Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, but if you’ve seen the Eiffel Tower and want to escape the tourist hoards, there are plenty of little-known neighbourhoods offering an authentic local experience. The best part: They’re easily accessible from the city’s main sites and the centrally located Millennium Hotel Paris Opéra.
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A few minutes’ walk from the popular Place de la République are the charming quays of the Canal Saint-Martin. Join the locals for a leisurely stroll along the 4.5km waterway, passing from one bank to the other on the famous iron footbridges. Canal Saint-Martin is an ideal spot to see and be seen, so be sure to grab a table at one of the chic cafes, bars or bistros and settle in for a relaxing afternoon. If you’re keen to see the neighbourhood’s historical sites, there’s the delightful 17th century former Récollets convent near the Gare de l’Est.
Just south of Montmartre and the perennially popular Sacre-Coeur is one of the most happening neighbourhoods in the French capital area. South Pigalle, called SoPi by the locals, is along Avenue Trudaine. Forget the sleazy bars of nearby Pigalle, SoPi is gritty yet glamorous, trendy yet accessible. It’s one of the best districts to discover Parisian fashion labels and check out the heap of gourmet shops and trendy bars.
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Butte-aux-Cailles is a striking contrast to bustling Paris. The charming village, located in the 13th arrondissement and a stone’s throw from Chinatown, is home to narrow cobblestoned streets, quaint houses with the requisite flowers on the balcony, and a wonderful selection of al fresco dining. If you’re keen to escape the chain stores and large apartment blocks, this is the perfect place to simply wander the streets and enjoy the ambience.
Credit: Photo by Juozas Šalna / CC BY 2.0
Multicultural Paris is perhaps best on display in Belleville in the city’s north east. The result of several waves of immigration from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the area is cosmopolitan and trendy but very much a ‘real’ Parisian neighbourhood. The hipster neighbourhood boasts lively artists’ studios, international eateries, and cosy local bars. A few blocks east of Boulevard de Belleville is the lovely Parc de Belleville that’s well worth the climb to the top of the hill, which offers some of the most panoramic views of the city.
While Le Marais may be one of Paris’ most prestigious addresses, the cool crowd has, of late, been flocking north to Haut-Marais, or Upper Marais, drawn by its restored 17th century townhouses, iconic art, and stylish fashion boutiques. Marvel at some of the modern art masterpieces at Musée Picasso Paris before exploring the hip cafes around Rue de Bretagne. If travelling with your little ones, Cirque d’Hiver, the oldest circus in Paris, is a must-visit. Shopaholics should check out Merci, a concept store selling local fashion and homeware, while foodies can indulge at the oldest covered market in Paris, the Marché des Enfants Rouges.
There’s so much more to Paris than its big-ticket tourist drawcards, and you needn’t travel too far from the Seine to discover some of the iconic city’s most popular local neighbourhoods.