Paris is a city like no other. Those who have visited leave a piece of their heart behind; and those who haven’t fantasize about strolling down the Champs Elysées or enjoying a picnic on the lawn by the Eiffel Tower. There are many reasons to love Paris and many ways to enjoy it. But often, traveling to new places becomes a scavenger hunt of checking famous landmarks off a list. As I travel more, I realize that I much prefer finding ways to get an authentic feel for the city that I’m in. I had the chance to do just that on my recent trip to Paris. Below are some ways to fully enjoy your next visit to the city of light and experience Paris like a local.
RENT AN APARTMENT
There are many beautiful hotels in Paris, but if you want to experience Paris like a local, the first step is renting an apartment. You automatically have a contact who can advise you on where to go and what to do that you won’t find in any guidebook. On my recent trip, a friend and I were lucky to have a fellow Depauw grad, now living in Paris, generously offer us her apartment near Parc Montsouris for the week. Even if you don’t have such a hook up, you can find great deals through Airbnb. On a prior visit to Paris, my Russian and I rented an apartment on the northwest side of the city with a view of the Eifel Tower and within steps of local cafés and attractions.
VISIT THE FARMERS MARKET AT THE BASTILLE
Several farmers markets pop up on the weekends throughout Paris. If you truly want to experience fresh, local cuisine I highly recommend visiting one. The Marché Bastille located along Boulevard Richard Lenoir, is one of the best. Open Sundays from 7-3 and Thursdays from 7-2:30, this colorful and lively open air market should not missed. Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, wine and cheese, bread and pâté and everything in between. For an extra treat don’t miss the fresh shucked oysters served with a drizzle of lemon juice followed by a shot of champagne. They were the best oysters I’ve tasted and enjoying them with my friend on her birthday made them all the more delicious!
SPEND AN AFTERNOON AT PARC DES BUTTES-CHAUMONT
Paris boasts many beautiful parks and gardens, from the Champ de Mars in front of the Eifel Tower to the Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre Museum. But a lesser known park that tops the list for many locals is the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Located on the northeast side of Paris, this public park contains waterfalls, walking trails, sculptures, ample greenspace and expansive views of the city. Grab some bread, wine and cheese and spend an afternoon lounging in the lawn overlooking the city of light.
PURCHASE FRESH PASTRIES AT A NEIGHBORHOOD BAKERY
Parisians love their bread. Ask any local where to get the best bread and you’ll get varying answers depending on where they live in Paris. Everyone believes their local boulangerie is the best, which means there are plenty of great bakeries to choose from. Grab a pain au chocolat or stock up on baguettes all made fresh daily. There is nothing quite like nibbling on a warm chocolate croissant wandering through the streets of Paris. If you ever find yourself near the Parc Montsouris neighborhood, La Fabrique aux Gourmandises comes highly recommended.
VISIT ART MUSEUMS FOR FREE
You could spend an entire trip just exploring the art museums of Paris. There are countless to choose from, each containing some of the most famous and beautiful works in the world. But visiting multiple museums can also get pricey with admission fees ranging anywhere from €9-€16. Luckily, museums are free the first Sunday of every month. Students under 26 can also take advantage of reduced entrance fees on all other days of operation. Another option is to go on days the museums are open late as many offer evening admission at a reduced rate.
SIP WINE BY THE SEINE
One of the many joys of Paris is sitting at a sidewalk café, sipping wine or an espresso and watching the city pass by. It is something you absolutely should do, but if you really want to feel like a local, skip the overpriced café for at least one day and instead grab a bottle of wine and head down to the River Seine. There is a perfect spot in the Square du Vert-Galant just below Pont Neuf, the oldest standing bridge that crosses the river. Whether with friends or on your own, this is a lovely place to sit and watch the boats pass by. It’s also just minutes away from the Notre Dame Cathedral.
DINE NEAR THE BASSIN DE LA VILLETTE
The Bassin de la Villete is a canal in the northeast corner of the city. There are several trendy bars and restaurants in this area, frequented primarily by locals. Grab a drink at BarOurcq and enjoy it out by the water, stop for a bite at Le Bellerive or sip an espresso at the quirky Pavillion des Canaux. Wherever you choose you’re sure to have a leisurely evening and truly feel like a local.
How do you find ways to experience new cities like a local? What are your favorite things to do in Paris? Share your comments below!