Bienvenue à Paris: Tips from a local

When you think about Paris you probably think about the Eiffel tower, the Parisian sidewalk cafés, the Notre Dame and the Louvre. Some may also picture themselves taking a stroll down the Champs-Elysées or visiting the Sacre Coeur to enjoy a great view over Paris from the top of the hill of Montmartre. While visiting that neighbourhood you would also maybe consider getting tickets to a show at Moulin Rouge. And I am sure some of you would visit a boulangerie or pâttiserie to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Le Sacre Coeur in Paris
Credit: Stephanie LeBlanc

In April 2015 I moved to Paris, and I started seeing the city with new eyes: the sidewalk cafés in the touristy areas were replaced with trendy coffee shops by Canal St-Martin. Instead of going window-shopping in the Champs-Elysées, I went shopping for bargains, pleasantly surprised by the large amount of vintage stores in the quarter of Centre Pompidou. Instead of the pricey bars by the River Seine, I would now take the metro to Place Monge and explore the vibrant and affordable local bars at Rue Mouffetard, a street loved by festive students.

I also learned that on the first Sunday of the month you get free entry to most of the museums and monuments in Paris. And certain museums, like Musée d’Art Moderne and Musée de la Vie Romantique, are actually free to visit every day, all year round.

Jardin du Luxembourg is my all time favourite park in the city of Paris. People come to the park to have picnics, play with remote control boats, and play chess or tennis. The park is surprisingly quiet, considering it’s in the middle of Paris.

Photo by Sami Zoller on Unsplash

My favourite restaurants are in the area of Montparnasse. There you will find both international restaurants and local bistrots and brasseries. My best advice when searching for a good restaurant is: the smaller the restaurant and the smaller the menu, the better the quality of the food and the service. However, in many cases you’ll have to make a reservation in advance. I use the mobile application The Fork to search for nice little bistrots and make reservations. This app also offers great discounts.

As for the pastries, choose the small local pastry shops over the big chains. And if there happens to be a farmers’ market in Paris while you’re there, you’ve hit the jackpot. This is where you’ll get the best pastries, without a doubt. Usually, you’ll find them on weekends but never in the same location.

For the ultimate French experience, visit a wine bar bar in any area of Paris. Enjoy a glass of wine (or two) and order a planche of deli and cheese. Then you will feel like a true Parisian.

We hope you enjoyed these tips and hopefully they will enable you to experience Paris like a local on your Interrail or Eurotrip! We thank Kristine for writing this article and you can see more from her by visiting her Tumblr blog.