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Off-The-Beaten Track Tips for Paris

Paris is known across the world for its monuments and museums, like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Champs-Élysées. But if you want to see something else, something not all tourists necessarily see, here are some tips about what to see and where to go – and, most importantly, what to eat!

 

What to eat and where

I love most things sweet and could probably live on cakes. This makes Paris the perfect place to visit. And the best thing is, you don’t have to look for the best places to eat delicious French patisseries – they’re literally everywhere. Find a spot in your neighborhood – the less touristy the better, independently owned places are better than (most) chains – and I’m willing to bet that they have cakes to send you to seventh heaven. There are fresh and delicate lemon cakes with meringue, as well as sinfully chocolatey treats, such as the religieuse pastry (see below). Perfection.

 

Pierre Hermé for macarons

Most tourists go to Ladurée, mainly since their shops are located where most tourists tend to be, but real parisiens do their macaron shopping at Pierre Hermé. Even though I adore macarons, my palate is not refined enough to really be able to tell the difference in taste between these two establishments, but when in Paris, do as the Parisians do! (Also, let’s keep this a secret so not all tourists will find it.)

 

Berthillon ice-cream

You can only get Berthillon ice-cream and sorbet on the Île Saint-Louis, an island on the Seine, and to get it, especially if you’re traveling in the summer, be prepared to wait. It’s well worth the wait, though, I promise!

 

Food markets

French people love to buy their food from specialist stores, their bread from a boulangerie, their patisseries from a, erm, patisserie, their cheese from a cheese shop, their meat from a meat shop and so on. Food markets allow you to get all the specialists in one place at the same time. As an added plus, they tend to be very good value for money, especially if you try out the less central ones. Most neighborhoods have their own markets, but some are especially good. It’s also good to note that they are only open on certain days. You might want to try these out:

                      Marché Bastille: With a large selection of food items, this marché also caters to your immediate snack needs. The location is quite central and the area is large, so you can pretty much find anything here.

                      Marché des Enfants Rouges: This is the oldest covered market in Paris still in operation. It’s concentrated on organic food – located as it is, in the most hipster-y neighborhood in the city – and tends to be quite expensive, but well worth the visit still. It’s also quite small, making the visit a lot more intimate and homey than the more crowded markets.

                      Marché de Belleville: Located in the Belleville neighborhood in the north of Paris, this market is like the quartier it inhabits: cosmopolitan, full of life, and very good value for money. It’s also less touristy than the first two, giving it a more authentic feel. It does get really crowded, but it’s the cheapest of these three options, so well worth the extra hassle I would say.

 

Books

Gibert Jeune is an excellent second-hand book store. This is what all second-hand stores should look like, if you ask me, ordered, clean and welcoming! The books are organized in an alphabetical order, just like in a regular book store, which makes finding just the book you’re looking for so much easier. Nor does it prevent you from discovering new books, either! To top it off, it is very reasonably priced.

 

Shakespeare and Company

Granted, this is rather touristy, but it’s so nice and homey it’s easy to forget about that! As a foreigner in Paris during my exchange, I would sometimes go in just to soak up the nice atmosphere and hear English spoken (they only sell books in English and the staff are anglophone, too). There’s a board where you can leave a message for other visitors, as many have from all over the world.

Where to go and what to see

18th/19th/20th arrondissements

I feel like this is something that shouldn’t be included in a ‘tips for travelers’ type of article, seeing as tourists often have a negative impact on an area in terms of rising property prices and commodified culture so let’s keep this tip also a secret, okay? When the film Amélie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) became a hit all over the world, Montmartre experienced an influx of tourists, that continues to this day. Many artists had to relocate as they could no longer afford living there. Guess where they went? You guessed right. Northeastern Paris gives you a glimpse into a different Paris, more authentic some might say, that isn’t all Chanel handbags and expensive-looking buildings. It’s vibrant and cosmopolitan, with lots of little cafés and bars. But, as elsewhere in big cities, gentrification is lurking behind the corner, and it might be that tourists and the middle classes find this spot, too, in the future, causing it to lose some of its charm. So go now, before it’s too late!

 

Street Art Tour

There is a lot of street art in Paris, that is graffiti, murals and pretty much anything that you can draw or paint on a wall. As this is an art form that isn’t strictly speaking always legal – even though there are more and more specific areas where walls and buildings are reserved for artists – a lot of it also gets destroyed regularly (or cleaned up, depending on your viewpoint). This makes it an art scene in constant movement: Stuff you see now, might be gone by next week. The Street Art Tour is a great way to explore one of the most vibrant areas of Paris and allows you to look at the city differently. I love art museums, and this is as good, if not better, than many of them!

Tour Montparnasse

The lesser-known tower in Paris, the Tour Montparnasse has one advantage over its famous sister: from there, you can admire the Parisian skyline that includes the Eiffel Tower. When it comes to views, I would recommend this over the Eiffel Tower. You also won’t have to queue up for hours.

Parks

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.

One of the best things about Paris is its greenery. Paris has a lot of nice parks. Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg are of course pretty, but if you venture further away from the center, you can find less ordered parks, more messy maybe, but also more interesting. My favorite one is the Buttes-Chaumont park, located in the 19th arrondissement. It feels more alive than the well-ordered parks and, if you walk up to its highest point, rewards you with a great view!

And last but definitely not least, Paris is a great spot for just walking around (flâner, as the French put it), and absorbing the atmosphere, or sitting in a café and people-watching. I am at my happiest in Paris when I am doing one of those two things. You don’t need to be doing anything special to feel perfectly contended. So, my ultimate tip for anyone wanting to explore Paris: open your eyes, breath in the atmosphere, and enjoy!

Photos by the author, except for the religieuse one, which is from Wikimedia Commons.

A 28-year-old Global Politics major and former Campus Correspondent. International and national politics, current affairs, feminism, and societal and political issues fascinate me. Other than dreaming of one day travelling the whole world, I drink loads of cappuccino, eat too many cakes, and try to find the time to read more books. My guilty pleasure: American Late Night Shows.
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