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You can find it comforting to visit blatantly tourist areas from time to time just to hear a bit of English being spoken around. As a visitor, however, you might want to get away from all that and see some places where real Parisians love to hang out.
Things To Do In Paris
Challenge yourself to get off the beaten path during your next visit to Paris. You’ll be glad that you did, and your vacation photos and memories will be that much better because of it.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Paris is full of beautifully landscaped, historic parks, but this one is a bit off the beaten path. It’s huge and boasts winding walkways, a lake, a gazebo set high on a rock pinnacle that overlooks Paris to the west, and even a waterfall. It’s best in the spring or summer when you can see Parisians with their ever-present dogs lying back on the grassy hills alone or in groups having picnics. There are little stands with games for children near the entrance, and it’s easily accessible by bus or subway.
Bibliotheque nationale de France
Maybe a library isn’t the first place you’d think of visiting on any vacation, but this place is something to see. It’s built to look like four huge books open and standing on their ends at four corners of a large raised platform that looks out over the Seine. You can buy an inexpensive day pass if you want to take a look inside. There are also frequent exhibits and tours given. There is an English version of their website available at the top of the page I’ve provided a link.
La Piscine Josephine Baker
This is a swimming pool on a barge, docked permanently on the Seine. It’s open all year and has a roof that is retracted in warmer weather. The lower floor holds the pool and the upper is a sun deck complete with lounge chairs. It’s only about $5 to enter, but everyone must follow these rules: Speedos for men and swimming caps for everyone. Bikini tops for women are, on the other hand, optional. Maybe that will change the man’s mind who is feeling not-so-sure about the Speedo thing. If you like pools, give them a try no matter what time of year you visit. This is a really unique way to experience Paris.
Located in the southeast of Paris, this is a busy hub which is the intersection of nine different streets. It’s bustling with Parisians carrying on their daily lives and has the quaint feel of Montmartre without all the tourists. Wander the streets here, check out the shops and restaurants, and make some discoveries of your own. One of the biggest pleasures of spending time in Paris is to let yourself get lost. You’ll find unexpected passageways, parks, and statues if you’re not stuck to an itinerary the entire time.
Rue Sainte Anne
Once you’ve had your fill of typical French fare, you might find yourself wanting something different for your next meal. This entire street is full of Asian restaurants, from Korean to Cambodian to Japanese. You’ll see lines outside the most popular ones. Local Parisian businesspeople flock here for lunch; that’s how you know it’s tasty and reasonably priced.
Colonnes de Buren
This is an outdoor installation by artist Daniel Buren set up in a courtyard at one end of the Jardin du Palais Royal. It’s comprised of black and white columns spaced evenly, which in itself might not sound very interesting, but which somehow creates a stunning and modern visual. If you find yourself unimpressed, you can continue back to the narrow but lovely garden which has plenty of benches and some very nice fountains. You’ll also notice that the Palais Royal Metro station has that wonderful Art Deco entrance that you’ve probably seen in photos.
Canal St. Martin
The shops and restaurants along this canal in the northeast of Paris have begun attracting a more hip clientele in the past few years, but the area is still largely undiscovered by tourists. It’s glorious in the spring on the tree-shaded walkways along the canal. Stop and watch the locks open for the barges and houseboats as they make their way along, or have a drink at a sidewalk café and enjoy the relative quiet of this area.
Hotel de Ville
This is the major City Hall of Paris. Each area of the city has its own smaller version, but there is always something going on in this historic, centrally located building. In the summer, there is beach volleyball set up in the square outside, and in the winter there’s ice skating. Frequently, there are free art exhibits inside that are open to the general public. Free is always good in a city as expensive as Paris, and you’ll get to see a bit of the buildings as well.
Marche aux Puces
This is a really huge flea market. You can find antiques, clothing, and appliances here. You name it, they’ve probably got it. It’s technically right outside of Paris on the north but you can still get there by a short walk from the subway. Les Puces (means “the fleas”) can be a little shady in the way of pickpockets, but it’s quite an adventure and absolute heaven for those who love antiquing. Just use some common sense with your purse or wallet, don’t wear your best clothes, and ladies, try not to wear revealing clothing unless you like catcalls.
It’s open Saturday through Monday, and it consists of winding roads and old covered walkways called arcades crowded with all sorts of merchandise. There’s also a crepe stand centrally located, and this crepe guy is the best. If you’re really hungry try one with sausage, egg, and cheese; it’s to die for.
La Promenade Plantee
This is a two-mile-long garden planted on a viaduct that used to be used as a railway bridge. It’s a unique place for a stroll or a picnic and gets you up and out of the craziness of this particularly busy part of Paris. There is an entrance a block after the Opera on rue de Lyon. Look for steps in a red brick wall.