Tripbod Victoria shares her top tips and shows us around on her favourite secret and not-so-secret spots in her city.
Paris, for me, is not the Eiffel Tower (I’ve never been up it!), the Champs-Elysées or the Arc de Triomphe. Instead, Paris is a city which feeds my curiosity and begs me to take unknown turns. It gives untold opportunities to enjoy the good company of others as well as that of my own and ultimately, it’s a city to enjoy life. In light of all that, here are my top 10 things to do.
1. Soak in the atmosphere at Chez Georges
11 Rue des Canettes, 75006
Near the old St-Germain-des-Près market, you’ll find small streets crammed with bars and restaurants to fill all your gastronomic needs. Personally, I’m always drawn to a small cave known as Chez Georges where I can indulge in €3 glasses of wine, enjoy or be shocked by the in-situ works of art, engage in lively conversation with friends and fellow drinkers or play board games with chosen opponents.
2. Dance the night away at Café Charbon
109 Rue Oberkampf, 75011
After several €3 glasses of wine, when the music takes me and I just want to dance I often find myself in Oberkampf in the north. Here I head to Café Charbon. Although often overcrowded, it’s a Parisian brasserie with typical Parisian decor and mainstream music to get those dancing shoes going.
3. People watch on the Quai St Bernard
Quai St Bernard, 75005
Originally an entrance for the city walls of Paris and once home to the Paris wine market, the Quai St Bernard has now been renovated to provide Parisians with a public park. I find it has great people-watching opportunities or spots to read and soak up the sun. I can even connect to the free Wi-Fi if I feel that way inclined. Preferably though, I walk and talk with friends, stopping to watch the dancers who gather there on warm evenings.
4. Relax in the Rodin Museum garden
79 Rue de Varenne, 75007
To unwind, I like to pretend that Rodin’s garden (see pic at top) is my own. With free entry for under-26-year-olds, and only €1 entry otherwise, and late-night opening hours in the summer, it’s easy to do. Take a book, bring a picnic (you may have to be inconspicuous about your food) and relax among the great works of Auguste Rodin admiring their human and emotional forms.
5. Avoid the Mona Lisa
Ok, if you really want to, you can go and see the Mona Lisa. I’ve seen her once and her cheeky smile was worth a look, but I haven’t been back. Instead, I like to go to the Louvre to enjoy the Richelieu courtyards full of light and sculptural inspiration rather than jostle with the crowds competing for a view of ‘La Joconde’.
6. Hang out by the bandstand in the Luxembourg Gardens
Jardin de Luxembourg, 75006
The Jardin du Luxembourg has more to offer than just fountains, lawns, flower displays, ping-pong tables and green seats. The bandstand by the east entrance regularly hosts musical events. My favourite is Chopin au Jardin du Luxembourg – which has just finished its fourth season.
7. Go to the opera for five Euros
120 Rue de Lyon, 75012
After perusing the website of Paris’ second opera house, Bastille, choose your preferred opera performance and note the date. On the day of the show, take a book to read in the queue, and get to the main doors of the opera house for around 4pm. At 6pm the doors open and 30 tickets are available for €5 each (maximum two tickets per person). If you’re lucky enough, an experienced Parisian will also be in the queue handing out numbers to maintain queue justice and allow you to break free for coffee. At the beginning of the performance you’ll be directed to the standing seats in the gods. Keep an eye out for spare seats though, noting carefully their position, and you should be able to sneak down during the second half. I’ve made it to the second row from the stage.
8. Visit Paris’ Pagoda
57 Bis Rue de Babylone, 75007
Hidden behind trees, on Rue Babylone, lies Paris’s very own pagoda cinema known, aptly, as La Pagode. Here I like to enjoy tea in the little garden café, open in the summer when the weather’s nice, before watching a film. If I haven’t eaten I may then go to Au Pied de Fouet, a typical French restaurant just down the road. It won’t let you in unless all your dinner guests are there but once you’re in a French culinary experience awaits you for as little as €10.
9. Take the bus
The bus is an underrated form of transport and with so much to see in Paris it’s a waste not to take it. Not only can you enjoy the view but it’s often more direct. My favourite line is the 84 which takes me from the Pantheon, past the Luxembourg Gardens, along Boulevard St Germain, through Place de la Concorde heading towards the Church of St. Augustine before finishing near Park Monceau. Ask for a bus map at the metro stations and venture above ground.
10. Get lost
Ultimately, Paris never lets me down and I’m always discovering a new café, bakery, bar, square or museum. Head to an area that takes your fancy: the Latin Quarter for a classical intellectual feel, Invalides for its imposing architecture, Monmartre for an artistic vibe, Belleville for a grittier experience, or a randomly chosen street and then - get lost. Start walking, soak in the vibes and keep an eye out for your new favourite place. It’s what Paris was made for.
Tripbod Victoria is full of local tips to make sure you get the most from the city of lights. As a keen amateur photographer and a tireless explorer of the city, Victoria is the go-to person to help you plan your perfect trip to Paris. For advice and help planning your trip to Paris you can contact Tripbod Victoria directly on Tripbod.com.