We love Paris's classic attractions—seeing the Eiffel Tower is always a thrill!—but if you're looking for hidden cafés, museums, and walks that Parisians love, we have eight must-do recommendations from a Paris insider who knows the arrondissements inside and out.
Gallery owner and author Matt Wagner literally wrote the book on Paris—his gorgeous new coffee-table book The Tall Trees of Paris interviews 42 artists (in both English and French!) about their favorite neighborhoods and what inspires them. Naturally, in the course of his work, he picked up a few secrets of Paris that only the coolest locals know.
We couldn't resist tapping his wealth of insider knowledge—and now we want to go back and try each and every one!
1. A must-see neighborhood locals love:
"I really love the 18th arrondissement, Château Rouge neighborhood in particular, known as Little Africa. Thre's so much activity in this neighborhood—and great food too. Check out Ground Control. It’s a bar, restaurant, and music venue within a decommissioned train yard. In between each track is pétanque courts [pétanque is a bowling-style game that's similar to bocce]. Great way to spend a sunny Sunday in Paris."
2. Two obscure museums worth visiting:
"Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaisme [admission about $14] and the Institut Du Monde Arabe [from about $9] are both particularly good. The World Arab institute had an amazing history of hip-hop show last year."
3. A café you'll be talking about for years:
"Hands down, my favorite café is Jeanne A in the 11th arrondissement. There's a deli up front and tables in the back for eating in. Roast chicken and lamb are standouts, and the service is spectacular. All at a very affordable price."
4. A pastry shop so authentic it has no name:
"One of my favorite pâtisseries is a place at 15 Rue Marcadet in Château Rouge. Order one of the classics: pain aux raisins or a chocolate croissant."
5. Souvenirs (plus art) that won't break the bank:
"Galerie Arts Factory in the Bastille has a fantastic book selection and art. The owners, Effi and Laurent, are fantastic people."
6. A beautiful, movie-worthy walk:
"Without a doubt, Canal de L’Ourcq in the 19th arrondissement. Having a picnic on a Sunday afternoon then walking up the canal listening to the street music and people watching is pretty much my perfect day in Paris."
7. How to fit in with the locals in Paris:
"A little bit of language goes a long way. It will make the people you are interacting with appreciate the attempt before they most likely break into English for you. Steering clear of the main tourist areas would also help."
8. The train pass Budget Travelers need:
"If you're going to be in Paris for a week or more, I suggest buying the Navigo Découverte train pass. The pass is a swipe card that will eliminate trying to come up with cash to ride the trains. It is quite affordable at around $25 for a weeklong pass. You will need to provide a small picture of yourself at the gate."