Each year millions of visitors come to Paris. For a good reason, as the French capital is not only one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it also has a lot of sights to offer such as the Eiffel tower, the Champs-Élysées, the Sacré Coeur, the Saint Germain and the Quartier Latin. As I have been to Paris several times, I have already seen all of them. So this time, I decided to do it differently, to experience Paris without sightseeing.
Paris is home to some of the world’s most famous museums such as the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay. If you are looking for an alternative, check out the Palais de Tokyo, which is actually one of the largest exhibition spaces for contemporary art in Europe. The Palais de Tokyo is a self-proclaimed anti-museum par excellence, and indeed the atmosphere can not be more different to the Louvre: it is not a sacred art temple, but a very vibrant and adventurous place full of energy. The Palais de Tokyo has no permanent exhibition and presents several temporary exhibitions at a time, so check out their website.
Palais de Tokyo, 2012. Photo: Florent Michel
Installation view of Ulla Von Brandenburg, “Death of a King” (2012), Païpe, Palais de Tokyo (Paris). Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Art: Concept (Paris). Photo: Florent Michel
For many tourists, going shopping in the small boutiques in the Marais is an essential part of their Paris trip. I wanted to check out what the city has to offer in terms of vintage shopping – and I was not disappointed. One of the biggest shops is Episode on Rue Tiquetonne. Prices are cheap and you can get some really great bargains. Another great shop is Kiliwatch on Rue de la Verrerie, a place that locals seem to love. Right around the corner you will find the Hippy Market which is smaller but offers more selectively chosen items.
The Marché aux Puces between Port de Clignancourt and St. Ouen is known to be the biggest flea market in the world. It has a clothing and an antique part. The antique section is like a French version of the market on Straße des 17. Juni in Berlin. The atmosphere is great and although there are lots of astonishing and wonderful things to see, unfortunately prices are pretty expensive.
The clothing part is a bummer. Only a handful of shops sell decent vintage clothing, and unless you enjoy buying a pair of fake Levi’s for 50 Euros from a dubious guy while listening to crappy Hip Hop there is no reason to go to that part.
However, there are two boutiques that are really outstanding: Les Merveilles de Babellou, two charming shops that sell breathtaking vintage clothes and accessories from luxury brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and Dior.
Paris is known to be one of the gourmet capitals in the world and the city has a gigantic choice of restaurants. But honestly, finding a decent place to eat can be a real pain in the ass. There are in fact many tourist traps and when you think that you finally found something nice, you end up with a waiter that seems to hate tourists even more than they do in Berlin. So I was really lucky to discover the Camille (24 Rue des Francs Bourgeois), a restaurant right in the middle of the Marais. It is a typical French bistro with a charming interior that serves traditional French cuisine. The food is delicious and if you speak French to the staff, they will love you.
To me, having Pâtisserie is always a highlight of a trip to Paris. Next to Ladurée, Angelina (226 rue de Rivoli) is one of the most famous places to go for that. It is always busy and packed with tourists, but nevertheless it is worth going there because Angelina also has a beautiful tea salon in Belle Epoque style where you can inhale the calories.
Accommodation and Bar
As Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world accommodation is quite expensive. In Berlin you can get a beautiful room for less than 100 Euros. In Paris there are not that many reasonable options in this price range. One of the best choices is the Mama Shelter where rooms start at 79 Euros. The hotel’s funny and playful design was created by Philippe Starck.
I was surprised to see that the bar and restaurant of the Mama Shelter was very crowded on every night, and not only by tourists, but mostly by locals. I did not have lunch or dinner there, but if it is that popular it can’t be that bad.
Photos vom Mama Shelter: Francis Amiand
There are of course many more things to discover in Paris. But perhaps the best thing to do is: nothing – just walk around and get absorbed by the city’s atmosphere.