Forget the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe - go beyond the flashing lights of the Moulin Rouge and the posh shops that line the Champs-Elysées and see Paris through local eyes.
Paris is a city for hopeless romantics, budding art critics, pastry connoisseurs or just simply anyone who fancies getting totally lost in a labyrinth of cobbled rues. Sit in a pavement café sipping a carafe of French wine, or sit down to a slap up meal with friends and enjoy hearty plates of confit duck or a selection from the cheese trolley - when you produce so much fine fromage a board just doesn't cut it! There's so much to explore in the City of Light: here's our top 10 things to do while you're in town:
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 satisfy every rumbling stomach. If it's the quintessential Parisian brasserie you're in search of, then make sure you check out the small cave of Chez Georges. Complete with battered wooden façade and sever-looking waiters wearing black (they're actually very friendly), this traditional restaurant is just the spot for €3 glasses of wine, lively conversation with friends, or perhaps you'd like to play a board game to whet your appetite? For starters, try the snails or foie gras, follwed by entrecôte steak so rare it pretty much lollopped out of the paddock and on to your plate. Go for dinner, go for drinks, just make sure you go!
2. Dance the night away at Café Charbon
109 Rue Oberkampf, 75011
After several €3 glasses of wine, when the music takes you and all you want to do is kick up your heels head to Oberkampf, the old artisan quarter of Paris, and go darken the doors of Café Charbon. Although often overcrowded, it’s another Parisian brasserie with typical decor (red banquettes and tarnished mirrors) that makes you feel like you've stepped back in time to the days of Napoleon. That is until you hear the jingles streaming from the DJ booth; playing everything from world to electro music on the weekends, thi is the palce to show off your moves, especially in the summer when they open up the terraces.
Read more: 5 places to party like it's the 1920s
3. People watch on the Quai St. Bernard
Quai St Bernard, 75005
Originally an entrance in the city walls and home to the Paris wine market, the Quai St Bernard has now been renovated to provide Parisians with a public park. It has great people-watching opportunities or spots to read and soak up the sun, or, if you can't bear to be offline for more than an hour, connect to the free Wi-Fi. Take a stroll on a warm, sultry summer's evening along this waterfront promenade and see street performers and dancers showcasing their talents, or enjoy the outdoors sculpture museum all year round. Another plus point, it's completely free, saving you more dollar for du vin.
4. Relax in the Rodin Museum garden
79 Rue de Varenne, 75007
To unwind, visit the quiet oasis of Rodin’s garden: a stunning three hectare strech of green, it's sure to inspire Titchmarsh wannabes to spruce up their own patch when they get home. With free entry for under 26 year olds (only €1 entry otherwise) and late-night opening hours in the summer, it’s an excellent value attraction to visit at almost any hour. Take a book, bring a picnic (you may have to be inconspicuous about your food though - there is a café in the grounds serving light meals starting at €4 a head) 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 at the Louvre - that iconic glass pyramid overlooking the Jardin des Tuileries on the right bank of the Seine is worth a drive-by even if you don't go in. But if you've been there and gazed upon mona's cheeky grin, or you're not keen on elbow barging hoards of tourists for a glimpse, then hang out in the Richelieu Wing of the gallery. The least crowded space in the gallery, there's still plenty of artworks to admire here, including replica apartments of Napoleon III, outdoors sculture gardens and artefacts from Mesopotamia and Ancient Iran. One top tip for visiting the Louvre, whether or not you're planning on seeing Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, is to purchase an advance ticket to avoid what can often be hour long queues.
Read more: Insider’s guide to Paris galleries
6. Hang out by the bandstand in the Luxembourg Gardens
Jardin de Luxembourg, 75006
The Jardin du Luxembourg, the largest park in Paris covering 60 acres, has more to offer than just fountains, lawns, flower displays, ping-pong tables and green seats - although that's not a bad start! The bandstand by the east entrance regularly hosts free musical events during their Kiosques en Musique festival (May to the end of October) with performances from professional and amateur musicians, from Chopin to local gospel choirs singing their hearts out. To get there, take the Métro to Odéon - the closest, but not the only nearby, stop.
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.
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. Sip dainty cups of floral tea in the little garden café, open in the summer when the weather’s nice, before settling in to a plush red velvet seat in front of one of two big screens. This boutique cinema plays all the latest French and world cinema releases and regular adult tickets are €9.80. Rather than fill up on popcorn, save some room and after the show head 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. Line 84 is a good ride to start with, taking you 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 disappoints if you want to go off-piste to discover 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.
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This article was orginially written by Tripbod Victoria.