For those who want to live like the locals…
Most people who visit Paris follow a well-worn path. They brave the long queues to climb the Eiffel Tower, they join the crowds straining to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, they stand in line to get inside Notre Dame, and shuffle through the hordes of tourists at Montmartre. The first time I came to Paris, I was one of those people. I hit all the famous landmarks, awed and happy that I had ticked off the iconic places that I’d so often dreamed about.
I’ve now lived and worked in Paris for the last three years, leaving my native Sydney behind to live the Parisian dream. Since moving here, I’ve had wave after wave of visitors from home who’ve made the most of having me as their local tour guide. For those who were seeing Paris for the first time, I indulged their need to see the usual tourist hotspots, but I also tried to show them more than that. I wanted them to see beyond the glossy postcard to discover the lesser-known parts of the city that, for me, represent the real Paris.
Here are a few of my tips for those who want a taste of la vrai vie parisienne.
1. Go for a stroll along the Canal
Paris is a city for walking, especially along the banks of the Seine River. It’s often when I cross one of the many beautiful bridges along the Seine that I have the ‘Wow, I live in Paris’ moment. But I actually prefer taking a stroll along the Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement towards the Canal de l’Ourcq in the 19th arrondissement.
Here is my ideal Paris, where it feels less like a fairytale and more like a real city, one that is living and breathing and gritty. There are also fantastic spots to eat and drink all along the Canal – Hotel du Nord, La Patache, Chez Prune, 25º Est, Paname Brewery & Pavillion des Canaux to name a few.
2. Walk Paris’ High Line
Like New York City’s High Line, the Promenade Plantée (also known as La Coulée Verte) in the 12th arrondissement is a tree-lined pedestrian walkway built partly on top of an old elevated railway track.
Stretching 4.5km from Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes, the elevated section of the promenade provides a welcome escape from the street-level traffic and offers great views of the surrounding buildings.