Paris is the most visited city in the world year after year, so there’s no doubt you’ve heard about the incredible sights, sounds and tastes waiting for you in the City of Light. Of course, there are the absolute must-sees like the stunning Eiffel Tower, the picturesque Arc de Triomphe, the history-soaked Louvre Museum, the gothic beauty of Notre Dame Cathedral, and so many more. All of these are definitely worth seeing and checking off your bucket list, but if you’ve been to Paris before, or have more than a weekend to spend here, you’ll be able to really discover the heart and soul of this city à la Parisienne.
We’ve put together a list of hangouts, restaurants and activities that are off the beaten track, and perfect for someone who wants to discover the Parisian way of life from a local’s perspective. Here are some Parisian favorites, from picturesque streets, incredible cafés, and even the perfect picnic spots, that you’re sure to love just as much as we do.
Things to do:
1.Stunning views and unbeatable shopping at Printemps
This Parisian department store is right in the center of the city, and is a great place to do some shopping, whether for souvenirs, lunch, or the latest fashion. The rooftop here is a hidden gem, offering stunning, sweeping views of Paris and is free to access. Take the escalator to the top floor and enjoy a drink from their rooftop bar, or just take in the scenery.
2. Montmartre by night
This hilly, picturesque neighborhood is located in Paris’ 18th arrondissement and is known for being the artsy/bohemian area, previously home to greats like Van Gogh. Spend the late afternoon wandering the small streets and sure to catch some local artists at work in the charming Place du Têtre. As night falls, head over to the Sacre Coeur cathedral and work your way down some of the many staircases to the bustling square just in front. The streetlights and cathedral area are illuminated at night, offering a panoramic view of the city below and making this an unforgettable experience.
3. A Stroll along the Seine
The Seine river snakes its way through Paris, dividing the city into the Rive Gauche (left bank) and the Rive Droite (right bank), each with their own distinct characters. You can walk all along the river from one side of Paris to the other by following its quays or river banks, which is a great way to really see the city. If it’s a sunny day, consider ending your walk with a Parisian picnic, or just relaxing in one of the local cafés. It’s hard to beat the stunning view of Notre Dame from the Quai de la Tournelle, or head down the stairs next to the beautiful Alexandre III bridge and enjoy the laidback vibe on Quai D’Orsay.
4. Visit a local Farmer’s Market
Fresh food is a huge part of the culture in Paris, and the best local products can be found at open-air markets across the city. Each day of the week, different district markets are open all over Paris, so doing your shopping can also be a great way to discover a new neighborhood. Spend the morning wandering through the bustling crowds and sample some amazing food from all corners of the globe. For the most variety, check out the Marché Bastille or Marché d’Aligre, and be sure to come hungry!
5. Les Puces de Saint Ouen
This centuries-old flea market in northern Paris holds much more than meets the eye; making it a favorite for locals and visitors alike. From antique dealers to art merchants to street food and music, you’ll see that cultures and languages all blend together in this lively market. It’s easy to spend the afternoon browsing for hidden treasures and you’ll feel like you’ve taken a step back in time.
6. Escape to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Perched on a hill in the trendy 19th arrondissement of Paris, this 61-acre park offers a tranquil escape from city life and is somewhat of a local secret. Featuring a lake, suspension bridge, walking trails, a bar and plenty of green space, there’s sure to be something for everyone. Pack a picnic or enjoy a hike or jog through the many trails, or head out to the pagoda for a spectacular view of the city.
7. Le Marais
This neighborhood stretching across the historic 3rd and 4th arrondissements is the eccentric soul of the city and home to much of the city’s LGBT and Jewish populations. Dotted with cafés, museums and great shopping, it’s the perfect area to let yourself get lost in, who knows, you’ll probably find your new favorite place.
Once home to Edith Piaf, Belleville is a very unique part of Paris, with a rich mixture of cultures blending together to create the artsy, bohemian reputation the neighborhood holds today. Often overlooked, this area is home to incredible street art, amazing international street food, and breathtaking architecture. Grab the best coffee in Paris at CREAM and start your adventure. To make the most of your trip, we recommend following the Boulevard de Ménilmontant North from metro Philippe-Auguste, where you’ll see the famous Père Lachaise cemetery, up towards the lush Parc de Belleville and the amazing street art tucked away on Rue Denoyez.
9. Passages de Paris
These covered walkways date back from the early 1800’s and were some of the first shopping streets in Paris. Now home to delicious eateries, craftsmen, boutiques and of course, endless history, these passages are the perfect place to enjoy a rainy day. There are around 20 passages in central Paris, with the local favorites being the luxurious Galerie Vivienne, the original Passage des Panoramas, and the trendy Galerie Choiseul.
This stunning castle and grounds is about an hour away from the city center by metro or about 25 minutes by car, and is definitely worth seeing. The ornate architecture, perfectly-manicured gardens and the hall of mirrors are simply breathtaking. We recommend setting aside the whole day in order be able to visit the castle, grounds and gardens. Been there before? Pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful gardens or take your book and relax amongst the endless grounds and scenery.
If you only visit the inside of one cathedral during your stay in Paris, the Sainte-Chapelle is it. Ornate Gothic architecture and stunning stained-glass windows complete this incredible building located in Paris’ stately 1st arrondissement. If you like classical composers, there are often classical concerts held here, which we can assure you, are just magical.
The majority of public museums and monuments in Paris are free for residents of the E.U. as well as for many students under 26, and Parisians take full advantage of this. If you’ve already been to the Louvre, try checking out the Musée D’Orsay which was once a train station but has been converted into a gorgeous museum housing an impressive Impressionist collection. Other great spots are the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, the Palais de Tokyo, Pompidou Center, Fondation Louis Vuitton, and Musée Picasso.
If you’re looking for something really off the beaten path, try Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (hunting and nature museum), Musée Montmarte, or the charming Musée de la vie Romantique (this one even has an adorable café outside, where you can enjoy a drink in the gardens). If you’re visiting during nice weather, the Musée Rodin is a wonderful addition to your itinerary; be sure to spend some extra time wandering the statue garden.
Image Sources: Passage des Panoramas – jmdigne cc by sa 2.0, Les Puces de Saint Ouen – ParisSharing cc by 2.0, Bords de Seine – Nicolas Winspeare, cc by 2.0, Wikimedia Commons: Saint Chapelle Interior by Michael D. Hill Jr – cc by Sa 3.0, Paris Belleville rue Denoyez by Myrabella / Marais Rue des rosiers by Andrea Schaffer – cc by 2.0, Buttes Chaumont by PpPachy – cc by sa 3.0, Parc des Buttes Chaumont by Jean-Louis Vandevivère – cc by sa 2.0, Marche Bastille by ayustety – cc by sa 2.0, Montmartre artists by InSapphoWeTrust – cc by sa 2.0, Douglas O’Brien – cc by sa 2.0.