Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world. There’s so much to see and do, of course there’s the obvious tourist attractions – Eiffel Tower, visit the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral – but so much more. Quiet streets, brilliant coffee shops on every corner, wonderful hidden restaurants off the beaten track and quiet neighborhoods much more enjoyable without the crowds. It’s easy to get around by metro, bus or bike, I prefer by foot. I’ve run over 75 miles since August 4th and walked even more. It allows you to stumble upon hidden gems and perhaps, the best crepe of your life. Here is a list of a few of my favorite things to do/places to go/food to eat while in Paris (in no particular order).
French dining / drinking, in all ways, shapes and forms at multiple locations:
Les Fete Galantes: This tiny restaurant (9 tables) is located literally right next door to us, in the same building just around the corner from the Pantheon. Best dining out experience we’ve had in Paris. The woman who owns it gives excellent recommendations while her hubby is cooking it all up in the kitchen. Hearty, wholesome food and the best chocolate cake of your life. Home-cooked French fare.
High Tea: Dalloyau is across the street from Luxembourg garden and have an array of pastries & macarons, lunch food and great coffee. Up their winding staircase you can sit in their tearoom and enjoy high tea for two at 39 Euro, which comes with tea and 18 sweet and salty snacks. Or just grab a croissant with a cafe au lait. The view of the gardens is worth it.
Lunch at Le Bistrot D’Henri: This hidden shop in the Saint Germain neighborhood is located on a quiet street lined with bars and coffee shops, that come alive at night. We came upon this charming spot on our stroll and couldn’t not stop. It’s named after the owners father who started the restaurant 30+ years ago. The place, so charming. We ordered salads, mine came with foie gras and duck with a mustard like dressing and the house white wine. We couldn’t say no to dessert! We wanted this delightful experience to last. I had chocolate soufflè and mom had the crème brûlèe. The chocolate soufflè was so light and airy and real dark chocolate. Also, to top it all off, our coffees (also good) came with a mini Toblerone bar. MUST GO.
Montremarte: This neighborhood is on top of a hill that overlooks Paris. It’s also where Moulin Rouge started in 1899. At the Sacred Heart Basilica, you’ll have the most amazing view of the city. The church area is pretty touristy but behind it you’ll find the most quaint winding streets and cafes. We wound up at one called Le Consulat, where Woody Allen has been known to frequent!
Pere – Laichese cemetery: This cemetery is home to over one million souls and was opened in 1804 on the East side of Paris. It houses the graves of many famed deceased including Jim Morrison, Modigliani, Gertrud Stein and Oscar Wilde to name a few. It’s quite a maze in there, with grave sites spread out over 110 acres. Maps are available to help you navigate, but we found them difficult to read. We ran into the sweetest Parisian man who clearly saw we were confused and offered his guidance. He walks there every morning and showed us to Jim Morrison’s grave, and give us a little history lesson. Then he pointed us into the right direction. We spent the rest of the afternoon searching for specific graves. I found grave hunting to be quite exciting actually! This cemetery visit is well worth a full day of your trip.
Rodin Musee: The Rodin museum is the least touristy, least busy museum I’ve ever been to in Paris. It’s also the best one I’ve been to. Of course Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre are “must see’s” in everyone’s lifetime, however the Rodin Musee should not be missed. The gardens are gorgeous, romantic and hold his famous “Thinker” sculpture along with many others. The museum building is an old hotel where he once worked, which exhibit many of his masterpieces. He was truly a genius.
Versailles gardens: Versailles is beautiful and of course big. We didn’t actually go inside the palace, instead we rented a golf cart (32 Euro an hour) and drove around the set path through the gardens and packed a lunch. The royals lived such a lush life! Marie Antoinette’s stomping grounds are pretty stunning. We took the train from Paris, 7 euro roundtrip.
Butte-Aux-Cailles neighborhood street art: For a casual neighborhood walk around amongst locals, specifically a younger crowd, Butte-Aux-Cailles is a quaint neighborhood outside of the center. I took the metro to Corvisart stop and walked a few blocks to reach Rue de Butte Aux Cailles. There is grafiti and street art throughout the neighborhood and a strip of little bars. I wandered around until I came to a pub called Sputnik. It was happy hour and there were pints for 5 Euro. This was a young crowd and not a single tourist in sight. There was a foosball table, art covered the walls. Loved the grunge.
Take in cafe culture: When tired or your feet hurt, seek out the nearest cafe and grab a table with a street view for the perfect Parisian people watching view and order a bevy. If you arrive before dinner time they usually bring you a little snack along with, some type of cracker or bowl of olives. Embrace the Paris cafe life, it defines the city.
Eiffel tower (PARIS) at night: Aside from climbing the Eiffel tower by day, check it out at night. Every hour on the hour at sundown the tower lights up sparkly pretty lights for an entire five minutes. Walk on over, bring a blanket and a bottle of wine and spend some time in the park and watch the show.
Local events/Things that aren’t touristy: Last night we went to an outdoor viewing of original Parisian short films, part of the August film festival, which took place in an outdoor courtyard of a beautiful government building underneath the stars. The place filled up with a local crowd.
Run: If you’re a runner, run. Run along the Seine, run around Luxembourg gardens, run around the city. It’s literally the best way to see everything, all the different neighborhoods, hidden streets, back alleyways and you’ll discover the wonderful, charming, real parts of Paris – away from all the tourists.
Simply to wander Paris in the morning, afternoon, or at night in the sunshine or the rain, is what you should spend most of your time doing. And drink wine of course.