Ask a Local: What Should I Do/See/Eat in Paris, France?

Aug 25, 2014    /    ask a local

All photos by the talented Moyan Brenn, unless otherwise noted.

Today, I’m excited to announce that my newest 100 Locals guidebook—Paris: 10 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Eat, & How to Fit In—is officially on sale!

Discover the best of Paris’ hidden-away cafes, sprawling, green parks, and unique, interesting countryside day trips. All in one carefully curated, beautifully portable unconventional guidebook.

Buy it Now:       Full-Color PDF*         Kindle (.mobi)        Paperback

In honor of the release, here’s an excerpt of one of the book’s eleven (that’s right – I went for 10, but couldn’t resist including an 11th for you) wonderful local interviews, designed to guide you through the usual and unusual, well-touristed and hidden-away wonders of Paris.

Without further ado, then, allow me to introduce you to Camille Malmquist, a pastry chef, beer connoisseur, and writer at Paris by Mouth.

About Camille

I grew up in Portland, Oregon and now I live in Paris’ eleventh arrondissement, in a lively, multicultural neighborhood. I am currently the pastry chef at Frenchie To Go in the second arrondissement, where I make traditional American treats like cheesecake, doughnuts, cookies, and bagels. I love taking these basic recipes and changing them throughout the seasons.

In my free time, I like to explore the city, visit museums and parks, and scope out craft beer shops and bars, which I write about for Paris By Mouth.

What To Do In Paris (The Basics)

Notre Dame is pretty awe-inspiring. Apart from its intricate beauty, I’m always amazed by the history there. Just thinking about how many people have walked on those stones over the nearly 1,000 years that the cathedral has been standing puts me into a peaceful, zen-like state of mind.

I’d skip the Louvre in favor of the Musée d’Orsay, which is much more doable in a few hours and less likely to leave you with a sense of museum fatigue. Plus, while it’s a parade of greatest hits from Monet, Van Gogh, and other heavy hitters, seeing these works in person really is a different experience from looking at a print.

And, of course, you can’t miss the Eiffel Tower. Even if you don’t have the time or patience to go to the top, you can enjoy the famous structure from the Champ de Mars park (with a picnic if the weather cooperates!).

gargoyles by Moyan Brenn
Notre Dame.

Hidden Gems for Seasoned Travelers

The Rodin Museum is a neat little spot tucked away near Invalides; the sculpture garden is fascinating any time of year.

I always enjoy a visit to the Jardin des Plantes, too, maybe followed by a picnic just across the river at the Arsenal port or a mint tea at the Grande Mosquée de Paris in the fifth arrondissement.

If it’s raining, the covered markets can provide a couple hours of entertainment. My favorites are Marché Beauvau/Aligre in the twelfth and the St. Quentin and St. Martin markets in the tenth.

Paris garden art
Jardin des Plantes, by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.

Where to Stay

The area in the tenth arrondissement near the Canal St. Martin is great, with lots of good shopping, trendy restaurants, and strolling/picnicking opportunities on the canal.

The second, near Rue Montorgueil, is nice for food shopping and feeling like part of the neighborhood.

And Rue du Commerce in the fifteenth has a charming small-city feel with good food shopping, local cafés, and several family-friendly parks, all within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower.

Day Trips

The gardens at Versailles are everything they’re cracked up to be, even though I find the chateau itself a little underwhelming. For a truly impressive chateau experience, Fontainebleau is well worth the trip.

Cathedral buffs will definitely want to make the trip out to Chartres.

And the Champagne region is only about 45 minutes away by train (I’ve been meaning to take a day trip to Reims or Epernay myself for six years now!).

champagne
Photo by Megan Cole.

What to Eat

Traditional French cooking is getting harder to come by in Paris, but you can almost always find a good steak. Served with potatoes (fried, mashed, or roasted), Bearnaise sauce, and a green salad, it’s an easy bistro classic.

Don’t miss the cheese. French cheeses are stunning in their variety and artisanship. The cheese course at Astier at 44 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud in the eleventh arrondissement is legendary—and rightfully so.

Make sure to get some good bread, too. It’s like nowhere else in the world. And while you’re at the bakery, you really have to try the croissants. I love the Liberté bakery at 39 Rue des Vinaigriers in the tenth for both of these right now.

As for drinks, natural wine is sweeping the city and is usually served in places that are also really interesting to eat, like Chapeau Melon at 92 Rue Rebeval in the nineteenth, Au Passage at 1bis Passage Saint-Sébastien in the eleventh, or Frenchie Wine Bar at 5-6 Rue du Nil in the second, where the delicious cooking is focused on fresh, seasonal flavors.

croissants
Photo by Glen Scarborough.

Where to Eat (Favorite Bars & Restaurants)

I adore Le Supercoin at 3 Rue Baudelique in the eighteenth arrondissement, where they pour only French craft beers at very reasonable prices. Les Trois 8 at 11 Rue Victor Letalle in the twentieth is another favorite for international microbrews—and for the fact that they serve natural wine, too, for my friends who don’t like beer.

As for restaurants, I’m crazy about Le Casse-Noix at 56 Rue de la Fédération in the fifteenth. The menu is always changing according to what’s good in the markets, the food is always delectable, from amuse-bouche to dessert (the riz au lait is some of the best anywhere!), and the value for the money is outstanding.

Hidden deeper in the fifteenth, Le Grand Pan (at 20 Rue Rosenwald) serves up mouthwatering côte de boeuf (prime rib) and côte de porc (pork chops) for two and sells wine by the liter.

cafe by Moyan Brenn

How to Meet Locals & Make Friends

Go to a beer bar. Beer people the world-over are a genuinely friendly bunch, always willing to share local tips and chat the evening away with perfect strangers. In Paris, Le Supercoin (mentioned above) and L’Express de Lyon (at 1 Rue de Lyon in the twelfth) are particularly good for this kind of interaction.

Best Places to Take a Photo

The Pyrénées metro stop has a great view over the city, down a steep, bustling street with the Eiffel Tower straight ahead in the distance. Trocadero offers perfect, close-up views of the tower. The islands in the center of the city (Ile de la Cité, where Notre Dame is located, and Ile Saint-Louis) have lots of neat hidden corners, as well as a lovely perspective on the river Seine and the buildings that line it. And the exterior of the Louvre is rich with photo ops, from the glass pyramid to the Tuileries gardens.

Sunset on the Seine
Photo by Joe DeSousa.

Final Notes & Other Tips

I’d advise anyone planning a trip to Paris to be sure to leave time to just wander. It’s easy to get caught up in planning every minute of every day, booking every meal, and so on, but it’s so important to have time to explore on your own terms, too. You may discover something great all on your own!


Love what you read?

I wrote a whole book full of these interviews for you.

Buy Paris Now:       Full-Color PDF*         Kindle (.mobi)        Paperback


Exploring the rest of France? Grab my brand-new France guidebook with 100 interviews with chefs, creatives, foodies, hikers, cyclists, and experts of all kinds and get a copy of Paris absolutely free!

Paris! An unconventional guide

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6 Comments
  • Ali
    August 25, 2014

    Sounds like a great deal! Congrats on the next book!
    Ali recently posted…A Story of Overcoming Solo Travel FearMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      August 25, 2014

      Thanks!

  • SJ @ Chasing the Donkey
    August 25, 2014

    What a wonderful concept. Wishing you well. I am sending this to someone I know who has a trip booked.
    SJ @ Chasing the Donkey recently posted…Family vacation ideas: Fun things for kids to do in CroatiaMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      August 25, 2014

      Thank you!

  • Bella
    August 20, 2015

    Terrific tips. I am totally trying the photo op spots during my upcoming visit!
    Bella recently posted…Hotel review: Riva Luxury Rooms SplitMy Profile

  • G.H.
    June 3, 2016

    Bravo. Bonne idee. I lived in Paris many years, and great croissants au beurre are harder and harder to come by, though I like you recommendation and Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Schou. Even the once-great Poilâne bakery seems to have gone down in quality for its country bread.

    But for Le Fromage, there are always still so many choices to go with the many choices of wines.

    Thank you bringing me back to my old home in my 20’s.

    G.H.

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