Paris, Paris, Paris. The city I could talk about on end, visit a thousand times and still never grow remotely tired of. I do feel as though Paris is my second home. After a total of six vacations here in recent years and one four-month stay, you could say I’ve become pretty accustomed to this place. I love the food, the architecture, the art on display, the stands by the Seine selling all the vintage prints you could ever want, the charming waiters, cobblestone streets and hidden treasures. I do love Paris.
With that said, Paris is also where I experienced some of my toughest days. I do not know Paris from solely a tourist’s point of view – I know what it is like to meet rental requirements as a non-French individual, to deal with bureaucratic procedures in the city, attempt to afford the cost of living, walk to university with a croissant in hand every morning and avoid the odd male in the metro at 07:30 or the rodent scurrying past. Like every other place, Paris is flawed – but I adore it anyway. The reasons I do love Paris so much extend far beyond what first meets the eye; it is not simply the charming, glamorous aspects that keep bringing me here, but the fact that some of my best and worst memories were made here, some that have shaped me – my experience in fashion school, my first apartment, romantic relationships and friendships… the list goes on.
Therefore, many of the places I choose to frequent in the city are not the elegant, touristic spots you might be accustomed to… but I would say they’re even better. People often ask me for my Paris recommendations, and I am stuck between suggesting the aesthetically pleasing and Instagram-worthy spots that generally happen to be touristic locations, or the ones I truly adore. Today, I have decided to compile my all-time favourite places that I always return to when in the city:
L’Art Du Ravioli, Le Marais
Back when I lived in Paris, eating out was a rare activity. Let’s face it – Paris is expensive. In between that €8 cappuccino and €13 sandwich, I had very few savings to spend on a proper meal out, so my friends and I would hunt for good bargains and cheap eateries. And then we came across this one – a small Chinese restaurant that was basically unheard of by any tourist but a truly popular one among Parisians, tucked away nearby the Arts et Metiers metro stop. If you enjoy Chinese cuisine (or more specifically, dim sum) then you must visit this gem. Be warned, it is no fancy looking restaurant, but spending a fiver for 12 delicious dumplings? I’ll choose that any day!
Les Sucettes, Sorbonne
Les Sucettes was a restaurant I discovered last year when craving cheese fondue. My friend and I had explored the Latin Quarter and nearby areas, comparing all worthy deals on the famous Swiss dish, until we came across this one. Again, no glamorous interiors – but a filling and superbly priced fondue, especially when compared to restaurants nearby.
Les Deux Magots, Saint-Germain des Prés
Les Deux Magots is nowhere as good a bargain, but it most certainly remains to be one of my favourite cafes in all of Paris and one I return to almost every time I am there. Sure, the neighbouring Café de Flore is lovely, but I would argue this one is a better option. Saint-Germain is my favourite area in Paris, and I cannot think of a better place to sit and observe the surroundings than this café – which is, by the way, particularly known for the literary icons who used to frequent it. The atmosphere is lively and the sun shines directly on this busy corner, which always alleviates my mood.
Le Dome, Villiers
This Parisian café is situated in Villiers, a mostly residential area that is not a common choice among tourists. I discovered it when living in the neighbourhood and it soon became my favourite destination on a Sunday afternoon, for a multitude of reasons. For starters, Le Dome is situated at a corner, in the top of a street that is widely known for its food market, and nearby Parc Monceau. The bustling surroundings contrast with the quiet residential streets nearby, which is exactly what I needed when craving a more upbeat environment yet did not feel like venturing outside of the area. The amazing hot chocolate and friendly waiters are why I keep returning nowadays though, and why I would advise that anyone follows suit.
I have recently chosen to invest in some quality vintage pieces and shop less fast fashion – both for the sake of sustainability and in order to own unique pieces. Malta does not boast many vintage stores, so I love to stock up on good pieces when in Paris. My favourite vintage shop is the Kilo Shop, one I actually discovered only recently, where you are bound to find a variety of special pieces for an extremely cheap price. Just two weeks ago, I purchased a crisp white shirt, two gorgeous neckerchiefs and a lace top for €20. My second favourite is Mad Vintage, which is not as cheap but it is far more likely that you will find old designer pieces here, for prices that are far cheaper than they once were.
Shakespeare & Co.
Ah yes, the popular tourist destination among all bookworms. This one just does not get old and will forever be a pitstop for me when nearby. Besides the wide variety of books written in English, I adore the creative minds I always seem to encounter here, the scent of old books and the sound of wood creaking beneath your feet. The library upstairs is just a bonus!
Stands by the Seine
The stands opposite Shakespeare & Co. are where you are bound to find unique treasures. I will never not frequent this area when in Paris, generally stocking up on old French books and newspapers, art prints you might not find elsewhere and vintage magazines.