Le cafeotheque paris

10 Not So Touristy Things To Do In Paris (Part I)

June 11, 2013

10 days left! 9 days left!

This is me counting down the days left before I leave Paris. Aaaaahh! I’m not freaking out, I’m not freaking out…

Today, I would like to offer some insights into Paris, which I think will be most useful for people who are looking for hidden gems in Paris.

This list will be comprised of lesser known locales and digs which I’ve discovered during my time here, as well as some leisurely activities which Parisians are known to partake in.

1) Favorite place to have a REAL cup of coffee.

Paris has a great café culture and a terrible coffee culture.

If you’re a true coffee lover, finding truly good coffee in Paris is not that easy. Parisians don’t care too much about the quality of their coffee, or where it came from or how fresh it is (for goodness sakes, they even think Nespresso is good).

This really surprised me at first. But things are changing now. Slowly. Very slowly. There have been more and more coffee shops popping up over the years that cater more to serious coffee drinkers.

Le cafeotheque paris

If you’re looking for a good coffee shop, I recommend Le Caféothèque (near Hotel de Ville).

This is supposedly where the coffee revolution in Paris began seven years ago. It was opened by Gloria Montenegro, a former Ambassador of Guatemala, and considered to be the doyenne of ‘coffeology.’

le cafeotheque

(Images from Le Caféothèque’s website and facebook page)

Le Caféothèque feels more like the college town coffee shop that I’m used to in the US.

It has a great selection of coffee, mainly from Central and South America. And a few from Africa. I also really like the cozy environment in which you can enjoy your coffee, as well as musical performances. You can also take some classes here on how to make good coffee.

For more places to find good coffee, check out Time Out‘s list of The Best Coffee in Paris.

2) Visit your local market on market day.

Market day is a long running tradition in Paris. And every arrondissement, from the 1st to the 20th, has a market that comes alive only once or twice a week.

Market Day Paris

During market day, certain streets are blocked off and become filled with market stands and throngs of market-goers.

Going to a market day is a dynamic way to get a feel for the local neighborhood. And also, it’s an incredibly cheap way to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables for the week.

Fish at a Parisian market

You’ll also find plenty of fresh seafood, fresh meats, cheeses, jams and a whole assortment of artisanal goods.

There are stands that bring in local produce from surrounding areas, as well as entire markets dedicated to organic produce.

For information on your local market’s where and when: visit the Mairie de Paris’ website and find a complete schedule.

3) Visit the Peniches by the Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand.

Peniches are the long, flat boats that are always found docked along the banks of the Seine river.

Sometimes, they serve as the private residence of a few rich and very lucky people. Other times, they actually serve as restaurants, bars or even music venues.

You can find several of these kinds of peniches near the Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand.

Peniches in Paris

It’s a little out of the way from the center of Paris. But it’s a fantastic place to go if you want to get away from the noisy crowds of tourists.

The vibe is chill and the restaurants cook up delicious dishes at enticing prices.

Peniches in Paris

Right next to the peniches are open air restaurants that provide lounge style seating.

After the sun has set and you’ve finished your food and drinks, you can saunter up to one of the concert peniches, like Le Petit Bain, and check out if any good music is playing that night.

To get there: take Metro line 14 to the Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand stop. Then walk towards the river.

4) Eat good Mexican food.

We have friends here from California who scoff at the idea that there could possibly be any decent mexican food in Paris.

But I’ve found three that are my favorite! And I’m telling you, they are seriously legit…

Itacate Mexican Restaurant In Paris

(Image from Itacate website)

Itacate doesn’t load their tacos with layers of garnish. And I like that because it actually allows you to really savor the flavors of the meat. Their corn tortilla chips are made fresh and their guacamole are made with real avocados.

El Guacamole Mexican Restaurant In Paris

(Image from El Guacamole website)

El Guacamole is my favorite out of all my favorites. Mainly because they have the best menu deals! Apart from the delicious mexican food and tasty margaritas, they also have the best guacamole in town (you can probably guess that from their name).

Candelaria Mexican Restaurant In Paris

Candelaria is the most creative and the most sought after Mexican restaurant in all of Paris. There is always a line of people trailing out the door. And because it’s such a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant, you’ll probably end up being turned away. But when you do finally luck out at trying their food… don’t be surprised if you catch yourself moaning!

5) Drink good beer.

In France, wine has always been the beloved favorite while beer has just been relegated to the corner as the ugly step-child.

But then, some genius finally figured out that for the french to love and accept beer, it has to be given the same gourmand treatment as wine. Meaning that beer must be served in small quantities, in fancy glasses and paired with food.

My favorite place to drink beer in Paris is La Fine Mousse in the Oberkampf area.

la fine mousse paris

La Fine Mousse serves up quite an impressive array of artisanal beers, which have either been brewed locally or have been picked with great care from the international beer front.

La Fine Mousse Paris

(Images by Diane Yoon of Diane Abroad in My Paris: Week 9)

Also, take note: ordering the meat and cheese plate at La Fine Mousse is a quick way to gain a gourmand’s appreciation for beer.

* * *

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully you’ve discovered one or two things that pique your interest.

Coming Up: Part II of 10 Not So Touristy Things To Do In Paris!

Also check out the Paris Mon Amour series for more Paris and France related posts.

12 thoughts on “10 Not So Touristy Things To Do In Paris (Part I)

  1. Luchessa

    Oh great now i want those tacos haahaha

    oh and pls dont freak out, just breath!!
    The hidden gems are amazing. I think each city has them, they just need to be found 🙂

    1. Kareen

      Yeah, I know how much you love Mexico and mexican food!
      Actually, I’m not that freaked out about leaving… which is really surprising to me. In reality, maybe I’m freaked out about how I’m not freaked out enough. Haha.
      Yay for hidden gems! Still waiting to read about the hidden gems of Berlin from Luchessa’s point of view 😉

  2. Emilia

    Great article! I try to live by that advice here at home. Quality, not quantity. Mexican food in Paris? I must try this!

    1. Kareen

      When it comes to alcohol, yes I’ve now gone over to the quality camp. The portions of food here in Paris are much smaller than in the U.S., and I’ve gotten used to it. But I still miss the giant plates of Mexican food that you can find in NC. And bottomless baskets of chips and salsa!!

  3. LittleMissSCB

    Yay!!! Another Paris post. I love these! I live vicariously through your pics hehe. This question may seem like such a cliché but do you eat a lot of wine and cheese there? I imagine myself sitting in a park eating cheese and crackers if I go to Paris 🙂

    Have you always been in to drinking beer? I can’t get myself to drink it. I wish I could though, I always feel like the odd one out drinking scotch when everyone else is drinking beer.

    1. Kareen

      Not a cliché!! People definitely eat more cheese and drink more wine here. I don’t eat that much cheese (because my boyfriend hates cheese and I can never finish a block of cheese on my own). But I’ve gotten into the habit of drinking red wine with my meals.

      I’ve read some studies that suggest drinking wine with your meals helps to keep you slim. Plus, the anti-oxidants from red wine is so beneficial! But I just limit my wine consumption to one (or two) glasses a day, and only drink around three days out of the week.

      I don’t really drink beer anymore, or that much alcohol for that matter. So if I drink beer, I want it to be really good beer!! Scotch?? Wow, you’re a strong one! Haha

  4. Ali

    I’m sure I’m totally limiting myself by just having Versailles on my list of stuff I must see if I ever get to Paris. Which is silly, seeing how Versailles isn’t in Paris. Is it true, French women don’t get fat? Or just that obesity isn’t the problem in France that is in Britain and the U.K.?

    Keep it coming with the travelogue posts. I love them.

    Ali x

    1. Kareen

      I didn’t get to include Versailles on my list of things to do in Paris–but yes, it is an absolute must!!! It’s about a 40 minute train ride out of Paris. But seeing and walking the massive gardens alone is worth it. I myself still have to go back and check out Marie Antoinette’s cottage and go inside the palace (I have an aversion to long lines).

      So, the myth about skinny French women… in Paris… yes, it’s true. A great majority of the people are slim. But outside of Paris, you get a wider range of sizes. But even then, you don’t see the same alarming level of obesity among people here taht you do in US & UK. But apparently, that’s starting to change now with the new generations who frequent fast food places and don’t learn anymore from their parents how to cook and eat properly.

  5. Priya

    Hey! Great post so many cool things I wish I had known this before I went to Paris in April. I am a bit behind on my L.A post – you’re leaving soon right? What area are you staying in? So jealous! x Priya

    1. Kareen

      Hey Priya! Ah, so that’s what Miss P stands for 😉 Cool name… like the feminine version of the car Prius….

      I wish we’d already been in touch when you last came to Paris! Too bad. But it’s just an hour and a half train ride from good ol’ UK so next time you come you can visit these places.

      Yeah, leaving soon. But won’t get to LA til beginning of August. We’re just gonna rent an apartment on AirBNB first and get to know the different areas. Waiting for your next LA post (I read your first and second post to my boyfriend Oliver, we were both quite amused).

  6. Stephanie

    Hey how long were you staying in Paris for? I’m going on exchange in September and am kind of scared of the cliche that they are very snobby and rude..I am perfectly bilingual in english and french so that’ll help probably! 😛
    Your suggestions are going on my to-do list
    thanks 🙂

    1. Kareen

      Hi Stephanie! How excited you must be. I don’t think French people are snobby. They may seem aloof until you get to know them better. Being able to speak French definitely helps 😀 Best of luck to you!


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