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.
Picnic in the park
In the south of Paris, in the 14th arrondissement, there is 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 I stumbled upon it by sheer luck. It was in June, and I was dreaming of going to Provence to see lush gardens in bloom. My daydreaming was interrupted by a gorgeous rose bush, hanging in full blossom from behind a fence on a pretty cobbled street.
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 neither by people, nor by cars, so enjoy walking there quietly, slowly, inhaling the delicate fragrance of roses. – Cristina Tatarinova
A museum on the hill
If you are a modern art enthusiast planning to visit Paris, you’ve probably already heard of the Centre Pompidou, this multidisciplinary cultural centre that, among other things, hosts the National Museum of Modern Art (Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris) and organizes really interesting exhibitions.
But what you may not know is that the city of Paris also has its own modern art museum, and that its collections have no reason to be jealous of Centre Pompidou’s.
The museum is now under renovation works, so only a limited selection of works is on display (the famous Fée Électricité is not visible), until the end of 2019. The entrance is still free (except for temporary exhibitions). – Frédéric Moussaïan
When in France, eat a croissant
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.
My choice of the best croissant, however, has not changed since 2016. One warm October morning I was walking around Montmartre, when I came across a bakery that was beautifully decorated in Art Nouveau style. Back in the days, it was Boulangerie Pâtisserie du Moulin de la Galette, so the original decorative panels were kept, as well as the classy interior. Up to this day, this place mesmerizes me with its looks, but even more with its butter croissants.
In France, there are two types of croissants, ordinaire and au beurre. The latter is made from pure butter, and is the most delicious one. Boris Lumé bakery has an Artisanal Boulanger sign, which means they make their own dough. So a pure butter croissant made in an Artisanal Boulanger bakery is a marvel by definition! However, the one they make at Boris Lumé has won my heart with its perfect golden crunchy outer layer and endless spirals of tenderness discovered right under it. – Cristina Tatarinova
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.
After sifting through the stacks and rails, a find was a Chevingnon Paris dress-down camo blazer, matched with a black Fred Perry button-down shirt.
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. – Paul Wright
Cozy couches in the open air
If I’m feeling eccentric in the afternoon I’ll head down to Le Comptoir Général in the 10th neighbourhood. It’s a warm and inviting place and arriving around 17:00 there’s space enough to get comfy on one of the beaten-up looking sofas.
I’ve a reservation about the place that’s worth sharing. And that is, although I really buy into the idea of the west-African decorations, the place feels like it’s at the tipping-point of cool meets high-concept idea. It feels in some way deliberately fashioned as if from a flatpack-shabby-impoverished-African aesthetic. But that shouldn’t detract me from sharing my overwhelming curiosity of the place where everyone I meet there is super sociable.
The last time I was there for instance I went allied with my Jazz singer mate Liv. We took up a shared sofa space (resting our Ti-Punch cocktails on our knees). And within minutes struck up a conversation with a couple of guys beside us. They seemed to want to practice their English chitter-chatter.
So on that social level I imagine Le Comptoir Général as a place much like an expat-departures lounge, one typical of the African continent from generation ago. The beauty of the place is that the aesthetic allows relative strangers to relax enough to get chatting to one another. – Paul Wright
A walk down Old Paris
Ah, Rue Mouffetard! A 605-meter long kaleidoscope of restaurants, cafes, bakeries, butcher’s and fishmonger’s, fruit stalls, wine shops, boutiques with chocolates, Belgian waffles, crêpes, and, of course, cheeses. Medieval buildings of Rue Mouffetard make it particularly charming, having been excluded from Hausmann’s Paris renovation plan of 1853-1870.
It is one of the oldest Parisian streets, which originally was a part of a Roman road from Lutecia to Italy. Now it is a semi-pedestrian path for food lovers, local and visiting.
If the time allows, I love going there on a weekday, early in the morning when the market opens, or on a weekend evening with some friends to enjoy a seafood platter from one of the fishmongers. They all gladly open fresh oysters and serve them on ice with an order of shrimps, whelks, and any other kind of shellfish. Cold white wine is always on the menu, as well.
Weekend mornings are very lively there, making it thus, the best time for people-watching over a cup of coffee and indulging fully in the diversity of market delicacies, smells, colors, and sounds. – Cristina Tatarinova
Don’t judge a bookshop by its looks
La Mouette Rieuse is an atypical bookshop. I like it because of the books and gadgets one can find there. It is something always surprising and joyful. 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.
Apart from that there are novels and other regular books, but also a section on children’s books. All of them in French, but beautiful and stylish. 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. The place has everything and gives a feeling of peace and calm in the center of the busy Le Marais district that I always like. It is also a fantastic place to find small presents, usually with a message. – Constan Longares Barrio
A little house by Des Canaux
Near (well, basically facing it) the canal de l’Ourcq, in the 19th arrondissement, there’s a house with a terrace called ‘Le Pavillon des Canaux’. ‘Pavillon’ literally means ‘small isolated house’ in French so translating its name would give “the small isolated house of the canals”.
At the bottom floor, past the terrace, you’ll find the bar where you can order and grab your drink or some food to then find a spot to sit in this house. Every room is decorated and you can go, visit and sit wherever you want. Usually, people come during the day to work (although it is now forbidden to use your laptop between lunch hours), to chill or have lunch.
It’s a trendy place to go and have a drink and for brunches so there might be a lot of people after working hours during the week, all day during the weekends and on Sunday mornings.
Go for a coffee or a drink as it definitely deserves a visit. – Muriel Malric
Music and Arts at Night
In a former theatre, la Gaîté Lyrique in Paris is a digital arts and modern music center located in the center of Paris, in the 3rd arrondissement to be more exact.
Depending on the time of the year, you’ll find temporary exhibits there. You can also go and visit the resource center on the first floor which is usually filled with students or people working there (I’ve spent hours working there when I was a student, and I still do).
There’s a coffee corner if you wanna have a bite or a drink. And when the night comes, there are some live music events.
Do not hesitate to check the program and sign up for an event or just to go there during the day to have a tour and check out the place.
If you ever need a place to go and work during your trip in Paris, this one is the one to go for sure. It’s open every day and even on Sundays you can go there freely (you just need to order a drink) and it closes late enough. – Muriel Malric
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 sunrays, 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. – Paul Wright
Cafe for co-working
If you ever need to spend some time working in Paris, need a wifi connection, good coffee and some quiet, Hubsy cafés are a good option. There are two at the moment, one small (the firstborn) in the 3rd arrondissement and a bigger one (which was opened when the first one got too successful) in the 10th arrondissement, near République square.
I used to be a student a few years ago and it was a pain to find a central place to gather and work in groups. That’s how I discovered Hubsy: it had just opened and it was the perfect offer. You pay for the time you spend there, you get wifi, snacks, and coffees, and you can even bring your own food with you. There are also rooms available for groups to book or to handle your video calls.
More than just a place to work and get some wifi, it’s got a relaxing atmosphere with cozy seats and really nice coffee. You’ll get to enter the Parisian students’ and freelance workers’ lives. – Muriel Malric
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.
Don’t hesitate to come earlier (or to stay after the film), since the third floor of the Louxor has a bar (open only to the spectators of the cinema though, 18:00 – 22:45 weekdays, 12:30-22:45 on Sundays), with a nice terrace overlooking the Sacré-Coeur and the impressive metallic architecture of the elevated metro. This bar proposes light meals (soups, salads, plates of cheese or cold meat) and also sells bottled beers produced by the local brewery Goutte d’Or, which would be a pity not to taste if you’re a beer lover. -by Frederic Moussaian