A Hipster’s Guide to Paris

Let’s be honest here—there’s only so many times you can see the Eiffel Tower or walk down the Champs-Elysees or go inside Notre Dame before you’re like, ‘What else ya got, Paris?’ Contrary to popular belief, Paris is super old stuff that white dude built centuries ago to fortify their huge egos (cough cough, Napoleon Bonaparte). People actually live in Paris. I know, wild concept. What’s more—those people are super hip. They go to yoga classes in Paris, they eat at whole-in-the-wall restaurants and they definitely don’t shop on the Champs-Elysees.

Even if you’re a Paris pro or a European noob, there are some things you’re not going to want to miss on your next trip to the City of Lights, and you definitely won’t find any of these things on any other lame, stereotypical guides to Paris.

Instagramable Eats: BigLove Caffe

Courtesy Big Mamma

BigLove is my absolute favorite restaurant in all of Paris. Ironically, it doesn’t serve any French food, all Italian. But for what it lacks in boeuf bourguignon and creme brulee, it makes up for in atmosphere. Shoved oddly on a small street near the Picasso Museum, it’s a small restaurant that almost always has a line out the door (and it’s most definitely worth the wait). Equipped with a coffee / liquor bar and gorgeous painted china that all food is served in, it’s the perfect place to bring some girlfriends for a drink and some carbs. My dish recommendation? Any pasta with tiramisu for dessert, and a huge Big Mamma cocktail (everyone was super jealous of my tasty, beautiful drink).

Hot tip: The hot chocolate here is pretty much the same as at Angelina—the thick, chocolatey, coats your mouth kind of hot chocolate—but at a fraction of the price.  

For people who hate boring, old museums: Centre Pompidou

Courtesy Culture Trip

Paris is stuffed with museums, some interesting and some really not. While college kids probably don’t want to spend their euros on a museum pass, Centre Pompidou is much more up their alley than some smelly skulls underground. Half library, half contemporary art museum, the Centre Pompidou is a gigantic building plopped into the Marais, with an industrial exterior made up of old, colorful pipes. Tickets are affordable (and oftentimes free, depending on the day and your citizenship), and if you’re a student in Paris, the library is seven floors of silent workspace, perfect for some atmospheric studies. (Be sure to run across the lot for some gelato from Amorino during your study break, though). The Centre Pompidou has lots of thought-provoking modern paintings, and some special exhibits, too. When I went, there was a whole room with hundreds of hanging Apple headphones ricocheting sounds across the room so, for example, it sounded like you were in the Amazon rainforest. Not sure what the artistic meaning of it was, but it sure was zen. Headspace, who?

Hot Tip: The whole museum and library has FREE library, so if you’re ever in the area and need wifi for cell service, pop into the lobby, take a seat and enjoy. *Bonus Hot Tip: The view from the top of the museum (included in ticket) is amazing, and you can see the Eiffel Tower. No need for an expensive trip to Montparnasse Tower for the best view of Paris!*

Skip the Moulin Rouge: Artist’s square in Montmartre & Cafe des Deux Moulins

Courtesy Sygic Travel

As a huge lover of the film “Moulin Rouge” (forever in love with Ewan McGregor), I’m always super disappointed to see the Moulin Rouge club in real life. The street in front of it is super crowded and commercial, there’s weird sex shops everywhere that give me this “about to be sold into sex trafficking” vibe, and for some reason there is always a huge, ugly truck in front of it that ruins your pictures. So, skip it. Instead, head up right around the corner to the Cafe des Deux Moulins, where the film “Amelie” was filmed. Not only is it super cute and pink inside, but it’s the perfect little coffee shop for reading, writing or just plain old studying, especially on a cold or rainy day. After snapping some super cute studyblr pictures, hike up the hill Montmartre is famous for and keep going right past Sacre-Coeur until you’re just behind it, and can wander around looking at all the local artists’ works in the square.

Hot Tip: If you’re a big Hemingway buff, there are a ton of little-known spots right here in Montmartre (not by the Moulin Rouge) where Hemingway used to frequent.

Mexican food and murals: Bocamexa

Courtesy HiveMiner

For some reason when I visited Paris to study abroad this January, all I craved the entire time was Mexican food. Thankfully, due to immigration and a noticeable absence of racial divides in comparison to America, there are tons of different cuisines available. On the street just beside the apartment I stayed in, the whole street was filled with nothing but sushi and sex shops. Even the local grocer sold sushi next to all the French “TV dinners.” One of the best Mexican food places we found was called Bocamexa, on a bustling back street that lots of locals frequented and grabbed a quick bite to eat on during work. Bocamexa’s food was super fresh, with options such as quesadillas, fajitas, burritos and more.

Hot Tip: In the intersecting street across from Bocamexa is a huge mural on the side of a white building of the Belgian comic book character Tintin making out with Capitaine Archibald Haddock. Such a great quirky photo backdrop!

Other good eats: Mama Jackson, Le Select, IL TIMO

Courtesy Wall Street Journal

For some great Southern comfort food in a mega-hip atmosphere (and some intense flavors) check out Mama Jackson’s. For affordable and authentic French food that’s actually good, try Le Select in Montparnasse (also frequented by American expatriate artists in the 20s). And for the Noodles & Co. of Paris, try IL TIMO, a customizable pasta restaurant with the best mac n’ cheese (pate au fromage) I’ve EVER HAD IN MY LIFE.

Hot Tip: To find amazing restaurants that locals actually go to, take a deep dive on Instagram to see what’s geo-tagged!

A quiet spot for writers: Jardin du Luxembourg

Courtesy Paris1900

Despite the frigid temperatures in January, plenty of people still sat in the Luxembourg gardens, reading or writing or having lunch with friends. Personally, I found the space peaceful and quiet, the perfect place to write when you can’t be chained to your desk anymore.

Hot Tip: All of the statues surrounding the gardens are of queens of France, so if you’re into feminism be sure to pay your respects to basically the shrine of the women of France.


For music snobs and La La lovers: Caveau de la Huchette

Courtesy Flickr

A triple-whammy: La Caveau de la Huchette is a dirty little jazz club right off Notre-Dame Cathedral. The basement is full of live jazz with plenty of seasoned dancers on the floor. It’s the perfect place for a drink and dance night with your significant other. Not dating? Go anyways. Plenty of men go stag to dance and just have fun with women there. Fun fact: This jazz club is featured in the end of the film “La La Land” where Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling picture moving to Paris.

Hot Tip: The tiny alley / street that the Caveau is on has tons of street vendors and little boutiques. My friend and I picked up lots of little gifts for our loved ones here. Shakespeare & Co. bookstore is right around the corner, too. Plus, if you like Greek food and gyros, there’s a couple of great-smelling shops right here.