I’m lucky enough to be living in the most beautiful city in the world – and given that Paris for decades has been one of the most-visited cities in the world, many out-of-towners seem to agree.
However, the downside of this is that parts of Paris have become completely overrun with tourists: Tourism has become a victim of its own success. Fortunately, it is not hard to avoid the selfie-shooting tourist mobs in order enjoy the things that make Paris such a beautiful place to live.
It only takes the tiniest sense of adventure to get away from the main tourist sights and explore some of the quieter parts of the French capital.
Paris' 17th arrondissement
Take the 17th Arrondissement, an area that is left out of most guidebooks because there aren’t any official sights. No Louvre, no Moulin Rouge, no Eiffel Tower. And that’s a good thing. There are a few what I call Minor Sights that offer fascinating glimpses of history and local life. Parisians and in-the-know expats tend to keep these secrets to themselves, lest the tourist hordes rush in.
Roughly located between the must-see/must-do/top 10 TripAdvisor attractions of the Arc de Triomphe and Montmartre, most visitors pass right by without giving the area a second glance. But let’s get out of the Metro and have a look at some of the Minor Sights that will give you a real feel for la vie Parisienne.
Le Village des Batignolles
At the heart of the 17th is the former village of Batignolles. Its village days are long gone, as the area was annexed to Paris 150 years ago, but it retains a distinct atmosphere.
These days you’re more likely to find well-to-do bourgeois bohemians (BoBos, in Parisian slang) than impoverished villagers in its bars, cafes and cutesy boutiques. Right behind the church is the charming Square des Batignolles, where the BoBos walk their impeccably dressed offspring, and Rue Brochant, Rue de Batignolles and Rue des Dames are filled with bars, ‘restos’ and quirky boutiques selling artsy tchotschkes as well as designer children’s wear.
For more on bohemian village life, see the article here.
Cité des Fleurs
Don’t we all want the best of both worlds? The amenities of a metropolis combined with the rural peace and quiet of a small village lane? The inhabitants of the Cité des Fleurs are having their cake and eating it too. This is basically a gated community, but with Parisian flair.
During the day the community is freely accessible, allowing you, the gawking tourist, to walk through and imagine you had a few million euros to spare to that you could settle in one of the 19th century dream homes here. Don’t forget to call your real estate agent (and your bank) when you’re done.
For more on this gated community, Parisian style, see here.
Rue de Levis market street
Getting peckish? Head over to the pedestrianized Rue de Lévis (rhymes with ‘me’) for some food shopping, Parisian style. While your local hypermarket may have a larger surface area, this market demonstrates why France still reigns supreme in the food department.
Among the six bakeries, five chocolate shops, and four butchers you will easily fill a picnic basket with some great raw-milk cheeses, estate-bottled grand crus and pastries that could pass for miniature artworks.
For more on this cornucopia of food, read this.
Now that you’ve filled up your picnic basket, head over to nearby Parc Monceau, a large park that started off as a private garden and, unlike the stuffy Tuileries or Jardin de Luxembourg, allows visitors to trample the grass and spread out for a picnic. If you have kids in tow, take them for a spin on the merry-go-round or treat them to a pony ride.
For more on this great park, check this link.
Whatever you do, congratulate yourself on having explored a part of Paris that most tourists never get to see. Then comment below with your own favorite spot in Paris.