10 Fabulous Experiences You Need To Have In Paris

I love Paris.

I love wandering aimlessly through the Latin Quarter. I love breakfast in Montmartre. I love picnics and drinking wine sitting by the Seine at night. I love exploring the arrondissements far from the tourist grind.

Paris is so much more than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe, although I do love them all.

Cafe in paris

Paris is a city that needs to be experienced. Rather than racing headfirst on a sprint through the monuments, slow down, stroll and breathe in this glorious city.

Instead of waiting in line for 3 or 4 hours to go up the Eiffel Tower or walking through the human crush on the Champs Elysees, both of which are time vampires and will burn valuable hours of your time in Paris, leave the tourist trail and try some of these options for a completely different and totally fabulous experiences in Paris.

Participate In Café Life.

cafe paris marais

Wander down any street that sits away from the tourist zones so that you can have a more authentic experience. Look for a café with no tourists, but with locals sitting there instead (they are literally on every street, so not hard to find), sit outside and enjoy a Parisian breakfast. Order a café au lait and a brioche or a croissant, and watch the world go by or read a book or newspaper. Breathe in Paris and for just a moment imagine that you live here, and this is your life!

 breakfast in paris

Read A Book In Place Des Vosges

Take some time out from the madness of the city and duck into the beautiful Place Des Vosges with a book. You will be surrounded by French families, French workers on their lunch breaks, friends and lovers takin time out from their day to enjoy this lovely square.

Lie in the grass or sit under the trees on a bench, either way relax and soak up this quintessentially Parisian experience.

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Shop For A Picnic On Rue Cler

The French truly appreciate le pique – nique, maybe more than any other people. Rue Cler is a food shopping street in the beautiful 7th arrondissement, where you find bread, meats, cheeses, fruits, wines – everything you need for a dinner party or brunch, or the perfect picnic.

rue cler paris fromagerie

If you tell the vendors that you are shopping for a picnic they will get involved and help you pair the perfect cheeses (one hard, one soft) with your choice of cold meat. They will choose a perfect wine, the right bread, the right fruits. On my most recent picnic shopping adventure on Rue Cler in each shop I went into the sales people wanted to see what was in my shopping bag, what I had chosen so far, and then would get into big discussions about what would be the perfect choice to go with it. It was hilarious and fun and wonderful. In one store they refused to sell me a baguette because they said theirs was inferior and would ruin the picnic! They told me to buy my baguette at the boulangerie down the street where the bread was much better. I can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed the whole process! And we had the most perfect picnic ever.

Related Post: How To Plan The Perfect Picnic In Paris

Have An Evening Picnic At Champs De Mars

picnic in paris

Now that you have bought your picnic items, head over to the Champ de Mars, a long narrow park at the foot of the Eiffel. If you plan it right you can get there and get settled in in time for the tower to light up. I always bring a table cloth and paper plates from home so that everything is lovely. I promise you, if you take the time to shop for a picnic and find yourself stretched out in the grass under the Eiffel with a glass of champagne in your hand as the tower lights up, you will be loving life and enjoying a slice of Paris that most tourists miss.

eiffel tower picnic

eiffle tower at night

Wander The Seine At Night.

To truly appreciate the beauty of the lights that begot Paris the appellation “City of Lights” you need to actually go out and see them. Walking along the Seine at night you will be overwhelmed at the beauty of Paris all over again. Sit on the bridges and take in the stunning views of the river lit up on either side, and the bateaux making their way through the water.

Seine at night

Rather than taking a dinner cruise, where you are either looking at your food and your companions and missing the view, or neglecting your meal and your companions to take in the view, just walk. You will see French couples smooching under the stars or enjoying a glass of wine with their legs dangling over the river walls. Others will be walking home from dinner, arm in arm. Paris is exquisite at night – make sure you go walk it, even in the rain.

Paris Hotel de Ville at night

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Explore Canal St Martin

Canal Saint Martin Paris

Canal Saint Martin Paris

From Place de Republique at the top end of le Marais, walk a couple of city blocks to the fabulous Canal Saint Martin. This 4.5 kilometer waterway has become a super vibey, cool area, lined with shabby chic shops and cafes. It is trendy but not touristy, the people you will see are Parisians going about their daily lives.

HP Commission

Once a working class area, Canal Saint Martin has evolved over the past 5 years into one of the coolest areas in Paris. Stop for lunch at one of the cafes, walk up and down all the little streets and be blown away by the gorgeous boutiques that you find tucked away far from the main roads. It is easy to lose yourself for an afternoon at Canal St Martin, and the experience is quintessentially Parisienne.

Canal Saint Martin Paris

Canal Saint Martin Paris

Have Dinner In The Marais

The Marais is one of my absolute favorite parts of Paris. Wander up to Parc de Temple and you will find yourself far from the tourist crowds, in a world that is distinctly Parisian. There are endless outdoor cafes and bistros, where you will sit shoulder to shoulder with locals going about their normal lives. Which, of course, is what makes it fabulous! You won’t see bottles of ketchup on the table and the menus probably won’t have any English, but the food will be amazing and the experience unforgettable.

cafe Marais paris

Take time to watch the locals. Parisians put their phones away and actually look at each other and talk. It’s just fantastic. I love watching the men out with their significant other (or maybe just a date). Unlike men in America the Frenchies’ eyes aren’t scouting around to see what else is out there, instead they look at and interact with the woman they are with. It is intoxicating to watch. In fact the last few times I have been to Paris both alone and with friends and my tour groups I have made it a point to tell them to watch. It doesn’t seem to matter where in Paris we are, the story is beautifully the same.

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 Explore new Arrondissements

The Paris Metro is super easy to use and is super efficient. For next to no cost at all you can open up the entire city to yourself and buzz around everywhere. Choose an outlying/higher numbered arrondissement on the map, jump on the metro and go explore! Paris is full of endless fantastic places to stumble upon.

Pigalle Paris

Pigalle, 9th arr.

Earlier this year I accidentally discovered the 20th, I recently visited friends who live in the 10th, a few years back I went to visit a pro makeup store in the 15th. Every time I find myself in a new part of Paris, a city I have been to too many times to count, I am awestruck all over again. Paris is like an onion with never ending layers to peel back. The more you explore, the more you will fall in love with this city, and I truly believe the best of Paris lies far from the tourist areas.

As you explore the different arrondissements you will find little shopping streets, courtyards and squares, delicious little pieces of history that the masses will never venture out to find.

Pigalle Paris

You are not likely to be disappointed if you venture away from the main tourist spots!

If the Metro feels too daunting take advantage of Uber. Uber is quite inexpensive in Paris and there are drivers everywhere.

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Shop A Flea Market

Perhaps the most famous flea market in Paris is Les Puces de Saint Ouen, know to everyone as Les Puces (the fleas). Les Puces is the largest antique market in the world and gets up to 180,000 people coming to browse per weekend.

Easy to find, Les Puces is situated in one of the poorer parts of the 18th arrondissement, metro stop Porte de Clignancourt on Line 4. Hilariously this is Fox News’ “no go zone” where they say police won’t go, but it’s actually a bustling market town!

The market is open on Saturdays and Sundays as well as Monday mornings. The best time to go is on a weekend morning. Have a coffee, watch everyone arrive and wander around. Chances are you won’t be shopping for antiques to ship home but you can find really cool souvenirs. A fantastic, low cost souvenir is the antique postcard. They average at 1 euro each and make for wonderful keepsakes.

As with any crowded place you need to hang on to your handbag and beware of pickpockets. The markets are huge so you may want to download a map of the markets before you go.

Make A Movie Tour 

So many amazing movies have been made and set in Paris. Rather than burn hours waiting in lines to see the main tourist sites, make a list of places from your favorite movies and go on a movie tour.

Louvre at night

Louvre at night

Paris is an easy city to find your way around, the metro and Uber making everything accessible to you. I guarantee you you will have far more fun exploring the streets where your favorite movies happened than waiting hours to go up the Eiffel! To get you started you could go to the pyramid at the Louvre from The da Vinci Code, Montmartre and Canal Saint Martin from Amelie, and if you want to find the steps where Hemingway picks up Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris, head past the Pantheon up Rue de la Montaigne to the church of St Genevieve, and walk around the back. Maybe Hemingway will come find you too!

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How To Plan The Perfect Picnic In Paris

Eiffel Tower at night

Let’s talk about picnics. I love picnics. And I love Paris. And when I’m in Paris I love to have picnics. It just so happens that Parisians enjoy le pique-nique too. I love seeing the locals sitting on the banks of the Seine, taking in the view with a bottle of wine and some snacks, or picnicking in one of the lovely little parks around this beautiful city.

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Sometimes we’ve even had picnics in the pouring rain, sitting on the floor of our apartment with the ceiling to floor windows open wide and the still staggering views of the city taking our breath away.

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It’s fun to have an impromptu picnic in Paris, and a quick run through Monoprix can have you completely sorted in just a few minutes. You can even rent a bottle and fill it with vin rouge or maybe a rosé for a mere €2.50 if you don’t want to spend €7 on a bottle of wine!

Monoprix wine dispenser Monoprix wine machine

I’m obsessed with these machines and the cool looking bottles! As if I didn’t want to run away to Paris anyway…

I’ve done many last minute Monoprix picnics in Paris over the years, and loved them all, but today I want to tell you about the perfect picnic in Paris.

How To Plan The Perfect Picnic In Paris


In the 7th arrondissement there is a wonderful little food shopping street called Rue Cler. This is not only one of the best market streets in Paris (in my opinion anyway), but it is also an authentic market street, much loved by local Parisians and relatively unknown to the bulk of the 30 million tourists who make their way to the City of Lights each year. Rue Cler is full of specialty food shops and lovely cafés. It is mostly a pedestrian street, freeing you to wander aimlessly from side to side, taking your time to look in any store that takes your eye, when it takes your eye.

Rue Cler, Paris

If you rent an apartment in the 7th, a daily wander to Rue Cler would be magnifique. I’m actually thinking about renting an apartment in the 7th next time I go, so I’m just projecting my shopping plans on you right now..

Anyway, back to the picnic. I had this particular picnic in mind before leaving home on this trip, so packed a red and white checkered table cloth (clichéd, I know, but it was so worth it!), some paper plates, paper cups (because I couldn’t find my plastic champagne glasses. A touch gauche, but who cares?) and matching napkins, along with a Vera Bradley Havana Rose Market Tote bag that I could put everything in and walk around still looking chic.

We headed over to Rue Cler to buy our picnic provisions, and it was not only fabulous and fun, but it was also such an experience in and of itself. When I travel its always the experience that I am craving. Whether you are shopping on Rue Cler for a dinner party, lunch, or in this case a picnic, make a point of telling each vendor what the event is that you are shopping for. They will help you with pairings, and make everything so much more fun!

The perfect Parisian picnic has to have some charcuterie meats, some cheese, fruit, wine and of course a baguette. I like to start the shopping process with the charcuterie meats.

Rue Cler Charcuterie

I went to Charcuterie Jeusselin first and was looking at their outdoor stand at different canapés they had on offer. I told the guy behind the counter I was shopping for a picnic for two, and he threw his hands in the air, canceled everything I had asked for, and said no, it must – absolutely must be a small quiche. It was hilarious! Then he came inside the store and talked to his counterpart, explained that there was a picnic happening and that there needed to be a few slices of cold meat for the picnic. They went back and forth at length deciding what would go best with the quiche, then decided on a few slices of white ham.

Rue Cler Fromagerie

The next stop was a couple of doors down at the Fromagerie. I wanted one hard cheese and one soft cheese, told the man behind the counter that it was for a picnic and asked his advice. He wanted to know what I had bought so far, and then both the fellows working in the store dove headfirst into a huge conversation about which 2 cheeses it should be. There was much gesticulating, chin rubbing, deep thought, passing me samples and further discussing the picnic and its cheeses, “because Madam, it must be perfect!”

I saw they had baguettes in the store so asked for one of those as well, at which they threw their four hands in the air and said NON! You must get your baguette from Ronde des Pains down the street on the corner of Rue Champs du Mars. No question – the picnic would be a disaster if I bought the wrong bread!

See what I mean about the experience?? I was having the most fun ever! Our picnic was tiny but the shopping experience was huge.

Quiche, ham and cheeses bought I crossed the street to NYSA Vins et Spiriteux to buy some champagne. I told the lady it was for a picnic, and the whole crazy fabulous routine started over! She looked at everything I had bought so far, was enraptured with the cheese selection, and immediately chose the most perfect champagne to go with it all. It wasn’t the most expensive, nor was it the 4th most expensive, instead she told me about the notes in the champagne that would sing when paired with the items purchased so far. She was absolutely right too!

Rue Cler Les Floralies

Next up the flower shop. Why not have some gorgeous roses to go with this affair? At Les Floralies they asked if the roses were for a gift. I said no, they were for a picnic to make it look pretty. Ah! they said. Then your roses must be wrapped just so, to coordinate with your picnic plates and look just right. The picnic must be perfect!

The last two stops were for the baguette and then across the street to Top Halles for some fruit and we were ready to go.

With the perfect picnic purchased, and it wasn’t expensive at all, it was time for Uber to take us to our picnic spot. We could have walked but I had visions of the quiche getting broken, so we caught a ride to the Champs de Mars.

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Eiffel Tower at night

I absolutely love evening picnics at the base of the Eiffel Tower. You want to sit far enough back that you can take in the entire view, and you want to time it so that you arrive just before the tower lights up. At the top of each hour the sparkling lights go off for 5 or 10 minutes.

So here is the mini picnic that was the source of so much fun:

picnic in paris

The quiche was still piping hot, and we got there right before the sun went down.

Every single thing about buying a picnic on Rue Cler and then having your picnic at the Eiffel Tower is just amazing.

paris picnic

We were surrounded by Parisians doing the same thing, although it seemed that most of them just had a bottle of wine and some potato chips.

No one was drunk, no one was badly behaved, everyone was just enjoying the view and the soft, balmy night.

Eiffel Tower picnic at night

Everywhere we went in Paris women were wearing this Adidas shoe. I bought this pair on Rue des Rosiers in the Marais because I wanted to wander Paris in them too. They are substantially cheaper at home on Zappos.com, so I am ordering a second pair (cream and white) when I get home.

Eiffel Tower picnic at night

Eiffel Tower at night

I hope that if you are in Paris you will take the time to at least wander along Rue Cler, and even if it’s just a bottle of wine and some chips, take the time to have yourself a picnic with a view.