An Insider’s Guide to Paris

Editor’s note: Traveller Notes aims to uncover the spots that local residents love, providing you with an insider’s guide to cities around the world. Our Traveller Notes guide to Paris is written by Edna Zhou of Expat Edna. For practical information and a basic Paris itinerary, check out Expedia’s 72-hour guide to Paris, also written by Edna.

When I moved to Paris to work at 22, I had never been to Europe before. I spent that first year digging deeper to find what really made Paris so special – and now, four years later, I’m head over heels for the city and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

For those who may be debating whether or not to visit after recent tragic events, I assure you that Paris is absolutely safe, and the city has proved itself to be resilient, inspiring, and as beautiful as ever.

RESTAURANTS

Au Passage (1 bis, Passage Saint-Sébastien, 75011): Hidden down a side alley, this small restaurant is all about sharing plates and a menu that changes regularly, based on what ingredients are in season and available at the market. Meals here are best enjoyed with friends and shared bottles of wine. 

Mi Va Mi (23 Rue des Rosiers, 75004): Most tourists crowd around L’as du Falafel for the supposedly best falafel in town. However, locals debate that the shop directly opposite, Mi Va Mi, is just as good, if not better – and without the wait. Taste for yourself and compare the difference. 

Robert et Louise (64 rue Veille du Temple, 75003): A visit to Paris should always include steak fries, but if you want to skip the tourist lines at Relais de l’Entrecote, head to this cozy restaurant in the Marais. The open hearth in the back makes me feel like I’ve stepped into someone’s home for a Parisian steak dinner.

Le Chateaubriand (129 avenue Parmentier, 75011): Reservations go quickly and weeks in advance for this well-known French restaurant, which has no menu but is purely a tasting menu of the chef’s choice. If you’re unable to snag a table, there is a no-reservations second seating that begins at 9:30 pm. I personally prefer the second seating anyway, and usually, arrive around 9 pm to have a glass of wine at the bar while waiting for the next service. 

Café Saint-Régis (6 Rue Jean du Bellay, 75004): This café is always one of my first stops in Paris whenever I come home from a trip. Located on the corner of Ile St Louis with a view of Notre Dame from the terrace, it’s extremely popular with tourists but delivers such excellent French onion soup, burger, beef tartare and daily specials that it’s a well-known favorite among locals, too. 

Le Nemrod: You may have heard of a Croque monsieur, but the Croque madame goes one above and adds an egg on top. I always take visitors to try the Croque Poilâne complete at Le Nemrod, which makes their madame with bread from the famous Poilâne bakery. 

BARS AND CAFÉS

La Caféothèque (52 rue de l’Hô­tel-de-Ville, 75004): One of the best coffee shops to hit Paris, you can smell the beans roasting before you even walk in the door. This café boasts several rooms, each with different decor and atmosphere, and a prime location across from Ile St Louis.

Fondation Café (16 Rue Dupetit-Thouars, 75003): A small shop with great coffee at the experienced hands of its Australian owner. Accompanied by a rotating selection of cakes and snacks by Emperor Norton (who are known for their granola and pastries, but I especially love their tarts!), and outdoor seating that becomes very handy come spring and summer. 

Holybelly (19 rue Lucien Sampaix, 75010): An extremely popular café famous for their Melbourne-esque vibe and strong commitment to a simple mission: serving good food and good coffee. I always try to get there right when they open or else face waiting in line with the rest of the hordes clamoring for plates of French/American comfort food. 

Shakespeare & Co Café (37 rue de la Bûcherie, 75005): It was always Shakespeare & Company founder George Whitman’s dream to have a café next to his now-famous bookstore. While the food and drink leave a bit to be desired, the airy space and view of Notre Dame are drawing considerable crowds regardless. 

Boot Café (19 Rue du Pont aux Choux, 75003): This tiny café housed in a former cobbler’s shop is a favorite haunt of Marais hipsters. The tiny space is not meant to fit more than a handful of people at one time, but the appeal is in the aesthetics and the coffee is fantastic. 

Coutume Instituuti (60 Rue des Écoles, 75005): A sister branch of Coutume Café located within the Finnish Institute, this bright and spacious cafe is perfect for catching up with friends or your emails over some nibbles and coffee. Every month or so, space also plays host to chamber music concerts by Sinfonietta Paris. 

Red House (1 bis rue de la forge royale, 75011): This cocktail bar in the 11eme is where other bartenders go on their night off. It’s also where you’re most likely to find me on any night in Paris, thanks to its relaxed vibe, down-to-earth staff, and the best prices for cocktails you’ll find in town. The menu changes seasonally but a constant crowd-pleaser is the Wild West Side, made with tequila, spice, mint, lime, and cucumber. Or ask for the Edna’s Belated (Bulleit rye, triple sec, Gomme syrup, walnut, and angostura)! 

Pas de Loup (108 Rue Amelot, 75011): Run by a veteran of the Paris cocktail scene, this bar features innovative drinks paired with next-level bar snacks: think peanut butter and jelly sours, with cauliflower pierogies and duck confit banh mi. When I want light nibbles with good drinks, this is where I go. 

Green Goose (19 Rue des Boulets, 75011): This Irish pub is unlike any other in town – because you won’t find Guinness here! Instead, they focus on Irish craft beer, and their food selections feature Scotch eggs, Irish cheese boards, and the best scones around. It feels like a proper pub transplanted from Dublin to Paris and is always my top spot for Sunday brunch.

Le Syndicat (51 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010): Hidden in plain sight behind a wall of graffiti and posters, this bar makes cocktails with only French ingredients. This includes the gins, whiskeys, bitters, etc., meaning everything in your drink is of French origin. Perfect for the true cocktail enthusiast looking to expand their alcohol horizons. 

Dirty Dick (10 Rue Frochot, 75009): This tiki bar in Pigalle looks unassuming from the outside, but inside you’ll find a tropical motif and bartenders in Hawaiian shirts. The cocktails here are always stronger than you think they’ll be, which makes their happy hour a popular place to meet friends before an evening out. 

La Fine Mousse (6 Avenue Jean Aicard, 75011): For beer lovers, this craft beer bar offers 20 taps and dozens of bottle options from France and all over the world. If you’re looking for something new or don’t know what you like, the well-informed staff will be happy to talk shop with you. 

GALLERIES

Musée Rodin (79 Rue de Varenne, 75007): I don’t always have the time to explore the entire catalog of artwork by Auguste Rodin, but I still enjoy bringing visitors to see the beautiful grounds of the Musée Rodin. In this situation, for €4 I can bypass the museum and just wander around just the sculpture garden (€2 if you’re under 25).

Musée Jacquemart-André (158 Boulevard Haussmann, 75008): This museum showcases the private art of the building’s former residents, Nélie Jacquemart and Édouard André, and is housed in their beautiful private residence in the 8th arrondissement. The building itself is almost as much a draw as the artwork inside. 

Musée Carnavalet (16 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 75003): For extreme Paris lovers, this museum in the heart of the Marais is dedicated to the history of the city itself, and located inside a building that dates back to the 16th century. Entry is technically free, but there is a suggested donation of €5 ticket. 

Centre Pompidou (Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004): The museum of modern art is popular among locals not just for the art inside, but for the view from the top floor. Tell the guards you’re headed to the café on the roof and you can bypass buying a ticket and take in a grand view over Paris. 

Institut du Monde Arabe (1 Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard, 75005): I love popping up to the rooftop here because it has a beautiful view overlooking the Seine, its two islands, and Notre Dame. Most people don’t know this is here, or that you can bypass buying a ticket at the entrance if you are only headed for the roof.