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Guide to Paris Attractions

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A good Paris guide will point out the main highlights as defined by decades of tourism, but there is really no good way to describe how to 'discover' Paris to a budding Parisien or Parisienne. It is easy to tell them to start at the centre with Notre Dame, or begin with the Louvre, or go up the Eiffel Tower (the Arc de Triomphe is actually better and queues shorter), but the beauty of Paris is that it is able to offer entirely personal experiences to its visitors.

If you make an effort to walk rather than taking the métro everywhere (though do take the métro just to see what it is like), and you keep your eyes and ears open you will find that in Paris there is something to see or hear all the time. Its strength is in the little details, not only in the grandiose statements of power left by kings, emperors and presidents.

Furthermore, a worthwhile trip to Paris doesn't have to be an expensive round of concerts, galleries and posh restaurants, even though all of these things are good in themselves. When you take the métro there is a fair chance that someone with an accordion will hop on and give you a free concert (all he wants is a couple of coppers). On the first Sunday of every month the big galleries open their doors to the public for free, so time your visit to the Louvre or Centre Pompidou accordingly. Or, if that isn't possible, wait until after 3pm when the Louvre costs €5 instead of €7.50. Food doesn't have to cost €20 per plat either. If you go to the supermarkets (Champion or Franprix, for example) you can buy bread, cheese and some wine and take it to one of the lovely parks for a picnic.

Everyone knows about the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and place du Tertre. In fact it is so full of tourists at most times of the year that the French refer to the place du Tertre and surrounding roads as "les rues où les Parisiens ne vont jamais" ('the roads where Parisians never go'). Why don't you break with tradition and visit the rue Pavée in the Marais (the first paved street), or the 'other' side of Montmartre around Jules Joffrin? There is a typically French market in the rue Duhesme where a woman plays the accordion on Saturdays, all just waiting to give you that authentic ' Paris experience'. On your way back up the hill you could grab a glass of Leffe in Chez Ginette, near Lamarck métro, where the people who live in the beautiful apartments opposite come for a drink at sundown.