I’m not quite sure why Paris has won the number 1 spot as the most romantic city in the world, but it sure has something magical about it.
To me it is another of those cities that you fall in love with not necessarily upon your first visit but rather by living there, because that allows you to go beyond sketchy Gare du Nord, the dirt on the streets and the masses of tourists around the landmarks.
So what to do in Paris?
The Paris that I love lies not in front of the Sacré Coeur but behind it, where just a few steps away from thousands of people you are immersed in what feels like a countryside village, where houses are covered in vines and you can hear birds sing. Or on the tip of Île de la Cité (la pointe de l’Île), where you can sit under a weeping willow and watch the city of lights come alive at night.
My luck hit its peak when two of my very close friends and I found an apartment bang in the centre, in Paris’ new trendiest neighbourhood called Le Marais. Think Shoreditch but more chic, maybe Shoreditch meets Notting Hill – where each little boutique is a work of (hipster) art, where a book store is also a café and a clothes store is also an art gallery. This cartier was home to many of France’s intellectuals, such as the famous café La Perle(even the website is hipster), where young intellectuals would spend much of their time and find inspiration. It also became famous thanks to Galliano’s anti-semitic rant…
Notre Dame is just a short walk away and the best part is ‘le quai de la Seine‘ – the river banks, which offer a beautiful and lengthy promenade across most of Paris, passing most of the monuments and lovely bridges on your way. One of my favourite things to do was go roller blading along them late at night, when barely anybody was around, with my music blasting in my mega headphones. The air, the night breeze, the speed, everything just made me feel so alive.
When I went a few weeks ago I must admit I did take a cheeky detour to see the most touristy thing possible: La Tour Eiffel. But just because I hadn’t been to Paris in over a year and even when I did live there, I only saw it a handful of times, cos when you live in a city you don’t really spend your free time at the main tourist attractions unless you have visitors! Just like I’ve been living in London for 2 years and still haven’t seen Harrods or Bukingham Palace (I have in the past don’t worry!).
It may be a tourist trap and a huge piece of steel, but it is impressive and it somehow transmits you something magic being one of the biggest iconic things in Paris.
I mean if you are there for several days, then yes, hit up all the main spots, visit the Louvre, go see a ballet at the stunning Opera Garnier, but if not, there are so many cute neighbourhoods to visit and great food and wine to be tasted.
You can visit the Pere Lachaise cemetery and see where Jim Morrison was buried, or do something quite alternative such as visit the underground ossuaries, known as the Catacombs of Paris. They are part of the ancient underground tunnels, spanning for 200 km, where people’s remains were transferred from cemeteries, making it the world’s largest grave. If you want to do something really alternative and possibly slightly illegal, at night time you can do an ‘off the grid’, Forbidden Paris visit of the underground Catacombs, guided by locals who have studied them extremely well and take you down via unofficial entrances such as manholes. They call themselves the ‘cataphiles’ and apparently some spend extensive time down there, drawing graffiti or even having cinema screenings & raves! I’ve never had the balls to do it.
Whatever you do, don’t take the Parisians’ arrogance too personally and just enjoy the city 🙂