From the Champs-Élysées to the Musée d’Orsay, Paris is full of “must-see attractions” for tourists. No wonder the French capital is among the most visited cities in the world, with over 27 million people a year! Of this astronomical number, everybody has seen the Louvre, but those who have explored the inner-workings of Paris – local hangouts and hideaways – are quite rare in comparison.
I’ve been to the City of Love twice, first as a doe-eyed tourist and more recently as the guest of a Parisienne friend. It’s amazing how much more I saw the second time, following the lead of someone who lives there. So if you want to get away from the Tour d’Eiffel and Notre Dame, here are a few solid recommendations for what else to get up to in Paris:
1. Shop antiques and vintage clothing at Marché aux Puces
Believe it or not, this weekend market in Paris’ 18th district has been around since the Middle Ages. These days it’s a hipster playground for picking up antiques and collectibles, second-hand clothing, vinyl records, art and other handmade creations. Tip: Be aware of pickpockets on the way there. Don’t bring any showy valuables (like big cameras or expensive jewelry) along.
2. Drink wine out of baby bottles
At legendary fondue restaurant Refuge des Fondue you can sip on wine – by suckling it out of a plastic teat, of course. Both house red and white come in signature baby bottles, and while they may be made for children be forewarned: they can be dangerously easy to drink from as an adult. The fondue itself is also traditional and delicious here, too.
3. Eat fresh at La REcyclerie
Near to Marché aux Puces is Paris’ trendiest up-and-coming restaurant. La REcyclerie is known for its seasonal produce, served on the menu (world cuisine-style) and also sold in take-home boxes to families and residents. The homemade juices are healthy and pack a powerful punch, especially the ginger, available in two choices: strong and really, really crazy strong.
4. Indulge in fancy ice cream
I stumbled upon the best ice cream I’ve ever had completely by accident – just by walking by Glaces Glazed’s teeny shop in Montmartre. It turns out they used to sell ice cream by food truck and recently opened a brick-and-mortar location by popular demand. Forget chocolate and vanilla, these outrageous and weird flavoursare like nothing you’ve ever tasted. I really liked Mr. Green (pure pistachios with a hint of black sesame), Pump up the Volume (mango sorbet with chili pepper) and Black Sugar Sex Magic (chocolate, wasabi and ginger).
5. Sample cuisine from France’s southwest region
Chez Gladine’s Basque menu is heavy, savoury and absolutely full of soul. From duck smothered to tender marinated beef, be prepared to undo a couple trouser buttons. Tip: this restaurant is really popular. Get there early – we went around 9 p.m. and waited nearly two hours for a table!
6. Go cheap at Costa Coffee
Paris is ridiculously expensive – in tourist areas, expect to pay around €10 for a barely decent cappuccino and €5 in a sit-down restaurant for a Coke! That’s where Costa Coffee comes to the rescue – the international coffeehouse chain opened in Paris only a few months ago and it’s the best brew for the least bucks according to many Parisiennes themselves. Grab a latte, use the free WIFI and get on with your day!
7. Rollerblade through the city
How about seeing Paris on a pair of in-lines? Every Friday at 10 pm, a crowd gathers for Pari-Roller, a three-hour skate through the city that changes weekly from the Seine to Champs-Élysées. Tip: make sure you’re in shape. The route is a colossal 27 kilometres!
8. Sit in the park
Paris is an absolute goldmine when it comes to gardens and green spaces – best of all, hanging out on a blanket with friends is free! Stock up on cheese, bread and wine at a local grocery store and head to any of these popular parks: Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin du Plantes.
9. Play a little table tennis
There are ping pong tables at the Canal de l’Ourcq, with healthy competition from 20- and 30-somethings looking to get away from the city centre. It’s also another good spot for picnicking.
10. Sing karaoke
Paris is a city that offers up both plentiful and eclectic karaoke joints. For €10 a person at Koba, you can sing your heart out all night between stuffing down sushi. At Helem, the Lebanese grills and microphones stay on until 2 a.m. and and 4 a.m. on weekends.