Nine Streets to Visit in Paris
By Caitlin Rodgers
I knew a lot of general facts about Paris before I moved there — it’s home to the Eiffel Tower, neighborhoods are broken up into arrondissements that swirl out from the city center like the shell on a snail’s back, it’s home to millions of people — but how I actually learned the city (its people, the sounds and smells and routines that truly make it Paris) was by walking. You come across so many things that surprise and delight you when traveling by foot — new shops with lovely things to sell, historic moments inscribed on the walls above you, streets so small and narrow they make you feel like the entire city is yours.
Thanks to all of my walking, I can now name quite a number of streets that are a fantastic experience — all for different reasons. Here are a few of my favorites that I always try to visit when I’m in the city and tell friends to see as well.
You come across so many things that surprise and delight you when traveling by foot — new shops with lovely things to sell, historic moments inscribed on the walls above you, streets so small and narrow they make you feel like the entire city is yours.
One of the last market streets in Paris, Rue Montorgueil is lined with cafés, fish vendors, cheese mongers, fruit and vegetable stands, flower shops and a boulangerie or two. Stop for a coffee or a glass of wine at one of the cafés and watch the business of everyday Parisian life stroll by. Among the street’s most famous residents is Stohrer, the oldest pastry shop in Paris, which opened in 1730. Order an éclair and then keep strolling down the way. There’s also a stunning gothic cathedral just around the corner called Saint Eustache. It doesn’t get near the foot traffic that Notre Dame does, so if you’re looking for a little peace and quiet, stop in for a beautiful breather.
Like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, this street was my favorite way to unveil the Eiffel Tower to visiting friends and family. Thanks to the height of the surrounding buildings, you don’t realize you’ve snuck up on the landmark until you turn the corner and voila — there it is! If you’ve ever wondered where models take those photos where they blissfully hop across the street in front of La Tour Eiffel, this is it. My university’s library was located on this street, so I had the privilege of not only taking in the incredible, pinch-me view on a regular basis, but the opportunity to catch more than a couple photo shoots happening there.
Visitors often trek up to the 18th arrondissement to visit the famous artist square that sits in the shadow of Sacre Coeur. And while you will find plenty of artists there, just down the hill sits Rue Lepic, a fantastically curvy (and hilly) street which is lined with shops of local artists. Charming and quiet, it’s also home to the famed Moulin de la Galette restaurant, featured in a famous painting by Renoir. Nestled not too far away is the Hôtel Particulier, a modern take on what the lovely Montmartre neighborhood has to offer. Stop in for a drink or dinner, and you can pretend you’re like Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh, meeting up to hear the latest news from around town.
Visitors often trek up to the 18th arrondissement to visit the famous artist square that sits in the shadow of Sacre Coeur. And while you will find plenty of artists there, just down the hill sits Rue Lepic, a fantastically curvy (and hilly) street which is lined with shops of local artists.
Quai de Jemmapes
If you’re a fan of the movie Amelie, you’ll recognize the bridges on Quai de Jemmapes that cover the Canal Saint Martin right away. A popular spot for locals, there are lots of restaurants and shops nearby to peruse. Or, you can simply rest and watch the world of Paris go by in this fantastic spot.
Rue des Francs-Bourgeois
I know it’s a bold statement, but Rue des Francs-Bourgeois is probably my favorite street in the entire city. In the heart of the Marais, there’s nothing all-too spectacular about it — no monument of great honor, no famous restaurant or shop — but it’s bustling with the charm that typifies Paris. Start in Place des Vosges and then make your way away from the square and down the street. You’ll definitely stop a time or two to gaze into shop windows (Repetto is always a must for me). The street later turns into Rue Rambuteau which will lead you past the modern art museum, Centre Pompidou. I recommend you take a break and grab a crepe from a nearby stand and then watch the crowds in front of the museum.
In lots of places in the city, you can walk down to the river that runs through the middle of Paris and follow it for miles. It’s a favorite place for locals to go and sit, hang out with friends and even have a picnic. I suggest you start near Notre Dame Cathedral and head west toward the Eiffel Tower. You’ll catch some of the cities most well-known landmarks from a different vantage point and watch the lights of the buildings above flit across the river as the sun goes down.
Cour du Commerce Saint-André
Just off the bustling Boulevard Saint Germain des Prés, this tiny, hidden street will transport you back in time. Covered by seemingly medieval cobblestones, it’s home to the city’s first café, Le Procope, as well as a chocolate shop and a few other restaurants. The café opened in 1686 and is full of history including Napoleon’s hat which you can dine next to. Exit onto Rue Saint André des Arts, another street which will make you want to pinch yourself — it feels so completely Parisian as it winds you deeper into the heart of the city.
This one, I have to admit, I’ve never actually visited. I didn’t know about it until after I moved home and I’m hoping to see it on my next visit. You can call it the Notting Hill of Paris because it is uncharacteristically colorful. The typical Haussmann cream and gray buildings that fill the city have been painted over with a remarkable rainbow. Buildings are green, orange, pink and more — such an oddity in a place like Paris that you really have to see it to believe it.
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