Get away from tourist crowds and discover the insiders’ Parisian hotspots. An expat shares the secrets to their favourite hotspots in Paris.
The deal is sealed. You’ve made your decision and it’s finally happening; you are off to Paris. Goodbye to tepid milky coffee, fake soggy baguettes and to sheepishly watching old French films with dubious subtitling on a laptop.
Because from now on it’s the real French deal. You won’t take anything less than meticulously roasted beans served au lait, award-winning baguettes from the hotly debated best boulangerie in Paris, and arthouse screenings of La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc – in the city’s oldest cinema none the less.
Perhaps you’ve been scouring the internet and guide books for Parisian insider knowledge and have become disillusioned. You don’t want to see the Paris offered up to tourists; you want an invite to the lock-in.
Fear not. Bonjour Paris provides you those insider tip-offs. Just follow them and act naturelle.
Paris hotspot #1: Chez Jeannette and Rue de Faubourg Saint-Denis
Edith Piaf was probably the coolest French person ever to have lived. She defied the odds handed to her at birth; raised in complete poverty in a Parisian brothel she rose to become the most famous singer in French history, never losing sight of her humble beginnings and her self-effacing wit. Only in France could an artist sing openly about prostitution and drinking in the 1940s, and still be a national treasure. Chez Jeannette was one of her favourite haunts, probably because her lover’s boxing gym was just around the corner. The historic brasserie has retained its 40s charm, and provides a much more relaxed atmosphere for channelling the Little Sparrow than Brasserie Julien, another of her hang-outs.
While you’re there, Faubourg Saint-Denis has a number of cool bars and restaurants to check out. Le Mauri 7 is directly opposite Chez Jeannette (pictured below) and is pretty much the modern day equivalent; a laid-back joint for the cooler echelons of Parisian society to have a drink and a bit of a knees-up.
Peckish? Just down the road is Urfa Durum, an amazing little restaurant which serves delicious and authentic Kurdish wraps. A selection of fresh fillings are available and they bake their flatbreads right in front of you in a domed clay oven.
Paris hotspot #2: Pigalle
Chances are you’ve heard of Pigalle in connection to the Moulin Rouge. But here’s where you should go in this transformed district:
Dirty Dick and Pigalle Country Club are two small bars selling good cocktails and playing great music. PCC usually has a DJ playing some funky stuff to get people dancing too.
Paris hotspot #3: Prohibition Era Cocktails at Le Moonshiner
In the 11th arrondissement, just off Place de la Bastille, the keener of eye will find a peculiar spectacle occurring outside a nondescript pizzeria. Linger outside around 10pm on a Friday or Saturday and you will notice that, like Mary Poppins’ bag, Pizza Da Vito appears to have a false bottom. More people enter than would seem possible for such a small restaurant.
A glance inside will raise more questions than answers as you are likely to see clientele disappearing into the back of the large meat cooler at the back of the kitchen. This is because Pizza Da Vito conceals a prohibition era speakeasy, Le Moonshiner, where inventive cocktails are served up in a pretty convincing 1920s scene. Gramophones crackle with the sound of swing music, and with 83 different types of whisky the place is unlikely to run dry.
Paris hotspot #4: Marché des Enfants Rouges
Named after a 16th-century orphanage on the same site whose children wore a red uniform, Marché des Enfants Rouges is the oldest covered market in Paris and is a much better kept secret than other food markets in the city. There are a number of great cafes selling North African, Japanese, Lebanese and French food.
Paris hotspot #5: Canal Saint-Martin and the Bobo Quarter
One of the trendiest parts of the Paris, this quarter in the 10th arrondissement is a popular place for locals on a sunny afternoon. Bring your own picnic, or grab a take-out pizza from the Pink Flamingo. Keen on a proper sit-down meal? Two great places here are Le Comptoir Général (pictured below), celebrating Franco-African culture, and le Petit Cambodge, serving delicious Cambodian dishes.
Just last year, the canal locks were drained and Parisians from all walks of life came together to count the number of wine bottles, shopping trolleys and mopeds lying in the freshly revealed sludge beneath.