French tips: visit Paris like a local

Julie Smadja - French tips: visit Paris like a local - Ma Vie Francaise - My French Life -

This article is in English. Click here to read it in French.

We all have our old routines and favourite places. Once we become tourists, these points of reference disappear and make way for our curiosity to discover the unknown. Paris’ uniqueness stems from the history of its streets. The routes favoured by tourist guides have served many visitors well.

If you choose to discretely follow a Parisian, you’ll see that the true authenticity of the city can be found in the most unexpected of places…

Tourists rush around the best-known parts of Paris to admire its treasures. Indeed, the Champs Elysées, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe are not to be missed. The true heart of the city lies where the guides do not stray. It may be time to discover Paris from a new point of view.

Lunchtime in Paris’ oldest market


The Marché des Enfants Rouges (the Market of Red Children) was built in 1615. It was reopened in 2000 following renovations. Its name comes from the orphanage it once housed where the children had red uniforms. Its difficult-to-find passageway is a perfect example of the how France ties tradition and modernity together so well.

This quirky and unique market in the chic Marais quartier of Paris is worth a visit for the huge range of cuisine on offer and the friendly atmosphere. The Beaubourg quartier is only a short walk away in the 3rd arrondissement.

A breath-taking view of the rooftops of Paris


Here you are right in the heart of Paris’ modern, artistic scene. You will find the national gallery of art and culture, the Centre Georges Pompidou. This gallery is famous for its unique ‘inside-out’ architecture which is completely at odds with the historic side of the city. Tourists often move on once they’ve taken their token snapshot out the front.

However, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to go up to the top floor terrace of the building to find one of the most typically beautiful views of the City of Lights. In the evening, wander the cobblestone streets around les Halles (a quartier that feels more like a village) until it’s time for dinner.

French Romanticism

The unique sound of accordion players in the Parisian metro brings a smile to the faces of passengers. If Paris makes you think of cobblestone squares, the Place du Marché Sainte Catherine illustrates this classic image perfectly. Once back in the theatrical Marais amongst the locals, there are many French restaurants to choose from.

The Mona Lisa for your eyes only


Tourist hotspots are full of travellers who come and go non-stop by day and by night. But there is one place where you can have special access to some true wonders after nightfall – the Louvre. The world’s most visited museum houses treasures that are really worth waiting for.

The seemingly endless queue to get in may leave a bitter taste in your mouth, and having to wait an eternity to catch a glimpse of a masterpiece can also be disappointing. But allow me to let you in on the Louvre’s biggest secret… you can make the most of a peaceful visit during the extended hours on Wednesday and Friday evenings. What could be better than finding yourself one-on-one with the Mona Lisa?

Away from the masses of tourists, you can take great pleasure in slipping into the shoes of a Parisian, but this won’t hold up for trips to the so-called ‘must-sees’ like the Champs Elysées. What are your favourite places in Paris that are off the beaten track?

Translation by Anna Pitt

Image credits:
1, 2, 3. Julie Smadja
4.  La Joconde, Wikipedia. 

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Julie Smadja

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