Before traveling to Paris this past March to study French for a few weeks, I must have googled “best places to go in Paris” and “must see in france” at least thirty times. And I have to say, I didn’t find a lot of helpful articles. Of course, I found lists of the obvious sites and attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but what I really wanted was a list made by someone like me, on little-known places to see that were equally as quaint and amazing.
So, I decided to do the research and put together that list myself. After spending some time time in Paris exploring the city, here is what I came up with (please excuse the lack of accents. I’m typing this on an American laptop).
1. Musee de l’Orangerie – this museum houses Claude Monet’s famous waterlily paintings. The museum itself is designed in an oval shape with the paintings hung around the entire perimeter. This is the way Monet intended his art to be enjoyed, and let me tell you, the effect is breathtaking. The combination of colors he used is almost otherworldly, and the paintings are big, so when you step into the rooms you feel as if you’ve fallen into one of the ponds he based his paintings on. An essential for anybody of any age.
2. BHV – this department store, located in the Marais area, has absolutely everything you could imagine. Although it is not as well known as Galeries Lafayette, I liked it better because it was less crowded and less over-the-top flashy. There’s a floor entirely devoted to books and stationery, which I could have spent all day in.
3. Le Calbar – a friend of mine who lives in Paris brought me to this tiny bar, located on Rue de Charenton. A favorite hangout of local Parisians, it’s a great place to go with friends. The bartenders wear boxers and bow-ties and will ask you a series of questions about your favorite flavors, then mix you up a “surprise” drink.
4. Ile St. Louis – this little island is a great place to wander around and shop. On my last morning, I had breakfast with my friends at Le Saint Regis, an amazing cafe on a street corner here. The streets are old-fashioned and picturesque, making it great for taking photos as well.
5. Rue de Bourg Tibourg – this is a very tiny street in the Marais area. The reason I included it is because of how adorable the shops and signs are, especially Mariage Freres, a tea house and shop. Walking into this place is like entering something out of Harry Potter, with the tins and tins of different types of tea lining the walls and the elegant but very helpful waiters holding out samples for you to smell.
6. Places Vosges – this is another shopping area, but I had to include it because of how beautiful it is. It is square-shaped, with a park in the middle with trees and fountains. On all four sides are little shops and boutiques, including more tea houses (they’re becoming very popular in Paris!). Even if you don’t want to buy anything, just go and look around.
7. Shakespeare & Company – the famous bookstore! This shop sells books in English, which can be a relief for an overwhelmed American who doesn’t speak French very well (like me). The inside is chaotic in a beautiful way, with books everywhere. There are two floors, and even a section with incredibly old (and rare) books.
8. La Grande Epicerie – this was one of my favorite places to go and explore. Connected to Le Bon Marche (another department store), it is, in simplest terms, a large supermarket. There are sections of food from all different countries, and things like Eiffel-tower shaped sugar and spices you can only find in Paris. It smells amazing inside because of the huge bakery, and you could honestly stay here for hours, just looking around.
9. City Pharma – this is a pharmacy located on Rue du Four. What makes this place so special are the shelves upon shelves of French beauty products. The downside is that it is always extremely crowded, as it is a pretty famous place. However, the prices are amazing if you are from America, where French beauty products are sold at Sephora for
a much higher price. Some of the brands sold here are Nuxe, Caudalie, and La Roche Posay. Even if you’re not into beauty, it’s fun to look at all the bottles of elixirs and lotions.
10. Lenotre – last but not least, I decided to add my favorite macaron shop. Pierre Herme and Laduree are the most well-known upscale French macaron brands, but Lenotre, I think, is one of the best. The macarons sold here are certainly the prettiest, decorated with edible glitter, and some of the most delicious, too. As it is a chain, there a few shops located around the city.
Hopefully, if you’re planning a trip to Paris, this list will help you in some way. Enjoy my favorite spots and Bonne chance!
*Photo credit: Diana Urquhart