Secret Paris: A Local’s Guide to Getting Off the Beaten Track
The five years I lived in Paris, as a broke student then a slightly-less-broke writer, were some of the most exciting times of my life. It was a whirl of late nights dancing by the Seine, watching the sun rise above the Pont des Arts, cycle rides through streets abuzz with life, drinking red wine on café terrasses, talking politics with strangers that quickly became friends. Days hunting for bargains in thrift shops and in flea markets, visiting quirky exhibitions by artists in abandoned buildings and sneaking onto roof tops and down into the illegal, underground world of the Catacombs.
Like in many cities, most visitors only see the major sites, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame, before moving on to the next stop on the hop on hop off tour of Europe’s must-see sites. While Paris’ has the kind of beauty that strikes you straight away, and the major sites are as iconic as you expect, I still think that visiting the city in such a flash means you miss most of the joy of the place.
Once you are Parisian, the city never truly leaves you, so I still consider myself a local, however long I spend outside it. And as a local, here are my secret tips for getting off the beaten track, and falling in love with Paris.
1. Explore the main sites by bicycle
Despite what the crazy traffic might have you believe, Paris is actually a very good city to explore by bike. The city centre is surprisingly small — just 7 miles from West to East, and there are more and more bike lanes cropping up. Plus, since the Seine quayside has been completely pedestrianised, you can cycle for miles along the water, past the Eiffel tower, the Louvre, the Pont des Arts, the Notre Dame Cathedral… Not only is it beautiful, it is also very atmosperic, with people doing their exercise, drinking in bars and chatting on benches.
Alternatively, cycle around randomly, picking any side street that takes your fancy, and discover new parts of…