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3 days Paris... best place to 'hang out' to absorb Parisian culture?

I just ordered RS Paris book but would like to ask the community where the best place is just to hang out and watch people and absorb Parisian life. Buy bread, watch old men play checkers kinda stuff--or is the best answer, "Everywhere?"

We have three days and I have this for a tentative schedule:

(Arrive Sat 7am with jet lag....)

11-Jul Sat Eiffle tower / Notre Dame

12-Jul Sun Versaille

13-Jul Mon Louve

(fly to Venice)

Besides that, I just to to be a sponge. Where should we go to do that?

Pete & Robyn

Paris & Italy, Mid-July 2009

Posted by
12040 posts

Just keep your eyes open. To get a more rounded picture of "real" Parisian life, you could explore the seldom-touristed business district of La Defense, but I'm guessing steel and glass office towers are not your sight-seeing priorities.

Posted by
521 posts

Walk along the banks of the Seine. At Square Tino Rossi, people dance on the banks of the Seine. Small sections are set up for different types of dance with different types of music.

I will agree with Tom, though. Paris is the kind of place where the culture is everywhere. There are few spots that are so touristy that they do not reflect Paris itself.

Posted by
191 posts

If you get back from Versailles in time on Sunday, you might want to head over to the Luxembourg Jardin, Men playing Boules, kids playing and Parisians generally relaxing and enjoying their leisurely Sunday. Actually any evening would be good, for that. For us, time spent there is a must whenever we go.

Posted by
360 posts

Just about any cafe. You'll need rests anyhow.

Posted by
3258 posts

On your way to or from Notre Dame walk down Ile Saint Louis.

Posted by
796 posts

I would suggest going to a street market, buy some cheese, veggies, fruit and put together a picnic. The street markets are one of my favorite things about France. Watch the locals first; I usually take a walk through first to see what looks good, where the line ups are (must be the best produce there), then I decide what to purchase. Here is a link to all the markets.

One of my favorites was the Saxe-Breteuil Market, walking distance from the Eiffel Tower and the Ecole Militaire; I could see horses being exercised inside the gates of the Ecole Militaire, really beautiful. The huge park by the Eiffel Tower is a great place to have a picnic. Rue Cler is very close too; RS describes this street well.

Also, walk along the Seine. The bridges are beautiful. I prefer to walk towards the Eiffel Tower, which is one of my favorite sites.

Happy travels.

Posted by
9429 posts

Totally agree with Tom...the Luxembourg Gardens are a great place to hang out and experience Parisians enjoying life!

Posted by
1806 posts

If you Google "New York Times Hidden Gardens of Paris" you'll get a link to the article they published a year ago which lists a lot of great places to visit (including some places to eat). Many places listed are ones where you can escape the tourists (if you are willing to travel to some of the outer neighborhoods) and see a whole different side of the city and its residents, but a fair number listed are in central Paris (i.e., 5th, 6th Arrondissements).

Posted by
8293 posts

If you stay on rue Cler you will be able to observe all the American tourists trying to absorb Parisian culture. Better to go to Place de la Nation on a Saturday morning when there is a street market, and see all the Parisian ladies in their sensible shoes, with their shopping trollies and little dogs, picking and choosing the fruits, vegetables, lamb from Sisteron, and cheeses for the weekend meals. You won't see anyone with a Rick Steves guide book (not that there's anything wrong with that!) but you will see the real Paris and real Parisians going about their daily life.

Posted by
283 posts

I like to shop--not to buy things, but to watch Parisiens shop and see what they buy. I agree that street markets are fantastic and so much fun. We went to Pere La Chaise cemetary last year for the first time. That was great and even though the cemetary has lots of tourists, they mostly beeline from and to Metro. We ate at a great little cafe recommended in Pat Wells Paris book, and just enjoyed the very diverse neighborhood.

Walk the back streets, even in the highest traffic area. Shop in a Monoprix to see the locals. Stop in bakeries and other food shops to watch what they eat. It is all soooooo good.

I will say that I have stayed in Rue Cler twice and avoid it now. Although it is great, RS has created a total infiltration of Americans. I see more Americans clustered there than anywhere else in the city. Try the Marias--closer in and bigger, so you see fewer Amercians. We could not even eat a meal in Rue Cler without being surrounded by our fellow countrymen!

Posted by
20 posts

We stay on Rue Cler (by Rick advice) - great market street that really gives a true Paris feel - shops, markets, restaurants, dry cleaners - real people doing their everyday things. We love it. Go in the late aft., have a glass of wine, and watch. Stay at Hotel Beaugency in the neighborhood - we have stayed there twice.

Posted by
508 posts

For lovers of the Rue Cler. If you go during the off season the Rue Cler is pretty much free of tourists, except for you of course. I was there in February 2008, and loved it. I went back this year in April 2009, and it was still pretty much mainly local people there.

Just another plug for off season travel.

I don't know what it is like in July, but I love Cafe du Nemours (sp?). It's by the Louvre, but it feels deliciously French to me.

Posted by
59 posts

We agree to check out the Marias? They call the wind Marias!

Posted by
149 posts

Great places to people-watch are the Sunday bird market on the Ile de la Cite, and the street markets on Rue Mouffetard and Place Monge. Also buy a bus pass and ride around until you see something of interest, then get off to explore.

Posted by
8293 posts

Cheryl: Marais (which means swamp land, I think) not Marias (which means more than one Maria.)

Posted by
1158 posts

I like sitting in a cafe sipping expresso. last time when I went to paris I sit by a fountain close to Pompidou center. I really enjoyed watching people walking by.
Also the gardens are a good place.

Posted by
421 posts

I vote for the Marais, I am bias as its my fav area in paris. I could wander this area for days and days and never get bored. You will get a feel for the locals as well as really enjoy the streets, the buildings and the feel for paris.
and marais means swamp

Posted by
80 posts

just got back and i'd skip versailles. go to the opera house and the louvre.

Posted by
15 posts

One stop that we made was from the Nave-End of the Notre Dame go across the walking bridge,as you cross,just to the right(can't remember the name), there is a GREAT place for ice cream/ coffee/cafe, take in Parisian life, the Seine and the Notre Dame. If was an "event" we'll never forget and we've been to Paris four times.
Virginia Beach,VA

Posted by
1449 posts

I agree with Bea; the area around the Pompidou center is one of my favorite areas to visit. And during the summer on the weekends they block off several of the local streets so you can wander around, sit in a cafe and watch the world go by, etc.

A little off topic, but since you're interested in the local culture I assume you'll be wanting to go into small shops, sit at cafes, etc. If you don't speak French then learning a small bit will go a long way. I'd suggest seeing if your local library has a copy of Pimsleur's program; even doing the 1st 15 lessons (30 min apiece) will have you saying polite greetings, able to ask for something to eat or drink, etc. Since you're going to Italy and France you could split it up; one of you do the Italian lessons, the other French.

Posted by
9429 posts

I believe Wayne is talking about the cafe "Le Flore en L'Ile" on Ile St. Louis. It's our absolute favorite cafe in Paris. Great food, Berthillon ice cream, great people watching, Notre Dame, and street performers next to the Seine. Perfection.

Posted by
175 posts

On a nice day, I don't think anything beats walking around Luxembourg Garden. Or even better, sit down in one of the green chairs and watch Parisians enjoy a day on the park.

Posted by
313 posts

Take frequent cafe breaks -- people watching with an espresso or glass of wine is what everyone does, locals and tourists alike.

Also, depending on your degree of jetlag on Saturday, you may be overoptimistic in plans to see both the Eiffle tower and Notre Dame. While you're at Notre Dame you're so close to the Left Bank and you'll want to walk along the Seine, see the booths selling pictures, etc. Also agree with wandering through the Marais.

It's easy to underestimate how much there is to see in Paris, but then it will call you back.