Paris: Things to do

Natacha Butler
Monday, October 13, 2008
Be more French than the French (Photo: Lonely Planet Images)
Be more French than the French

Forget department store shopping: go local

Once you've exhausted the possibilities of world-class museums and mouth-watering food, you may want to get down to the serious business of shopping. The French capital's main department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps are world famous, but you would be hard-pressed to find any sane Parisian braving the stifling crowds of tourists.

Head to the 3rd arrondissement

The area has become something of a fashion hotspot in recent years with a mix of affordable, local designer boutiques and fabulous vintage shops. The area around the northern end of Rue Vieille du Temple is a treasure trove of gems. For affordable style-treats try Vanessa Bruno, Isabel Marant, Olga's or the kooky Erotokritos. Vintage-lovers should head to Odetta or the Australian-owned Marie Louise de Monterey.

Scour the Clignacourt flea market (Porte de Clignancourt)

This sprawling flea market is at the end of the metro line, north of Paris. It has everything from second-hand clothes to antiques.

Nights at the Fondation Cartier

The Fondation Cartier (261 Boulevard Raspail, 75014) is a hip, contemporary art space housed in an impressive building by France's star architect, Jean Nouvel. Each month the gallery plays host to music, art or theatre performances in the evenings from edgy electronic bands to dance shows.

Get on your bike

Parisians love their bicycles. Sit at any cafe terrace and you'll admire everyone from business people to pouting girls in dizzying heels sailing past on their bicyclette.

Pick up a free Velib bike

The capital has a free bike, or Velib, scheme. There are Velib stations every 300 metres. For a one-off rental fee of one euro, you can pick up and drop off a bike, free every 30 minutes.

Try a game of boules

If you want to be more French than the French, stop at Bar Ourq (68 Quai de La Loire, 75019), a cool little DJ bar on Canal St Martin. The bar lends drinkers sets of boules (French bowls) to play on pitches next to the canal. Hip young-things mingle with elderly locals for a game and a few glasses of vin rouge at the weekend.

Pick up some delicious treats

The French love affair with food is well-known and nowhere is this passion more apparent than at a market. Parisian's flock to their local markets, especially at the weekend. There are scores of them so take your pick.

Marche Bastille (Boulevard Richard Lenoir, 75011): Thursday and Sunday mornings

Marche d'Aligre (Place d'Aligre, 75012): Tuesday and Saturday mornings

Marche Saxe-Breteuil (Avenue de Saxe, 75007): Thursday and Saturday mornings

Meet the artists

If you want to see Monets and the Mona Lisa then the Musee D'Orsay and Louvre are for you, but if you're looking for a more contemporary art vibe, make a beeline for Le Cent Quatre (104 Rue d'Aubervilliers). This is Paris's hippest new art venue in a down-at-heel part of town and proves the capital's art scene is still thriving. Scores of creative types from painters to video artists from around the world call this huge space home to create, exchange ideas and put on shows.

Got any more near the beaten track suggestions? Have your say using the comments form below.

Next: Luxuriate!

User comments
What about St Germain and the Latin Quarter? I had some great experiences there when I was living in France. There are some great cafes in that area, not to mention the fact that it's beautiful just to wander around. And yes, I was a student at the time (though not in Paris) so maybe there's some prejudice there, lol.