Paris is known for its iconic neighborhoods like the Champs-Elysees, but do you know where you can find the “Real Paris” ? These areas are must sees when visiting the city, but can sometimes feel a bit too “touristy”.
The center of Paris is bustling with Parisians and tourists. Behind the famous shopping street Rue St. Honore you’ll find somewhat hidden square here in the city center. It is the tranquil Place du Marche St. Honore, located halfway in between the busy Opera district and the popular Rue de Rivoli. On Wednesdays and Saturdays there is a open air market with food as well as clothing and accessories on sale. In addition to the market, there are great bistros with large terrasses, perfect for a meal and people watching. Here you’ll more likely find Parisians that live or work in the neighborhood rather than tourists. It’s the perfect escape for a bit of calm in the center of the city.
In the ninth arrondissement lies the fabulous Rue des Martyrs, a long thoroughfare which stretches from Pigalle up to Montmartre. The name comes from St. Denis, the patron Saint of Paris. On the Rue des Martyrs, there are hundreds of shops and cool restaurants. Instead of being crowded with tourists you’ll find Parisians lining up at some of its most famous boulangeries. At night this a great street for going out to bars. The sloping street also provides an excellent view of Sacre Coeur.
Located in the seventeenth arrondissement next to the Metro Villiers is the pedestrian only Rue de Levis. This market street offers a selection of fine food shops, butchery shops, bakeries, wine & liquor, chocolate shop as well as fashionable boutiques and a few cafes. The Rue de Levis offers a village like atmosphere within Paris.
A short walk from the Rue de Levis is the the Batignolles neighborhood, which you can reach by heading north on the intersecting Rue Legendre. The Batignolles feels like its own little village with many fabulous eateries and trendy stores. The district has a bohemian bourgeoise vibe but is still quite charming and romantic. Here you can visit the picturesque Square des Batignolles, an English style garden dating from the 19th century, one of the green spaces created by Napoleon III in his projects to beautify and modernize Paris.
Martin Luther King Park
To the north of Square des Batignolles is the Clichy-Batignolles-Martin Luther King park. The city created this modern park, full of activities and places to sit, in 2004. Surrounded by new construction, this up-and coming neighborhood is dedicated to ecology. This new neighborhood has become a model for sustainable urban development.
Also located in the seventeenth district is the Place de Ternes, halfway between the posh Parc Monceau and popular Arc du Triomphe. Great cafes and shops fill this lively square, nestled among elegant Haussmannian architecture. In the center of the square is where you’ll also find one of the cities few remaining flower markets here, open every day but Sunday. Nearby is the new Promenade Pereire, another former railroad. It has been transformed into a walking path surrounded by gardens that goes on for about one kilometer. You can locate the start of the promenade near the Metro Porte Maillot. This is certainly a place that tourists don’t know about and its worth a visit!
Rue du Commerce
Moving down to the fifteenth arrondissement is the animated Rue du Commerce, which starts at the Metro La Motte Piquet Grenelle and ends at the Metro Commerce. On this street, also not typically frequented by tourists but mostly Parisians, you’ll find many perfume, lingerie, clothing and accessory boutiques, as well as restaurants. The Café du Commerce is a famous brasserie renowned for its Belle Epoque style. This was a former “bouillon”, a type of restaurant popular in 19th century Paris that served only beef-broth soups. The restaurant features three floors of tables set around an interior courtyard filled with plants.
Towards the east is the fourteenth arrondissement and the Montparnasse neighborhood. Once an extremely popular neighborhood during the 1920s and 30s. The construction of the Montparnasse Tower in the 1970s unfortunately transformed Montparnasse. Today it is one of the busiest neighborhoods in Paris but despite its major train station often times overlooked by visitors. The iconic restaurants dating from Montparnasse’s gilded age are still here: La Rotonde, La Coupole and Le Select. The Montparnasse Cemetery has a great number of famous grave sites like Charles Baudelaire, Guy de Maupassant. You will also see Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir ( buried next to each other).
Nearby the cemetery is the great Edouard Quinet farmer’s market (on Wednesdays and Saturdays). Walking south from the Montparnasse Cemetery on the Rue Raymond Losserand, past the Metro stop Pernety will lead you to one of the most beautiful plant covered streets in Paris, the Rue des Thermopyles. The houses on this street are covered in Wisteria and you’ll also find arches of plants that cross the narrow, cobblestone street. This is an extremely instagrammable spot but far enough from the city center to still stay somewhat secret. At the end of the tiny street you’ll find the Jardin des Thermopyles, a community vegetable garden.
Heading further east is the Butte-aux-cailles neighborhood in Paris’ thirteenth district. Like the more popular Montmartre, the Butte-aux-cailles is also former hilltop village known for its cobblestone, winding roads. But the Butte-aux-cailles remains calm and off the beaten path for many visitors to Paris, allowing it to retain its quaint, village like atmosphere. Here you’ll also find some wonderful Street Art, giving the neighborhood its artistic vibe.
The thirteenth arrondissement is often overlooked by tourists but there are several other hidden gems that are worth checking out off the beaten path. Heading North from the Place d’Italie on the Avenue des Gobelins you’ll arrive in the Gobelins neighborhood, named for the royal tapestries manufacturer which was located here. The Rue des Gobelins is one of the oldest streets in Paris and was formerly called Rue de Bievre for the river that once ran through the southern part of Paris. 19 Rue des Gobelins is one of the few Renaissance residential buildings that still exist in Paris and you’ll also find the “Ilot de la Reine Blanche’ , referring to a set of buildings which were once the residence of the illustrious Gobelins family in the 17th century.
These buildings are on the location of the former “chateau of the White Queen’. Queen Marguerite de Provence had a manor built here in the 13th century. Her daughter Blanche de France lived here after she lost her own husband. This manor was called “Hostel of the White Queen” due to the tradition of Queen’s in mourning wearing white. Not far away, the Cite Fleurie, a secret garden which is comprised of 30 different artists studios built during the 19th century that. These studios were built using dismantled material from the 1878 World’s Fair. Among the artists who lived here were Gauguin, Rodin and Modigliani. These residences are still used by artists today and are surrounded by magical overgrown flowers and trees. The Cite Fleurie is private to the artists who live there, but it is open on certain special “Portes Ouverts” days in June.
If you head east from the Place d’Italie on the Boulevard Vincent Auriol you’ll find a several large monumental street-art works on building facades that are part of the project “Boulevard 13”, initiated by the Mairie of the 13th arrondissement and an art gallery. The best international street artists were invited to paint these frescoes. Continuing down the Boulevard Vincent Auriol and then a right onto Rue Eugene Freyssinet will lead you to the Halle Freyssinet, a once abandoned railroad building that has been since transformed into a complex for more than 1000 start ups in its “Station F”. In addition to Station F, there is an immense new food market, La Felicita featuring several different kitchens, bars, cafeterias as well as live music and events. This is a cool new place to come to in Paris for eating, drinking and hanging out!
Bibliothèque François Mitterand
Finally, located a bit to the south is the Bibliotheque Francois Mitterand, the French National Library. This complex is one of the largest and most modern libraries in the world, and its a great place to spend time. In addition to the impressive and unique architecture of the site, there are gardens to admire, plenty of restaurants and a cinema.
These are just a few ideas of where you can find the “Real Paris” in the city, and perhaps every visitor will have their own idea of what Paris is to them. Happy exploring!
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Article written by Sarah