Aisyah is originally from London but grew up in France and has long considered Paris her second home. A writer with over ten years of experience, she writes widely about food and travel all over the world. In her spare time she can usually be found either sampling the local cuisine or napping.
Paris Local Guide by Aisyah Llewellyn
Ah Paris...The City of Light, immortalised in countless films, in countless books, ingrained in our cultural psyche forever.
Is there even anything left to say?
The typical sights of Paris may indeed be a well documented and well trodden path, but there is always more to see, more to do, and more than just the typical trundle around the Louvre, Montmartre, and Napoleon’s Tomb.
Let’s dive in.
Places to Eat:
It may sound like sacrilege, but like any big city the world over Paris has some fantastic world cuisine that is worth seeking out if you have had your fill of baguettes and butter for the day.
Higuma, located in Little Tokyo along the Rue St. Anne, is delightful, not least because it’s not a sushi restaurant. Instead, be prepared for hearty Japanese fare to rival Tokyo in the form of hulking bowls of ramen and slabs of grilled fish. The kitchen is open so you get a front row seat as your meal is prepared, and one of the best things to order here are the Japanese dumplings or gyoza. Just watching as they are fried to perfection inches away from you is mesmerising and their taste even more so. You will probably spot Higuma due to the lines outside, but if not look out for the huge stuffed bear inside and you will know you have come to the right place. From here you can also walk down to the Louvre if you really must.
Found on the swanky Avenue Georges V, you could be forgiven for thinking that a trip to Al’s, as it is affectionately known, is going to set you back more than the cost of your hotel. Not so. This part cafe part grocery store serves some of the best Lebanese food outside of Beirut, and if you walk to the back of the shop you will find towering shawarma (meat wrapped in a flatbread) and kebabs, grilled in front of you and spruced up with your choice of condiments and pickles. There is no seating so you will have to eat your sandwich standing up as it drips all over you. It will taste all the better for it. Al Diwan is also right opposite the Pont D’Alma is you want to get a look at the Eiffel Tower whilst you are in the area.
A little canteen in Avenue de Choisy, Pho 14, unsurprisingly, sells Vietnamese Pho by the bowlful, but you are really missing a trick if you allow the name to dictate your order. Yes, the Vietnamese noodle soups are indeed delicious here, but it’s really all about the Nems. Or at least it should be. These traditional Vietnamese spring rolls are filled with shredded vegetables, still crunchy to the bite, mixed with toothsome vermicelli noodles and pork, and then deep fried. Perfect as a pre-aperitif snack.
Things to do:
There are lots of things to do in Paris, we all know this. But even if you are in the centre of the action, or willing to leave the normal tourist trail, there are still hidden gems to be uncovered at every turn.
The flea markets at St. Ouen:
If you venture out of the centre of town to the area of St. Ouen, you might just come across one of the most charming parts of Paris. St. Ouen is most famous for its flea markets, which start off with people selling bric-a-brac on the pavement. From there, as you keep walking along, the streets morph into a closed market selling funky clothes, shoes, and accessories. Further along still, antiques emporiums begin to spring up, featuring horse’s heads made of crystals, indoor hot tubs, clown sculptures, and honestly pretty much anything else you can imagine. Finally the markets give way to a vast indoor structure of ‘proper’ antiques shops where you will find some pricey yet exquisite pieces. Next to this section of the St. Ouen markets you will also find a selection of little French bistros dotted around where you can eat anything you want as long as it’s what they choose to serve on that particular day. It will be fantastic whatever it is.
The Dali Museum in Montmartre:
Montmartre is overshadowed, literally, by the Sacre Coeur which is all very nice. There is also the scenic funicular that takes you there, as well as the ‘artists’ who will do your portrait for an extortionate sum, and the splendid views over the city. Even more fun however, as you start to wind your way from the top of Montmartre, is the Salvador Dali Museum, tucked so far out of sight at the end of Rue Poulbot that you would never know it was there. If you want to see some real art then eschew the hordes closer to the summit and head down here.
Night Fountains Show at Versailles:
Versailles may not sound like much of a hidden gem, after all it practically wrote the book on gaudy opulence, but the timing of your visit here in crucial. In the day it’s fine, if you like that sort of thing or are a die-hard fan of Marie Antoinette, but during the summer months Versailles is open to the public at night when the iconic fountains are illuminated with glittering lights and set to music. As the sun goes down, Versailles lights up to present one of the most magical experiences in all of Paris, and the day culminates in a choreographed light show on the main pavilion that features balls of fire shooting into the night sky and flaming rivers chasing around the gardens. Go there once in your lifetime. It’s spectacular.