Paris is the most romantic and cliched of all the world’s travel destinations. People dream of its art, cafes, history, food, gardens, style and endless historical and cultural icons. Its poetic name is even the City of Lights. These are big boots to fill. And, to its credit, Paris often lives up the mythos.
Paris is also a living, breathing, heaving world city. Every day some 12 million residents mill around its various arrondissements. Among them is a daily load of 90,000-odd tourists. So behind the fairytale, Paris is still a very big, extremely busy and globally important city. The touchstones of its glamour obscure a place that’s always rebuilding itself, innovating, changing and thriving.
How do you find this “ living Paris” behind the wall of tour buses at the Eiffel Tower? Where is it when you’re stranded on the Arc De Triomphe in the middle of the biggest roundabout you’ve ever seen? What does real Paris look like, you may wonder, while crammed into a large room in the Louvre to look at a small, old painting of some Italian woman named Mona?
This blog, written with the advice of NM, a fashionable young thing, strong with seven years of harbouring the trendiest and up-coming spots of Paris, shares with us her hot tips and must-eats.
Q: Where are the good but less well-known areas to stay in Paris?
NM: Great question. For me there are 6 you should keep an eye out for:
MOB Hotel of the People – A funky, stylish and whimsical place to stay in the hipsterish area of Saint Ouen, 7 clicks north of central Paris. https://www.mobhotel.com/en/
Mama Shelter Paris – Decorated and design by the cutting-edge style guru Philippe Starck, this is the Paris outpost of a chain of boutique hotels that are as cool as they come. Great prices too. https://www.mamashelter.com/fr/paris
Les Piaules – A hostel and a bar, this place is actually more stylish than you might expect. Some bill it as the best backpackers in central Paris. http://www.lespiaules.com/
The Hoxton – A fancy new hotel operating from an 18th Century house, it has an outstanding bar, restaurant and fitness centre. Treat yourself? https://thehoxton.com/paris/paris/
Hôtel Edgar – The restaurant is great but it’s the rooms that are the major draw. Each has been individually styled by a fashion designer, photographer, theatre director or sculptor. http://www.edgarparis.com/
Yooma Urban Lodge – Modern, socially aware and brighty coloured. It’s not badly priced and is in a brilliant location right on the Seine and just a stroll from the Eiffel Tower. http://www.yooma-hotels.com/en/
Q: What are some places you personally recommend for a meal or snack?
NM: I love going out to eat and there’s almost too much to choose from in Paris. These are the ones I recommend:
52 Faubourg Saint Denis – The street address is actually the establishment’s name. Great for French tapas and good wine. I love the light, airy atmosphere. Plus, it’s very close to my place, is open late and the staff are friendly. http://www.faubourgstdenis.com/
Bambou – This Thai place has a great outdoor seating area, amazing cocktails and is also in my neighborhood: the 2nd Arrondissement. It’s also right across the street from great shopping. https://www.bambouparis.fr/
Pizza Popolare : Right in the very cool 2nd Arrondissement. The food here is both inexpensive and fantastic. Sometimes there’s a wait for service though. https://www.bigmammagroup.com/fr/trattorias/pizzeria-popolare
Also check out: We Are Juice, Echo, Panache, Elmer, Saturne, Septime and Rivié (at The Hoxton)
Q: Where can you go for true Parisian food – not the usual tourist stuff?
Kevin Lacote – A pâtisserie and tea room with great cakes and pies. But the cookies are where they truly shine. They’re friendly people and have excellent cooking classes too. https://www.klpatisserie.com/
Raoul Maeder – Since 1957 this Alsatian-inspired bakery has been relied on by Parisians for good bread and even better cakes. http://www.raoulmaeder.fr/en/home.aspx
Popelini – Perfect for an after pick-me-up this is simply the best place for choux à la crème (traditional Parisian cream puffs) that I know of. https://popelini.com/?lang=en
Q: What are the best shopping areas in Paris in your experience?
NM: If you want to shop, there are so many places. Here are my picks:
Grands Boulevards – This is a whole neighbourhood of old-world glamour. Good for big fashion chains like Zara, Mango and Promod.
Rue du nil – A tiny cobblestoned street that couldn’t be farther from its world’s-longest-river namesake. Super trendy for fresh food and great wine.
Le Marais – Very close to the cool Saint Paul area, this is where you go to find indie shops, art galleries, crafts and designers’ studios.
Rue du Commerce – The name literally translates to Shopping Street. And that’s what you do in this 15th Arrondissement locale. It offers a little bit of everything.
Q: One or two lesser-known areas of Paris that are good to explore without a plan.
NM: Wandering around Paris is always a fabulous thing to do. It’s a big city though, so some direction does pay off. Here is where I go:
11th Arrondissement between Rue Keller and Boulevard e Ménilmontant – Great for street art and up-and-coming culture
Batignolles – An area of the 17the Arrondissement, a young place with new urban developments.
Q: What are the big tourist traps you’d skip?
NM: Everyone seems to come to Paris to tick a few things off a list. But because there is so many tourists also doing the same thing you’ll find that the Champs Élysée is just too busy. As for going up the Eiffel Tower, honestly it’s better to look at it than to be in it. Go to the restaurant at the top of Tour Montparnasse instead. That way you get a high-level that includes the Eiffel Tower.