What can Paris offer when you’ve ticked off the ‘usual suspects’?
As you may know if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, I have recently been on a 3-month trip to Europe.
A number of people have been quizzed me about Paris since I got back. As I was there for three and a half weeks, I had the chance to drill down a little deeper than most – before I’ve been to Paris for a weekend or a few days and it’s the usual suspects that fill my itinerary: the Eiffel Tower, a trip on a ‘bateau mouche’ on the Seine, a visit to the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay, a look at Nôtre Dame or Sacré Coeur cathedrals.
What if you wanted to see something different? What else can Paris offer? Well, of course, the answer is a lot! So here is my hidden Paris… things you may not have discovered or things that are not ‘top tier’ tourist attractions and therefore are less busy but definitely not less interesting! I could have chosen many more places like this, but here are 5 to get you started!
La Petite Ceinture, disused railway
La Petite Ceinture – The ‘Small Belt’ is a disused train track that runs around Paris. It was used most at the end of the 19th century and has gradually been in less and less use since then. I could see it every day as I walked through the Parc Montsouris in the 14th arrondissement, and that was what started me wondering about it.
In 2007, an initiative launched several projects to rehabilitate the old ‘chemin de fer’ to transform it into an urban park. Today, three sections of the old railway are open to public and there are more to come.
One is in the 15th arrondissement in the south of Paris. The access is by 101 Rue Olivier de Serres. It’s a 1.5km section open in daylight hours; it’s wild – not planted or maintained like a typical Parisian park space so it’s a lovely contrast to other green spaces you might encounter in Paris.
Nearest Metro stop: Porte de Versailles
In March 2019, a section in the 20th arrondissement opened to public between Rue de Ménilmontant and Rue des Couronnes accessed at 11 Rue de la Mare in the 20th arrondissement.
Nearest Metro stop: Ménilmontant
Bistroy Les Papilles, classic French bistro
Bistroy des Papilles
If you are going to follow one Paris restaurant blog in English, can I suggest that you follow David Lebovitz? He is American but has lived in Paris for donkeys’ years. I went to a number of places that he recommended and easily the best one was this bistro. The Parisian bistro is reinventing itself and this one has nailed it – décor was ‘typique’ and atmospheric, the staff friendly, the food exceptional, in fact there was nothing to fault.
Enjoy your evening by first going for a walk in the Luxembourg Gardens just around the corner, and I guarantee you a perfect evening.
Nearest stop: Luxembourg RER Line B
David Lebovitz website.
Les Grands Voisins, reused hospital, now cafés and artists’ studio spaces
Les Grands Voisins (the former hospital Saint-Vincent-de-Paul) is a mixture of artists’ studios, cafés, bars and op shops. It’s a temporary community intervention, finding multiple uses for a building that is unused and whose future is not certain. Go check it out; it’s brought energy to a beautiful old relic of a building and it’s an experiment that’s worth watching and being part of.
74 avenue Denfert-Rochereau, 75014, Paris.
Nearest stops: Denfert Rochereau Metro, Denfert Rochereau or Port Royal RER line B
Les Grands Voisins organisation website
Androuet, artisan cheese shop
A classic Cheese Shop in Paris – Androuet
Started in 1909, this man had the idea to bring all of France’s regional cheeses into one shop – he made sure his cellar was the perfect place to ripen cheese so his shop above the cellar could offer cheeses for sale at their optimum ripeness. Now an international business, this shop brings you back to the passionate and knowledgable individuals and the classic artisan shops for which Paris is justifiably famous.
Nearest metro stop: St. Germain-des-Prés
Androuet Cheese website
Tissu Reine, iconic fabric and sewing accessory shop
Fabric shopping heaven
When I was in Paris I needed to do a little mending so I asked someone where I could buy a needle and thread (and perhaps a little bit of ribbon). I was directed to a shop and a street that (if you love rumaging through fabric bins and looking at patterns and thread) could keep you occupied for a lifetime.
The shop was a Parisian institution called Tissu-Reine (Fabric Queen) and was seriously impressive. Knowledgeable staff everywhere, tiny baskets to carry your purchases and ‘tickets’ to the ‘caisse’ for payment. I then walked around the Place Saint-Pierre and the Rue Livingstone to realise that there were fabric shops as far as the eye could see.
Luckily it is near Sacré-Coeur, so if your friends or family are bored, you can send them up to the cathedral to look around whilst you rummage to your heart’s content!
Tissu-Reine, 3 place Saint-Pierre, Paris.
Nearest Metro stops: Anvers / Abbesses
Tissu Reine website