Paris is a well-documented tourist city, no doubt. Travelers often seek out the most authentic experience they can find in a new place (you can read my thoughts in the difference between a tourist and a traveler here). Probably the best way to access this “realness” is through the advice of a local. Naturally, everyone has their own recommendations for their own domicile, but I thought I would share a few of my favorites (in no particular order) from a city I lived in and love so much: Paris, France.
1. Le Bar du Marché (75 rue du Seine 75006)
This fun little place is located in the posh 6th arrondissement, but is hardly fancy itself. It has a laid-back, casual atmosphere and an old Parisian brasserie style decor. They offer a full bar and a light menu, making it a perfect spot of an afternoon meet up or an aperitif before a late dinner (dinners are always later in Paris, with restaurants not filling up until around 9:00pm). The waiters here even dress in red overalls.
2. L’International (5/7 rue Moret 75011)
If you are looking for a great place to see a a free concert (yes, I said free), this is the spot. It’s a little bit north of the main tourist areas, off of rue Oberkampf, but has various bands performing pretty much every night of the week for no cost. There is a main bar upstairs, and the stage venue is downstairs. You can check out the line-up here. Their website is all in French, but they do get musicians from all over the world. On the topic of this area, rue Oberkampf is a super cool, non-tourist street with many bars and restaurants, so consider this a local hangout spot.
3. La Guillotine/Les Caveau des Oubliettes (52 rue Galande 75005)
On the subject of music venues, La Guillotine is a bar in the 5th arrondissement not far from Place Saint-Michel. It has its very own jazz venue underneath it, Les Caveau des Oubliettes (it used to be a prison). Here they host jazz and blues musicians, and hold jam sessions on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Check out their line-up here. The upstairs bar is called La Guillotine because they have an actual guillotine used in the French Revolution on display in the bar. I warn you, this bar has quite its own history though. I have a friend who met her husband here, I myself met a guy I dated for a time here (and subsequently met most all of my best friends there through him), and a friend who went here on her first date before I’d met her. I have also met international friends who I have kept up with over the years in this bar. So be aware, things happen here. Oh, and the rhum rhums (their specialty drink) are dangerous!
4. Le Barrio Latino (46 rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine 75012)
If all this talk of music has gotten you in the mood to dance, I couldn’t recommend this place more, located in the neighborhood near Bastille. As you can probably deduce from the name, the atmosphere is Latin, and here, they dance salsa. It is a magnificent place inside though, with 4 different stories, each with their own particular flavor. There is a restaurant as well, serving an array of Latin inspired cuisine. They even teach salsa and tango classes if you want to improve your skills (or acquire them in the first place). While not “French”, it’s a distinctly fabulous night out in another super hip area.
5. Le Baron Rouge (1 rue Théophile Rousel 75012)
Around the same area as Le Barrio Latino you can find this little gem, a true Parisian wine bar. And this place is all about the wine. There are barrels of the stuff from which you can fill your pitcher, or even your own empty bottles (for a less expensive price). It is an extremely popular after-work spot, and if you want a place at the bar you must get there early. Otherwise you can join the rest of the crowd outside. They serve fabulous cheese and charcuterie plates as well.
6. Le Refuge des Fondue (17 rue des 3 Frères 75018)
This is another truly unique experience, and one that you probably wouldn’t stumble upon without being directed to it. It’s up in the 18th, the area known as Montmartre. As the name suggests, they serve fondue… and wine, out of baby bottles… yes, you read that correctly. It’s a very small place, and on weekend nights has a line down the street, but it’s worth it. There are only two long bench tables inside, one on either side, and if you are in the middle you must climb over the table to get to your seat. They serve only meat and cheese fondue, and a red or a white wine, but it’s more than entertaining to watch full grown adults sipping their beverages through rubber nipples.
7.L’As du Fallafel (34 rue des Rosiers 75004)
This is by far the best falafel I have every had, in my entire life, hands down. They have an outdoor take away window as well as indoor seating, and there is often a line. But don’t be discouraged, it is well worth the little wait. It moves quickly as well. One of my favorite ways to have this treat is to take it to go and wander to a park closely by to enjoy. Another tip, the gorgeous Place des Vosges is hardly more than a 5 minute walk away, and provides the perfect setting.
8. Berko (23 rue Rambuteau 75004)
Once you’ve finished your falafel and you find yourself in need of something sweet, head over to Berko, which is in the same neighborhood. This shop sells beautiful pastries, but is most famous for its cupcakes. There are over 40 flavors on the menu, and the offering varies daily. There’s always a large selection though. They also sell them in a miniature size, so you can easily buy several without feeling too guilty. My timeless favorite is the vanilla cupcake with rose flavored icing. Pure heaven.
9. Le Déli-Cieux (64 Boulevard Haussmann 75009)
This café is actually part of Printemps, one of the famous department stores. It is located on the roof, and offers panoramic view of the entire city. It’s a simple cafe, but you don’t go here for the food. It’s the views of the famous Parisian rooftops that is the allure here. Galleries Lafayette nearby has a cafe on their roof as well, but this one is better. Enjoy the setting with a glass of wine, watch the sun set, and take it all in.
10. Picnic along the Seine
This is probably the most truly local thing you can possibly do in the entire city. Naturally it is a weather dependent activity, but on a beautiful sunny day, there is no better way to spend it than having a picnic along the iconic Rive de Seine. There are multiple locations of course, but I will give you my insight. The road that runs along the Right Bank is pedestrian only on Sundays for the majority of the day, so that opens up more options. But the absolute best location for a picnic is the park at the point of the Ile de la Cité, by Pont Neuf. There is a park there that is perfect for basking in the sun, there are trees to provide shade if you prefer, and there is a free bathroom (yes, this is the major plus!) in the nearby underground parking garage. (You can see some photos of my last picnic in this location here.)