Category Archives: paris

The Best Viennoiseries & Crêpes in Paris for Under 5€

 

Le Fournil St. Michel – situated on a side street off of Boulevard Saint-Michel, this bakery offers quality for cheap in the otherwise expensive 5th arrondisement. Ignore the paint-chipped building and untidy display cases and join the line of hungry students who’ve hopped over from the Sorbonne, ready to pig out on generous portions. Whether planning a picnic at the Jardin du Luxembourg or looking to escape the commerical restaurants along the Seine, stop by to stock up on fresh sandwiches, paninis, crêpes, gaufres and desserts.

 

 

 

 

Coquelicot – a few steps from the Place des Abbesses, this boulangerie à l’ancienne has served homemade French staples since 1978. Choose from a large selection of fresh and cooked pies, quiches, éclairs, small pizzas, burnt creams, flans, chocolate fondant, madeleines and macaroons—everything ready to take away and under 5€. For those with more time, take a seat in their cottage-themed upstairs, but be prepared for long wait times and unpleasant servers. Avoid their menu formulas and order instead à la carte: rich drinking chocolate or coffee in a bowl accompanied by slices of warm brioche; homemade vegetable soup; or a typical croque monsieur—toasted ham and cheese sandwich—with the same authenticity of a French countryside kitchen.

 

Le Corner – halfway between metro stops Rue Saint Maur and Père Lachaise on the Avenue de la Republique, this café has yet to gain popularity (even a Google search doesn’t have any results), so take advantage of the solitude while possible. They have paninis & sandwiches for 3€, most crêpes sucrées for 2€ and salées for 4€, and fries, desserts, drinks and coffee for 1€. The only thing that could make it better: if they stayed open all to satisfy drunk customers stumbling down from Parmentier.

 

 

Chez Alain – venture past the Lebanese and African stalls located in the crowded Marché des Enfants Rouges  to an eccentric Frenchman named Alain. Here, street food is an art that deserves quality ingredients and proper attention. While watching Alain singing and joking, taking his time despite the accumulating crowd, one gets the impression of having been invited into his private kitchen, a rare warmth in an otherwise stoney city. The sandwiches are hearty and worth the 7€ , but Alain is infamous for his crêpes: the perfect thickness and a melt-in-your-mouth quality for just 2,80€. Choose from lemon and sugar, Nutella, jam or honey. Alternatively, organic gaufres with powdered sugar, Nutella or maple syrup are available as well. Support Alain by liking his Facebook page.

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Inexpensive & Trendy, Part Two: Where to go for a Drink as a 30-something in Paris

A ten-minute walk from Place d’Italie is the Butte Aux Cailles, an unassuming neighborhood nestled in the 13th arrondissement. Tiny ivy-twined townhouses line cobblestone roads, street art overtakes all available wall space (including most storefronts), and shoppers and tea-drinkers dip into small bistros and boutiques. Once happy hour begins, the otherwise quiet streets revive as bars along Rue de la Butte aux Cailles and Rue des Cinq Diamants welcome a bobo crowd, many still donning work attire but ready to relax and indulge until the hilltop closes around 2am.

Start the night at Chez Gladine’s, a cordial dive serving Basque specialties. The inside is rustic, with checkered tablecloths and chipped paint, but its sub-par appearance doesn’t deter many; be prepared to wait for a table and then be crammed between strangers. Wine starts at 2€70 a glass and the most expensive dish is 12€. Food presentation won’t be any prettier than the locale, but the quality hits the same heartiness and authenticity of a homemade meal, with portions so big they’re difficult to finish.

The bars range from sporty to fancy to grungy, with my favorite (and the cheapest) being the latter. The Le Merle Moqueur is so cozy that it feels like walking into an intimate party. Choose from low-priced beer or over twenty rums and vodkas spiced on-site, and then push to the crowded dance floor to join the others as they rock to an upbeat mix of French pop and ‘80’s hits.

Just around the corner, the equally stuffy and unkempt La Folie en Tete offers pints from 5€, so long as you can make it to the bar without hitting your head on the instruments and street signs that hang haphazardly from the ceiling. If you’re lucky you’ll snag a small table where you and your friends can shout at each over the most eclectic music choices ever, from varied live performance, to jazz, rock and even world music.

Want more ideas? Check out my original Inexpensive & Trendy post.

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Paris Underground: my Illegal Adventure in the Catacombs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mining of the limestone deposits underneath Paris started as early as the Middle Ages to provide foundations for  cathedrals and castles such as Notre Dame and Versailles, eventually resulting in over 200 miles of tunnels. At the end of the 18th century, rampant disease originating from overused graveyards (most notably the Cimetière des Innocents) resulted in complete exhumation. For two years priests transfered corpses from the suspected cemeteries to the Catacombs, and the high death rate during the French Revolution had bodies deposited there directly. A few decades and nearly six million remains later, the ossuary in the Catacombs started gaining popularity as a tourist attraction.

I have done the organized tour twice, and the juxtaposition between fascination and fear of death present in the ossuary intrigues me. People walk past the bones-filled rows while laughing and sneaking pictures, the anonymity, antiquity and multitude of the disassembled skeletons making it easy to ignore that some day we’ll all meet a similar fate.

But the ossuary accounts for only a small part of the Catacombs’ available space. The rest accommodate graffiti over bones and rebellious Parisians rather than tourists. Catacomb frequenters, known as Cataphiles, consist mostly of adventurous students and grungy individuals coming to explore, party or enjoy the solitude available only twenty meters below the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entrances to the catacombs are usually kept secret to prevent discovery and overuse by other Cataphiles, but I will say that our entry involved climbing (rather ungracefully on my part) over a locked gate and walking in darkness for about ten minutes before reaching an indiscreet hole in the bottom of the wall. After a tight squeeze through and crawling for a few minutes in mud, we came to a proper path, complete with a street name carved into the wall.

Vegetation-less, rodent-less, noise-less, light-less and scattered with discards from drunken debauchery, the Catacombs feel like living inside a science fiction film or a post-apocalyptic society. Centuries worth of graffiti covered the walls, melted candles decorated wall nooks, and forms such as castles and gargoyles were carved into the limestone. One small chamber flaunted a garden of plastic plants, another displayed an array of stolen property (street signs, post office boxes and even Velib bicycles). Rainwater flooded several sections, but we trudged through waist-high water regardless. Our headlamps illuminated the tight corridors, but when we stopped in various chambers to hang out, we drank beer and nibbled on our cakes by candle light.

We encountered others along the way: two guys hoping to explore an unmapped area, a group celebrating a man’s 45th birthday, a trio of Cataphiles with a makeshift lantern and a boom box blaring punk music.  A certain camaraderie existed automatically between us; we’d chat, share our snacks and trade tips before parting ways to continue our anonymous lives.

We spent six hours in the Catacombs, though by the end I couldn’t say if it had been thirty minutes or ten hours. The timelessness was comforting. We were lucky enough to be enclosed in the veins of Paris, breathing her tumultuous history and feeling the steadiness of her pulse. Needless to say, it puts things into perspective.

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Tea/Coffee & Cake in Paris for 4€ or Less!

Skip the tourist-targets with over-priced and water-downed coffees, and head instead to the deliciously priced cafés I’ve listed below for an authentic Parisian repose.

 

Au Thé Gourmand

Located on a quintessential European backstreet near the Pantheon, this unassuming café sells only homemade pâtisseries and offers over twenty flavors of hot and iced teas. For 2€ I got the biggest, chocolaty-est slice of cake I’ve ever received from a café or bakery. While the cappuccino wasn’t quite on the same level, I got a larger mug than most cafés in that area would’ve given and it came with a complimentary drop of meringue—all for 2€20. A carved wooden pillar divides the small room in two, potted plants liven each table and funky handmade jewelry is on sale near the cash register. A great stop for lunch break with a colleague, a slice of quiche on the go, or an afternoon gossip session with a friend.

 

Café Maure de la Mosquée de Paris

If the city’s chaos becomes too stressful, step through the stone archway to Café Maure, one of the most sensually pleasing and calming cafes I’ve ever visited. Two quaint courtyards, overflowing with evergreen foliage, accept costumers year-round. During winter months, a canvas ceiling blocks the wind and heaters keep vitality and warmth. Dark blues and greens branch out in a flowery motif along the tiled walls, sweet sheesha smoke perfumes the air, and tiny birds flutter around, searching for crumbs. Don’t miss the 2€ hot mint tea paired with a 2€ syrup-soaked pastry. A crowded boutique adjoins the café, packed with traditional North African products such as woven handbags, beaded jewelry and an array of colorful decorations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Salon by Thé des Écrivains

Tucked behind the picturesque Place des Vosges, this softly lit salon pays homage to the natural relationship between books and tea. Neatly stacked multicolored notebooks, journals, photo albums, and notepads, all handmade with cotton paper, rest alongside shelves of over 5,000 books, artisanal pottery and whimsical furnishings. Translating to “Writer’s Tea,” the Thé des Écrivains brand captures the essence of a literary culture within a single steaming cup. Ask for a cup of le thé des philosophes chinois (Chinese philosopher’s tea) and savor its mix of green and black teas, lotus and jasmine infusions and sprinkle of poppy while contemplating life and confronting a blank page.

 

Ten Belles

If not for the mass of attractive hipsters loitering outside with cigarettes, the plain pinewood storefront of Ten Belles would easily go unnoticed. Their culinary approach, however, is anything but simple. The menu originate from that special combination of Anglophone-inspired recipes with French-quality ingredients. Their cappuccinos, light and delicately balanced, with just enough froth and no need for sugar, arrive adorned with milk-flower swirls. Come here to take refuge with a good book and a hot cup during the seemingly endless cold days of a Parisian winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Centre Culturel Pouya

Established to preserve Iranian culture, the Centre Culturel Pouya offers courses in traditional dance, theatre and yoga. Stone slabs with embroidered cushions comprise half the seating, but couches and chairs are available as well. Large photographs displaying Persian music festivals hang next to ancient instruments and bookshelves full of Iranian literature. The teas, served liberally, come with their spices still soaking on the bottom. Candles and warm lamplight give the room an intimate atmosphere, making it perfect for an alternative first date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AntiCafé

The AntiCafé charges for time, not for usage. The first hour costs 4€ and every hour after that is 3€. Enter, get an usage card from the front desk to track the elapsed time, and commence free access to coffee, tea, snacks, Wi-Fi, printing, scanning and board games. Snack items include pastries, cakes, fruits, bread, Nutella, honey, chocolate powder, olive oil and vinegar. The environment is rather studious; when I went essentially everyone stayed bent over a Macbook, scribbling on graphed paper or reading a book. The only people having conversations were those who walked straight to the conference room (rentable to anyone who needs space for a business meeting, birthday party, etc.). Overall, a cost-effective and opportune escape from home, whether to work on a project in the company of strangers or avoid washing dishes.

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Free Artistic Collaborations in Paris: Your New Wintertime Hangout

Last winter, I spent a lot of money on overpriced cappuccinos just to have an excuse to escape the frosty grayness of Paris and keep my hands warms. Had I known about La Gaîté Lyrique or LE CENTQUATRE, I could have saved money and found cool friends a lot quicker.

La Gaîté Lyrique

Located in the 3rd arrondissement, snug between the Marais, Republique and Grand Boulevards, La Gaîté Lyrique was originally built in 1862 under Baron Haussmann. For 120 years the building served as a popular theater, and even fell under the management of Offenbach for a short time. After a bout of bankruptcy and a few decades of abandonment, the renovated building, an interesting mélange of elegant 19th-century architecture contrasted by new-age décor, reopened in 2010 as a haven for artists to relax, explore, present and reside.

La Gaîté Lyrique offers a multitude of programs, workshops, demonstrations, performances and resources. Popular subjects include technology, digital art, video games, architecture, music, dance, urban culture, street art, graffiti and skating. For independent exploration, their resource center has a small library, free-access computers, study cubicles, comfy couches, and my favorite, a video game center with five stations, each with a large screen television and a game history overview.

On the weekends concerts are held in one of their three performance halls, though these events usually aren’t free. A boutique, three cafés and a bar include other pricier options (thought if you stick with a coffee you’ll be fine). While students may comprise the majority of the population, families, adults and even senior citizens frequent the La Gaîté Lyrique as well (the program Hype(r)Olds is held weekly for women over the age of 77, for example).

 

LE CENTQUATRE 

In the northeast of Paris, up near La Villete, LE CENTQUATRE encourages emerging art of all forms,

providing space for creation, presentation and residence. Though it served as the city’s main funeral parlor for over 120 years, the revamped glass, brick and iron building has an open layout flooded with natural light that is anything but dark and discouraging.

Temporary exhibitions and performances are hosted on nights and weekends, but anyone can assemble a gathering during the day. Sit on one of many lounge chairs to watch break-dancers, hoolahoopers, jugglers and yogis practicing, or join in yourself. A certified teacher holds free qi qong sessions every Saturday morning.

A high-end restaurant, a cozy café, a pizza truck and an epicerie will likely satisfy any food cravings you’d have. Similarly, an art-focused bookshop, free book exchange cabin and a very chic Emmaüs will feed your appetite for hip retro clothing, knick-knacks or coffee table literature.

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Affordable Shopping in Paris, Part 2

Chine Machine – founded by a native New Yorker, this blue-washed thrift shop near Abbesses gets its inspiration from the SoHo district of NYC. Although chine means “to hunt,” unlike most second-hand stores in Paris the Chine Machine has a very organized, open layout. The decor is as funky and chic as its merchandise: pictures and posters cover the stone walls, weathered chests overflow with sale items, vintage TV sets display belts and glasses, bright-lipped mannequins flaunt perfectly mismatched styles. Prices start low but range rather high for big-name designer finds. Everyone needs to splurge once in a while, right?

 

Vintage Desir – probably the only vintage friperies in Paris that don’t have starting prices of 50€. Vintage Desir has two central touristy locations, one in the Marais amongst the ever-crowded falafel eateries (don’t be fooled by the bold “COIFFEUR” lettering left by the previous owner), and one off the Abbesses metro stop in Montmartre. Both have crowded, narrow aisles full of fun throw-back items. Come here to find sequin-heavy dresses, colorful blouses, stacks of hats, furs and plenty of leather purses, all within a student budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L’Interloque – “La Ressourcerie – L’Interloque’s main goal is to reduce waste and advocate responsible consumption by taking in unwanted or nonfunctional objects to recycle, upcycle, repair and/or reuse. They play an active role in educating the quartier about environmental protection, offer free pickups to anyone unable to transport their old items and offer employment primarily to those recovering from hard times. Any useful items they sell in one of their three boutiques on rue de Trétaigne, in a garage-sale or flea market-esque fashion, offering furniture, decorations, books, clothing, dishware, DVDs and other miscellaneous household items.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eileen – relatively unknown (every time I’ve gone I’ve shared the shop with women older than forty), this tiny, cramped store is without a doubt the best-priced friperie in Paris. Located next to the Arenes de Lutece, its discreet façade, dirty windows and messy arrangement of clothing may intimidate most. Admittedly, shopping here is a bit of a challenge; the majority of the clothing is piled 2.5 feet or so high in the middle, with racks of dresses and jackets bordering it. I actually took off my shoes once so I could climb to dig at the back of the pile. Despite being disorganized, the clothes—jeans, dresses, coats, scarves, purses—are in great condition and often come from well-known brands. I’ve found Minelli leather derbies for 6€, Zara shirts for 2€ and Aubade lingerie for 1€.

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Inexpensive & Trendy: Where to go for a Drink as a 20-something in Paris

After almost two years, the construction crew around Place de la Republique finally packed their trucks and revealed the new look of the 700-year-old square. At 280 meters long and 120 meters wide, it boasts being one of the biggest, most alluring and versatile plazas in Paris, covering five metro lines and joining the 3rd, 10th and 11th arrondissements. 

During the summer, the 3rd arrondissement hosted their free annual rock festival here, but even during the average weekend it’s not hard to find a guitarist or a small group showing off their dancing skills. Due to its convenient location, Place de la Republique acts as a home base for the bobo’s (french slang for bourgeois bohême) of the surrounding neighborhoods, whether they stop by to wait for friends or to start their evening cross-legged with a flask on the concrete slabs. Other frequenters of the square include teenage boys attempting to out-trick one another on skateboards, girls in oversized jean jackets awkwardly smoking cigarettes, tourists with unfolded metro maps, impatient traffic, bicyclists clanging their bells and corporate Parisians rotating through the plaza’s glass-encased café for an apero or quick coffee.

A five-minute walk from Place de la Republique is the Canal Saint Martin, a lovely man-made canal lined with boutiques, bars and restaurants, famously known for its appearance in Jeunet’s film Le Fabuleux destin d’Amelie Pulain. The canal stretches more than four kilometers, making it a popular daytime stroll for parents with strollers or dogs prancing alongside their owners. On the canal’s edge, artists hunch over journals, drunks gather for a mid-day drink and the occasional duck braves a dip in the dirty water. The real excitement comes after dark on the concrete border and iron footbridges. As public drinking is legal in France, night picnics (full of cheese, wine, fresh bread, greasy saucisson and whatever the seasonal fruit) are a favorite amongst trendy twenty-somethings who either enjoy spending the night under the chestnuts with cheap alcohol, or are simply too hip to be caught inside a bar.

Cross over the canal and head south towards metro stop Parmentier to find rue de Jean Pierre Timbaud. A lesser-talked about street than the overflowing rue Oberkampf, JP Timbaud has a low-priced dive bar practically every other shop.

  • Au Petit Garage – Be careful not to confuse it for the actual mechanic shop a few doors down. The primary sign is blackened and smudged, making it easy to overlook, and the second window reads BOUCHERIE, a token from the previous owners. The walls, crumbling in certain places, painted chipped and worn, have often-explicit graffiti covering every available spot. The furniture consists of wobbly, nicked schools desks and chairs from several decades ago. The setting isn’t forced; the place has actually earned its raggedness. The clientele is an interesting mix of bearded bikers and hip Parisians, both crowding outside the floor-length windows opening to the street for a cigarette. Happy hour deals: 2€ for wine, 3€ for a beer or 5€ for a mixed drink. Sunday brings an extra bonus of happy hour all day long.
  • Orange Mecanique – Painted an electric orange, this retro bar may pay homage in name and style to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, but the vibes are the complete opposite of Alex’s eerie, violent world. Reminiscent of a 1960’s dorm party, funk, soul and disco stream from the speakers, silent movies project onto the walls, and album covers and psychedelic posters plaster the walls. The bar is so small that it’s impossible not to join in conversation with everyone else. Wine is 1.5€ a glass and beer 2.5€ a pint, but even outside of happy hour beer is pretty unbeatable at 4€ a pint. A large beer selection is available at higher prices, as are inventive cocktails (notably the Clockwork Orange), which start at 7€.
  • La Droguerie Moderne – Its whimsical lettering and glass façade makes this bar instantly intriguing. Inside, upcycled street-side throw-aways, such as a severed bathtub and fallen street signs, serve as tables and chairs. The crowd is a little classier here; think expensive fashion that gives the impression of being a thrift store bin find. Only 3€ for a beer (5€ outside of happy hour), and they make a mean mojito for 7€ that is definitely worth the splurge.
  • Au Chat Noir – Better for a week-night release than bar hopping on the weekend, Au Chat Noirwelcomes a steady flow of performers to its basement, a small cement cave with no windows, dim lighting, a piano and a random assortment of chairs and benches. Comfort and appearance may be understated, but the artistic quality is solid. While Au Chat Noir hosts concerts or expos every weeknight, the most famous is Spoken Word Paris, a poetry-centered open mic held at 8pm every Monday. Expats of all ages and countries come to express themselves, primarily in English but with cultural or instrumental touches as well. If great art isn’t intriguing enough, at least come and have a 2€ glass of wine with some locals on the terrace.

Café Cheri – Cross over the Boulevard de la Vilette to Belleville, the up-and-coming neighborhood in Paris for artists and bohemians. During the day, Café Cheri looks rather unimpressive: a relatively simple storefront, dark interior and garish red tables and chairs to match the paint. Café-dwellers gather for people watching, newspaper shuffling or smoking a cigarette. At night, step into a flashback from a college frat party: sticky floors, poor lighting and a LOUD sound system rocking electro, rock, hip-hop, punk from underground bands. Happy hour = 3.5€ a pint.

Bar Culture Rapide – A little deeper into Belleville, Bar Culture Rapide is a retro, hippie-style café and bar. Outside, thirsty locals sit on spray-paint streaked chairs in front of a stone wall littered with graffiti, watching the daily progression of Belleville’s colorful inhabitants. Inside, find slams, jams, readings and performances on a small stage surrounded by flashy paintings and a surplus of liberal-focused bumper stickers. All their prices are reasonable, but the best deal is the 5€ cocktails.

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Parisian Parks & Gardens You Probably Haven’t Heard About (But Definitely Need to Visit)

The seasons are a bit confused in Paris this year, with spring ironically arriving around the same time as the summer solstice. Now that it’s finally possible to go outside without a heavy jacket, scarf and mittens, the idea of emerging from cafés and museums to discover what else Paris has to offer may seem more appealing. The city prides over three-dozen reasonably sized recreational areas, though tourists tend to flock headliners such as Jardin du Luxembourg or the Jardin des Tulleries. Below I’ve posted my seven favorite parks and gardens, chosen for their aesthetic pleasure, tranquility and distinctive charm.

 

Where to Visit If…

You Want to Go For a Stroll:

Promenade Plantée – Stretching three miles long and crossing four parks, this walkway was built on an obsolete railway line, beginning at Bastille and ending at the boulevard Périphérique. It offers the unique view from the Parisian rooftops while walking amongst vibrant vegetation.

You Want to People Watch:

Jardin du Palais Royale – While centrally located by the whimsical Palais Royale metro stop, the garden manages to keep a calm, relaxed atmosphere with relatively little intrusion from tourists. Surrounded on all four sides by 17th-century Parisian architecture, the garden dates back to the 1600s when it gave repose to French nobility before the Palace of Versailles. Today, the garden remains a great place to duck away from the city, sit and toss coins into the fountain or people watch under the shade of lime and chestnut treesMarble sculptures scattered throughout add the signature artistic touch of Paris. Stores and cafes line the border of the garden, but the prices have stayed within the realms of royalty.

You Want to Read:

Square des Batignolles – After checking out the surrounding markets and quaint boutiques, stop by this picturesque park. Dozens of ducks and geese decorate its small pond while koi swim in the twisting natural spring that leads to a small waterfall. Over ten tree species coexist in this tiny park, with a solitary tropical palm tree locked in a glass-walled greenhouse.

You Want to Play Sports:

Arènes de Lutèce – Pass through an unremarkable doorway on Rue Monge and suddenly you’re in the midst of the Gall-Roman era. Built between the 1st and 2nd century, up to 15,000 people gathered at the arena to view circuses and gladiatorial combats before its conversion into a cemetery during the barbaric invasions. In the 1200’s it was completely filled in during the construction of a city wall, only to be rediscovered and reconstructed in the mid-1800’s. Today, the stage and cages are still distinguishable, acting as a backdrop to old men playing pétanque and young children kicking soccer balls. Numerous others line the elevated benches, reading, chatting or simply enjoying this little piece of tucked-away Paris.

You Want to go for a Bike Ride:

Bois de Boulogne – Its history dates back to the early 1200’s when it was a hunting and retirement ground fornobility. During the Hundred Year’s War it became a refuge for robbers and remained a dangerous passageway for many years before finally being renovated in the early 18th century. Over the following centuries, artists fawned over the peacefulness and beauty of this forest, with Zola, Flaubert and Proust writing it into their works, and Manet, Renoir and Van Gogh depicting it in their paintings. Today it is two and a half times bigger than Central Park, offering landscape gardens, an authentic château, a zoo, greenhouses, horse racing tracks, two artificial lakes, a campground and the tennis stadium that hosts the French Open. In addition to biking, horseback riding and boat rowing are also available and permitted.

You Want to Mix with the Locals:

Parc Monceau – Near the luxury apartments and mansions of the 8th arrondissementParc Monceau is an elegant English-style park whose colorful flowers, well-trimmed lawns, winding walkways and follies invoke a whimsical timelessness. Come here during the day to find nannies chasing after small children, impeccably put-together women taking a stroll (in heels, nonetheless) or businessmen meeting during their lunch break.

You Want to Have a Picnic:

Parc Floral de Paris – A botanical garden within the borders of the Bois de Vincennes, it boasts over 3,000 plant varieties, including 650 types of irises and more than 250 tulip varieties. Azaleas, rhododendrons, geraniums, ferns and dahlias can also be found amongst the ponds, paths, pavilions and patios. Every weekend in June and July the park also hosts free jazz concerts.

 

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Rainy Days & Covered Passageways

In the early 19th century, over 150 covered passageways provided pedestrians with a dry and clean retreat from the rainy, gritty streets of Paris. Over the decades, the rise of department stores caused Paris’ galeries to decline. A sixth of those passages have been repaired by private owners, with around two dozen open to the public today. I’ve made a list of my favorites, whether for their breathtaking architecture, affordable cuisine or notable shops. Enjoy!

If You Want to See the Architecture

Galerie Vero-Dodat (created: 1826)

  • 1st Arrondissement, connecting Rue de Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Rue de Croix-des-Petits-Champs
  • The elegant black and white tiled floor, dark wooden paneling and high-end antique shops have preserved the galerie’s original ambiance and spirit, giving the impression that this passageway should still be lit by gas lamps.

Galerie Colbert (created: 1826)

  • 2nd  Arrondissement, crossing between Petits-Champs and Rue Vivienne
  • The sleek tiles, creamy walls and statues lead down to a rotunda flaunting a circular domed skylight. The galerie opens into several art museums.

Passage du Grand-Cerf (created: 1825)

  • 2nd Arrondissement, starting on Saint-Denis and finishing on rue Dussoubs
  • Whimsical and elegant, this passage invites window-shopping antiques and jewelry underneath wrought-iron and glass skylights. The quaint Le Pas Sage Cafe nestled into the entrance entices passersby with rich coffee tones and a simple, fresh French menu.

Passage des Panoramas (created: 1799)

  • 2nd Arrondissement, between Montmartre boulevard and rue Saint-Marc
  • The oldest covered passageway in Paris. While its not the most architecturally complex, its mixture of cafes and art studios gives it a cozy, welcoming atmosphere.

If You Want to Eat

Passage Choiseul (created: 1825)

  • 2nd Arrondissement, a continuation of Rue de Choiseul
  • The longest of the covered passageways; avoid the temptation of expensively elegant clothes and head for the wonderful mix of moderately priced restaurants specializing in all-nature and ethnic concentrations.

Galerie de la Madeleine (created: 1824)

  • 8th Arrondissement, opening at the Place de la Madeleine and finishing on rue Tronchet
  • Lively and bright with natural sunlight, the shops in this galerie offer perhaps the most affordable and authentic baguette sandwiches in the area.

Passage Brady (created: 1828)

  • 10th Arrondissement, between rue du Faubourgh-Saint-Denis and rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin
  • Definitely not the most scenic, but its Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants and stores are both sensibly priced and irresistible.

If You Want to Shop

Galerie Vivienne (created: 1823)

  • 2nd Arrondissement; rue Vivienne, neighbors with the Galerie Colbert
  • The mosaic floor, elaborate painting and sculptures, half-moon windows and sprawling chandeliers make it perhaps the prettiest of all the galeries. Additionally, its children’s stores, bookshops, art galleries and fine dining offer a less-touristy opportunity for souvenirs.

Passage du Havre (created: 1849)

  • 9th Arrondissement; opens at Place du Havre and finishes on rue de Caumartin
  • In the early 1990’s this passage was transformed into a commercial complex with over forty stores and restaurants. Modern shops such as H&M, FNAC, Gap and Lush can be found amongst skylights, a terrace and a garden.
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Affordable Shopping in Paris

Walking around Saint-Germain-des-Prés on a warm spring afternoon with barely 10€ in my wallet, dozens of boutiques tempt me with their superfluous indulgences: chocolates, wines, cheeses, spices, olive oils, shoes, books, hats, scarves, antiques…almost anything conceivable has a boutique dedicated to it in Paris. I swoon over a shop stacked with handcrafted teakettles, declaring to myself that I need to splurge and buy one…until I turn the pot over and realize its artisanal craftsmanship costs 150€. Sometimes in Paris even window-shopping seems too expensive.

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While I appreciate the authenticity and excellence these boutiques provide, it’s hard not to miss the inexpensive (albeit mass-produced and unoriginal) items sold by Walmart or Target, more affordable to a post-college grad like myself. And although I can prevent myself from buying outrageously priced teapots, a 5€ chocolate pastry is more difficult to resist. So in order to keep my budget in check, when it comes to shopping for clothes, toiletries or home goods, I need to stay determinedly frugal and creative.

Here are the best bargains I’ve uncovered in Paris to date:

Miscellaneous

HEMA, a Dutch-based discount store, is one of the few places in France that sells a mixture of home goods, clothes,toiletries and food at affordable prices. The style is as chic as IKEA, though the inventory has slightly less quality. Still, it’s a great place for young adults buying their first apartment or students crammed into dormitories to find the same look at a reduced price. About a dozen are scattered throughout the city.

Clothes and Home Goods

Since it’s creation in 1985, the Emmaus organization and its boutiques have employed financially distressed or recovering individuals as one of their many tactics to fight against poverty. Items donated to the store are cleaned, fixed or upcycled if necessary, and sold at very low prices. Many locations exist, and each boutique is set up differently. This large variety causes the stores to lack consistency, but with enough time and patience a desired will turn up eventually. Emmaus often holds special events, dedicating a store solely to one type of item (shoes, books, kitchenware) for a day. I recommend getting there early—Emmaus is a local favorite. A list of my preferred locations is below. 

  • 5 Rue Curial – Metro Riquet – the best of the Emmaus Boutiques, located inside the interesting and artistic Cent-Quatre, is great for finding both vintage and brand-name items
  • 4 Passage de Flandre – Metro Riquet – across the street from the Cent-Quatre, this shop has a large selection of furniture, books and decorations
  • 54 Rue de Charonne– Metro Ledru-Rollin – great for shoe or book shopping
  • 191 Rue Alesia – Metro Plaisance – clothes only

Thrift Shops

Free ‘P’ Star – Metros Hotel de Ville and Saint Paul – three locations in the heart of Paris. Loved by hipsters and fashionistas alike, the clothes are quirky and trendy, the majority of which cost less than 20€. My favorite: bins overflowing with clothes and scarves for 1€ apiece. Sure, you may have to pass an hour or so digging for the perfect item, but isn’t it worth it?

By Flowers Vintage – Metro Pigalle – a haphazard mixture of clothing from the mid-1900’s through the 1990’s. The selection is a bit temperamental, with chic pieces and eclectic oddities ranging from cheap to expensive. The clientele is a busy mixture of tourists and regulars, so hitting the shop on a weekday morning would be best.

Guerrisol – Metro Place de Clichy – while often disorganized, Guerrisol offers a large variety of clothes in good shape and not at all expensive. Guerrisol offers clothes for all ages, so it may be more difficult to find a more fashionable piece when searching through the racks.

Food

With nearly a hundred markets to choose from, it’s never hard to find fresh food in Paris.  Covered markets are open permanently, while the open-air markets usually set up several mornings a week. Bonus: markets usually have several stands selling eclectic merchandise and others hold mini flea markets. Find a complete list of markets by arrondissement here.

Feel free to post your own affordable discoveries in the comments!

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