan coconut. Their outrageously fluffy bánh bò nuong hides a velvety coconut custard in choux pastry. The creamy pandan kouign-amann offers heavenly bites of tropical paradise. Don't miss their dainty madeleines either. Pair your pastries with Vietnamese coffee for full bliss.
Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Local Markets: The Beating Heart of Each Neighborhood
Paris comes alive in its markets, where locals shop for the freshest ingredients while soaking in the authentic sights, sounds, and smells. More than just places to buy food, these marchés form the beating heart of each quartier and provide an intimate window into neighborhood life. The regulars shopping and gossiping, vendors hollering deals in charming accents, displays of colorful produce - markets represent Parisian joie de vivre. Wandering through their chaotic energy connects you with the real city beyond the postcard perfect facades.
Nowhere embodies this spirit more than the sprawling Marché d’Aligre in the 12th. Centered around the covered Marché Beauvau, this market stretches through the winding streets seven days a week. Outdoor stalls proffer everything from fresh flowers to antique books on weekends. Inside Beauvau, samples of local cheeses and cured meats tempt while vendors animatedly hawk their wares. Don't miss the olive man displaying dozens of varieties or the rotisserie chicken stand always drawing crowds. Grab a schnitzel sandwich at the Austrian deli before browsing wines and charcuterie for the perfect picnic provisions.
Nearby in the 11th, the picturesque Marché Bastille reigns as one of the best large markets in Paris. Sundays bring droves hunting for fresh produce, meat, fish, and cheese among its outdoor stands. After stocking up on berries from Loire Valley farmers, pick out a crusty baguette and stinky Époisses cheese. Inside you’ll find prepared foods from across the globe, including paella, Vietnamese pho, crepes, and more. The options seem endless, so arrive hungry.
In the 6th, noodle through the narrow lanes leading to the delightful Rue de Buci. Each morning this pedestrian street comes alive with stands of fresh-cut flowers, produce, and regional French specialties. Grab an olive baguette, some Comté cheese, and a tart mirabelle plum before joining locals at a sidewalk café. Sip your café au lait while watching shoppers bargain with scarf and book vendors.
Near the Eiffel Tower, the 7th arrondissement’s open-air Marché Raspail delights foodies multiple days a week. Heirloom vegetable farmers and artisanal cheese mongers cater to the neighborhood’s discerning shoppers. Don’t miss the weekends, when it’s best to arrive early for the freshest options. Stop by Café de la Nouvelle Marie for an omelet with your market finds before they scamper away.
Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Neighborhood Cafes: Relax and Watch Local Life Unfold
Beyond the bustling boulevards and tourist traps, Paris comes alive in its quintessential neighborhood cafés. These unpretentious spots full of locals sipping coffee or lingering over wine invite you to slow down. Pull up a rickety chair on the terrace and become part of the community for a while. Observe friends chuckling together, lovers stealing kisses, regulars debating politics or football. Parisian life in the raw, unfolding around you.
Void the crowded cafés surrounding the Pompidou Center and cross into the Marais instead. On lively Rue des Rosiers sits L’As du Fallafel, beloved institution of the Jewish quarter. Their falafel sandwiches draw queues for good reason – perfectly crisp on the outside, green inside, and bursting with flavor. Grab your falafel and snag a picnic table on the street for optimal people watching. There’s no better spot to witness the Marais’s fascinating mélange of hipsters, long-time residents, and tourists.
Nearby, make a beeline for Mariage Frères in the 3rd arrondissement. Established in 1854, this venerable tea emporium now has locations worldwide. But the original retains its old-world charm with vintage adverts and teas displayed in wooden drawers. The informed staff loves explaining their hundreds of teas from China, India, and beyond. Once you’ve selected your leaves, head upstairs to their elegant 19th century salon. Sink into a plush velvet chair by the fireplace and watch rain streak the towering windows. The whoosh of the samovar brewing your tea completes a trip back in time.
In artsy Montparnasse, La Coupole dazzles with its sumptuous 1920s décor. Founded by expat artists, this enormous brasserie has hosted everyone from Picasso to Ernest Hemingway over vin rouge and steak frites. The cavernous main dining room impresses with skylights, etched glass panels, and marble columns. But for true voyeurism, angle for a coveted terrace seat facing Boulevard du Montparnasse. Gaze over your café crème as stylish Parisians and travelers alike stroll by.
Near the Eiffel Tower, Café du Marché beckons in the 7th arrondissement. This neighborhood hangout epitomizes Parisian café culture with its bustling terrace and unpretentious vibe. Join schoolkids gossiping over Nutella crepes and besuited businessmen downing espresso at the zinc counter. Grab the daily plat du jour or a baguette sandwich and watch posh locals walk their dogs down Rue Cler.
For a taste of old Montmartre, Café la Fourmi in the 18th arrondissement delivers. Neighborhood residents have congregated here for over a century, as evidenced by the well-worn wooden floor. Claim a sidewalk table facing the steps of Sacré-Cœur for excellent people watching potential. Linger over your noisette coffee and relish the slow pace of life persisting in Montmartre.
Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Packing Tips: Avoid Looking Like an Obvious Tourist
Nothing screams tourist more than wearing sneakers, shorts, and a baseball cap in Paris. While comfortable, this clothing clashes with the city’s culture of sophistication. Parisians touting scarves and leather boots make foreigners in athletic shoes appear sloppy and underdressed. Looking like a local requires channeling chic French style in your wardrobe. Packing the right versatile items ensures you blend in while fully enjoying Paris’s attractions.
Leave the white sneakers at home and invest in a quality pair of leather walking shoes, ballet flats, or ankle boots instead. These still allow plenty of mobility while giving your outfit a more refined touch. Neutral colors like black, brown, navy, or grey fit any occasion from museums to cafés. For rainy days, lace-up rubber-soled boots protect your feet without sacrificing fashion. Just don’t even think about wearing clunky hiking boots around town.
While athletic leggings and shorts seem convenient, they make you stand out like a sore thumb. Opt for structured trousers, fitted dark jeans, or leggings that resemble trousers with side seams instead. Capri pants ending just below the knee strike that perfect balance between mobility and chic. Throw a crisp button-down or drapey blouse on top and you’ll blend right in. Leave the sweatshirts and pullovers behind in favor of trendy jackets.
Do as the French do and accessorize with scarves, silk neckties, or a stylish hat. These instantly make you appear more fashionable while hiding bad hair days. In cooler months, don a cozy cashmere wrap or perfectly knotted wool scarf. Add timeless jewelry like a gold bracelet or necklace instead of rubber ones from a gift store. Carry a chic leather purse rather than that bulky nylon backpack.
While traveling in packs seems safer, Parisians usually stroll solo or in pairs. Resist the urge to constantly consult maps and guidebooks as you walk. Instead, duck into a café or shop to get your bearings without appearing obviously lost. Having a friend snap your photo with a selfie stick screams tourist. Ask someone to take your picture or simply enjoy the moment without feeling the need to excessively document it all.
When it comes to capturing Paris’s magic, put down the massive DSLR camera with a huge zoom lens. Locals don’t walk around with bulky professional gear. Pack a small mirrorless digital camera or simply use your phone’s camera. Focus on getting closer to subjects instead of relying on a supersized lens. Seek out interesting angles that locals would appreciate over that perfectly centered but boring shot.
Beyond the Baguette: A Parisian Shares the Real Paris - Getting Around: Tips for Using the Metro Like a Pro
Navigating Paris’s extensive Métro system intimidates many first-time visitors. With 14 lines and over 300 stations, it seems daunting compared to other major cities’ streamlined subways. However, unlocking the secrets of the Métropolitain allows you to jet around this walkable city efficiently. Master riding the rails like a true local and suddenly every corner of Paris appears easily accessible.
First, adjust your mindset when approaching the Métro. Stations were designed as individual works of art, not sterile transit hubs. Take a moment to admire the vintage décor’s mosaics, carved pillars, and ironwork. Even the tickets offer artistic flair.
Obtaining tickets can bewilder newcomers. Don’t buy single tickets each ride or get swindled by sneaky ticket machines. Purchase a carnet booklet of 10 tickets instead at any station or tabac. These offer major savings over individual tickets. Navigating through the turnstiles also proves tricky for novices. Insert your ticket and retrieve it as the gates open. At your destination, scan your ticket at the electronic exits, then pass all linked turnstiles within 90 minutes.
Now for navigating the trains themselves. Consult the vital color and number coded Métro maps posted in each station. They list the sequence of stops on your line and interconnect with others. Before boarding, know the name of the station where you want to exit – this avoids missing your stop. Verify the train’s terminus matches your map for the right direction. Express trains skipping stops also run, so double check your route number. During rush hours, avoid squeezing into packed train cars. Simply await the next – one follows quickly.
When riding the rails, mind your manners. Talk softly, avoid spraying perfume, and don’t block doors. Stand right to allow exiting passengers disembark first. If sitting, offer your seat to elderly, disabled, and pregnant riders. Pickpockets favor cramped cars, so secure your belongings in front pockets or bags. When nearing your destination, move towards the exit doors in advance. Metro stops last only 30 seconds! Disembark promptly once the train halts. Mind the closing doors and wide gap between car and platform while exiting.
The Métro shuts down around 12:30am depending on arrondissement. Nocturnal partiers rely on night buses or taxis after it closes. During track maintenance, sections of lines sometimes close on Sundays. Busses often substitute, so check signage.