Ah Paris. The city of love, the birthplace of iconic architecture, and a place that is so geographically accessible to everyone in the UK that there is no excuse not to make it over there at least once in your lifetime. There’s so much more to this beautiful city than what you see in movies, or from the stories that your friends may have told you from their holidays, so make sure you explore fully and don’t fall into one giant tourist trap.
Whilst the big sights are worth a visit – they are popular for a reason, after all – Paris also plays host to some wonderful hidden gems. On Rue Paul Vaillant Couturier sits the most amazing Asian restaurant I have ever been to, Au Comptoir D’Asie. The food was the freshest I have ever tasted, and the waitress was so friendly, despite our language barrier. It may seem strange to come to France and eat Japanese food, but the sashimi here is seriously to die for, as is the salmon and egg sushi.
Bercy, a neighbourhood in the twelfth arrondisement, plays host to a shopping complex called Bercy Village. The cobbled streets are surrounded by cafés and shops selling quirky homeware and loose tea – a far cry from the Louis Vuittons and Diors of the Champs-Elysées. At the end of the Bercy Village strip is a huge movie theatre, which is a great place to kick back and immerse yourself in some iconic French cinema.
Despite its somewhat overwhelming size, Paris is easy to navigate thanks to the Metro, and a Carte Nominative Transport allows unlimited access for a designated period of time. The frequency and speed of the trains means that you can fit the likes of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre and Notre Dame into the same short visit as the less well-known spots.
For a real taste of France, Rue Mouffetard in the fifth arrondissement plays host to one of the best markets in Paris. Cheese, bread, seafood and confectionary are all on offer, while a stop at Le Verre à Pied wine bar will really have your mouth watering.
One place, which fills the gap between tourist trap and secret hideaway, is The Wall of I Love Yous. The brainchild of Frédéric Baron, this blue tiled wall is made of 612 bricks of enameled lava, upon which tourists and locals alike scrawl their messages of love. Hidden away in Montmartre, the wall is adorned with words in hundreds of different languages, and is a really beautiful place for a little quiet reflection.
Whether you head down that well- trodden tourist road or decide to discover your very own piece of Paris, rest assured that one visit to the city is never be enough – there will always be a “next time”.
The New French Fancies
Been there, done that, got the Paris t-shirt? Check out our new favourite French hotspots.
France’s fastest-growing city has a 25% student population, making for some fantastic nightlife. Tourist hotspots include the Centre Historique, the various medieval buildings and churches housed in the city’s sixteen squares, and the Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier – the oldest botanical garden in France.
Situated close to the Mediterranean coast, Montpellier is the perfect city/beach holiday hybrid, and temperatures can reach up to thirty degrees in July. Advance booking can get you to Leeds via train for just £17, with Ryanair flying from Leeds to Montpellier every Monday (returning on Thursdays) from just £38 return, while hostels are available from around £17pp per night.
A glamorous city in north-west France, Deauville plays host to annual American and Asian film festivals, and was even mentioned in The Great Gatsby as somewhere Tom and Daisy Buchanan visited on their honeymoon.
Despite its luxurious appearance, casinos, marina and billionaire residents, it is possible to visit Deauville on the cheap, with CityJet launching flights from London City airport this June. Prices start from £59 return, while a private room in a hostel will set you back around £30pp per night.