My Guide to Paris
I’ve lived in Paris on/off since 2012 and have spent hours strolling the narrow streets of le Marais, sipping café au laits in my favorite coffeeshops, running in Jardin du Luxembourg and braving the Pigalle nightlife. In other words I’m long overdue to share with you my guide to the best city of all: Paris.
First off: forget the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées – I would be a terrible travel writer if I were to include those places in a proper guide to the city. That being said, there are still touristic things to do in Paris that don’t make you feel ridiculous: for example bring a bottle of wine and a baguette to the tip of the Île de la Cité. I’ve tried to organize this guide so you can easily scroll through to the things, you’re looking for!
Alternatives to the touristy stuff:
View of the city: Montparnasse
A lot of people (wrongly) assume that the best view of the city of lights is from the top of the Eiffel Tower. Well, it isn’t. The best view is from the Tour Montparnasse, the 210-metre skyscraper in the 15th arrondissement, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city. It’s not cheap though: it’ll cost you 15€ to enter the observation deck. The two reasons why this is the better alternative to the Eiffel Tower: (1) less tourists/shorter lines and (2) a view with the Eiffel Tower in it.
Museum: Jeu de Paume
OK, I will admit that at some point one ought to visit le Louvre. But! If you’re looking to be cultural and arty, but aren’t at all in the mood to brave the tourist masses, head down to the other end of the Tuileries garden where you’ll find the Jeu de Paume. This is one of my favorite museums in Paris as it usually exhibits all kinds of electronic imagery (photography, cinema, video, various installations, etc.) Bonus info: If you’re a Sex and The City fan, like myself, you’ll recognize the venue from the show, when Carrie’s russian boyfriend exhibits his light installations here. Yup, yet another reason to go!
Seriously though, forget about Champs-Élysées and the Rue de Rivoli – they’re stressful, and chances are you’ll run into a nasty pickpocket. Instead, head up to the Haut-Marais, which is (hence the name) located above the lower Marais (the more touristy part of the neighborhood). In the Haut-Marais you’ll find cute, little designershops as well as second-hand gems and concept stores. Amongst my favorites is Merci on the Boulevard Beaumarchais (you’ll probably know it from Instagram: the concept store with the little red car parked in the courtyard) I love, love, love their stationary things and the little used-book café.
Where to stay?
This is one of those things that people always ask me before going to Paris. And usually they’re looking for something cheap/affordable, yet centrally located. On my recent trip to Paris I stayed at 9Hotel Republique, which I quite liked. It’s around 100€ per night, so not super cheap, but really nice – and it has a gym. It’s located in one of my favorite areas of Paris: the 10th arrondissement, a two minutes walk from the Canal Saint-Martin. And then there’s always Airbnb. Look for places to stay in the 10th arrondissement (near the Canal ideally), in the 9th (close to the charming marketstreet Rue des Martyrs) or in Batignolles, which is one of the loveliest village-like neighborhoods on the right bank. The city is well-connected by metro, so even if you do want to spend the most of your time in the city centre, you’ll reach it in about 10 minutes from all of the above.
Where to eat & drink:
You might have already heard about this place, because it really is the absolute best brunch spot in Paris! Holybelly is super cozy (and totally insta-worthy), and the stacked pancakes are just delicioussss. On top of the incredibly brunch plates, they also serve coffee on the best beans in Paris: from the Belleville Brûlerie.
Coffee: La Caféothèque
We have La Caféothèque to thank for all the specialty coffeeshops in Paris, as they started the third coffee wave in the city. They remain, of course, one of the very best places to go for coffee. The coffeeshop is located right next to the Seine river, across from the Île-Saint-Louis, but hidden in a narrow alley-like street. They don’t have Wifi, but I like to go here with friends or to escape my screen and simply scribble in a notebook or something. (I’ll make a guide to Paris’ best coffeeshops soon – promise!)
Lunch: La Maison Bleue
At La Maison Bleue you’ll be surprised to have found a real bistro-gem. It has the most authentic parisian sidewalk-café vibes, but with a modern twist. The menu changes every day, but always has a couple of good choices for vegetarians (like myself, yay!) Sit outside under the heat lamps and people-watch while you enjoy your food!
I’m a sucker for a good burger. And yes, you got it right – I’m a vegetarian. But I still like burgers. Veggie burgers of course. And at Blend you can get any of the variations from the menu veggie-style. This really is a gourmet burger place, so don’t miss out on one of the best burgers in town. They’re around 10-12€, and fries are 4€. Go, go, go!
Pastry: Sébastian Gaudard
If you’re on a diet – don’t go here. If you’re into sugary treats as much as I am you’ll be pleased to visit the pâtisserie of the well-known pastry chef, Sébastian Gaudard. It’s in Rue des Martyrs, which is definitely one of my favorite streets in the city.
Cheese: Taka & Vermo
Seriously. The cutest cheese shop I have ever seen in my life. The owners are fantastic people as well. Go and treat your tastebuds to some real’ good brie (perhaps homemade with almond and honey?) Yum!
Flowers & Coffee: Peonies
I felt like this one had to fit in somewhere in this guide. The explanation: Specialty coffee + flowers. Yes, you absolutely have to go. Read more about Peonies right here.
Other stuff to do:
Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg is probably my favorite green area in Paris. Also, Hemingway used to spend hours here, when he couldn’t afford lunch and had to stay away from the tempting smells from the city bistros. Go for a picnic here in summer, or – like I used to – go for a run around the park! It’s beautiful all year round…
Grand Mosque of Paris
This is one of the most unique places to go on a sunny morning or afternoon. On the corner of the mosque you’ll find a little garden terrace where the birds sing from the trees, and you’re served the most delicious (and sweet! very sweet!) mint tea. When I lived in Rue Saint-Jacques I came here a lot. It’s truly a little paradise.
Palais de Tokyo
Palais de Tokyo is a modern art museum – and one of my favorite in the whole world. The location is pretty rad, too. You’re just across from the Eiffel Tower and the views are extraordinary.
Jim Morisson, Chopin, Edith Piaf, Moliére and Oscar Wilde are amongst the people buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. I’ve been here a million times and once got lost, ending up spending hours in there looking for Edith Piaf’s tomb or something…
Musée de la Vie Romantique
Skip the crowded museums and go get your cultural fix at Musée de la Vie Romantique. The building houses a number of historical household items, family portraits, jewelry, paintings, sculptures etc. from the time Ary Scheffer lived here and the likes of Chopin and Charles Dickens once came for the Friday-evening salons. The house itself is absolutely adorable. And entrance is free!
How to get around: The metro is super easy to use, and it’s everywhere. A weekly Navigo pass is only 21€. You can also take a bike from one of the 1.800 bike stations spread out across the city. Read more about it here. It’s easy, and biking in Paris is so much fun!
Best time to visit: Fall. My favorite season. Also, here’s why:
Do avoid: The latin quarter. It’s absolutely awful. You might be tempted by the three course menus for only 10-14€, but trust me – don’t go. Also don’t go to the Champs Élysèes… Oh, wait, I already said that… Twice 😉
Did I leave out anything you’re dying to know about Paris? Don’t hesitate to comment below or email me!