Oh, Paris. Doesn’t everyone have that image of a romantic, stunning, poetic city? A city where you go with a loved one and just stroll the streets? Even though that’s true, Paris is so much more than that. Recently, the city is booming with cool new initiatives.
It can be a little tough to come across those small hidden gems, but that’s where we can help you out. We selected the 12 most local discoveries of our Spotters. Skip that Eiffel Tower, get ready to be indulged in some real Paris vibes.
Have a tea at the grand mosque
The Great Mosque of Paris is not a hidden spot. It’s huge and renowned for its minaret, mosaics, plants and fountains. There’s even an entry fee, and the 3€ are definitely worth it.
But what few people know is that the Mosquée de Paris also has a tea room and a restaurant. Our Spotter Eloïse goes here often to drink mint tea and eat oriental pastries (especially gazelle horn). There are two beautiful terraces that are very pleasant when the weather is good. The small, blue, round tables are decorated with mosaics and surrounded by trees. It is a really beautiful and peaceful place where you can work, talk or read in peace.
Leather accessories – straight from the makers
Les Brutalistes is where you’ll find a leather maker’s workshop that produces customized leather belts, and unique, edgy accessories. It’s not surprising to find boutiques where a designer/maker sells directly to their public, especially in Paris’s 11th district; and through history, you’ll see it’s maintained a link to the artisanal skill of making.
In the shop there’s a designer/maker creating brilliantly crafted pieces in the open atelier just situated behind the kiosk desk while vinyl racks sit around walls. The designs are customized to your tastes and the prices are quite reasonable.
A less-known park and wonderful street
In the south of Paris, in the 14th arrondissement, there is the spacious Park Montsouris. Even though it is located not far from the famous Parisian catacombs, it is rarely visited by tourists, which makes it a wonderful spot off the beaten track.
What is even more delightful is the secret street called Square de Montsouris. It is hard to be found even on Google Maps, and our Spotter Cristina stumbled upon it by sheer luck.
Entering Square de Montsouris and walking past its ivy-covered houses felt like going to Wonderland. It was built in the 1920s in art nouveau and art deco style and hasn’t changed since. A perfect example of hidden Paris, it is not disturbed much either by people, nor by cars, so enjoy walking there quietly, slowly, inhaling the delicate fragrance of roses.
One of Europe’s largest and oldest hospitals
La Pitié-Salpêtrière, with more than 30 hectares, is one of the biggest hospitals in Europe. But it is also a very interesting site in terms of cultural heritage: indeed, it was first created in the 17th century, when King Louis XIV wanted to isolate ”unwanted” members of the society (beggars, prostitutes, the insane…) from central Paris to a place supposed to ”redeem their soul”, but which was actually more similar to a terrible detention centre than a charity place.
Some of the buildings date back to its early history, especially the chapel. Next to the chapel, a nice lawn, adorned with a few sculptures and equipped with public benches, is where our Spotter Frédéric takes his shaded break far from the crowds of Paris’s big touristic sites.
The best croissant in Paris?
One of the things that absolutely amaze me about the French is the love and appreciation of their culinary traditions — to such an extent that every year they select the best croissant of the year, the best baguette of the year (the one that will be served to the President), and so on. The proud winner places a golden sticker on the window of their bakery and bears this title till next year’s competition.
Our Spotter Cristina’s favorite croissant dealer, however, has not changed since 2016: Boris Lumé. It’s beautifully decorated in Art Nouveau style, but it’s croissant au beurre is to die for. The Artisanal Boulanger sign means they make their own dough. So a pure butter croissant made in an Artisanal Boulanger bakery is a marvel by definition!
Paris – Le Capital de la Fashion
Beyond Paris fashion week there’s a more thrifty couture look to be found; in the Parisian back streets. Commonly known as a ‘depot-vente’ (selling outlet), a favourite of mine is my local Le Boutique depot-vente.
Like a lot of independent retailers in the Faidherbe-Chilagny neighbourhood, opening starts from midday; however, if you’re heading over earlier, you can grab a croissant at the boulangerie of French chef Cyril Lignac, one of only two in Paris.
Nearby Le Boutique depot-vente which also has sample womenswear, is another fave outlet more elegantly called Les Beaux Mecs or The Handsome Man Depot Sale. Their proximity makes garment hunting between these two tiny almost cubicle-sized outlets a thrilling Parisian adventure.
A comfortable shop for erotic accessories
Doll House is an atypical erotic shop. Their objective is to provide you with a comfortable environment where you can find something that awakens your senses and puts you on the way to enjoy your intimate life more. The ladies that run this business since 2005 provide advice in a simple way, real experts in everything concerning how to boost your couple life.
Doll House are specialized in very original lingerie and they have a good array of sex toys which can be shown in a hidden part of their shop.
Don’t judge a bookshop by its looks
La Mouette Rieuse is an atypical bookshop. Our Spotter Constan likes it because of the books and gadgets one can find there. The shop spans over three floors and has different sections. To start, one can find any kind of guide for Paris near the entrance: Paris for lovers, Paris for fashion addicts, Paris for alternative people, Paris for sporty people… anything you want. This part also displays a good variety of fine paper and desk items and materials that are worth a look. Then they have a section with beautiful art books which are usually on reduced prices. It is a fantastic place to find small presents, usually with a message.
On the top floor there is a little gallery space where there is artwork displayed and at the end of the ground floor level one can drink tea or coffee or indulge in some sweet or salty snacks.
Beautiful greenhouses – free to visit
In the pretty garden of Serres d’Auteuil, open to the public free of charge, there are five pretty greenhouses that offer the opportunity to discover the vegetation of different regions of the world: Mexico, the Amazon forest, Japan and the Sahel region. These are the last large greenhouses to have been built in France in the 19th century.
In all, the garden has more than 6,000 plant species. Among the most original plants in the greenhouses are the caramel tree, birds of paradise and lilacs from India.
Paris’ premier ping pong bar
Housed in what was previously a working garage (and a hairdressing salon!), this large space is now home to Gossima which has 10 ping pong tables spread over two levels. The tables are of course the major attraction, but there is also a decent bar that serves snacks and reasonably-priced cocktails, and comfortable zones in which to relax whilst waiting for a table.
In the evenings at weekends the bar becomes almost a ping pong disco, with live DJs spinning discs whilst you work on your topspin. Our Spotter Adam recommends the Sunday afternoons where you can experience the divine combination of brunch and ping pong!
A French Dining Experience
Winter is definately the season for home-cooking! And home-cooking smacks with Michelin quality at Chez Mamy. And leave space for dessert! Also, Chez Mamy’s proprietor is like a ball of energy, and this sensation gets transmitted into his cafe-bistro. Serving up a warm, charming and never dull eating experience.
At Chez Mamy, you’ll get the full jovial force of this French hospitality if you eat there late, say 23:00. But there’s a flip side to this energy too. Catch the place early in the morning and the aspect of the terrace catches the morning sun rays, and literally glows with the effervescence of the day.
The kitchen is an open design and there’s various sized table arrangements, albeit packed in, making for an intimate vibe. The menu is seasonal and signature dishes include Tuna mi-cuit (Thai-style rare-cooked in sesame) and Pot-au-Feu (beef casserole at its best). Close to Metro Charonne or Metro Faidherbe-Chaligny.
A historic cinema and bar
Le Louxor is a famous Art Déco building (with so-called neo-Egyptian variations) which hosted a cinema since the 1920s. After being transformed into an unsuccessful gay nightclub in the 1980s, it remained closed for many years and offered the sad view of a once glorious but now abandoned building to the passengers of the elevated metro line 2 who could see its deteriorated façade at Barbès-Rochechouart station.
Recently restored, it reopened in 2013 as a cinema, and offers 3 different screens, one of which located in the historical room (named Youssef Chahine) exuberantly decorated with Egyptian patterns. Films are shown in VO (ie original language, with French subtitles if not already in French) and there’s a wide range of films in the programme, but only a few commercial films.