Your express pass to the real heart of the city.
New to Paris and planning to stay a while? Check out our insider tips for how to make the most of your time in the City of Light from the people who have lived it and learned.
Sure, the Eiffel Tower is still breathtaking, and yes, the view while crossing the Pont Neuf never gets old. But there is a whole other side to Paris that’s less obvious and more authentic. Welcome to the OFXpat’s Guide to Paris.
Introducing the East Side
The architecture may not be as opulent as in 16th and 17th arrondissements, but l’est is full of Parisian charm. Once you’ve done the major tourist attractions, venture east and dive into the heart of what makes Paris so original and so incomparable.
While binging on 10 pints of beer isn’t really traditional Parisian style, we do take our apéros pretty seriously.
Here are two of our favourite spots for a before dinner cocktail or three:
La Fontaine d’Henry IV
Thanks to its ideal and slightly out of the way location, the peaceful, pretty and surprisingly large terrace of this otherwise tiny bar benefits from the sun’s dying rays and very little passing traffic. There are some interesting beers and pleasant, accommodating serveurs who do their best to squeeze in extra tables and chairs for you on busy, balmy summer evenings.
42 bis rue des Cascades, 75020. Metro: Pyrenées or Menilmontant
For something a little more bustling, head over to La Puebla in the Buttes Chaumont park. Two big (by Parisian standards) terraces, cool cocktails, informal eating and often some laid back dancing make this one of the nicest places to go to in all of Paris. What’s more, in the winter, the interior area gets a chic chalet-themed makeover. #ThisPlaceHasCharmInSpades
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Entrance facing 43, avenue Simon-Bolivar 75019. Metro: Colonel Fabien, Jaurès or Pyrenées
Paris, and France, have always been famous for food, of course, but the capital has had its restaurant revolution similar to many other major cities. Ten years ago, restaurants would boast “Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine” – all under one roof. You can now get great region-specific cuisine in hip surroundings to boot. From Neo-Bistro and Bistronomie to soul food and vegan delights. It’s all here now.
A local favourite. We love this place for its buzzy atmosphere and the quite romantic way you can have dinner with your other half sitting at the bar, and not feel self-conscious. The food is inventive and delicious and affordable. It’s also a café by day.
52, rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis 75010. Metro: Strasbourg-Saint-Denis. No reservations.
Gravity is a kind of cave à manger (wine bar serving food) but instead of wine, they serve great cocktails. Delicious small plates made by the Quebecois chef are served in scandi-inspired décor. If the cocktail menu hasn’t sold you, it’s worth going just to see the ceiling. Trust us.
44 rue des Vinaigriers 75010. Metro: République or Jacques Bonsergent. Reservations possible.
Want more recommendations?
Go to the Le Fooding website for a good, reliable selection of restaurants by arrondissement, in French and English.
Sure you could spend a lifetime and still not see everything in the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou. But what about somewhere a little different? Somewhere where you don’t have to queue or buy tickets way in advance? Here are our favourites for those ready to venture off the beaten track.
Very close to the Sacré Coeur but a million miles away from the throngs of souvenir shops you have to pass to get there, this unusual museum dedicated to l’art brut (or outsider art) is housed in an attractive building with a pleasant salon de thé and bookshop.
2 Rue Ronsard, 75018 Paris. Metro: Anvers
This is a great industrial space with contemporary exhibitions that often feature big names like Amish Kapoor or Niki se Saint Phalle. It’s also a place for concerts, theatre, resident artists, and kids practicing their hip hop moves. On site, you’ll find a restaurant, a second hand clothing store, a bookshop and a kind of free play centre pour les petits. What’s not to like?
5 rue Curial 75019. Metro: Riquet.
Raising Kids in Paris
Fortunately for parents, Paris is becoming increasingly kid-friendly. Check out these charming venues where the kids can burn off their pain au chocolat.
Parc de la Villette
This park is not only a great grassy urban park with rides, a playground and an IMAX cinema, but it’s also home to La Cité des Enfants with games, experiments and discoveries galore.
211 avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Metro: Porte de Pantin or Porte de la Villette
Le Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Don’t miss this beautiful, traditional, hilly park, good for younger kids who still enjoy simple pleasures like paddling in the little stream, whizzing down slides and giggling at the puppet shows (les guignols in French.) There are two charming places to have afternoon tea: Rosa Bonheur and Le Pavillon du Lac (the latter is good for lunch too). Buttes Chaumont is lovely for picnics and apéros during the day and early evenings.
Official address: 1 Rue Botzaris 75019 (but there are several entrances around the park.)
Metros: Botzaris, Buttes Chaumont, Colonel Fabian, Jaurès, Laumière, Pyrenées
This private bilingual preschool and primary school runs bilingual holiday clubs and a Wednesday afternoon clubs as well. (There’s no school in France on Wednesday afternoons.) It’s open to all children – not just those attending the school and both a French and a native English speaking activity leader are always present. As a major perk, it has a sound eco-citizenship ethos and serves organic lunches and gouters (afternoon tea) to the kids.
See also http://www.hibbbou.com/anglais.html for a whole host of other bilingual kids’ activities and organisations.
No matter how splendid Paris is, sometimes we can’t help but hanker after something familiar. Here are our top picks for those kinds of days.
Fish and Chips
The Sunken Chip has “jolly good” fresh fish and thick cut chips, as they should be, with mushy peas and malt vinegar. You can even get a chip butty!
39 rue des Vinaigriers 75010. Metro: Republique or Jacques Bonsergent
Burgers are now ubiquitous in Paris, and there certainly is a lot of web space dedicated to who has “the best”. These days, there’s something for everyone from purist American style beef patties to burgers slathered with roquefort or comté as a French twist. Our favourite is Paris New York: top-notch ingredients served in a cool space with plenty of seating.
50 rue du Faubourg Saint Denis 75010. Metro: Strasbourg Saint Denis.
Go here for an up to date list of best burgers:
Apart from the more famous Breakfast in America, there’s also Holybelly which serves fabulous Melbourne style pick-and-mix breakfasts.
Breakfast in America
4 rue Malheur 75004. Tel 01 42 72 40 21. Metro: Saint Paul
19, rue Lucien-Sampaix 75010. 09 73 60 13 64. Metro: République, Jacques Bonsergent, Gare de l’Est
Australians have brought their coffee skills to Paris and it’s proving very popular. Fondation Café is one such place serving excellent coffee and avocado toast, of course.
Go here for a list of Aussie style cafés: http://www.nomadicnotes.com/aussie-style-cafes-in-paris/
Dong-Huong is a Belleville institution – since 1984. Don’t miss the bun cha heo nuong – delicious bits of juicy pork, rice noodles and pancakes. Yum!
14 Rue Louis Bonnet 75011. Tel 01 43 38 25 74. Metro: Belleville
Go here for more tips on Vietnamese places:
For a Brit, finding good Indian food is very important, but it’s not easy to come by unless you know where to look. France colonised Pondicherry in the south-east of India, so naturally the best Indian in Paris is South Indian cuisine. Head to the La Chapelle area. It’s not swanky, but it’s full of simple no frills places like Muniyandi Villas which serves lovely fresh parothas and cheap thalis. (It’s also a good place to get chatting to strangers since the waiters like to optimise the seating capacity!)
Krishna Bhavan (vegetarian) and Dishny are great spots for masala dosa and biryani.
Muniyandi Villas: 207 rue de Faubourg Saint Denis 75010
Krishna Bhavan: Cail 15, 21 and 24 rue Cail 75010
Dishny: 25 rue Cail 75019
Metro for all: La Chapelle
Housed in a beautiful mansion with a lovely garden, this centre showcases American art and culture in English. Get on the mailing list to get your yankee culture fix.
34, avenue de New York 75116
Stand-up comedy nights with “Laughing Matters”
Laughing sooo does matter when you’re living in a new country. Karel Beer’s comedy nights can help you keep a smile on your face while battling culture shock. He hosts great stand-up comedians mainly from the U.K. and the U.S. in the 10th arrondissement and near Bastille. Sign up the mailing list to stay in the know for upcoming events.
Of course nearly every anglophone tourist and expat alike has heard of the historic Shakespeare and Company on the left bank. But you could easily spend an afternoon whiling away an hour or five in WH Smith, browsing not only the books but the huge choice of English language magazines. Don’t forget to visit the somewhat naff but comforting English grocery section.
WH Smith: 248 rue de Rivoli 75001. Metro: Concorde
Here are a few more of our favourites spots that we simply had to include. See you there.
Quai de Seine and Quai de Loire – Canal de l’Ourc
In the summer, picnicking along the banks of the canal is a hugely popular pastime and the cycle lanes make it great for safe cycling to La Villette park with the kids.
Flanking the canal, the quais let you take your pick from two cinemas, terrains de pétanque, bar, opera, book shop barges, eclectic drinking and dining options, a playground, ping pong tables. You’ll be spoiled for choice while enjoying a chilled vibe. Oh yes, la vie est belle.
Rue de la Villette
Shopping in Paris is practically a competitive sport. Score some major points by venturing further afield. A discrete little street in the Jourdain area off rue de Belleville called Rue de la Villette has lots of cool, independent boutiques. Check out Pollen for women’s clothing. You’ll also find kid-friendly places like Le Renard & L’Entonnoir and Le Dragon Savant.
Pollen 7: rue de la Villette 75019. (The chic accessories shop directly opposite has the same owner.)
Le Renard & L’Entonnier: 12 bis rue de la Villette
Le Dragon Savant: 36 rue de la Villette
Metro for all: Jourdain
This well-known artist and hipster enclave has kept its east side authenticity despite its popularity. Get great Chinese food from the Wen Zhou region for next to nothing. Take a load off at our preferred bars: Les Follies or Mon Coeur Belleville (the latter with that amazing view of Paris). When it’s time to satisfy your need for greenery, stroll over to Parc de Belleville.
The Paris Blog brings together several well-respected Paris-based bloggers writing in English.
Fusac features classified ads and other content in English for native English speakers: jobs, babysitting, apartments and even IT support when your laptop crashes. One of the very first of its kind in Paris and still going strong.
A Nous Paris is a free magazine found in the Metro every Monday or Tuesday. It’s not in English this one but it does have decent, trustworthy reviews of events, quartiers, restaurants, concerts, clubbing and theatre.
Le Bonbon is a good “what’s on in Paris?” type website aimed at Parisians, in French. But no matter where you’re from, you’re going to have to polish your French sometime, if you want to make the most out of your time in this city.
What have we missed? Send us your favourite Parisian hotspots to feature in our next OFXpats guide to Paris. We’re also currently curating content for Sydney, San Francisco and London guides, so share your secret hang-outs, and let’s make sure the world’s best hidden gems stay in business.
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