Here are my tips to see Paris like a Parisian
Let’s start with the experience: this is what it feels like touring around Paris on a beautiful summer day. Can’t get better than that can it?
Etienne Marcel area:
This is where you’ll find trendy French fashion, many great clothing stores in this area…
My favorite jewelry store: gas bijoux.
It is near Les Halles (main metro station) but avoid les Halles, it is a massive, very crowded and not interesting mall. A waste of your precious shopping time tin Paris!
While in the area, rue Montorgueil is a must, for food! A very Parisian pedestrian street with lots of food stales, coffee shops, and restaurants… good atmosphere and perfect for late breakfast/ short black and people watching or lunch on week end.
If you are around there in the evening, wonder to 55, rue Montmartre and have a pre dinner drink at Le Coeur Fou. The kind of small local bar where young french executives casually drop in after work to see where the night will take them.
Just a block across the street is Le cafe noir which is also a good choice.
If you are into Clubbing, an old favorite for me is the Rex Club.
Back to shopping, the big department stores are also worth a look. In the heart of the Grand Boulevards area: check out Le Printemps + Galleries Lafayette. Beautifully renovated; and you will find anything you are or are not looking for).
It is also worth noting that if you buy over E 175 in the same shop on the same day, foreigners get a tax refund. This means -10% on all your purchases.
The paper is a bit laborious (and don’t forget to scan your forms at the airport on your way out) but if you are a serial shopper, it is worth the hassle!
For a stroll:
Saint Germain des pres must be on your to see list… on the left bank of the Seine, which means slightly posh and good looking Parisians everywhere! The typical French experience… and probably the one of the most enjoyable area to go out for dinner and drinks. A nice (romantic) walk would be to go from Le Louvre across the Seine river on a Passerelle des Arts (this must be one my favorite spot in Paris, where they now have put all the love pad locks) on to the French institute. From the bridge, you’ll have an amazing view from Paris and a very unique angle to Notre Dame. Once at the French institute, there is a little gate hidden in the back, cross and then just wonder around the streets of the 6th district. You are in Saint Germain des Pres …. how will you know?? you’ll be surrounded by art galleries, design stores, restaurants and crowded terraces with a sophisticated crowd drinking Pastis and smoking cigarettes while chatting about the latest political scandal, nice looking cars, scooters and attractive French women riding their bikes from the local grocer…. you will surely feel that romantic vibe that inspired so many great painters or writers to settle down in Paris. This is Saint Germain des Prés!
Stop le bar du marché (corner rue de Seine, rue de Buci) or la palette for a drink and later Alkazar for a cocktail & some tunes.
When in the area, I recommend to avoid Saint Michelle, it is very touristy, with mostly cheap crappy Greek restaurants everywhere.
Monuments & museums
Le Louvre: Good luck if try to do it all… it’s SUPER. Pick and choose which area you are the most interested in and concentrate on that one. It is exhausting so don’t be too ambitious, you could spend weeks, months, years… in there. Be ready for a little disappointment when you meet Mona Lisa. She is pretty, but also very busy and there is always a big pack of people from all around the world stuck in front of her not letting her breath nor express herself.
Take your time to walk around the courtyard, if you are luck enough there might be some musicians playing or singing around the monument. Get charmed by the echo of the melody. Simply magic!
Also, note that there is a restaurant inside le Louvre: cafe Marly, pricy but hey, what a nice spot if you can score a table outside!
In winter, after your visit treat yourself to the best hot chocolate in town, or a burbon, at Le Fumoir
Notre Dame: Very impressive. Once you have visited Notre Dame, push on to Ile Saint Louis for a Bertillon Ice cream. I can guarantee that pretty much no tourist will know this spot… everyone rushes to Ile de la Cité (where Notre Dame is), but no one knows that there actually is a second smaller and absolutely charming island just behind it. No major monument on this one, just old buildings with out of this world apartments, narrow streets, and locals… when you get to the bridge behind Notre dame (with street shows most of the time)… the cafe selling ice creams is just a few steps away!!
Garnier Opera house: Check if you can get last minute tix, it is worth see a show. Otherwise, visit for the beauty of the place and the controversial ceiling fresque by Chagall.
Montmartre Sacre Coeur: Walk to the top of the butte for stunning views from the city.
Wonder towards place des Abbesses and la rue des Martyrs, detour around Avenue Junot (back of Montmartre) but best to avoid the touristy area of the place des Tertres (although I am sure very single guide book will tell you to go).
A few more essentials: Place Vendome, Palais Royal garden, Champs Elysees, Eiffel tower, musee Rodin, musee d’Orsay, musee Picasso, Grand Palais…
And a few movies to get you the mood: Les intouchables, Gainsbourg, a heroic life, Amelie, Moulin Rouge, Midnight in Paris