If you’ve already seen the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees and the Louvre, it’s time you discover a more authentic Paris and experience the city like a true Parisian! The city has so much to see and a wide variety of neighbourhoods, that it’s easy to fall into the trap of visiting one tourist attraction after the other, without ever actually experiencing Paris.
Throw your guide book out the window and get lost in the streets. The best way to explore a city is to live like the locals do. So here we are, 10 things Parisiens love to do in Paris…
1. Buy a vintage book from a Bouquiniste
Along the banks of the river Seine, booksellers sell a curious selection of vintage second-hand books. Get lost in the antique pages, filled with stories of Paris from days passed. These Bouquinistes are one of the rare and wonderful things that have remained consistent in Paris, dating back to the 16th century when market peddlers sold second-hand books here.
Book sellers are on both sides of the river, giving the Seine the reputation of being ‘the only river in the world that runs between two bookshelves’. Spend an afternoon walking the banks of the river, and don’t forget to stop at one of the bridges and admire the view of the city from up there.
2. Pick up a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers
Visit the flower market located in Place Louis Lépine and breathe in the fragrant aromas from hundreds of varieties of exotic and seasonal flowers, shrubs and plants. Parisiens have been coming to get their flowers here since 1830 – the huge selection available means that there’s something for everyone from avid gardeners to curious passersby. If you’re only in Paris for a couple of days and don’t want to buy flowers, we still recommend visiting the flower market. It’s a beautiful place for a walk. The pavilion is simply stunning. And best of all? It’s a fantastic place for people watching.
The Marché aux fleurs is open everyday from 8am to 7.30pm.
3. Visit the iconic Centre Pompidou on a Sunday
Why Sunday? Because Sunday’s are free entrance at the Centre Pompidou. Well, the first Sunday of every month is free. But whether you go on a Sunday or not, it’s still worth a visit. The Centre Pompidou houses a huge public information library; the National Museum of Modern Art, which is the largest museum for modern art in Europe; and a centre for music and acoustic research – all under one roof!
You’ll want to spend a few hours looking at the collection of modern and contemporary art exhibitions, as there’s a lot to see. It’s also a fantastic place to bring kids. There are plenty of activities and exhibitions designed specifically for younger audiences.
4. Go for a stroll in Batignolles
The phrase up-and-coming tends to be thrown about a lot when talking about big cities such as Paris. However, in the 17th arrondissement lies a neighbourhood which can, really, only be described as up-and-coming. Batignolles was once a quiet, leafy village on the outskirts of Paris, and for all intents and purposes still is. But you can’t ignore the cutting edge restaurants, the pop-up markets and the young, arty crowd that have slowly descended on the area.
We recommend you stop at Place Du Docteur Félix Lobligeois to try one of their delicious croissants. For dinner, Coretta is a must. It’s an innovative French gastronomic restaurant with a laid-back approach and a focus on top-quality ingredients. Aside from eating (is there anything better to do in Paris?), you might also visit the Square des Batignolles – a serene area of nature full of trees, lakes and a waterfall. The perfect hideaway after a long day in the city.
5. Taste some cheese
We’ve got to point number 5 on our list of things to do in Paris and we haven’t yet mentioned cheese. Cheese! The cheese in France is otherworldly and there’s nothing you can do about it except embrace it, and eat as much as humanly possible.
The best fromagerie in Paris? That depends on the person. Great cheese can be found in street markets, high-quality retail shops and even supermarkets. Having said that, the Marché d’Aligre is a must for any food-lover visiting Paris. It’s an indoor/outdoor food market specializing in cheese, meats, fruits & vegetables (all things food, in a nutshell). The Fromagerie Langlet-Hardouin is in the covered part of the market. It’s utter cheese heaven. A great spot to pick up some cheesy souvenirs to take home with you.
Fromagerie Jouannault is another favourite. Located on one of the nicest streets in Paris, just across from the Marché des Enfants Rouges. Book a cheese tasting in their unique cave, and then spend the afternoon exploring the boutiques and small cafes in the neighbourhood.
6. Step inside one of the unusual bars in Montmartre
Montmartre is a neighbourhood of winding roads, interesting people and unusual nightlife. You could spend months exploring the unique twists and turns of Montmartre, but the best place to start is the bars. Marlusse et Lapin is a tiny bar that looks exactly like an old hotel room in the interior. Complete with bathtub, sewing machine and closets. Get in early, as the place is very small and fills up quickly. Another bar to stop at is Pablo Picasso’s old haunt – Lapin Agile. Picasso used to draw sketches of the performers at the bar in exchange for drinks. The Lapin Agile is the oldest cabaret venue in Paris that is still in operation.
As you’re in the Montmartre area, make sure to stop off at the I Love You Wall – an installation depicting 311 different ways to say I love you from all around the world. A romantic trip to Paris is not complete without a stop here!
7. Have a picnic with a view in Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
Pick up a basket of goodies from a local épicerie and head to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont for a lazy afternoon. Get lost amongst nature and explore the many lakes, temples and grottos inside the park. There are two unusual things about the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. The first is the wide range of exotic trees and flowers that are planted here from all over the world. The second, is that it sits on quarries which means the grounds have many different levels, and in some places are very steep. If you climb to the highest point of the park, you have fantastic views over the whole of Paris. Where else in Paris would you be able to have lunch with such a good view, for free?
For more things to do in Paris on a budget, read our low cost guide to Paris.
8. Check out the stunning exhibitions at the European House of Photography
Located in the Hotel Henault building, the European House of Photography has over 24,000 photographs in its collection, with works from Larry Clark, Martin Parr and Helmut Newton, to name just a few. An important part of Paris’ arts and culture scene, this photography museum is a must to visit if you’ve already been to the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay.
The gallery is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but open the rest of the week from 11AM to 7.45PM. Full-priced tickets are 10€, with concessions for children and adults under 26 years old.
9. Visit the Père Lachaise Cemetery
Visiting a cemetery might seem like an odd travel tip, but if you can push the morbidity aside, the Père Lachaise cemetery is an incredibly interesting place to visit, steeped in Parisian history. It is the final place of rest to many famous people who lived and died in Paris including Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors, and author Oscar Wilde. You can walk the winding cobbled paths amongst the tombstones and pay your respects to some of the greatest figures in history. It’s a quietly beautiful place to spend a reflective afternoon.
10. Have a beer at the Paname Brewing Company
This microbrewery is located in an old granary along the banks of the Bassin de la Villettehas. In an area much-loved by hipsters, the Paname Brewing Company fits right in with its laid-back, trendy atmosphere. The outdoor waterside terrace overlooks the Canal St. Martin, and is the perfect place to spend a summer day in Paris. Sip on one of the house craft beers and people-watch from the sun drenched terrace.