Ah Paris, the city of love – and food and history and fashion and – well, you get the idea. Paris is an amazing choice for a weekend getaway or a city break, simply because you will never run out of things to do.
But if you have a mere weekend in Paris and really want to get a flavour for Parisian life away from the typical tourist trail, check out some of these less-visited spots that we adored when we were there – from foodie recommendations to our favourite bards with amazing views and all the offbeat historical must-sees, this is our guide to Paris if you want to be wowed away from the Louvre and the Arc du Triumphe!
Les Nautes Riverside Bar
The Seine is the bloodstream of Paris, running through the spine of the city. While there are many amazing boat tours of the city seen from the river, a stunning way to spend an evening it riverside at Les Nautes Bar. The perfect place for a sundowner, this spot that is tucked away on the river walkway by the historic port of St-Paul, is a casual but beautiful spot for an evening drink as the city winds down for the day.
The bar building used to be a horse watering place, navigation service, and then for many years a ghost house before being reborn as Les Nautes, a buzzy craft beer and wine spot in the heart of Paris. With a unique view of the Seine and the 17th century facades of Île St-Louis, Les Nautes is a space for catering, relaxation, celebration, meeting and culture for Parisians. We definitely recommend sitting outside at sunset to watch the Parisian life and river pass you by.
Shakespeare and Co.
Calling all bookworms! Visit one of Paris’ quirkiest and most literary spots along the Seine in Paris’ Latin quarter, the famous bookshop, Shakespeare and Co. Named after the bard himself, since opening in 1951, it’s been a meeting place for English-language writers and readers, making it a Left Bank literary institution. The current shop, which was opened by George Whitman in the 50s was named after Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Co. Bookshop that had hosted some of the brightest literary lights of the 20th century, like Allan Ginsburg, Henry Miller and James Baldwin.
The modern shop is a book lover’s dream, full of cosy nooks for disappearing into a book in, shelves bursting with stories and shop cat who guards the staircase (okay, snoozes on the staircase). Full of curios and and literary mementos form the past, it is an absolute must-see - definitely a little more on the tourist trail, but you'll be surrounded by book lovers and we simply couldn't leave it out!
Small and unassuming, you may not find that L’Époque immediately grabs your attention as your stroll by – but perhaps that’s the beauty of it! Frequented mostly by what seemed to be locals, this gorgeous little restaurant look like any typical Parisian bistro – but it’s food outstrips anything on the tourist trail by miles.
Real, traditional French food without all the bells and whistles pulled out for tourists, the menu was small, but what they served they did well – easily the best food we had in Paris. Eating outside allows you to see the hustle and bustle of a typical tiny Parisian street, but eating indoors has a gorgeous intimacy and atmosphere to it -we had the place almost entirely to ourselves and it was super romantic in the evening with the low lighting and small space.
This was an unexpected find for us and is a little off the traditional tourist trail of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. The Pantheon is another great spot if you’re interested in literature or the arts as it’s the final resting place of many of France’s greatest literary, philosophical and scientific minds.
Another must-see in the Latin quarter, this monumental building was built with the intention of outdoing the churches of St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. It houses incredible sculptures and artwork, as well as a very installation of Foucault’s pendulum, which was first installed in 1851 to demonstrate the Earth's rotation and hasn’t stopped moving since its re-installation in 1995.
However, the coolest part of the Pantheon is the crypts beneath the main building. Endless corridors of crypts allow you to visit the tombs of the eminent personalities who shaped France's national identity. A permanent exhibition gives details about the lives and works of those who are buried here, from Voltaire and Rousseau to Alexandre Dumas.
Ready for a totally glam 1920s Parisian dining experience? You better book your table at Brasserie Julien! Genuinely, this is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve eaten in my life, but you’ll definitely want to make a reservation several weeks in advance, because there’s always queues out the door!
A stained-glass ceiling, ornate pillars and facades, old fashioned streetlights and massive mirrors, this place will truly take your breath away. With all the antique touches and artwork everywhere, you’ll feel like you’ve ben transported back in time and it’s definitely worth going.
Where do history and fashion collide? At the Conciergerie! Fashion may not be what immediately comes to mind when you think of the stunning gothic palace turned revolutionary prison, but as Marie Antoinette spent come of her final days there, it also houses a tribute to her in its exhibitions of her clothing, some of her remaining possessions and an exploration of the Kirsten Dunst film that followed her epic rise and fall.
Learn all about the rich history of the building that still maintains its historical kitchens, guards room and hall of soldiers from mediaeval times and follow its journey from a palace that housed France’s royals to a prison that housed the revolutionary court.
A fascinating and sometimes overlooked spot, it’s one of the most informative and well-done historical sites in Paris.