How to visit Paris like a local

One of the most beautiful cities in the world is also one of the most overrun by tourists, so how do you visit Paris like a local?

Paris has always been one of my favourite cities in the world and like a lot of people, I was drawn to it before I ever actually visited. My first trip to Paris was in 2006 when I landed just in time for New Years Eve and I completely fell in love.

Since moving to London in 2012, I’ve crossed the pond to the city of lights anywhere from 2-5 times per year (I’ve lost count tbh) and given my typical travel style of trying to see a city in the most local way possible, I’ve discovered so many great places over that time and it’s safe to say that I’ve ticked off all the key tourist points, so I thought it was about time that I actually wrote about it.

For this alternative guide to Paris I’m compiling all my fave places in the hope that when you visit, you can discover and enjoy a little bit of the Paris that I know and love so damn much.

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Eat

Brunch:

  • Café Marlette – 51 Rue des Martyrs A gorgeous café with amazing organic baked goods, perfect for brunch (though the coffee selection needs some work)
    Le Poutch – 13, rue Lucien Sampaix also has some great brunch options and serves good coffee
  • Holybelly – 19 Rue Lucien Sampaix – for a Melbourne style brunch
  • Bol Porridge Bar – 76 Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière – name speaks for itself
  • Café Oberkampf – 3 Rue Neuve Popincourt – Amazing coffee and baked eggs. Check out their website for photo proof!
  • The Hardware Société Paris – 10 Rue Lamarck (just next to Sacre Coeur) – I used to always go to the Hardware Society in Melbourne and now they’ve opened one up in Paris. Doesn’t get any more Melbourne-style for brunch than this, really.

Lunch & Dinner:

  • Chez Janou – 2, rue Roger Verlomme, 3rd Arrondissement. Delish, authentic food from the south of France
  • Ober Mamma – 107 Boulevard Richard Lenoir – Super popular Italian restaurant and bar, often with queues
  • Au petit fer à cheval – 30 Rue Vieille du Temple – The perfect Parisian cafe bar for people watching and delicious salads
  • Daroco – 6 Rue Vivienne – The most photogenic Italian restaurant I’ve ever been in. Really. Here’s proof.

Bakery: 

Most of them, to be fair, but in particular:

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Coffee

The amount of new coffee shops in Paris that fulfil my fussy Melbourne-coffee needs is insane – the coffee scene has really blown out from a time when I could list the good places on one hand in 2012, I’m now struggling to try them all just 4 years later. Here’s the best ones I’ve found to date:

  • KB Cafeshop – 53 ave trudaine – 62 rue des martyrs, 75009. Originally called Kooka Boora, this was the first good, Aussie-style coffee I had in Paris and I return almost every time. They also serve healthy snacks and have outdoor seating for the warmer days, in the hustle and bustle of a great antique market.
  • Le Perchoir – 14, rue Crespin du Gast, 11th Arrondissement
  • Café Kitsuné – 51, Galerie de Montpensier, 1st Arrondissement – A stone’s throw away from the Louvre, so the perfect place to start a day of toursting.
  • Foundation Café – espresso bar right next to Temple metro station
  • Ten Belles – 10 rue de la Grange aux Belles 75010 – Opened by a fellow Aussie, this café serves great coffee, cakes and breakkies
  • Holybelly – 19 rue Lucien Sampaix, 75010 Great Melbourne-inspired coffee and brunch
  • Le Bal Café – 6 Impasse de la Défense
  • CREAM – 50 rue de Belleville, 75020, 20th Arrondissement – There’s one of these near my house in London too, a quirky Cafeteria-style coffee shop (with food)
  • Télescope – 5 Rue Villedo. 75001, 1st Arrondissement
  • Loustic – 40 rue Chapon, 75003 I LOVE the little seats arranged along the wall in this one. Convenient central location.
  • Boot Café – 19 Rue du Pont aux Choux

Drink

  • Le Perchoir – 14, rue Crespin du Gast, 11th Arrondissement – Rooftop bar and restaurant
  • Ô Paris – 1 rue des Envierges, 20e – There’s Eiffel tower views from the big terrace
  • La Belle Hortense – 31 Rue Vieille du Temple – Beautiful wine bar and bookshop in one

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Sleep

My favourite district to stay in Paris is Montmartre (18th arrondissement). It’s everything that I always imagined Paris to be like – cobbled streets, gorgeous boutiques, art vendors and endless bistros and bakeries. These days it’s incredibly popular with tourists, but this doesn’t make it any less beautiful and as soon as you stray away from the main street, you find yourself having the neighbourhood all to yourself.

Tip: Avoid the steps leading up to Sacre Coeur and make your way to the top of Montmartre through the winding back streets instead. This way you’ll see the quaint and beautiful side of the neighbourhood that I fell in love with, rather than the overcrowded stressful area filled with tourists.

Other great neighbourhoods to stay in include:

  • Le Marais (3rd) – perfect central location to explore the areas endless restaurants, bars, art galleries and shopping boutiques, also known as the heartland of Jewish and gay Paris.
  • St-Germain-des-Prés (6th) – a beautiful area that’s a little more upmarket with lots of fashion houses, luxury brands and lovely cafes;
  • Belleville (20th) – where you’ll find the Parisian hipsters with amazing cafes, the best brunches, cool bars, bustling markets and plenty of street art.  It’s a real multicultural hub, a bit further out of the way of central Paris but easy enough to get everywhere and still have great coffee on your doorstep.

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Shop

Market – Rue des Martyrs (Metro Station: Pigalle)
I recommend you start your morning with a coffee from KB (see above for coffee deets) and wander down rue des Martyrs to explore the street market, the lovely boutiques, bakeries and specialty gift shops along the way. Think olives vendors, home made jams, antique furniture and incredible chocolate shops.

Marais – My favourite shopping neighbourhood in Paris, the Marais has an abundance of cute boutiques, vintage shops, designer stores and cool bars and cafes. There’s also the recently reopened Picasso museum and the famous old Jewish quarter.

Department Store – The famous Galerie Lafayette is a great place to start if you don’t know what you want to shop for, but you know you just want to buy lots of nice things!

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Explore the key sights

As fun as it is to visit Paris like a local, it would also be a crime to miss out on some of the biggest sights! Here’s a selection of my biggest must-see spots:

  • Museums: The Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou and Musee Rodin are all must-sees. The Picasso museum in Le Marais has recently reopened after renovation and was one of my favourites too (and a perfect air conditioned solace on a hot summer’s day)
  • Palais – Wander through the beautiful Royal Gardens and Instagram ’til your heart’s content
  • Eiffel Tower – An obvious choice. Nothing beats the feeling you get when you spot the Eiffel Tower in real life for the very first time.
  • Sacre Coeur – Visit the church and get lost in the steep, winding streets of Montmartre, my favourite district in Paris. Avoid the main stairs and take the long way through the back streets instead.
  • Nortre Dame – Go early to avoid crowds. Explore inside the cathedral and then go for a walk along the river, stopping at some bistros for a wine or two along the way
  • Arc de Triumph – Make your way to the centre of the craziest roundabout then walk down the famous Champs Elysees for some window shopping and photo opps. Avoid eating here as the area is a known tourist trap so opt for something a little further afield.
  • Versailles – A 45 minute train ride out of Paris, the Château de Versailles has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage list for 30 years and it’s one of my favourite day trips out of Paris.
    Definitely try and see Versailles in the warmer months, or early Autumn, when the garden is at its most beautiful. Try to arrive extra early to tour the palace first (the crowds get pretty crazy), then pack a picnic blanket and some snacks to enjoy by the ponds in the gardens – or go one step further and hire a little paddle boat. Check out my post about Versailles for extra tips.

More info

Some good Paris blogs and websites to check out –

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