Headed to the City of Light and want to get a feel for local living in Paris? Search no more! Read on for some useful tips that’ll have you blending in with the locals in no time.
Rent an Apartment
Because the majority of Parisians live in apartments, you would be remiss if you didn’t stay in an apartment when visiting the city. If you really want to get a feel for what everyday life is like in Paris, the best way to do so is to forego a hotel stay and rent an apartment.
A Parisian apartment stay will help you to quickly acclimate and familiarize yourself with your neighborhood (and possibly your neighbors). Moreover, with a kitchen, you’ll cut down on food costs which is especially important if you’ll be visiting for more than a few days. Not to mention, you’ll learn the ins and outs of using tricky European appliances. But beyond that, when you return to your flat after long days spent sightseeing, chances are that you’ll have a sense that you’re truly returning home more than you likely would if you were returning to a hotel at the end of each day.
Don’t Pad Your Cart
While most Parisians frequent their local outdoor markets on a daily basis, they also patronize grocery stores like this one for household necessities like laundry detergent, for example.
Shopping at stores like this won’t flag you as a foreigner, but if you give in to your American inclinations and pad your grocery cart, you’ll definitely garner odd looks from your fellow shoppers and perhaps a few deep sighs and eye rolls from your cashier as you checkout. As I previously mentioned, Parisians and Europeans in general, typically only buy the groceries that they need for a particular day. So if you want to blend in with the Parisians, follow suit.
Ride the Metro
As an Angeleno, riding the metro is counterintuitive, and it’s usually only something that I do when I travel. What can I say – we Angelenos love our cars! But more than that, we need our cars because L.A. is far from being compact or traffic-free which tacks on a lot of travel time when commuting via public transportation.
But as I said, when I travel to cities like Paris, I do as the locals do and hop on the metro. I’ll be honest – at first, I was a bit intimidated by Paris’ metro system; but I soon got into the swing of things. As long as you remember which stop is near your destination and as long as you know which direction you need to travel in, riding the metro in Paris becomes easy breezy.
As in any city, be alert so that you avoid pickpockets, don’t take pictures of performers on the metro like I did (because they will ask for a tip if they see you snapping their picture), and listen out for your stop to be announced while paying attention to the map provided inside of your metro car. Pretty soon, you’ll be making your way through the metro system like a Parisian pro!
Relax in the Park in the Middle of the Day
The moment I realized that Parisians are truly masters of joie de vivre was when Jave and I visited Tuileries Garden in the middle of a weekday. It must’ve been about 1pm or so local time, and lo and behold, hundreds of Parisians were out relaxing in the park. I’ve never witnessed such leisurely midday lounging in any big city here in the U.S. – ever!
I’m assuming that these Parisians were on their lunch breaks while they were out basking in the sun and enjoying each other’s company. Here in the U.S., most people I know either eat lunch at their desks (like me), go out for a quick bite, or take a short walk before returning to their desks to get back on the grind. But lounging on the grass while reading, napping, or chatting it up?! I have yet to witness this phenomenon at home on such a large scale. In many respects, this being one of them, the French really have us Americans beat in terms of quality of life.
Eat Lots & Lots of Pastries & Baguettes without the Guilt
From what I could tell, there’s no carb counting while in Paris. Parisians eat their baguettes and pastries with abandon. And man, they’re good! Seriously, I quickly adapted to this aspect of the Parisian diet and never went a day without a dose of baguettes. They’re the freshest ever! And while you’re out and about moving through the city like a true Parisian, take a break to rest your feet at a local café where you can rejuvenate with coffee and a pastry.
And there’s never cause to feel guilty about these indulgences as you’ll be burning so many calories with all of the walking you’ll do around the city. It’s no wonder we didn’t see a single obese person in Paris (or in all of France for that matter).
Eat Where the Locals Eat
If you take my advice and rent a flat, you’ll quickly get a sense of the restaurants around you that are popular with the locals. I did my research ahead of time, so I knew that L’As Du Fallafel was a good restaurant near our apartment in Le Marais where we could get a delicious and extremely reasonably priced falafel meal.
There’s another falafel restaurant across from this one, but sadly, there weren’t many people inside and one of the workers was pleading with passersby to come in and dine. We took our cues from the majority of the locals and stuck with L’As Du Fallafel. It didn’t disappoint.
Shop on Rue Montorgueil
If you’re headed to Paris, be sure to check out Rue Montorgueil which spans the 1st and 2nd arrondissements. This street is full of restaurants, cafés, fromageries, bakeries, and so much more.
In fact, La Maison Stohrer, one of Paris’ oldest bakeries, is located on this street, and I can attest that it makes some of the best éclairs and baguettes I’ve ever tasted. Wherever you decide to shop, you’re sure to blend right in with the locals on busy Rue Montorgueil.
Hang Out Along the Canal
I’ll be writing a separate post about Canal Saint-Martin which runs underground between the Bastille and République and runs for 4.5-km through Paris, but the banks of the canal are a popular hangout for Parisians who gather there to catch up with friends and to generally relax. So if you want to have a truly Parisian experience, be sure to find your spot along the canal’s banks as well.