Breton striped tees, wicker baskets, beret and red lips – the idea of ‘Gay Paree’ is one of romanticism, fresh baguettes, and smelly cheese. As the ‘City of Love’, most people have incredibly high hopes for Paris and I have to admit that on my first visit to the French capital, I was slightly underwhelmed. The heavily crowded tourist sites didn’t match up to my idyllic cobble-stoned visions and there was certainly a distinct lack of mime lookalikes.
However, I’m always for second chances and have spent every visit since seeking out the special spots that have turned me into an adoring tourist. There really are so many gorgeous shops and cafes to discover and slowly but surely the city has become a firm favourite in the EJP travel books. Especially when you can find Eurostar deals from £29 each way…
I’ve shared some of my favourite tips below but I’m absolutely yearning to hear if you have any special places in Paris that you like to visit. Here we go!
If you’re looking for somewhere cheap and cheerful to stay Stephanie’s House is the place for you. The perfect Parisian abode, the flat is full of wonderfully source bohemian interiors and although very small, the space has been used smartly. Located right next to a Metro station and just a 20-minute walk from the sights of Montmartre, we were made to feel truly at home and left wanting to stay a few more nights to enjoy a traditional French lifestyle on the balcony, red wine in hand.
Nearest Metro: Simplon
While the front end of Montmartre is a little bit of a touristic hell, the backstreets are a little slice of Parisian heaven. Cobbled roads, slanted architecture and pretty parks can be found by simply veering off the common paths, although I’d of course still recommend taking in that gorgeous view by taking a seat in front of the Sacre-Couer.
Montmartre was the first area that I visited that encapsulated the Paris I had imagined and the walk to the top is pretty great for the thighs too. Don’t rely on a map too much around the area and set about just seeing where the winding roads take you. La Maison Rose is one of the little Parisian treasures to be found…
Nearest Metro: Anvers / Abbesses
Pigalle Basketball Court
The Pigalle Basketball Court is probably every colour addicts wet dream with crazy hues of pink, orange and blue filling the court with gradient lovin’. Head on over here for more dreamy imagery.
French design and photography agency Ill-Studio and fashion brand Pigalle, along with the support of Nike, redesigned and repainted the Paris Duperré court, offering a facelift to its previous primary coloured geometric environment. The court is squeezed between buildings on Rue Duperré, around the Place Pigalle and is normally full to the brim with budding sportsmen. Bring a ball and join in or watch from the sidelines for a few slam dunks.
22 Rue Duperré, 75009 Paris, France.
Nearest Metro Station: Blanche
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Parc des Buttes Chaumont is my little secret but I want to let you all in on it as it’s got to be one of my favourite places to whittle away an afternoon, cheese board in a bag, of course. Located in the 19th arrondissement, the park is a visual feast of greens and stone with caves, waterfalls, a suspended bridge, and a miraculously high viewpoint with views of Paris to boot. It’s the perfect place to sip on some wine in the sun and watch the world go by. You shouldn’t have to be on your feet the whole time, right?
1 Rue Botzaris, 75019 Paris, France
Nearest Metro: Buttes Chaumont
This one is for all of you architecture buffs out there who love to spot a good building and find yourself in awe of those done well. Noisy-le-Grand is out of the city centre but certainly worth a visit if you’re into buildings, especially those of the futuristic kind. I documented all our travels and a little history behind the Hunger Games location (have a read over here) and I’d 100% recommend the journey for something a little bit different.
Nearest Station: Gare de Noisy-le-Grand – Mont d’Est
Palais de Tokyo
The Palais de Tokyo is a grand building dedicated to modern and contemporary art and as such can be a little bit hit and miss when it comes to exhibitions. It’s a tad pricey when it comes to admission but the building itself is absolutely stunning and there is plenty to see once you’re inside. Just look at those shadows!
If you’re not a fan of perusing art museums, you may just want to pop in for a drink (which are actually reasonably priced), a look at the wonderful gift shop or for a go in the rather famous Palais de Tokyo photo booth – it’s actually open until midnight so you could turn a normal exhibition visit into a night-time extravaganza.
13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris, France
Nearest Metro: Alma-Marceau
Marché des Enfants Rouges
Recommended to me by the lovely Skye over at Skull and Heart, the Marché des Enfants Rouges is the oldest covered market in Paris having been established way back in 1628. Just a small entrance lets you know it’s there but inside you’ll find a welcoming bunch of stalls selling flowers, vegetables, and other organic treats. After falling for the food scene in Marrakech earlier this year, we hit up the Moroccan food stall for a hot plate of couscous, vegetables and some puffed bread – an experience made all the better by the patterned tables and friendly staff.
39 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris, France
Nearest Metro: Temple
Local markets & supermarkets
If you’re looking to do Paris on the cheap and practise your French, buying food in the supermarkets and local delis is the best way to go for a more purse-friendly experience. The croissants 100% taste better than UK-bought breakfast and you wouldn’t be in France if you couldn’t buy a ready-made cheese board all year round. The wine is also ridiculously cheap with €5 essentially guaranteeing you a great bottle (you’ll still set this back per glass in a restaurant). Picking up cakes from a local patisserie is also a must-do experience. Grab your picnic basket, head to a park and enjoy!
Cafe Pimpin was a cute little brunch spot just a short walk from our Airbnb, bursting with charm and stocking some great coffee. Complete with a white tiled facade avec minty green accents, the cafe is a little slice of the Parisian youth with a lot of ‘trendy’ people passing through. You can also pick up the normal brunch feasts here such as avocado on toast and cheese toasties. Don’t forget to say hi to resident goldfish Pimpin while you’re there!
64 Rue Ramey, 75018 Paris, France
Nearest Metro: Jules Joffrin
Les Puces de Saint-Ouen
Les Puces de Saint-Ouen is one of those special places where the magic can really happen in the shopping department. This HUGE flea market, just north of the 18th Arrondissement, is the place to go if you’re into vintage or antique shopping, or just like the vibrancy of walking around somewhere new and taking in the sites.
The market is split up into lots of different categories so the best plan of action is to find one of the maps and get exploring. Don’t be put off by the junk and tourist stalls on the outskirts – If you’ve ever been to Camden Market, think of it in the same way, the good finds are in the centre and you have to hunt them out. Be sure to also check for opening times before you visit to avoid disappointment. I owe half my record collection to this place, somake sure you stick it out.
99 Rue des Rosiers, 93400 Paris, France
Nearest Metro: Porte de Clignancourt
Merci is probably the one place you’ll get recommended by every person you ask and there’s good reason for it. A coffee shop, restaurant, clothing store, furniture warehouse, bookstore hybrid, the eclectic concept store is home to some of the hippest brands in the world and clearly attracts a similar kind of clientele.
The shop is actually an old wallpaper factory, so you can imagine the aesthetic, and although rather expensive, it’s a good place to gather inspiration and potentially treat yourself – their stationery section is divine. Something that they’ve got right, is the Merci medallion stand where you can pick up a trinket for friends and family from a mere €4. Everyone can own a little bit of the Merci lifestyle.
111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris
Nearest Metro: Filles du Calvaire
Saint-Georges and Marais
While I would normally bring to you a wonderful array of independent shops, much of Paris is closed in August and I simply can’t recall all of the names of places I’ve visited prior to blogging. However, I do very much know that the areas of Marais and Saint-Georges are filled with some gorgeous boutiques from gift shops to fashion and homeware. The only good thing about all the shops being abandoned for the Summer holidays you ask? The abundance of colourful shutters brightening up the street!