It doesn’t take long for every visitor to Paris to fall in love with the city. Usually it’s a matter of only minutes. The gorgeous tree lined boulevards, elegant cafe terraces and spectacular architecture, they’re irresistible.
So this Paris city guide is written for the repeat offender: the visitor who has been to Paris many times and fallen in love already, taken a picture of the Mona Lisa, climbed the Eiffel Tower (only to be disappointed because you can’t see the Eiffel Tower in the view from the top) and crawled all over the charming streets of Montmartre. This city guide is for someone who returns to Paris simply to have a little mooch around, soak up the atmosphere, sit in a cafe and write ones memoir (Hemingway-style) and feel just a tiny bit cool and Parisian.
To do this you need to find a cool little neighbourhood with very hip cafes, gorgeous little independent boutiques and a certain “je ne sais quoi” in the overall atmosphere . So in the name of research, I spent a few days getting to know the 10th arrondissement and the Marais district just that little bit better.
Many a tourist has already discovered and fallen in love with the Marais district, with its charming boutiques, delightful galleries, lively cafes and bars and abundance of bistros. All the same, I never get tired of roaming the streets of the Marais and re-discovering all the gorgeous pockets of Paris-ness. Fabulous boutiques, perfume, jewellery, shoes, art, books. It’s all here and all located in beautiful little stores and galleries just waiting for you to discover them.
Just over on the other side of the Place de la Republique is the gritty Tenth. It’s edgy, hip and diverse and not so pretty in parts. It is starting to gentrify but retains its character. If you wander off the side of Boulevard de Magenta and over towards the Canal St Martin, you’ll find some unexpected little pockets of cool. It’s here that I come to get a decent cup of coffee and a proper breakfast from somewhere with a unique character and a lot of authenticity.
My Top Tips
In Paris it is very difficult to get a good coffee. Specialty coffee, of the type you’ll find in cities like London, Vancouver and Melbourne, is still in its infancy in Paris. So, thanks to some inside information from my fabulous friend (and the font of all coffee-related knowledge), the Girl in the Cafe, I was pointed in the direction of two notable cafes in the 10th Arrondissement:
Ten Belles: one of the original cafes to bring specialty coffee to Paris, Ten Belles is a little caffeine-infused haven where you can enjoy a “cafe creme” (aka flat white), get to know your fellow coffee drinkers (due to the no wifi policy) and watch the world go by in this diverse little neighbourhood.
Holy Belly: not only does Holy Belly do a mean flat white, but they serve up mouth-wateringly good Melbourne-style breakfasts every day. The staff are accommodating and friendly and put to bed the image of the snooty Parisian waiter. The food is cooked in an open kitchen so you can see that your breakfast is being made fresh. Holy Belly’s popularity has spread far and wide, so come early to avoid the queue!
Basically the entire Marais district is shopping heaven. Start with the Rue Vieille du Temple and then just branch out from there. All my favourites are to be found here: Anine Bing, Sonia Rykiel, Zadig & Volatiare, Lemaire, Vanessa Bruno… Special mention goes to Merci, the gorgeous concept store on Boulevard Beaumarchais, which houses meticulously curated interiors and fashion brands in the most elegant, light and airy space.
Ok, for dinner we ventured a little further afield from the Marais district, to the neighbouring 11th Arrondissement. As I am a lover of seafood, with a penchant for oysters, we headed to L’Ecailler du Bistrot, for a delicious meal of fresh oysters, fish and a glass of champagne or two. The restaurants is charming in that cosy back-street neighbourhood kind of way.
So there you have it, a mini Paris city guide to two inspiring neighbourhoods. Looking forward to reading your memoirs!