lifestyle

An Aussie girl's guide to Paris.

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.

Canal St Martin.

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.

La Coulée Verte.

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.

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3. Picnic in parks and gardens outside the city centre

The only thing wrong with the Luxembourg Gardens and the Tuileries gardens in the centre of Paris is that they are almost always overrun with tourists. It’s worth the trek to some of the parks and gardens in the outer districts, where instead you’ll find local Parisians with their pique-niques.

Buttes-Chaumont.

I like the elegant Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement, as well as Buttes-Chaumont and Parc de la Villette, both in the 19th arrondissement. Parc de la Villette even boasts a free open-air cinema in July and August.

4. Go treasure hunting in St Ouen

Beyond the cheap market stalls and seedy street hawkers selling knock-offs at Porte de Clignancourt is the Marche Vernaison, an oasis hidden within the Marché aux Puces de St Ouen, the flea markets in the north of Paris. Here you will find a veritable treasure trove of knick-knacks, vintage wares and antique furniture.

Treasure hunting at the Parisian flea markets.

On your way out, stop by La REcyclerie – an eco-conscious beer garden/café/market housed in a colourfully converted train station right next to the Porte de Clignancourt metro. They have live chickens, their own veggie patch and outdoor seating along the old railway tracks.

5. See Paris from above

Most tourists go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe or the Montparnasse Tower for a bird’s eye view of the city, but there are other spots for an incredible view of the Paris skyline.

A bird’s eye view of Paris.

My picks are the rooftops of the Institut du Monde Arabe, Centre Pompidou, the Galeries Lafayette department store and Le Louxor, an arthouse cinema in the 10th arrondissement.

6. Discover Paris’ budding coffee culture

Coffee in a typical Parisian bistro is terrible. Thankfully, specialty coffee shops are springing up all over the city to cater to the growing community of Parisian coffee connoisseurs. A few of the best are KB CafeShop, Coutume, Loustic, Craft and Ten Belles – all of which also serve fabulous food.

Do you have any tips for Aussies heading to Paris? 

Read more on European travel:

Rich history, incredible food, spectacular scenery: A traveller’s guide to Turkey.

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Tags: travel
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