The first time I went to Paris, I was disappointed. My expectations were high and although the city was beautiful, I just didn’t get the hype. Shortly after my first trip I learned this was a common phenomenon called the ‘Paris Syndrome’ where the city doesn’t live up to the fairytale that many envision it to be. After my first visit, I wasn’t ready to give up on Paris. So on my most recent trip to the city, I choose to live a bit more like a local, travel a bit slower, and embrace many of the best non-touristy things to do in Paris.
And I am happy to report that I now fully understand the Paris hype.
There are plenty of touristy must-sees in Paris and they shouldn’t be discounted. But if you want to stay and eat local in Paris for a weekend and experience Paris through the eyes of a local, then this weekend in Paris itinerary is for you.
The Highlights: A Weekend in Paris Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Paris and have a seafood lunch at Clamato. Wander around and observe local life in the 11th arrondissement and Le Marais. Have a glass of Le Barav and dinner at Le Saint Sebastian.
Day 2: Get up early and grab pastries from Tapisserie to go and eat them in the park at Le Place des Vosges. Either walk or take the metro to Montmartre and wander the dreamy back alleyways. Stop at Montmartre Cemetery and head back to the 13th for lunch at Le Baron Rouge. Grab a glass of wine at Pur Vin or Septime Cave and have dinner at Le Mary Celeste.
Day 3 : Take a morning walk along the Seine stopping at Notre Dame, the Louvre, and Jardin des Tuileries along the way. Have lunch at a French bistro and stop by the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero for the best viewpoints before heading home.
Non-touristy things to do in Paris
Skip Ahead To...
- Where to stay like a local in Paris: 11th arrondissement
- Eat your way through the city at the best non-touristy restaurants in Paris
- Explore the best Paris neighbourhoods
- Visit the best wine bars in Paris
- Take a long walk along the Seine River
- Have a pastry in the sun at Place des Vosges
- Take a walk through Montmartre cemetery
- Eat at a traditional French bistro
Where to stay like a local in Paris: 11th Arrondissement
If you’re looking to base yourself in a non-touristy Parisian neighbourhood, the 11th Arrondissement is the perfect spot. Here you can stay in one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in Paris and you’re only a short walk away from popular Le Marais. The 11th is full of some the best local bars and restaurants in the city, including Michelin-famous Septime.
I recommend staying at Hotel Exquis by Elegancia which may not have had a view of the Eiffel Tower, but it a fantastic affordable and located in the midst of all the coolest things to do in the 11th Arrondissement.
Eat your way through the city at the best non-touristy restaurants in Paris
If you’re looking for a foodie’s guide to Paris, you’ve come to the right place. One of the best non-touristy things to do in Paris is eat at local spots, but it’s often hard to know where to go. Here’s some of my favourite places to eat in Paris:
Tapisserie: A great spot for French patisserie in the 11th, this little shop is beautiful and they make the best pastries. I suggest taking one or two to go with a coffee and have breakfast in the sun.
Le Mary Celeste: Wine, cocktails and small plates. This Le Marais spot is popular with locals and serves delicious trendy food and drinks in a really fun atmosphere. Reservations are recommended.
Clamato: Located next door, this super popular seafood spot it shares owners with Michelin-star-winner Septime. The seafood here is amazing and it’s easily one of my favourite spots in Paris. Clamato doesn’t take reservations, but you can stop by and put your name on the list and grab a glass of wine across the street at Septime la Cave while you wait.
Le Baron Rouge: A truly Parisian experience in every way, weekend lunch at Le Baron Rouge is a bit chaotic, but a whole lot of fun. This tiny hole-in-the-wall bistro serves some of the best oysters in the city but make sure you get there early because they sell out quick. In the case they are out of oysters, they serve a variety of bistro-style small plates and carafes of delicious French wine.
Le Saint Sebastien: One of my very favourite dinner spots in Paris, Le Saint Sebastien uses seasonal ingredients and imaginative techniques to create delicious dishes. And they have a fantastic natural wine selection. Reservations are recommended, but you can drop in at the bar.
Les Enfants du Marché: A must-go spot for Sunday brunch, it looks like a typical street food spot but the food is top-notch. With a rotating blackboard of daily dishes you never know what to expect, but it is always fantastic.
Explore the best Paris neighbourhoods
Away from the craziness of the Eiffel Tower, you’ll find some of Paris’ coziest neighbourhoods where local life unfolds. Each with their own distinctive vibe, here’s my favourite neighbourhoods in Paris:
Earlier in this guide I suggested you stay in the 11th Arrondissement. Not only is affordable, but it is just really raw and cool. I always prefer an imperfect local neighbourhood to perfectly refined one, so it you’re like me, you’ll love the 11th. It’s filled with some of the cities best hole-in-the-wall bistros, wine bars, vintage stores, and natural wine bottle shops.
Often coined the “Soho” of Paris, Le Marais isn’t off-the-beaten-path or secretive, but wander away from the most touristy core near the Seine and north toward the République metro stop and you’ll witness local life as it exists in this posh Parisian neighbourhood. The neighbourhood is beautiful to roam around in but scroll down to the bottom of this guide and you’ll notice most of my food recommendations can be found around here.
I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t Montmartre really touristy? Paris of this area are buzzing with tourists but wander a bit off the beaten path and you’re have entire streets to yourself. The streets immediately around Sacre-Coeur are beautiful but they are catering toward tourists. However, if you head a bit west of the iconic church, you’ll find picturesque local streets with tiny bistros and cafes that look like they are part of a movie set. The best thing to do here is just wandering the zig-zagging streets and seeing what you stumble upon.
Visit the best wine bars in Paris
If you’re looking for the best natural wine bars in Paris, I’ve got you covered. Here’s all my favourite spots to drink wine in Paris:
Septime la Cave: An easy favourite for me, this tiny spot has an amazing bottle selection and fun wines by the glass. They also serve really delicious small plates with classic bistro items like foie gras.
Pur Vin: Amazing by-the-glass selection in this tiny shop and the owners are very knowledgable about wine.
Le Collier de la Reine: You might be tempted to have a drink at the beautiful upstairs bar, but ask the staff if you can go downstairs into the basement wine cave. Here they have an amazing bottle selection and the space is really cool.
Le Mary Celeste: A great place for natural wine, this local favourite also for really fun cocktails in a trendy setting.
Le Barav: If you’re looking for an idyllic wine terrace with a great bottle selection, this spot in Le Marais is perfect for a pre-dinner snack and drink in the sun.
Take a long walk along the Seine River
You might be tempted to skip touristy spots like the Seine or the Louvre on your trip to Paris, but a walk along the banks of the river is a must-do on any trip to Paris if you ask me.
If you’re looking to spend a sunny afternoon checking off the most touristy spots, start from Notre Dame and walk along the banks of the Seine all the way to the Eiffel Tower. Along the way you can stop at the grounds of the Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries. And cross over at Pont Alexandre III on your way to the Eiffel Tower. Just take it all in – you are in Paris, after all.
The walk takes a couple hours, and then you can hop on the metro back to the east side of the city for dinner and wine.
Have a pastry in the sun at Place des Vosges
Forget sitting under the Eiffel Tower. Instead, Places des Vosges is a beautiful square tucked away in Le Marais and it is the perfect place to see what a morning looks like for Parisians in the city. Bring along a pasty (I love the ones from Tapisserie), sit on a park bench, and just enjoy the beauty of the city.
Take a walk through Montmartre cemetery
Another one of my favourite non-touristy things to do in Paris is to visit Montmartre Cemetery. This beautiful cemetery features over 20,000 burial plots in the city centre, and is home to around 50 city-dwelling cats. If you’re a cat-lover like me, it’s a super fun and beautiful stop on any non-touristy weekend in Paris itinerary.
Eat at a traditional French bistro
Having a French bistro lunch is a must on any Paris itinerary. And while there are no shortage of French bistros in Paris, but it can be hard to know where to go. Here’s a few non-touristy Paris bistros to add to your list;
- Le Baron Rouge
- Le Colvert
- Les Papilles
- Bistrot Paul Bert