Note: Whoops, here’s something I’d written a few months ago for a travel blog and forgotten to repost.
The best time to visit Paris is when it is sunny and warm because that’s the perfect weather for an apéro/picnic in the park or by the canal.
Don’t be afraid to get out of the tourist circuit and explore gritty everyday Paris because the working-class neighborhoods and its people make up the real Paris not portrayed in Amélie or Midnight in Paris.
I may have a soft spot for northeast Paris – as you can see from my recommendations below – because this is the area I’ve been living in since I moved to Paris a year ago. I love my proximity to the canals and the multicultural vibes!
Paris can be an unsafe city because of the number of pickpockets, scammers and outspoken beggars on the streets but it’s nothing that common sense can’t safeguard you against.
Don’t linger at metro stations and tourist attractions with a map or a cellphone in your hand because that makes you an obvious target.
Choose the RER B that is a direct train between Charles de Gaulle Airport and Gare du Nord because not only it is a quicker commute, the train also does not stop at stations in the relatively rougher northeastern suburbs.
Paris is a great city to explore on foot and to get lost in.
If your destination is beyond walking distance, the métro remains the best option because it is fussfree and gets you to most places but be ready to walk – especially when you are changing métro lines.
Avoid making métro/RER transfers at Chatelet – Les Halles unless you enjoy walking from point A to B in crowded tunnels that don’t seem to end.
Try the Velib’ in the summer because there’s no better way to see this city than on a bike with the wind in your hair.
Knock yourself out. There are plenty of things to buy and shops to see in Paris and most visitors usually come prepared with long shopping lists.
Don’t give Monoprix a miss just because it is a supermarket – there is something for everyone from cashmere sweaters to food items that locals actually buy (sorry, La Grande Epicerie).
Five places worth heading to even if you are not buying anything:
2. Flea markets (not just that big one at Saint-Ouen)
4. Galeries Lafayette and Printemps on boulevard Haussmann
See and do
So many museums, so little time and new ones are popping up as we speak. Among my current favorites:
1. Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
2. Centre Pompidou
3. Musée des Arts Décoratifs
4. Maison Européenne de la Photographie
5. Musée du quai Branly
The Seine may offer the best views of Paris we’ve known from postcards and the movies but don’t neglect these other scenic spots to enjoy some wine and cheese in the sun:
1. Parc de Belleville
2. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
3. Canal Saint-Martin
4. Canal de l’Ourcq
5. Parc Montsouris
Eat and drink
Like my home country Singapore, France is a great place to be for those who appreciate good food – with options aplenty. Some of the dependable, value-for-money brasseries/bistros I go to in Paris are:
1. Bouillon Chartier
2. Au Bœuf Couronné
3. Le Petit Carillon
4. Aux Arts et Sciences Réunis
For tourists on a budget, Déli-Cieux on the rooftop terrace of Printemps makes a wonderful lunch option because it is a fast food cafeteria (think IKEA restaurant) with an unbeatable view.
Last but not least, here are a few of my favorite bars in Paris (so far) to go grab a drink or two with friends new and old:
1. Le Comptoir Général
2. Mama Kin
3. Point Ephémère
4. La Caravane
5. Aux Folies
Bonnes vacances and enjoy Paris!