Top 5 Neighbourhoods to Explore in Paris

Like A Local Guide • 1 Sep, 2015

Paris is very big, which means travellers who stay only a few days won’t have time to see everything. The French capital has 20 districts – it’s mission impossible to explore them all in such a short time! So, now you’re wondering which neighbourhoods to visit. Our local ambassador Magali recommends five neighbourhoods that are special from a local point of view.

Canal Saint-Martin

It would be a shame to miss this local gem. The green bridges and relaxing little parks are lovely. When I first discovered this neighbourhood I immediately noticed an abrupt change in atmosphere. I had come from the noisy and busy Place de la République and was surprised to find an area where I could enjoy silence while contemplating the water. The great thing about this neighbourhood is that there are many local restaurants, bars, coffee shops and boutiques lining the riverbanks. It’s one of the best local neighbourhoods to visit for a truly immersive experience.

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Le Marais

Le Marais is one of my favourite places to hang out with friends on weekends, and I’m not the only one. You’ll see for yourself that many locals come here for a shopping session or to enjoy a drink with family and friends. Last winter I discovered the Meert dessert shop – their delicious waffles are ideal for afternoon sweet treats!

To reach Le Marais, get off at the Hôtel de Ville metro station and walk along rue Vieille-du-Temple until you reach rue des Francs Bourgeois leading to the gorgeous Place des Vosges. Don’t miss rue des Rosiers. There are many lovely local spots along the way where you can enjoy a delicious break, as well as small independently owned boutiques. If you can afford it, Le Marais is a great neighbourhood to stay in because of its central location and easy access to other neighbourhoods.

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Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis

These neighbourhoods are unique because, as you might already know, they are islands in the heart of Paris. I love them because I enjoy exploring neighbourhoods rich in history, and they are among the oldest parts of the city. I try to imagine how the islands looked when Paris was a village or when French kings were living on them and reigning over France. The views are great by day and at night – you can see the banks of the river with their elegant Haussmann–style buildings and admire the endless ballet of the boats.

Unlike the vibrant Marais district, Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis are very quiet neighbourhoods. I had the opportunity to stay in a studio for two months near Notre-Dame and would not recommend staying there. You won’t find many non-touristy restaurants and cafés, and finding a grocery store with decent prices is extremely difficult.

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Montmartre

Montmarte is a place that you truly shouldn’t miss. I’m not talking about the crowded Place du Tertre and the Sacré Coeur (although the church and view over the city are amazing), but the Montmartre of locals. Yes, it still exists! Montmartre has a unique identity because it’s like a village in a big city. It’s also known for its popular and subversive spirit. Last winter I was lucky to stay in this neighbourhood and was able to explore the hill. Rue des Abbesses is a great street where you’ll find everything you need. You can finish your visit at l’Atelier Nota where you can find locally crafted stationery.

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Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Saint-Germain-des-Prés is another one my favourite places to hang out in Paris because, when it comes to culture, it’s the place to be. I can easily stay a few hours in the lovely bookshops there. It’s very exciting for people who love books because the choice is dizzyingly vast.

It’s also a neighbourhood where you can get lost in narrow streets and stumble upon galleries and boutiques selling antiques and works of art. Sometimes you wonder how or where they find such objects and who their customers are. Start your visit at Pont des Arts, then walk along rue Bonaparte until you reach the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church. You can end your tour at La Rhumerie – a bar that specialises in rum-based cocktails.

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I hope that this short neighbourhood guide will help you get the most out of your stay! What’s your favourite neighbourhood in Paris?

For more local recommendations read:

What locals like to do in Paris
Where locals like to eat in Paris
Where locals like to party in Paris

Special tip: For a more authentic Paris experience, get the Like A Local mobile app

Magali is a project manager in the luxury hospitality industry. She was born in Nice, France. She recently moved to San Francisco, California, after having worked in Paris for six years. The City of Light is still in her heart and she never misses the opportunity to wander its streets and discover new spots each time she returns to France. She also lived in Italy when she was a student. One of her dreams is to travel the entire country in a single month by car.

Like A Local Guide
Like A Local Guide is about stepping off the tourist trail and finding cool and cosy spots where locals like to spend their time. We built a website and mobile app to bring insider recommendations from around the world to your fingertips.

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    More plane reading!
    Rich Doran • Sep 10, 2015 • Reply