This isn’t my first time hanging out in Paris, but it was my first experiencing Paris like a local. By local, I’m referring to taking public transportation, going cafe and rooftop hopping, and avoiding the hotels. I don’t speak French so I was always intimidated by public services in the past. I decided to just go for it this go-around and had such a blast. These kinds of situations are best when you have friends to experience it with – and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more thanks to Jiawa from Beige Renegade. If you’re thirsting for adventure and wanting to take the plunge into something new, I highly recommend you experience Paris like a local.
I’m sharing some pointers below for how you can do just that! It’s tons of fun – and I promise, you won’t regret it!
Take the sub
I’m guilty of being an avid Uber user everywhere I go, but to experience Paris like a local, you gotta do public transportation. Uber is the easy way out. If your destinations are no more than 15 minutes apart, I’d suggest walking because you’ll come across tons of charming streets, alleys, and bridges that are worth seeing and photo-worthy. But beyond that, take public transit. I was so surprised by the faraway views of the Eiffel Tower. It’s really magical from a distance. Plus, navigating your stops and transfers are a challenge worth taking!
The metros in Paris are vastly different than New York. Depending on which you enter, they’re almost museum-like, displaying works of art. You’ll find some encased in copper like the Arts et Metiers or paintings and illustrations of French history.
Explore and indulge in Parisian cafes
Parisians love their baguettes and croissants (and I do too!), so visiting multiple cafes is a must. Their cafes are on another level with the tables so tightly packed that it can be hard to get seated. However, there’s so much character and life in every cafe from the decor down to the pastries. And they’re all so singular with none being like the other. If you need a recommendations of places to go, here are a few of my favorites:
Cafe de Flore – This place is everyone’s favorite and I have to say, it’s probably one of the best for people watching. It’s in the infamous Saint Germain area and super touristy, so expect a crowd.
Les Deux Magots – I love this cafe for its charming atmosphere and retro European vibe. It’s in the hipster neighborhood of Le Marais – and has very limited seating, which means it gets crowded fast!
Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole – This cafe can’t be missed with those prominent wisterias winding around the facade. It’s the cutest one around – and delightful inside out. Highly recommend you drop by and relax.
Angelina – This is technically a tearoom, which is worth mentioning because of their top notch pastries and hot chocolate. It’s the perfect go-to place if you have a sweet tooth and love chocolate as much as I do. The interior is bright, elegant, and extravagant – very ideal if you must get a photo for the gram!
Aside from the cafes, be sure you promenade through Canal St Martin, Montmartre, Saint Germain, and Le Marais. I don’t think Paris would be Paris without a glimpse of these quaint neighborhoods.
Stay at an airbnb
There are endless boutique hotels in Paris that will give you a grand and comforting stay. But if you want to avoid that “touristy” experience, airbnb is the way to go. It’s also generally less expensive than a nice hotel so you can spend the money on other things like coffee and pastries! Pick your apartment according to the neighborhoods and areas you want to be near – and also somewhere near a metro. My top two recommendations are The Marais or Rue Montorguiel areas.
Be sure to look for architectural details that embody Paris like parquet floors, wall mouldings, floor to window ceilings, and doors or windows that open to a balcony. Parisian balconies are one of a kind and so necessary!
Go rooftop hopping
Climbing up the rooftops and experiencing the views of Paris is seriously a mythical moment – and a great opportunity for a mini picnic or glass of wine. For a private rooftop moment like mine, I recommend going with someone who knows the rules and locations. However, bear in mind that there are plenty of public rooftops where you can enjoy the panoramic views. You can start here:
Le Perchoir – For a rooftop that’s on trend with a great vibe and view, nothing beats Le Perchoir, but it comes with a hefty price tag. It has a bit of an industrial feel so that’s a bonus!
Les Ombres – This spot provides a jaw-dropping snapshot of Paris’ most iconic places – the Eiffel Tower, the Seine and the Sacre-Coeur. It was my first and most memorable spot this trip!
Terrace Restaurant at Hotel Raphael – You’ll be sure to get a picture perfect view of Paris – specifically the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower, but it is quite expensive.
Bonus: Focus less on an extensive to-do list and more on enjoying the moment.
I feel like these days most people set off to Paris with a list of places to see, museums to explore, and neighborhoods to shop. I don’t think you get to soak in a true Parisian experience by doing this. If you want to experience Paris like a local, I’d recommend you stashing away all those Instagrammable hot spots and enjoy the lovely architecture and culture around you. It’s a romantic city to get lost in and walk through with tons of cafes to just marinate in and people watch. Take advantage of slowing down and watching the city go by before you.
paris travel guide