The exciting prospect of lunch hits you as you begin your saunter down Rue Monge on a Sunday market day. Head to a rotisserie where the chickens are plump and the sweet aroma of freshly roasted meat is most enticing. Bird secured, walk the six or so blocks to Jardins de Luxembourg, find a bench with a view and have an al fresco lunch among Parisians with napkins at the ready. A simple and hugely satisfying lunch in one of the finest cities in the world.
Place Monge Marche, 5th arrondissement
Google map: bit.ly/YLbxPf
With warm weather comes the opportunity to partake in the favourite past time of many Parisians: le pique-nique. The possibilities for picnics in Paris are endless, though my favourite spot is the Pont des Arts. This pedestrian bridge stretching out over the Seine from the Louvre is a perfect place to join the families, friends and lovers for an impromptu picnic; bunched on blankets laid across the wooden slats, while the sun sets behind the Eiffel Tower further down the river. Free of traffic, you can enjoy your picnic to the sound-track of the gentle hum of boats and barges that pass beneath and the the soft ripples of the river lapping the banks below.
Pont Des Arts. Metro: Pont neuf (line 7)
Google map: bit.ly/LwX98t
In the summer months in Paris, I enjoy nothing more than strolling up the canal Saint Martin to Parc de la Villette in the northeast of Paris. Here a giant inflatable screen that sways slightly in the evening breeze shows old films to anyone who cares to watch, both in English and French. What’s more, rather than just popcorn, you can bring a blanket with some cheese, bread, and wine and enjoy it with a proper Parisian picnic.
211, avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris, France
+33 1 40 03 75 75
Google map: bit.ly/JKOvSs
Paris parks, gardens and squares and their surroundings are the best way of tracing the city’s social and architectural history while providing variety and interest. Older, more formally designed parks tell of Paris’s wealth or otherwise and more recent parks have been created on former railway lines, abbatoirs and car works. Look out for fantastic statuary, false cliffs, magnificent trees, beehives, original children’s play areas, cafés, fountains, and small allotments. There’s plenty of seating and wi-fi if you need them! Take Lonely Planet’s Paris Nature by Lisa Garnier and Nassera Zaid (in French).
I saw this bistrot recommended in a 2008 Guardian article as one of the 'Top 10 Paris bistrots on a budget'. I can gladly say that it continues to please. We were superbly attended to from start to finish by the friendly owner/ waiter making us feel very welcome. We ordered the three course menu (€18.50-very reasonable for an evening meal in Paris) and let the owner suggest a wine, which went perfectly with the fish we ordered. A constant supply of chilled water was brought to the table and baskets of wonderful fresh bread. The chocolate pudding and the tiramisu were delicious. As a digestif we had the excellent homemade Vanilla rum (€4.50).
30 Rue Pierre Leroux, 75007 Paris
+33 (0)1 42 73 28 34
Google map: bit.ly/l0TGpp
It is almost that time of year again for barge loads of sand to float down the Seine and transform the riverbanks of Paris into an urban beach. Beginning on the 20 July and lasting for one month, the Paris Plage offers the complete beach experience ... almost. The creators put together what could be best described as a caricature of a beach, complete with palm trees, deck chairs, ice-cream sellers and beach volleyball. There are three separate sections to the beach, the latest addition being at Bassin de la Villette. Set on the canal where Amélie once skimmed her stones, this beach offers free pedalos and rowing boats to complement the array of activities available on the other beaches, including swimming pools and free concerts. It may be a somewhat bizarre sight to see bikini-clad Parisians basking in sunshine as small children build sand castles in the foreground of Notre Dame, but its peculiarity is one of the attractions. After all this isn’t the seaside, this is Seine-side!
Port de la Gare, Louvre to Pont de Sully, and Bassin de la Villette.
Pizzeria with a difference. Arrive early or late- it is very small and gets packed quickly. Delicious and cheap pizza by the slice in a great area for a few drinks, not far from the Nouveau Casino club and bars such as Le Café Charbon.
2 Bis Rue Neuve Popincourt, 75011 Paris
+33(0)1 43 38 12 00
Google map: bit.ly/lrRbMy
The first Sunday of the month is free, as everybody knows. Therefore, to avoid the crowds, the best time to go is on the day before - everyone's waiting for the free entry the next day!
We went on the Saturday and had the place to ourselves, apart from the usual crowd that is always gathered around the Mona Lisa. We went again on the Sunday and it was hideously busy. We didn't have to queue though: a nice security guard spotted our pushchair and let us jump the queue! It's a surprisingly child-friendly place, and of course the advantage of the free Sunday is that you can take the kids (they are always free on any day) and you haven't wasted the cost of your ticket if their behaviour is such that you have to leave after five minutes.
A basic Southern Indian restaurant specialising in parathas (stuffed pancakes) located in the heart of Paris's little visited Indian quarter. It is cheaper and more relaxed than the now all too touristy falafal in the Marrais.
The Masala Paratha at just €4.50 includes a large gently spiced Paratha with a fiery dahl along with a couple of dips. There are selections of authentic Southern Indian snacks which you can buy to take away. Friendly service and the sure fire sign of quality - largely frequented by the local Indian population.
Quick, filling and perfectly placed for a pre or post Eurostar meal it is the best value meal I know of in Paris.
189 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin
75010 Paris, France
+33(0)1 40 34 30 70
Google map: bit.ly/lTygle
After a walking through the very chic neighbourhood of St Germain where cash is king, switch to the Quartier Latin for a meal solely based on tartes. It is cheap, very cheap, it is cheerful and above all, the chocolate and raspberry tarte is so good it may make you tear up.
53 Rue Mouffetard, 75005 Paris, France
+33(0)1 43 37 21 89
Google map: bit.ly/gN0ak3
To get the true feeling of being in Paris, then leave the main tourist trail and head for the water- no, not the Seine, but one of the Parisian canals.
The canal cruise I would highly recommend is called "Old Paris" on the Saint Martin Canal it takes 2.5 hours and is simply heaven. It leaves from Paris Arsenal Marina and goes to Parc de la Villette It is a romantic trip and gives you the opportunity to hear the history of the true Paris.
Cruise along the tree lined canal while admiring the old, yet beautiful footbridges. You will also pass below the Bastille. You can also enjoy going through several locks and a couple of swing bridges. You will watch as people go along the canal banks with the many retro shops and cafes-it is truly a view of Paris you will adore.
During the cruise I went on, they played old French songs - which may sound off putting, but on this occasion I found it added to a glorious experience I long to repeat. And the cost is 15 euros for adults and eight euros for children.
The Velib 'free' bicycle system in Paris is really a great idea. I went for a five day extended weekend with my partner and checked my credit card statement the next month to discover to my delight that I had been all over the city; to the Eiffel Tower, along the Champs Elysees, a scary whirl around Place de la Concorde at rush hour (not recommended for the faint-hearted!) and all over the Grand Boulevards and along the Seine and had spent a massive total of six euros.
The system is user friendly and self-explanatory, you can do it in a range of languages. You tap in your credit card details for a small flat hire rate (no more than five euros, as far as I recall), then hoik the rather clumsy, heavy bikes out of their stand. The bikes are a little uncomfortable and it's important to examine which number bike you'll take before you select at the controls, because some have flat tyres, wonky seats that won't budge, or rattling chains. The bikes have - ostensibly - three gears. These are 'slow', 'slower' and 'snail's cycle-rate' and it can get hairy attempting to belt across a junction will a line of irate Parisian drivers attempting to turn right and cut you up.
If you dock the bike back into another station before 30 mins are up, the ride is free. Interestingly, my partner's credit card statement showed one euro more expenditure so perhaps he had docked in a second or two after me.
However, it's an excellent way to see Paris and a lot of fun.
All over Central Paris
The gardens which surround the Musée du quai Branly in Paris are free to enter. They are beautifully designed with lots of nooks and terraces. They even host parts of museum exhibitions such as the current TARZAN! exhibition which has sound effects hidden in the garden - great for kids. You can also view the Eiffel Tower whilst sat eating a lovely chocolate cake in the museum cafe also in the gardens.
musée du quai Branly
37, quai Branly
75007 – Paris
tuesday, wednesday and sunday : 11am . 7pm
thursday, friday, saturday : 11am . 9pm
- metro : Iéna (line 9), Alma-Marceau (line 9), Pont de l’Alma (RER C), Bir Hakeim (line 6).
- bus : line 42 Eiffel Tower stop; lines 63, 80, 92: Bosquet-Rapp stop; line 72 Musée d’art moderne – Palais de Tokyo stop
- river shuttle : Eiffel Tower stop (Batobus, Bateaux parisiens et Vedettes de Paris
This is a great hostel – pretty new and just ten minutes on the Metro from the Eurostar at Gare du Nord. They’ve got private rooms, dorms, free WiFi, an internet café, a bar, a sauna and a soundproof nightclub in the basement too!
The guys on reception told me it’s on the same canal where they filmed Amélie and that the building’s a remake of the old nineteenth century warehouse - Magasins Généraux, which burnt down in 1990.
The location is right on the Bassin de la Villette - Paris’ biggest artificial pool of water which hooks up to the Seine via the Canal St-Martin. Because of this spot’s popularity the builders had to bring in the famous architects, Chaix et Morel - the same guys who were behind the restoration of the Petit Palace.
On foot you can reach the Buttes Chaumont Park in no time and also the Parc de la Villette, which includes the Science Museum.
The routes into the city are pretty easy too. Crimée Station on Metro Line 7 is only 200 meters away and takes you straight to the department stores around Opéra, the Louvre, Le Marais and the Latin Quarter.
The Laumière station on Metro Line 5 is about 400 meters away and will take you to the Bastille, the Oberkampf night spots and the Latin Quarter.
Also there’s the Jaurès Station on Metro Line 2, again only 400 meters away. This goes to the Arc de Triomphe, Pigalle, the Père Lachaise cemetery and Montmartre.
From the hostel itself you can organise bike tours, walking tours, a Paris induction, basic French language classes and day trips to places like Versailles, and Giverny.
St Christopher's Inn
159 rue de Crimée
Phone: 00 44 207 407 1856
Metro: Crimée, Laumière or Jaurès.
This Marché de la Gare is 10 minutes from Chatelet on RER A (station - Nanterre Ville, direction St Germain en Laye). Nanterre is just to the west of la Défence and is home to a huge plethora of different cultures, many west and north African. The market has its fair share of cheap household tat outside but venture inside the big hall to bustle and hassle with all the others. Veg, meat, spices, smells noises, indefinable languages, and bargains galore and not a tourist in sight. No need to stay nearby. The market is right next to the station and is open 08h to 13h30 wed and sat. Great fun, great food and something a bit different. Oh, and prices at a half of the centre of Paris!
Train RER A from Chatelet/Auber to Nanterre Ville (direction St Germaine en Laye. Station is next to market.
Young, trendy, euro-trash Irish style pub (although they seem to display a flag for every nationality). Large screens show French and international football during the day with a chilled atmosphere and after-dark funky DJs host what may be the only indie night in Paris. Certainly the cheapest - it's free and runs 'til 5am! Drink prices are student-friendly, and what's more, they play regular host to 'after-shows' for the likes of Bloc Party, Interpol and other massive bands.
12 Rue Feydeau. Nearest Metro is Bourse (line 3)
The Christmas window display in Galeries Lafayette is a must for all ages, but especially if you are travelling with children. The clever French even provide a little wooden platform with steps for the children to stand on. This year it is a pink Alice in Wonderland theme. While you are there don't forget the souvenir shop on the 6th floor which is surprisingly good value, and from there walk up the steps on to the roof to see all of Paris for free.
Galeries Lafayette, Boulevard Haussman, Paris 8
My tip is not to book this hotel. On the website it looks quite charming and the area near Place de Clichy metro is great and lively with lots of brasseries. But the hotel had ropey-worn carpets, tatty old furniture, noisy water pipes when the room upstairs flushed the loo and the hallway stank of stale tobacco. The beds were comfy and clean though, and it was only €90 for a triple room, so maybe I shouldn't complain and ask myself “what did I expect?”
Rue de batignoles, Paris 18
Great French restaurant full of locals and great atmosphere! It is massive with two floors and the menu offers many dishes at cheap prices. Great for families travelling on a budget who want to visit a traditional French restaurant. Go early to avoid queues, however it shouldn't be a long waiting time.
7 rue Faubourg, Montmartre, Paris
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