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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
Bouillon Republique.
Bouillon Republique. (Cyril Zannettacci/Agence VU for The Washington Post)
CITY GUIDE

A local’s guide to Paris

Bouillon Republique.
Bouillon Republique. (Cyril Zannettacci/Agence VU for The Washington Post)
  • By Jennifer Padjemi
  • Photos by Cyril Marcilhacy
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Paris is often seen from the outside as a place of love and light — a magical city bathed in romance. This can be true, but Paris is mostly a place of imperfection, a mixture of beauty and chaos. And this is why it’s probably the most charming city in the world.

Far away from the Eiffel Tower, life vibrates from little cafes and restaurants (from fancy to quirky), public art and wide diversity found in few European cities. Show us you love our city as much as we do, and you may even walk away thinking Parisians are actually nice.

Meet Jennifer Padjemi

Jennifer has lived in the Paris region for most of her life. She spent time in Madrid and Birmingham, England, while studying, but she has always come back to the city where she feels truly at home.

Want to get in touch?

Email bytheway@washpost.com
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IN THE ACTION
18th district
In the 18th, you’ll find starkly different atmospheres in a span of a few blocks. There’s Barbès, where large populations of North Africans and sub-Saharan people settled in the 1970s; there’s edgy Pigalle, which became notorious for its sex shops and world-famous as the home of the Moulin Rouge. Nowadays, both areas have been revitalized, but they retain signs of their former lives. There are a lot of Airbnb options, plus boutique hotels and new hostels. Find this neighborhood.
LOW-KEY
20th district
The 20th, where young families come for cheap rents and space, feels as if it’s outside the city — its greenery and charming streets have earned it the nickname “the countryside of Paris.” From the hotel chain Mama Shelter, with its open rooftop during warmer days, to Le D’Artagnan, a budget hostel, there are plenty of sleeping choices. Find this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods

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Eat

BREAKFAST
Du Pain et des Idées
We could save you some reading and simply say that many Parisians regard this little bakery near Place de la République, one of the central meeting points of Paris, as the best in the world. It’s esteemed especially for its range of options. Located in a traditional Haussmannian building, it has a facade that recalls typical bakeries of the 1910s. Inside, you’ll find gilded mirrors and an ornate painted ceiling above the stacks of bread and pastries.
BTW: Don’t leave without trying the mouna, a brioche with orange-blossom flavor.
Du Pain et des Idées, 34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, France
BREAKFAST
Boulangerie Benoît Castel
Among all the breads, cakes and pies, it’s difficult to make a choice at Boulangerie Benoît Castel. Everything is homemade — as you can tell by the scent as you enter the shop. The place has a rustic feel, with long tables, mismatched plates, stacks of wood and two big, old ovens that serve as pure decoration. On the weekends, egg dishes and salads are served family-style on the counter for unlimited brunch. This place is also nice for a weekday breakfast of coffee and croissants — and don’t miss the jam.
BTW: They don’t take reservations. Come early for the weekend brunch.
Boulangerie Benoît Castel, 150 Rue Ménilmontant, 75020 Paris, France
LUNCH
Jah-Jah by Le Tricycle
Whether you’re vegan or just want to spend a meal as one, Jah-Jah is the kind of place that proves plant-based food can shine even in a city laden with butter. Coralie Jouhier and Daqui Gomis, the team behind Le Tricycle, Paris’s first vegan hot dog cart, were inspired by Ital cuisine (the vegan Jamaican diet) for this one. There are “burgers” and junk food along with Instagrammable bowls and smoothies. With tropical and Rastafarian accents, this laid-back place brings a bit of Jamaica to Paris.
BTW: Le Tricycle, originally only a cart, now has a storefront and is only a few blocks away.
Jah-Jah by Le Tricycle, 11 Rue des Petites Écuries 75010 Paris, France
LUNCH
Cafe D’Ici
In the heart of the 18th district’s Goutte d’Or, the most ethnically diverse area of Paris, you’ll find this tiny cafe at the Institute of Islamic Culture, where French and Mediterranean influences inspire plates of couscous, tajine and chorba (a traditional North African soup). It may not look like much from the outside, but inside, the cafe is designed like those of 1970s Barbès, with posters from the golden age of North African singers. A patio is open during the warmer months where you can end your meal with a traditional mint tea.
BTW: While you’re in the area, check the calendar for the latest exhibits at the institute.
Cafe D’Ici, 19 Rue Léon, 75018 Paris, France
DINNER
Bouillon République
Bouillon République is the perfect place to get traditional French food at a great price.The restaurant opened during the pandemic and did delivery before having its big opening in September 2021. It offers the same dishes that made “bouillons” – the name for Paris’s old-school restaurants – famous: steak-fries, eggs-mayo, beef bourguignon and choucroute. Here, you’ll cross paths with groups of colleagues, skaters from Place de la République, couples and large groups of friends.
BTW: If you want a less traditional experience, head to the massive, 300-seat Pigalle location and grab a seat on the balcony.
Bouillon République, 39 Bd du Temple, 75003 Paris, France
DINNER
Gros Bao
The big brother of Petit Bao, Gros Bao opened during the pandemic along the Canal Saint-Martin in a busy area of Paris. Big by its name and size, the red Hong Kong-style cafe is impossible to miss. On the bustling first floor, you can spot the cooks making the famous bao, whose fillings include pulled pork barbecue, and cabbage, mushrooms and carrots. The second floor offers a more intimate experience, with a view facing the canal. Squeeze into a tiny table and grab some dishes to share. Delicacies include chicken wings in garlic sauce, cold noodles, mapo tofu (a specialty from Sichuan cuisine), or the Peking duck paired with a craft beer.
BTW: It would be a shame to leave without tasting the spicy eggplant, which comes with a secret sauce.
Gros Bao, 72 Quai de Jemmapes, 75010, Paris, France
LATE-NIGHT
Dirty Lemon
A good cocktail is always a good idea, but reasonably priced drinks aren’t the easiest to find in Paris. The drinks at Dirty Lemon, run by Paris-based Palestinian chef Ruba Khoury, are neither too fussy nor expensive. The bar offers delicious and delicate cocktails for less than 15 euros, with mezcal, cognac or infused gin for the base and names like “Hot Mamma,” “Britney Spritz,” “Cat Lady” or a “Girl Next Door.” Pair with one of their snacks, such as a special focaccia, breaded halloumi or a simple artichoke, well-seasoned and cooked.
BTW: Don’t sleep on the Dirty fries, which are probably one of the best things you’ll have on your trip to Paris.
Dirty Lemon, 24 Rue de la Folie Méricourt, 75011 Paris, France
LATE-NIGHT
Uma Nota
Here’s the kind of place you go when you crave a sunny vacation without leaving the city: Brazil and Japan united in a brightly painted space. Why those two? Well, it turns out São Paulo has one of the largest Japanese populations outside of Japan. There’s a range of tapas, with Brazilian inspiration and Japanese seasoning, but you can just as easily come for the drinks and be happy. The staff is good at helping you choose something.
BTW: Try the coxinhas de frango (Brazilian chicken croquettes with okra).
Uma Nota, 86 Rue Réaumur, 75002 Paris, France
(Paris illustrator Fiona Poupeau for The Washington Post)
LOCALS THINK YOU SHOULD KNOW
  1. Our transportation system is smelly, and some lines are always crowded — from opening to closing. Avoid Line 13 as much as possible.
  2. If you’ve found an espresso that costs more than 2.50 euros, you’ve paid too much and are probably in a touristy or hipster spot. Real Parisian coffee should be cheap.
  3. Try to say a few words in French, even just “Bonjour” or “Merci.” A little effort can go a long way.
(Paris illustrator Fiona Poupeau for The Washington Post)

Do

Palais de Tokyo
The Palais de Tokyo is the most contemporary museum you can find in Paris. Having originated as a simple museum of modern art, it quickly morphed into a multidisciplinary space, hosting conceptual exhibitions, fashion shows and cultural events. Within its enormous complex, it invites visitors to connect with art playfully and learn about the artists. (There are cultural mediators to help you with that.) That’s not all: There are three restaurants (Les Grands Verres, Monsieur Bleu, Le Ready Made), a gigantic bookstore and a nightclub (Le Yoyo).
BTW: New exhibitions are being installed through late June 2019; check the schedule online to ensure it’s open. When the museum is open, it’s open, until midnight.
Palais de Tokyo, 13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris, France
Un livre et une tasse de thé
The name tells you exactly what to buy at this shop: a book and a cup of tea. And the shop has the perfect reading nook to do just that. Founders Juliette Debrix and Annabelle Chauvet bought an old bookstore and transformed it into a modern place where you can find the best books about social, racial and feminist issues. It’s also a gem for kids, with a whole section made for them. When you enter, be sure to take in the charming atmosphere, with its pastel colors, cakes, drinks and a selection of the best feminist books.
BTW: Subscribe to the newsletter to stay updated with the events, lectures and book signings.
Un livre et une tasse de thé, 36 Rue René Boulanger, 75010 Paris, France
Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées
You may already know the posh Galeries Lafayette Haussmann department store, but Galeries Lafayettes Champs-Elysées is its cooler, younger sister. Think of a classic mall, but a modern version with collaborations with designers. The giant space is divided into different levels: In the basement, there’s a food court with French restaurants offering quick-service menus, beverages and delicacies. On the ground floor, you’ll find the designer collaboration of the month along with beauty products. The second floor displays clothes, bags, shoes and jewelry from famous brands, while the ultra-luxury brands such as Chanel can be found on the third floor. The whole space is perfect for strolling around.
BTW: You can go to the Instagram-famous Citron cafe, but don’t waste $26 on the fake lemon dessert. Other items on the menu are much better and cheaper.
Galeries Lafayettes Champs-Elysées, 60 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris, France
Martin Luther King park
It’s far from the biggest or most well-known park in Paris, but Martin Luther King park (also known as Parc Clichy-Batignolles) is one of the most original. It’s located in the Batignolles village of the 17th arrondissement, which is known for its independent shops and charming bistros. The park is built on an old freight yard, and its architecture is designed to blend nature and the city landscape. It is a mix of a futuristic atmosphere, with new buildings and a skate park, and the right amount of nature, so you feel transported outside the city. Perfect for families or group picnics, Martin Luther King Park is like Central Park with a French touch.
BTW: If you want peace and quiet, keep away from the playground area.
Martin Luther King park, 147 Rue Cardinet, 75017 Paris, France
Le Paris Noir
Kévi Donat created his tours of black Paris to show how black intellectuals and immigration shaped the city. From the haunts of James Baldwin and Alexandre Dumas in the left bank (Panthéon, the starting point, and Saint-Germain-des-Prés) to the more recent immigration hubs in the right (Barbès and Pigalle; begins at le Moulin Rouge), the paths reconnect the main dots of history and the black experience in Paris. Check the website for dates, or contact Donat, via phone or emailing leparisnoir@gmail.com, to schedule if the day you want isn’t available or for a tour in English.
BTW: Find inspiration at Café de Flore, where Baldwin wrote his novel “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”
Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris, France
Jennifer Padjemi
Jennifer has lived in the Paris region for most of her life. She spent time in Madrid and Birmingham, England, while studying, but she has always come back to the city where she feels truly at home.
Cyril Marcilhacy
Cyril is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post and a native Parisian. He loves his city’s cultural diversity and is the co-owner of three cocktail bars in Paris.

CITY GUIDES