On your first day in Paris, you might think the city is big, but this is not the case. Still, the French capital has a lot of different neighborhoods, some are historical, some are residential, some are touristic and still some are very popular. And, you can’t forget the best neighborhoods in Paris for locals!
Let us guide you through this maze! We definitely don’t want you to spend your vacation paying a full month’s income for an espresso coffee and a croissant on a noisy street surrounded by arrogant people.
Understanding the way Paris is set up
First of all, Paris is divided in many different ways. Most people have heard of the Left and Right Bank, and the different arrondissements, but few know that western and eastern Paris are historically opposite.
In the past, as Paris was becoming larger in size and population, the city became divided amongst the rich and the poor. Wealthier people settled in the west side of the city as the major factories were in central Paris, and the ocean breeze blew the polluted smoke to the east. To avoid breathing in all of that pollution, the well-off population decided to settle in the western side of Paris. The poorer residents took refuge in the east.
To this day, the arrondissements in the west are considered to be the “nicer” side of town. You’ll find that the west is less lively and exciting, and is filled with little old ladies walking their dogs. That, or buses full of tourists snapping pictures of the Eiffel Tower before they head to the next famous tourist trap on the Champs-Élysées, or before they head to the Louvre to take photos of Mona Lisa.
While there’s nothing wrong with appreciating the tourist destinations of Paris, it can leave you wanting a little more. This is especially true if you’ve already visited Paris before, and want to see some truly unique places. It would be similar to visiting New York City and only visiting the Statue of Liberty and Times Square. You just need to see more!
How to see the real Paris
So, how do you see the real Paris? Where can you have a drink for a fair price? Can you find this rare species called the “smiling waiter?” Where do the locals hang out?
First, avoid everywhere west of the Louvre. This part of Paris is the tourist trap hotspot, overflowing with massive buses, restaurants where a simple croque-monsieur sandwich will cost you an arm and a leg, and the little money left you have left in your wallet will probably be stolen by pickpockets.
Second, don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path! Here are our top 5 best neighborhoods in Paris for locals!
1. Ledru Rollin – Aligre
Ledru Rollin is home to Paris’ colorful marché d’Aligre, which is one of the city’s most popular outdoor markets. The neighborhood surrounding the Aligre market is at once traditional and stylish. It also hosts the world’s very first above-ground pedestrian walkway, the Promenade Plantée. Head to the market in the morning, and take a stroll when you’re done. The Promenade Plantée is also a wonderful spot for a picnic with all of the goodies you just bought.
2. Belleville – Oberkampf
There areas are burgeoning artist quarters, and contain a dizzying array of cultures. Belleville has always been a working-class neighborhood, with foreigners generating much of the area’s zest. Oberkampf is the western part of this neighborhood, it’s full of bars where live music reminds you that the city never sleeps. Don’t miss the magnificent street art that fills both areas.
An unexpected oasis in a little-known corner of the 17th arrondissement, the Batignolles neighbourhood is a laid-back haven of gastronomic delights and charming boutiques perfect for an afternoon of flânerie (this French word is very specific. It translates roughly into English as meaning “wandering through Paris). Batignolles’ village-like feel is ideal for a simple, authentic Paris vibe, far from monuments and museums.
4. NoMa – Temple
NoMa is short for northern Marais. This area is actually one of the oldest parts of the city, boasting many mansions from the 7th century. This area also has the oldest covered market in Paris, the “Marché des Enfants Rouges,” which is a great spot to enjoy a variety of international cuisines and organic foods. Visit the market on an empty stomach, as there are several crêpe and sandwich stands inside that are simply delicious.
5. La Butte Aux Cailles
This tucked away Left Bank neighborhood is all about little hilly streets lined with ancient street lamps, quaint bistros, and shops which sell unique locally-made products. This area has remained unknown to many tourists, so you’ll really feel like a local here. Don’t miss the several small gardens that fill the neighborhood, which are perfect for relaxing with a good book.
So, now you know the top 5 best neighborhoods in Paris for locals! Just one more thing: don’t forget to leave your new Parisian attitude in Paris before you leave. You don’t want everyone to think you are rude and arrogant once you’re back home. And if you can’t manage to shake it, just remind your friends it’s a symptom of being a Parisian!