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Paris Off the Beaten Path

Are there any specific "off the beaten path" things anyone would recommend doing in Paris? We have Rick's book, our list of the touristy things to do and some restaurant recommendations, but if there's anything anyone loved about Paris that they'd recommend, suggestions are always welcome! (Specific shops or markets; a bakery with the best croissants; a cafe that's great for people watching; anything that you really enjoy that may not be in a guide book, really!)

Posted by
4411 posts

If you can break away from the 'sights' (and it's hard to do), I highly recommend the Bois de Vincennes. It's on the far eastern side of Paris, easily accessible by metro, RER, or bus (there's a bus station there). You will IMMEDIATELY forget you're in Paris - you're in a beautifully manicured garden with ponds and wildlife, or you can walk through the woods...Bring a picnic. It's huge, so you may not want to wander over the whole thing. It was the king's hunting preserve; you can also visit the Chateau de Vincennes - you'll probably be alone (a far cry from Versailles LOL). It's in pretty much all of the maps, so you'll have a sense of where you are within the park. You can get there from one metro line, and leave by another. Of course, there are many other major and minor parks throughout the city, but this is one I have visited and love. In fact, take your breakfast AND your lunch ;-) Pakrs are a huge part or Paris' charm - even if it's only those tiny, carved-out sections at street intersections, spend some time in some of them. And your feet will be oh, so, happy.

Posted by
3313 posts

A canal boat tour up the Canal St. Martin. Though in the guidebooks, the flea markets at St. Ouen. The old Roman arena and the surrounding neighborhood.

Posted by
9436 posts

This will sound weird, but one of my favorite things to do in Paris (and there are many) is to get on a city bus and ride around for an hour or two. Spent a month there recently and never once saw a tourist on the bus. I was surrounded by Parisians, observing them living their daily life and listening to them speak was fun while also looking out the window and enjoying the scenery. I also love hanging out in the Luxembourg Gardens, again, surrounded by Parisians living and enjoying their lives. They have great comfy chairs and two cafes. And on weekends especially, they usually have live music next to one of the cafes. A place, not listed in RS book, which we really enjoyed is Musee Nissim de Camondo, next to Parc de Monceau in the 8th arrondissement. It was once the home of a wealthy Jewish family and is fascinating.

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9436 posts

There's a great bakery on Ile Saint Louis (a great neighborhood to explore)... just as you cross over Pont Marie from the north, it is straight ahead and the first bakery on the right. Farther down, almost to the corner, there's a store on your right that only sells produce and they have the best fresh squeezed OJ ever. They make it right in front of you and watching the machine is fun.

Posted by
1530 posts

Visit Basilique St-Denis (metro station StDenis). It's on the outskirts of Paris but well worth the visit. Built in 1136 it has the tombs of many French monarchs including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The stained glass is spectacular.

Posted by
79 posts

I can't remember what is and isn't in RS any more, but when I go to Paris, I eat! I love to wander the markets on the Rue Moufftard and buy picnic supplies. There is a wonderful bakery that is not far from there: Maison Kayser Address: 14 rue Monge
Metro: Maubert Mutualité And do not, under any circumstances, miss the Berthillon ice cream. I let my son have it for breakfast on our last day in Paris. It's a bit on the outskirts, but the Cite Science Museum captured all of our imaginations for a full day - lots of technology exhibits. Don't forget to make room for just sitting, drinking cafe au lait and watching the Parisian world go by.

Posted by
3580 posts

Gelato: Amarino is best. And there is a gelato shop with this name on rue Cler besides the one on the main street of Ile St Louis. I've seen others around town. Paris has many Chinese delis--for "eat in" or "take-out." Buy some of the finger food items and eat them in a park or your hotel. Buy fresh berries or other fruit to go with your other picnic supplies. Take the Metro to the end of the line, get off, and look around. All the neighborhoods are different. Take the Montmartrebus around Montmartre and to the Sacre Couer. It is a small electric bus and stops at recharging stations for a quick top-up. Whenever I see a bakery, I pop inside to see what they have. They are all different. Paul's seems to be a franchise bakery business and is very good. The others seem to be independent; I like all of them. I like to buy a small quiche for lunch--there are many varieties--and sit nearby to eat it.

Posted by
12040 posts

Go against all the obvious stereotypes and do something you would never see in travel show- shop where most French actually buy their groceries, Carrefour. It's basically Walmart with much better food.

Posted by
273 posts

Angelina's hot chocolate on Rue du Rivoli

Posted by
120 posts

Definitely do the St. Martin Canal, but take the one that leaves from near the Musee d'Orsay. You not only get the canal ride but you get a couple of miles on the Seine and go through the main lock from the Sein into Basin la Villette. At the end of the cruise you are within walking distance of either the Citi des Arts et Sciences or Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Plan to make a day of it. See http://www.pariscanal.com. for tickets.

Posted by
1068 posts

I second the vote for Basilique St-Denis, which is AWESOME! Stunning Gothic achitecture, the tombs of just about every French king for about 8 (?) centuries, and it's a cool side trip because you get to see an everyday working class neighborhood that's not otherwise touristy. Highly recommended. Just a few blocks from Beaubourg, is Eglise Saint-Merry, at 76 rue de la Verrerie. This unprepossessing church is a fave b/c it is so cool inside - deorated by artsy parishioners (I think that's right) and filled with flights of fancy - including a flock of small hard-backed chairs suspended up by the ceiling. It's cute and funky, and definitely worth ducking into. Favorite place for a pastis or glass of red wine and people watching - Cafe Marceau, 39 Avenue Marceau. Only about a 5 minute walk from the flagship Vuitton store on the Champs Elysees, and yet it's like you've stepped off the tourist map: locals only. The decor is 1950s mustard lino and polished wicker - a bit like the cafe whre Amelie worked. We LOVE it for being "off the beaten track" while still right in the thick of things. We also love the Highlander, at 8 rue de Nevers (right at Pont Neuf). It's a Scottish bar, and lots of ex-pats hang out there. They serve a beer called Caledonian that I have never had in the states, and it's fantastic. The nose is chocolately, with a hint of iced tea... very tasty! A cool thing about the Highlander is that you can strike up a conversation with the bar staff (if your French isn't great, it's nice to be speaking English with folks who live in Paris) and they'll be able to tell you cool stuff that's on, places to go that aren't touristy, local hang-outs, etc. So - great beer, cute little pub, and the bonus of "on the ground" recommendations. They don't open until 4:00pm, or slightly after. Nevertheless, super place!

Posted by
768 posts

The bus ride, the end-of-the-line Metro, Carrefour shopping, these are great ideas. My wife and I have been to Paris once a few years ago and stayed at a hotel on the rue Cler. What we liked most about the hotel was the setting and all the food/wine/chocolatier choices that were within 150m of the door step. While there, one evening we walked down the rue Cler, picked up some picnic food/wine, and walked over to the Parc du Champ de Mars, and enjoyed a 3 hour picnic at dusk sitting on the grass in and among parents with their children who lived near by. Several of the toddlers wobbled over to check us out and a few Parisian dogs visited us for some tidbits. All in all, a fine experience; out of 4 trips to Europe we remember this dining experience the most and it's in the same genre as the bus ride et al.

Posted by
796 posts

I suggest visiting food markets that are off the beaten track, no tourists. The Bastille and Ledru-Rollin markets are quite multicultural experiences; not for the claustrophobic. I usually buy some picnic lunch food and find a spot to eat on the trip back. There are many small squares where locals eat their lunch, school children play pingpong on the outdoor tables, play soccer or nanny's take the wee ones for a walk or a pram ride. One afternoon I watched a children's birthday party gathering with a musician while I had my late picnic lunch. I try to visit a market or two each morning and then explore that part of the city. Each market is quite different. The Saxe-Breteuil marche has a view of the Eiffel Tower, the nearby Ecole Militaire often has horses exercising, only viewed through the fence but a beautiful sight none the less. The Grenelle marche is large and busy, most beautiful scarves which are also my passion. http://www.paris.fr/portail/loisirs/Portal.lut?page_id=8393&document_type_id=5&document_id=85004&portlet_id=19551

Posted by
1986 posts

A simple plan is to walk to the streets just a few streets away from the main drag. You dont hev to go far to be away from all the tourist spots.

Posted by
1446 posts

I like to go "hunting" for odd things and that usually takes me "off the beaten" path. On my first trip to Paris, my husband and I went searching for Paris' narrowest house (rue du Chateau d'Eau). That trip, I was also on a "photo op" hunt for interesting doorways... Another trip, we devised our own Da Vinci Code walking tour. That got us into an on-going hunt for the Arago medallions. I always arrive in Paris now with a new list (many have disappeared...). Yet another trip, I was on a chocolate pilgrimage. My favorite remains Cluizel, for the obligatory return visit. While in Montmartre with my niece, we went on a "curiosities" treasure hunt: The "Je t'aime" wall, Square des Abbesses Café des Deux Moulins, 15 rue Lepic (Amélie) Passe-muraille, Place Marcel Aymé (from "Contes du chat perché") Place Dalida, Château des Brouillards, and Renoir's workshop nearby 54 rue Lepic, where Van Gogh lived (third floor)
Unfortunately, the Arago Medallion at 79 rue Lepic has been stolen, but there is another at the Mire du Nord look-out. Next trip, we'll be on the hunt for interesting churches -- thanks for the tip about Saint-Merri (oldest bell in Paris). I'd like to plan out a carrousels hunt for the next trip after that...

Posted by
301 posts

My favorite part of Paris to wander is the Ile St. Louis. It's small, classy, and surrounded by water (duh, but the streets along the quais are wonderful). One night we heard an obviously professional opera singer singing loudly in an apartment above. Check out La Charlotte de l'Ile for AMAZING hot chocolate and a chaser of water served in a cut-glass carafe. No so off the beaten path but wonderful.

Posted by
22 posts

Marche d'Aligre in the 12th Arr. Walking everywhere you go. RS recommended #69 bus.
Concerts held in churches and at the Cluny museum.

Posted by
22 posts

How could I forget? Gregorian High Mass at Notre Dame. Vespers in the evening.

Posted by
2023 posts

Lots of good suggestions here. Pere LaChaise is beautiful and park like and we never miss seeing it on any trip to Paris. Love visiting the churches and a favorite is St Germaine des Pres although it is a bit gloomy inside. St Merry and St Eustache are interesting and SE has an organ concert on Sunday afternoon-free. A bit morbid, but the Catacombes makes for an interesting visit unless you are claustraphobic and can't do spiral steps-80 or so. Passage Vivienne is lovely with upscale shops. Have a great trip!

Posted by
9436 posts

Hi PlannerGirl, I just noticed your post today on another thread saying you just got back from Paris... It'd be great to hear if you did any of the suggestions you got here and if you had a good time. = )

Posted by
21 posts

Since it was cold and a little rainy while we were in Paris, we skipped picnicking and the canal rides (and sadly, gelato - it was just too cold!). We did walk practically everywhere, poking into the streets off the main tourist paths (where we stayed near the Luxembourg Gardens had more students and locals than tourists, which was nice). Again, due to weather we didn't spend much time in the gardens, but I've done that on a previous trip and loved it and would recommend an hour or two there to anyone. We heard a youth choir sing in Notre Dame, which was amazing! For markets, we ended up wandering through Marche Raspail (mentioned in Rick's book, also by Ina Garten as the morning market she goes to) in the 6th, which we loved. My sig other is a history buff, so we went to the Arènes de Lutèce which is a Roman arena in the middle of Paris. The only other people there were local bocce players! (Take the metro to Jussieu, go up the rue Linné and turn right on Rue des Arènes.) Spent tons of time eating fabulous food (used Hungry for Paris as our guide book for food) and, as always, ran out of time to do everything we would have liked to do, but had a great time! Thanks for asking! - Sara

Posted by
9436 posts

Good to hear about your trip, thanks!