When Paris is the topic of conversation, it is hard to think of anything else other than the impressive tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Moulin Rouge or La Louvre or the endless cobblestone streets lined with glorious boulangeries, fromageries and anything else to tickle one’s epicurean fancies.
Certainly, those things should most definitely be explored at least once (and those adorable food shops, daily). But Paris is so much more than it’s monuments or delectable treats.
It has an undeniable rhythm that transports you to another time. A moment when people prioritised conversation over instagram likes; where sitting down to a three course lunch with a glass of wine (or two or three) is somewhat banal; and my absolutely favourite, a city where you can wander aimlessly, half-eaten baguette in hand without fear of disapproving looks from carb-loathing Lulu Lemon wearing gym enthusiasts.
Aside from sampling every type of bread and pastry known to humankind (which you should totally try to do), here are a few places to eat, drink and thrift; making you feel like you are très Parisen.
Markets & Second-Hand Treasures
One of the purest joys you can have when being in Paris is going to the markets. There is nothing quite like shopping for your all your wildest gourmet dreams surrounded by Haussmanian apartment buildings and intoxicating French mutterings.
The best food market without a doubt is Marché Aligre. I know it sounds awfully corny, but it is romantic and magical and you can lose yourself
amongst the freshest of fruit and vegetables, wild chickens and local Parisians just going about their day. I recommend buying everything in French despite how broken you think it is – it might be daunting but it is a wonderfully fulfilling experience! And like most outdoor food markets in Paris, Marché Aligre has fabulous second-hand and vintage finds that would make any thrift shop green with envy. You can find anything from used wine bottles to vintage French homemaking magazines to Chanel shoes. Rue d’Aligre & Place d’Aligre, 75012
If you want to continue your pre-loved endeavours, my favourite second hand shop is a mere 13 minutes walk away. Emmaüs thrift shops are located all over Paris and are incredibly great value for money. Some of my most favourite vintage items were found here and I cannot visit Paris without popping in. I have found 1960s dresses from high-end boutiques on Rue de le Paix with original tags intact and immaculate Bally brogues for 25€. You can also find rarities like French vintage wares like lace tablecloths, alarm clocks and if you are lucky, copper pots that would cost an arm and a leg anywhere else. 54 Rue de Charonne, 75011
Marché aux Puces
My last tip for a fun thrifting adventure is to head north to Marché aux Puces in Saint-Ouen. Situated on the Périphérique, it is a bit of a trek but completely worth it. It starts out with collections of anything you can imagine haphazardly laid out on the ground waiting to be given a new home.
As you walk through the endless tables of second-hand goodies, you make your way to more the high-end; tiny little shops laden with glorious mid-century modern furniture and antique furnishings, luxurious designer handbags and scarves and one-of-a-kind art pieces. This is where Parisian old money goes to splash some cash and it is a marvellous thing to see. 124 Rue des Rosiers 93400, Saint-Ouen
Boozy holes in the wall
Le Baron Rouge
If you want an authentic French experience that is cheap and unpretentious, this place was made for you. Almost instantly, you feel like you are a regular; coming here for years, drinking the gorgeous, boutique and extremely well priced wine on tap – like you are sampling it straight from the barrels of some picturesque winery. It could almost be like you are in the French countryside. The bartenders are like characters from a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film; rosy cheeked and warm hearted paired with cheeky robust laughter. You truly feel welcomed when you enter, and to make things even more wonderful, they serve freshly shucked oysters out the front of this quaint bar every Saturday and Sunday from the 16th of September. These sea-salty gems are perfectly paired with a crisp glass of Muscadet (if available) and a front row standing room only spot to gaze at passers by; letting your troubles melt away. Surrounded by handwritten menus on chalk boards and Parisian locals, this is truly a fantastic find. 1 Rue Theophile Roussel, 75012 Paris
Don’t let the 70s espionage porn title fool you. This place is anything but seedy. One of the most fabulous Tiki bars I have ever had the pleasure of frequenting, Dirty Dick is an absolute treasure. Dimly lit and filled with 50s Tiki paraphernalia, you will be instantly charmed by the charismatic bartenders in bright tropical shirts serving you over-the-top cocktails with every flourish you can imagine that will make your face light up. If these extravagant conceptions aren’t your thing, they have a solid beer list that are very reasonably priced. And as it it located in the vibrant Pigalle, it fills up quite quickly, so get there early-ish to bag one of those plush velvet couches. It is simply whimsical. 10 Rue Frochot, 75009
I promised you boozy holes in the wall and this one does not disappoint. Situated in the always bewitching Monmarte and up some very steep streets, Chez Camille is the Parisian dive bar you have been searching for. It has a distinct Rockabilly vibe with a multitude of framed pictures of Elvis, Little Richard, Billie Holliday and other greats that makes you feel you are in a music museum.
There is an authenticity about it that is incredibly alluring. You instantly feel like you are in a hip beatnik spot decades earlier; a place where you are a part of a community surrounded by artists, poets and perennial regulars. Their live music game is on point with some of the most talented musicians around covering genres from Blues to Rockabilly to Ragtime Jazz and captivating DJs playing all your favourites from yesteryear. And with super fun activities like pétanque and daily food and booze specials, what is not to love? On any given night, it is packed to the rafters and you can find an eclectic mix of people spilling out to the front, beer in hand, smoking, laughing and living their best French lives. 8 Rue Ravignan, 75018
Cheap to Cheap-ish Eats
Pascal et Anthony
Cheap but life-altering sandwiches, perfect coffee and free wifi. These essentials can be tricky to find in your local Parisian cafe/boulangerie. But when I walked into Pascal et Anthony in the 15th, I knew I struck gold. With an array of baguette fillings like Cambembert and country ham; rillettes and cornichons or goats cheese, figs and mâche lettuce, this place is both good for your belly and your soul.
For something to satisfy the sweetest tooth, you cannot go past a kouign amann. This literal “cake of butter” hails from the stunning region of Brittany and you bet your bottom dollar it is just that. The chewy caramelised outer layer is utterly divine and fills your soul with joy and although it borders on being a little too saccharine, it is bakegoods heaven. Pascal et Anthony is within walking distance from Parc George-Brassens and an all-weekend second-hand and antique book market which I highly recommend visiting. Stay in or grab your delectable lunch and head to the park where you can see old friends converse, children play and just let the world pass you by. 32 Rue de Dantzig, Paris, 75015
It really is in the name because this place is extremely well-loved. You need to get here as early as you can; rain, hail or shine, eager hungry patrons line up metres down the block ready to indulge in Italian fantasies in the heart of Paris. Strange I know, to advise you to try an Italian restaurant in the heart of Paris, but you will not be sorry. This truly is a gem. Colourful bottles of exotic aperitifs and digestifs line the walls of this vibrant place and you are welcomed by gracious hosts like a long lost friend.
The 9€ Margherita pizza is my favourite; topped with San Marzano tomatoes, mozza fior de latte and fresh basil is my favourite. It is heaven and everything you would want from an authentic Napolitana pizza. Bottles of beautiful Italian wine start from 20€ which means you can afford to indulge in all the antipasti and of course, an always refreshing Aperol spritz served with big, juicy green olives. Although it is very busy and turns over tables quickly, you never feel rushed. The service is effortless. The staff are friendly, Italian and generous in spirit and makes you want to duck down to Napoli for an Italian weekend getaway. Pizzeria Popolare is perfect for either an intimate dinner or a large gathering with boisterous mates. 111 Rue Réaumur, 75002
I would have to say that this is one of the most glorious meals I have ever had. And being the gourmand I am, I have had a few. The flavours lingered in my mouth long after I left and I long to go back as soon as I possibly can. For more than 30 years, this family run business has been creating exceptional and spirit-enhancing dishes made with the freshest locally sourced seasonal produce. You are treated like family the minute you walk in by the jovial staff who sincerely love to be there and are offered a liquid libation almost immediately; the way it should be. The decor is fun and bright and you feel like you are a part of something special, something that only a select few have the privilege of experiencing. The wine list is superb; very reasonably priced French and international wines (which is almost unheard of in proud France), boutique and quirky that will continue to delight from start to an English cheese finish.
The menu is a little more pricey than your local pre-fixed Brasserie, it is worth event cent. 47 Rue de Richelieu, 75001