A Day in Paris…the Parisian way!
Hello everyone, Maria here! Today, I am going to write about how to spend a day in Paris the Parisian way, which means avoiding all sorts of mainstream tourist attractions where no real Parisian visits. In fact, many Parisians dread the Champs-Elysees, Eiffel Tower or Louvre. They even pray to never have to set foot in one of these places and some even find them tacky and cheesy.
My guide will include everything from breakfast to dinner as well as all sorts of morning and afternoon activities to make the most of your time in Paris. Full addresses and example prices are listed at the end of this post.
Please note that these are only recommendations, I do not expect you to follow them to the letter. If you are in Paris for a longer period of time, feel free to break down the guide into different parts and do each activity one day at a time.
Breakfast in Paris
Let’s start with breakfast. When I am at home in Paris, I get my pastries and bread from the absolute best bakery in town called L’autre Boulange1. Their products have very reasonable prices for Parisian standards. Denis, the owner and baker, is a good friend. Tell him I sent you and he might be feeling generous enough to give you a pastry or baguette for free!
However, you cannot eat in at the bakery. It is not very practical to get your bread from there if your accommodation is not nearby.
I have therefore another breakfast suggestion for you where you can also eat in. The place is called Sept Cinq2 and it is a shop as well as a tea room/café. Sept Cinq is a fashionable boutique that sells shoes, clothing, accessories for both women and men as well as interior decorations. The tea room is brilliant, the atmosphere is lovely and the staff (Pauline, Alix and Maxime) are super friendly. Again, if you mention my name to them, they might sit down with you and chat for a bit if the café is not too busy. You won’t regret their company! Besides, it is a great way to practice your French skills! In regards to the food, my favourite is the homemade granola with Greek yogurt. In French this translates as granola maison avec fromage blanc, an absolute delight which I highly recommend.
Morning activities – special Paris museums
After a delicious and filling breakfast, let us start the morning activities. The first place that I suggest going to is Mundolingua3, the museum of language and linguistics.
Mundolingua doesn’t get enough credit in my opinion. To me, it is one of the most interesting museums I have ever visited. You can learn so much about languages and how language learning creates a positive effect on your brain. You can discover: slang, colloquialisms, animal language, phonetics, the difference between what we mean and how we say it, the evolution of words, bilingualism-multilingualism, proverbs, the origins of languages and much more! I think the fact that the museum looks tiny from the outside might deter potential visitors. It is a small building after all, but the content inside is endless. You could easily spend several hours visiting it. I personally go at least once a year and spend around two and a half hours there each time.
Since one museum a day is never enough, I suggest getting on with a visit of Rodin Museum4 which is located about 20-25 minutes walking distance away from Mundolingua. Alternatively, you could rent a Vélib’ and get to Rodin Museum in less than 10 minutes. Vélib’ is a self-service bike system available 24 hours a day, all year round. You can sign up for a long-term subscription or buy a 1-day or a 7-day ticket online or at any station. I will link a map of all the Vélib’ stations at the end of the post.
Now, let’s return to the subject which is Rodin Museum. The museum is located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris and is dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The aim of the project is to keep Rodin’s original intention alive: offering the visitor an immersive experience in the world of his sculpture, and of sculpture in general. Rodin Museum is a MUST-SEE for all cultured Parisians.
Lunchtime in Paris
Time for lunch! Lunch is a big thing in Paris. Parisians take long lunch breaks everyday with friends, family or colleagues and indulge in a hot meal, wine and dessert…and then go back to work. It’s a great tradition and one which you should take part in if you want to be a real Parisian.
I have picked out three of my favourite lunch options for you:
The first one is a typical French bistro called La Fontaine de Mars5. Prices are relatively high but to be honest, it is very difficult to find anything good or as good for less in Paris, so be prepared!
Since 1908 La Fontaine de Mars was run by three different families. Today, it is Christiane Boudon and her family who run the place. Besides, did you know that the Obamas once dined there?
My favourite meals here are:
- Steamed cod with vegetables, aioli on the side (in French: pavée de cabillaud vapeur aux petits légumes, aïoli à part)
- Cold tomato soup, garlic and deviled eggs (in French: salmoreja à la tomate fraiche, œuf mimosa et jambon)
- Homemade duck foie gras terrine and toasts (in French: Foie gras de canard mi-cuit)
I adore the cosy, homely and traditional ambience of La Fontaine de Mars and always find it a very pleasant experience to have lunch there.
Another favourite of mine is another bistro called Les Deux Magots6. This one is slightly more affordable but just as fantastic as La Fontaine. Again, this is a very traditionally French brasserie.
I have also picked out some of my favourite dishes that this restaurant serves:
- Mixed omelette, ham and cheese, mixed leaf salad (in French: omelette mixte, jambon et fromage, salade mélangée)
- The ‘Refreshing’ salad: King shrimps, salad mix, tomato, green beans, avocado, grapefruit (called ‘Salade fraîcheur’ in French)
- Quiche of the day
- My suggestion for Dessert/Pudding: 2000-feuilles pastry, which is a Pierre Hermé variation of the traditional French pastry ‘Mille feuilles’ – absolutely delicious!
Picnicking in Paris
Another way of experiencing lunch like a true Parisian is by having a picnic. Choose one of these excellent locations to relax and enjoy your food and the scenery:
- the banks of the Seine
- the Place des Vosges
- the Jardin des Tuileries or
- the Jardin des plantes
What I love to do is to order a freshly prepared, customisable picnic basket by Paris Picnic7 which they deliver to you, in town. Their services are incredible. They can even include a so-called ‘Surprise Setup’ which consists of you choosing the time and location, and they show up before to lay out the blanket and picnic so that you and whoever is sharing it with you can ‘stumble’ upon the picnic. There are additional costs for this magic Setup-option, of course.
You will find the link to the website of Paris Picnic – which is very easy to understand – at the end of this post.
That’s it for lunch! There isn’t anything else to say. If you were expecting me to say: “Bon appétit!” then I am sorry to let you down. The truth is that Parisians are secretly horrified when tourists say Bon appétit! As the saying goes, poor taste is worse than poor diplomacy, so please don’t say Bon appétit to a true Parisian.
Afternoon and evening activities
I have a great afternoon activity for you which is a visit of famous 19th century writer Victor Hugo’s home8 on Place des Vosges (which is ideal if that is where you had your picnic). I would like to remind you that Victor Hugo is the author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, amongst others. Victor Hugo was 30 when he moved into his house with his wife Adèle in October 1832. They lived there for 16 years. His home has been preserved as a museum. It is there to communicate to visitors more about the author than his work and its historical context.
I believe that this museum is terribly underrated but it is better like that. That way, only few tourists know of it! This means Parisians are spared from standing in long tourist lines, which is one of the things they tend to despise the most.
A good way to unwind after an exciting day in Paris is by going to the cinema, but not just any cinema: the Lucernaire cinema9, which true Parisians swear by. Great modern-day and older films are on at Lucernaire, as well as permanent childhood classics (or not, depending or your age, I am 19!) like The Lion King. This is not only a nice source of entertainment, but watching films in a foreign language are also an absolutely vital part of any language learning experience.
Finish with a special meal in Paris
I would then suggest to finish the day by having dinner at Naturellement10 restaurant, which, if you still have a Velib’, is only 10 minutes away from the cinema by bike. Otherwise, use public transport!
Naturellement is a lovely little restaurant with a lot of charm. The food is not typically French, but more like Mediterranean-Italian. This doesn’t matter as Parisians are open-minded and eat all sorts of food, from everywhere in the world, even if they secretly think that French gastronomy is the best. If I may give you one last piece of advice in terms of what to eat, it would be the vegetable burrata (in French: burrata avec légumes vapeur). An absolute delight!
That is it for now, I hope you enjoyed reading it and will take my advice and avoid the tourist traps when you are next in Paris!
Details of places mentioned above
As promised, here are all the addresses, prices (2017) and websites of my favourite places:
- L’autre Boulange
43 rue de Montreuil
Opening times : 7.30 am – 1.30 pm
- Sept Cinq – Châtelet: sept-cinq.com/fr/content/16-brunch
26 Rue Berger
Opening times : 11 am – 7.30 pm
- Mundolingua: mundolingua.org/en/
10 Rue Servandoni
Opening times: 10am–7pm
- Rodin Museum: musee-rodin.fr/en
79 Rue de Varenne
Opening times : 10am–5:45pm
Prices: 10 €, 4€ gardens only, 6€ audioguide
- La Fontaine de Mars: fontainedemars.com
129 Rue Saint-Dominique
Opening times : 12–3pm, 7:30–11pm (though I’ve suggested to eat their during lunchtime)
- Les Deux Magots: lesdeuxmagots.fr/en/
6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés
Opening times : 7:30am–1am (though I’ve suggested to eat their at during lunchtime)
- Paris Picnic: parispicnic.com
Classic basket: 34€ per person
Chic basket: 62,50€ per person
- Victor Hugo’s home in Paris: maisonsvictorhugo.paris.fr/en
6 place des Vosges
Opening times: 10am-6pm
Prices: 8€ for adults over 18, audioguide 5€
Free entry for children under 18.
- Lucernaire Cinema: lucernaire.fr
3 Rue Notre Dame des Champs
Opening times: 11am–10:30pm
Prices: 5€ for under 15s, 7€ for under 26s, 9€ normal price
33 Bis Rue Mademoiselle
Opening times 12–3pm, 7:15–11pm
Link to Velib’ stations
Here is the link showing the Velib’ stations in Paris. As you can see there is a lot of them!