One of my favorite things about living in Europe was how fast you could get to another country. A long weekend in Ireland? A city break in Barcelona? That’s something we’d do regularly – not just because everything is so close to each other, but also because it is so easy to get to a different country, with the amount of budget airlines that are covering even smaller cities all over Europe. And that’s another thing: thanks to the large number of airlines, trains and buses that connect European countries these days, you can travel on the cheap.
One of my favorite weekend trips to take from England was going to Paris. There are dozens of daily flights from London to Paris, but great deals can be found no matter if you’re taking a flight from London, from Manchester or a flight from Edinburgh to Paris.
Paris est toujours une bonne idée – Paris is always a good idea, Audrey Hepburn famously said, and I couldn’t agree more. I never got tired of our weekends in this stunning city, Saturday mornings with cheese and baguette picnics in Jardin d’ Luxembourg, and afternoon eclairs from patisserie L’Éclair De Génie, where you find, undoubtedly, the best eclairs in all of Paris. Strolls along the Seine, seeing new art at the Centre Pompidou art center, meandering through the streets of Montmartre, ending the day with a glass of wine at the Le Baron Rouge wine bar… I could do it all over and over again, but I also made it a point to discover something new on each visit to one of my favorite cities in Europe.
You all know about the touristy stuff in Paris, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and Notre Dame, the Champs-Élysées and the Arc d’Triomphe. So today I wanted to share my top five off-the-beaten path things to experience in Paris – from flea markets to street art to extraordinary city parks:
1 Canal St Martin
What the Seine is tourists, Canal St Martin is to locals. This 4.5km long canal, which winds its way through Paris northwest of the Seine River, is a favorite with Parisians who you can see sitting along the edge, enjoying a chat and a bottle of wine. Join them – a good place to start your canal walk is La Villette Park. Closest metro stations: Porte De Martin on the 5 and Corentin Cariou on the 2.
2 La Promenade Plantée
What the High Line is to New York, La Promenade Plantée is to Paris: a 4.7 kilometer long elevated green space, which was created, just like the High Line Park in Manhattan, on an abandoned railway line. If you are wondering which one came first: it was the Promenade Plantee, and the railroad that it is set on is the disused 19th-century Vincennes railway viaduct. The park offers a unique aerial vantage point on Paris. Closest metro station: Bastille on the 1, 5 and 8 lines – Walk to the staircase south of Place de la Bastille on Rue de Lyon.
This up-and-coming neighborhood is known for its multi-cultural feel and the colorful street art. Here you find Chinese grocery stores right next to African shops and French cafes. You’ll notice that the neighborhood is grittier than most of Paris’ picture-perfect neighborhoods and get to know a side of Paris only very tourists get to know. If you’re into street art, don’t miss Rue Denoyez. Closest metro station: Belleville on the 2 and 11 lines.
4 Les Puces (Saint-Ouen Flea Market)
Officically named Saint-Ouen Flea Market, among Parisians, the city’s largest flea market is known simply as Les Puces, which translates to ‘The Fleas’. The flea market, which takes place every weekend, is with over 2,500 market stalls the largest antiques market in the world and sees between 120,000 and 180,000 visitors every week. Treasure hunters, vintage lovers and souvenir shoppers can’t miss a visit to this market. Closest metro stations: Porte de Clignancourt on the 4, Garibaldi on the 13, or take the 85 bus right into the middle of it all.
5 Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a giant park in northeast Paris, just north of Bellevlle. It is so much more than just your regular city park, with stunning landscape design and sights that include a Roman Pavilion (Temple De La Sibylle), a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel, concrete cliffs and a man-made lake. Plus: incredible views over Paris. Bring a picnic, or head to Rosa Bonheur, a bar inside the park that has a gorgeous terrace. Closest metro station: Buttes Chaumont or Botzaris on the 7B