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When in Paris, do as the Parisians do. Now, for some, the quintessential Parisian experience revolves around climbing all 300+ stairs of the Eiffel Tower, hanging out at the Louvre, and stuffing themselves with macarons. For others, experiencing the Parisian lifestyle involves feasting their eyes on fascinating street art installations and tossing French proverbs while haggling with street vendors.
It all boils down to what your inner traveler seeks to discover in one of the oldest, most magnificent European cities to feast on art, architecture, and culture. Paris certainly offers much more than the mainstream attractions crowding our Instagram feeds.
For those who seek, the city opens up a treasure trove of delightful hidden spots and intriguing nooks and crannies that symbolize the living soul of Paris. Read on to explore some quintessential Parisian experiences to enrich your French vacation.
The theater business has always been booming in Paris, and poignant theatrical performances are the best way to experience French art, culture, and literature. Amazingly, one doesn’t need to be fluent in French to understand and connect with these deeply moving performances.
Packed with impressively choreographed dance sequences, opera performances at the Paris Opera House are a spell-binding affair. If you don’t have a taste for opera, consider touring the magnificent venue to delight your senses with its rich, ornate details dipped in gleaming gold.
This opera house is home to the iconic chandelier picturized in The Phantom of the Opera, surrounded by a vibrant ceiling fresco painted by celebrated artist Marc Chagall. The 19th-century architecture of the building makes it a stunning specimen to understand the intricacies of European theater interiors.
Structural elements like the grand staircase, the opulent foyer, ceiling paintings, and gold mirrors rival the majesty and opulence of the Palace of Versailles.
Shopping in Paris isn’t limited to luxury boutiques and high-end French designer houses, for the city is nothing short of a seasoned haggler’s paradise. Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is the best flea market in Paris and the largest antique market in the world. Brimming with innumerable street hawkers, stands, warehouses, and stalls, this is the ultimate spot to shop for vintage finds and rare antiques.
Interior designers flock to Puces de Saint-Ouen searching for rare pieces, artifacts, and vintage art for their posh clients and luxury hotels. This market is one of the best spots to immerse yourself in Parisian culture and splurge on amazing vintage finds and gifts.
Sprawling over 14 different marketplaces, the Puces de Saint-Ouen is home to chic vintage boutiques, antiques, souvenirs, old maps, and ancient rarities. It’s wise to visit this marketplace with lots of money to spare because the urge to buy everything will be all-consuming. We always urge travelers to cut corners elsewhere, like airfare and accommodation, so that they can splurge on food, retail therapy, and recreation.
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Paris is a treasure trove of gastronomic food adventures laden with the aroma of freshly baked croissants and the vibrant sweetness of macaroons. Every streetside café welcomes travelers with colorful, dollhouse-like interiors and mouth-watering displays of baguettes, flaky butter-packed pieces of bread, and an assortment of traditional French cheese.
One cannot indulge in a quintessential Parisian experience without sampling the city’s many gastronomic indulgences and tasteful French wines. The Parisian way of life revolves around buttery croissants and aromatic cups of coffee paired with delectable desserts. We strongly urge exploring Ladurée, one of the most famous patisseries, to feast on macaroons and freshly baked goodies.
Lounging around at the cafes is a great way to experience the energy of Paris and admire the elegant street style that dominates the city’s aesthetic profile. Some of the best cafes in Paris include Les Deux Magots, Le Relais De L’Entrecôte and visit L’Avant Comptoir de la Terre.
We urge you to do your homework and walk around the streets to find dining establishments that delight your pocket and taste buds.
The soul of Paris has always been grounded in art, as artistic movements have defined the city’s tumultuous history and vibrant present-day architecture. Aside from exploring the works of the great masters confined within prestigious museums, you must explore street art to connect with the artistic soul of Paris.
Street art is the most vibrant and soulful element of Paris, and many street art installments have been commissioned by the city authorities. Head over to Le Mur Oberkampf to check out incredible showcases and outdoor canvases depicting a multitude of contemporary artists. The installations are constantly rotating, featuring French urban artists like Invader and Kraken.
You can sign up for a guided tour of the best street art spots in the city. Or head out on a self-guided adventure, exploring the city while you hunt for street showcases. Rue Denoyez, located in the 20th Arrondissement, is one of the best spots to explore graffiti and local art galleries. The Belleville market is another amazing spot for art and cultural discoveries.
Last but not the least, one cannot have a quintessential Parisian experience without ending their day with a walk by the Seine. One can explore the Seine any time during the day or night, but the display of colors that comes to life as the sun melts into the river is utterly surreal. The Seine is indeed the beating heart of Paris, and strolling along the waterway is beautifully romantic, even if your companion is solitude.
At sunset, the Seine transforms into a pool of pink merging into orange, and as the daylight dims, the city lights up like a Christmas tree. Experiencing the Seine at sunset is truly a magnificent sight.
Are you ready to experience Paris like a true Parisian? We advise renting a bike and cycling your way through the bike-friendly streets and alleyways of Paris. It’s a fabulous trick to burn off the calories you’re devouring with indulgently rich French food and wines and explore every nook and cranny without overspending.
It’s also wise to befriend the locals and let your Parisian friends offer some notes on local hangout spots, trendy cafes, and hip attractions.