Ah Paris, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but frustratingly it is one of the most difficult to get away from the crowds of berret toting tourists. Sure the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre are amazing attractions worthy of a visit, but you’ll find yourself asking “Where are all the French?” This is a guide of things to do and see in Paris to immerse yourself in the City of Love.
1. Try to speak French
Even if it’s only the basics, French people will appreciate it. Imagine someone visiting your country who just spoke at you in a different language! Even if it’s a simple “Bonjour”, “Merci” and the crucial “Vin du Maison”. Need help from a local? You could practice your French and discover all the unique things to do in Paris with a local guide from Withlocals.
Withlocals is a super cool travel startup that matches travellers in a new city with locals who can show them around. Essentially, it is an online marketplace that allows travellers to get in touch directly with locals. You can select a variety of experiences on their website ranging from home dinners to private tours to discovering the hidden gems…such as parts of Paris you could never find by yourself!
2. Learn the dress code
When you arrive into Paris, you could be forgiven for thinking that Fashion week is on, regardless of the time of year. This city is obsessed with fashion, and accessorising is crucial for men and women alike. This is a city where being overdressed is difficult to achieve. If you’re unsure, wear all black, that seems to be acceptable too (or buck the trend and wear your old tracksuit, maybe that’s edgy?).
3. Use Bla Bla Car
Check out Blablacar for cars leaving from the airport to central Paris. This popular French car-sharing site often has lots of availabilities for people leaving from and going to the airport. If you’re taking it to go back to the airport make sure to leave extra early, however, as although it is usually reliable you can never be too sure! It can be cheaper, and faster, than the bus and is a favourite among locals.
4. Get on your bike.
Velibs are public bikes which you can find everywhere around Paris and cost under 2 euro to rent for the entire day. You can pay for a Velib at any Velib station (only payable by card) and keep the bike for the whole day or just a few hours. Remember to change your bike at a Velib station every 30-40 minutes though (depending on your subscription) or you’ll have to pay a little bit extra. This is how locals get to work or get around the city, and is great for those on a budget!
5. Do a food tour
Now that you’ve got the lingo and the outfit down, this seems like a good time to go get some food. Parisians take food very seriously, but how do you tell the difference between a top quality cafe and one that sells marked up, low quality products to tourists? You can learn all the tips and tricks by taking a tour with Secret Food tours , who will teach you to avoid the big chains, and how to spot a highly ranked eatery, while all the time eating some of the nest food Paris has to offer. Luckily Janet went on the tour with them last year, so you can read all about her mouthwatering tour here .
6. Visit Parc Asterix
Speaking of big chains, you may know that Disneyland Paris is a quick train ride outside Paris, and a huge attraction for tourists. However you will find a more unique French experience in Parc Asterix. This theme park is all about the adventures of Asterix and Obelix, the Gaul defenders against the Roman Empire… also they have a bobsled rollercoaster because why not?
7. Wander by Canal St. Martin
After all that excitement, you might need something to bring your heart back down to a resting pace. Remember everyone’s favourite french movie Amélie? Well this place should bring back some memories, as many of the most beautiful scenes were shot here. It’s also where you’ll find some of the coolest cafés, restaurants and hipster artisan shops. You’ll not only be surrounded by Parisians, but the coolest of the coolest Parisians!
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8. Stop off at Café Lomi for Blue Cheese Coffee
You read that right. Blue Cheese Coffee. You thought hipster coffee drinkers couldn’t come up with anything more bizarre? Well this Café encourages you to mix the strong flavours of their own private roast and the ever pongy blue cheese. If you don’t fancy being quite that experimental, pretty much everything they make looks amazing. They also do coffee based workshops on the weekend, but you’ll have to check their website for dates.
9. Picnic in Parc des Buttes Chaumont
There’s nothing quite as French as a picnic with a big baguette, cheese and saucisson, and no better place to enjoy it than Parc des Buttes Chaumont. This park has big green spaces so you won’t be too close to anyone, but it offers more than just a place to sit. Take some time to explore the waterfalls, grottos and views of Paris. I promise you’ll feel very French just by being there!
10. Pizza in Papacionu
I know it seems like sacrilege to tell you to go to Paris to get a Pizza, but this Pizzeria is not Italian, but Corsican, so technically it’s still French cuisine. They have a traditional pizza oven in which they make their semi-circular ‘pizzaionados’ with all fresh and homemade ingredients, which accounts for their popularity. The owner said he wanted to create an atmosphere that was like his Mother’s restaurant in Corsica, so all the drinks are sourced from there too. If you don’t call ahead to reserve, be ready for a long wait, with queues often going out the door.
11. Rock en Seine
This is one of the biggest festivals in France, and for good reason. They get some of the best international bands for this 3-day festival, the lineup for 2017 included people such as Franz Ferdinand, The XX, The Shins, Flume and literally hundreds more. You’re more than likely to get decent weather in Paris in August when the festival is on, so it’s the perfect place to get your party on!
12. Walk, walk and walk some more
Paris is a reasonably compact city, so you should embrace the city by walking around. The legend goes that Parisian women are so slim because they walk everywhere, and when every little street looks so pretty, why wouldn’t you? You can also easily walk to many of the top museums and galleries in Paris, some so big you’ll get quite the workout!
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13. Partly like a Parisien
Step 1: Pre-drink. Bars might be expensive in Paris but you can get some really good wine for bargain prices in the supermarkets. Pre-drink in your hostel or better if it’s summer go to the Quay along the Seine where there are often lots of other people having a drink or a picnic. One of my favourites is Quay Saint Bernard where there are often people dancing to Salsa/Tango/Irish music throughout the summer. No pressure to dance, you can just drink if you prefer!
Step 2: Stay away from expensive areas. Clubbing on the Champs Elysees is out if you want to save money. They charge upwards of 15 euro…per drink. It’s way too pretentious for us backpacker’s anyway!
Loads of bars in Paris do decent Happy Hours. One of my favourites is a nice Irish bar called O’ Connells on Rue Oberkampf where you can get wine for as little as €2.50 and beer for as little as €2! Also check out Au P’tit Garage, Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud for a glass of beer or wine for between €2 and €2.50.
Step 3: Getting home. Regarding transport, note that if you’re going out you can take a night bus home. Night buses run all night and cost less than two euro (you can use the same ticket as you use on the metro). The problem is that it might be hard to navigate yourself. If you are someone (not like me) with a good sense of direction then type in your itinerary on the RATP website.