The City of Light attracts 70 million visitors every single year, so it’s no wonder it remains at the top of many people’s travel bucket lists. But if you’re a seasoned visitor to France’s capital, you might be looking to explore Paris the way the locals see it, rather than the tourists’ view. Swathes of Paris remain unexplored, set away from the famous landmarks and centres of culture, and so we’ve compiled a list of six top tips for exploring Paris the way the locals do. Want even more hints about discovering the City of Light? Check out Ben Groundwater’s list at 1Cover for tips and tricks for doing Paris like a pro.
Head to the Markets
French markets are famous throughout Europe with huge varieties of fresh, organic and locally grown food and wine. The cuisine available differs throughout the country, with each region offering its own unique delicacies, but the Parisian markets are the place to go to for everything from cheese and wine to fresh pastries and patisserie. Food bloggers highly recommend the all-organic Belleville Market or Le Marché des Enfants Rouges for the most delicious examples of French cooking at its finest.
Don’t Just Stay In The Centre
With so many landmarks clustered in the very centre of Paris, it’s easy to ignore the surrounding suburbs, many of which are worth visiting at least once. Just a short train ride away is the suburb of Versailles, which attracts millions of visitors a year to its fabulous palace. You can also explore the area by bike or by a walking tour, though the blog ParisInsidersGuide highly recommends using your day to explore the Grand Palace of Versailles, famously home to Marie Antoinette.
Head for Culture
The French are laid-back people and Parisians tend to prefer spending time with family or attending cultural events rather than working 24/7. To fit in with the locals, head to the local cinema or art gallery, visit a local exhibition or festival, or attend one of the many performances put on at theatres and the stunning Palais Garnier, where world-class opera reigns supreme.
Lounge in the Cafes
Café culture in Paris is thriving and it’s not uncommon for locals to spend entire days over café au lait and déjeuner during the warmer months. Every neighbourhood in the city will have their own array of haunts, but fashion blogger Jessica Wang suggests searching for an afternoon respite in the artsy Montmartre area, St Germain or Canal St Martin to find the most authentic café experience in the city.
Forget the hotel
Though Paris is full of hotels designed to fit every need and taste, you won’t get the full Paris experience staying in one. If you want to rub elbows with the locals, no matter which Arrondissement you end up in, consider renting rooms or an apartment in one of Paris’s famous old stone buildings with their picturesque balconies. When you’re picking your apartment, you should also think about how close local amenities and transport are – you want something close to a Metro station for quick access to the rest of the city.
Before you travel anywhere, it’s important to research the social etiquette of the country and Paris is no different. The French consider certain topics taboo to conversation that other countries in the world do not, so it’s important to do your homework. If you strike up a conversation with a local, be sure to avoid topics like money and stick to ones they are often all too happy to discuss – including leisure time, sports and (of course!) food and drink.