Europe & Britain | Destination Guides

Your essential guide to the real Paris

Recently updated on July 28th, 2023 at 02:30 pm

You’ve climbed the Eiffel Tower and seen l’Arc de Triomphe, so why not get more intimately acquainted with Paris? From traditional markets to gorgeous gardens, get to know the City of Lights like a true Parisian with our insider’s guide to the real Paris.


Real Paris Galerie_Vivienne,_12_March_2015-CREDIT-Wikicommons-Benh-Liu-Song
Galerie Vivienne

For a true taste of Parisian shopping, check out Marché d’Aligre, near Place de Bastille. It’s the city’s oldest food market, so you can expect to find fine cheese and fresh pastries, but it also sells a charming mishmash of antiques and bric-a-brac. You can unearth treasures and discover how locals shop at this lively market.

Located opposite the gorgeous Jardin du Palais Royal, Galerie Vivienne is a stunning covered passageway (Paris’ oldest, no less) resplendent with pretty mosaics and architecture to die for. Home to designer clothing boutiques and home furnishings, even if you just window shop, you’re rewarded with sublime surroundings.


Real Paris 2_Photo_officielle_CPJuin_arbres_IB_FOG_4282jpg_Iwan_Baan__Fondation_Louis_Vuitton
Foundation Louis Vuitton

Once you’ve exhausted the Louvre, seek out art in other places. In the picturesque Bois de Bologne in west Paris, the stunning Frank Gehry-designed Foundation Louis Vuitton showcases innovative works from contemporary artists and modernist icons like Picasso and Duchamp.

Up in the artistic heart of the city, Montmartre, Musée de Montmartre is a love letter to the area’s history and heritage. You’ll find Renoir’s gardens, works from Toulouse-Lautrec and Modigliani, as well as an entire room devoted to the can-can.

Once you’ve had your fill of art, head to the National History Museum, nestled in Jardin des Plantes on the Left Bank, a must-see for its gorgeous conservatory of exotic flora and fauna.


If you’re feeling adventurous, discover the city’s grisly past by venturing deep underground to the Catacombs of Paris. This winding network of tunnels has been transformed into a mausoleum museum housing the remains of millions.

You can’t visit Paris without sampling macarons. Maison Ladurée is the godfather of this sweet treat – pick up a multi-flavoured box from their Palais Royal store. Locals love Gérard Mulot, and you’ll find them snaking out the door of his bakery on rue de Seine.

Real Paris Macarons-www.istockphoto.comgbphotomacarons-of-france-gm467187587-33880670-MarioGuti
Colourful macarons

Few do café culture better than Parisians; nothing beats whiling away an afternoon at an al fresco table watching the world go by. For a heavenly side order of history with your café crème, the gloriously gilded Café de la Paix near Opera Garnier was beloved of iconic French writers like Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant. In the upper Marais, the tiny Boot Café occupies a former cobblers and is famed for its cookie-stacked bar.

Eschew the tourist-packed Tuileries for the city’s lesser-known – though no less pretty – parks. In the 19th arrondissement, Buttes Chamont is just exquisite. With sloping banks leading to a lake, a grotto and waterfalls, it’s picnic-perfect. In the lake’s centre is a tiny island with an even tinier temple, Temple de la Sybille.

Real Paris Sibylle-www.istockphoto.comgbphototemple-de-la-sibylle-in-paris-france-gm629026480-111820309-Christian-Mueller
Buttes Chamont

For an internationally eclectic outdoor experience head to Parc Monceau, where you’ll find a Chinese pagoda, Egyptian pyramid and Venetian bridge. It’s a popular spot for Parisians to enjoy a moment of tranquillity.

Want to get to know the real Paris? Click here to discover a splendid Trafalgar trip.

Image Credits: Main image © iStock/piskunov. Buttes Chamont © iStock/Christian Mueller. Macarons © iStock/MarioGuti. Galerie Vivienne © Wikicommons/Benh Lui Song. Foundation Louis Vuitton © Iwan Baan/Foundation Louis Vuitton.

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