10 Best Things to Experience the Real Paris That Tourists Often Miss
Paris is probably my favorite place on earth. The culture, the history, the food, the romance. But if you don’t know where to go, you’re liable to miss the best parts of Paris. So forget the Champs Elysées, which is probably not that different from a mall in America and opt for the activities in Paris that showcase its real charm.
1. Know Which Museums to Spend Your Time In. Don’t spend your entire day at the Louvre or Musée D’Orsay. I’m not suggesting you skip them all together but go, see the highlights and you’re done. Trust me. I’ve been to Paris several times and there are such cooler museums out there that capture the essence of what you’re really looking for in a museum. Smaller museums like L’Orangerie to be far more worthy of your time. This is where you’ll find Monet’s famous Nymphéas (water lily) murals. We’re also a huge fan of the Musée Rodin, which has a beautiful garden. I think this is one of the most romantic places in Paris. We also love Musée Marmottan, which has more Monets than any other museum.
2. Shop Your Heart Out. f you’re a fashionista, plan to do your shopping in Le Marais along Rue des Francs-Bourgeois and Avenue Montaigne. If your’e looking for trendsetting stores that aren’t the brands you’re used to, visit Rue du Faubourg St. And while you’re in the neighborhood don’t forget to try L’as du Fallafel.
3. Macarons! Don’t fill up on street crepes covered in Nutella save some room for tea and macaroons. Whether you visit Ladurée or Pierre Hermé, you simply must sample some of these famous French delicacies. We prefer taking a timeout from shopping and having some tea and macaroons.
4. Savor Over Coffee and Croissants Like a Parisien. If you go to Starbucks in Paris you don’t deserve to be there. Instead of rushing around like an American, sip your espresso at a café with good people-watching or at least grab a cup to go and sit in a local park to enjoy it. Unlike Americans, Parisiens really take time to enjoy their caffeine and you should too.
5. Go Antiquing! Check out the city’s flea markets if you’re looking for some priceless French antiques. Les Puces des Vanves is open all week and Les Puces de St-Ouen (also known as Clignancourt flea market) is filled with amazing treasures. Even if you don’t go to buy, these markets are cool to wander through.
6. Enjoy a real French bistro. We recommend Chez Josephine Dumonet, which serves up the most fantastic Boeuf bourguignon. Our other favorite is Le Grand Colbert. Although this gem was featured in Something’s Gotta Give, it has still retained its favor with the locals. Be sure to try the roast chicken.
7. Get lost wandering Paris’ beautiful streets. Don’t waste money on cabs in Paris, this city is so walkable. Invest in a map and make your way around town on foot. And take the Metro too, it’s so efficient and a dream compared to NYC subways!
8. Picnic by the Seine and have drink during the day! Wine is cheaper than water in Paris–and that’s not an exaggeration. Grab a baguette from one of Paris’ best bakeries like Arnaud delmontel, Au Duc de la Chapelle, Polaine or Maison Kayser, a bottle of wine and some French cheese. Pop a squat along the water and just enjoy life for a few moments.
9. Enjoy the boisterous nightlife in the City of Light. We loved experiencing the nightlife through Tours by Cedric. We were driven around by the coolest local you’ll ever meet, Cedric. He gives you a comprehensive history lesson as you sip champagne in the back of his 2CV. It was a magical experience that I highly recommend. Enjoy the rich culture too with a fun dinner out, we recommend Rue de Montorgueil. We loved Marie Stuart! For some fun bars, wander around an area called Odeon. You’ll definitely find something to tickle your fancy.
10. Ile St. Louis. Wander through this charming island and don’t forget to have some of its famous ice cream!
*All photographs are property of moi. I took them all, not bad, ehh?
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Also be sure to visit our post about the Classic Things to Do in Paris
My sister and I are planning a trip to Europe next year–I will be printing out all your great advice and Europe articles!- October 2, 2013
Everything here is exactly what we experienced as true parisiennes for the past three months of living in the 5eme arrondissement in paris. Seriously best time of our lives. Don’t forget to enjoy jardin des plantes, Luxembourg or Tuileries. Also must try Angelina chocolat chaud in the 1eme arrondissement on rue rivoli. And go to champs des mars with wine, cheese, baguette, blanket and watch the tour Eiffel sparkle at night.- December 14, 2013
Excellent tips as well! I will keep those in mind the next time I come back as well! The Eiffel tower at night is indeed one of my favorite things about Paris!!!- December 26, 2013
Hello! Thank you for all of the wonderful tips. My husband and I are going to Paris June of 2019. I am very interested in the tour with Cedric. I was wondering, does he speak English? We are trying to learn French before we go, but I’m afraid I won’t know enough for an entire tour if it is conducted in purely French. Thank you so much for your time!- March 22, 2018
Hi Melissa. Yes, Cedric spoke great English so don’t worry about becoming fluent in French 🙂 I think he has other guides now that work for him as well so I would just confirm when you book that they speak English, though I am quite certain they do 🙂- March 22, 2018
Thank you for the info. Will be following your advice for my trip in May. I don’t want to do what thousands of other tourists do, I want to experience Paris as the locals do. Merci- March 27, 2018
Happy you found this post so useful!- March 19, 2019
Hi Katie,- May 10, 2018
I’m traveling with my husband and three teenagers, 18, 16 and 13. Any ideas for evenings/and later so as not to have dinner and retire for the night?
Hmmm…sorry for my delay. You could do some late-night viewing of the big attractions like the Eiffel Tower. Makes for gorgeous pics! But that’s a tough question!- March 19, 2019
I was just thinking that maybe you could try the more natural side of Paris as well. With things such as horseback tours, community markets, etc.- June 3, 2018
Thanks for the recommendation!- March 19, 2019