Like most tourists visiting Paris for the first time, you’ve done the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame and now you’ve returned a second time, excited to see more of this amazing city without the long queues, and let’s be honest, the tourists.
Paris has so much more to offer than what you’ll find on the free airport landmark maps, so if you’re keen to get away from the over-crowded ticketed attractions and experience something different this time around, here’s what to do:
Choose your hotel: Mama Shelter Paris
Choose your accommodation just outside the busiest parts of the city. You’ll typically pay a little less than the touristy city-centre properties and the city’s metro system is easy enough to navigate that you can get yourself anywhere inexpensively. Located a short walk from metro stations Alexandre Dumas and Gambetta, why not check-in at Mama Shelter Paris?
This very modern hotel offers plenty of design quirks (like the superhero masks on the bedroom lights) and a vibrant, hip feel. The rooms are spacious, the staff are friendly, the WiFi is free and the lifts offer plenty of trivia facts to keep you entertained on the way to and from your room.
Day 1: Discover new sights on foot
While it may seem a bit on the morbid side, take a short walk from Mama Shelter to Cimetière du Père Lachaise, one of the more famed cemeteries in the city. Yes, a cemetery.
Here you’ll find a small handful of tourists scouting out the final resting places of writer Oscar Wild, cabaret singer Edith Piaf, singer Jim Morrison, classical composer Chopin and many other notable names. But you’ll also find a fascinating necropolis (truly a city of the dead) with ornate sculptures and mausoleums.
From there, head up on foot to the brilliantly multicultural Belleville, an area of Paris bursting with artists, students and immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It’s here the above mentioned Piaf sang in a cabaret bar just metres from Belleville metro station at 72 rue de Belleville. Today it’s much easier identified by the red neon lights of Aux Folies, now a busy local cafe. If you’re a fan of Piaf, the small Musée Edith Piaf in nearby Ménilmontant offers plenty to appease your curiosity.
Most days the Belleville Market is a slam-packed sensory overload of mostly fresh produce vendors and a few other market stalls selling the odd bits of clothing, books, etc. You’ll also find what’s rumoured to be the city’s newest hipster hotspot for Paris’ coffee connoisseurs, foodies and lovers of street art.
Belleville’s much photographed rue Dénoyez offers a short street full of graffiti covering everything from the building walls to the rubbish bins and Belleville Brûlerie is said to be thoroughly responsible for bringing quality good coffee to Paris. Additionally, Local Fromagerie Beaufils, a family-run fromagerie has been rated as one of the best cheese shops in Paris.
Lastly, climb up the hill at Parc de Belleville and enjoy a panoramic view of the city that for the most part, only locals know. You’ll find not just the view, but a mosaic platform created by local artists pointing out key monuments on the skyline.
Evenings at the Mama Shelter
Your evenings at Mama Shelter can be enjoyed in the bar with plenty of music and a great wine list (it’s France after all) as well as a casual bite to eat in the pizzeria or á la carte dining at the ground level restaurant. If weather permits, make a booking for the rooftop dining and enjoy a set-price three-course meal above the city street.
Day 2: Explore local art studios and join the locals for a relaxed afternoon
Come morning, it’s typically easiest to overindulge a bit on the Mama Shelter breakfast including all the traditional pastries and crepes you’d expect, as well as some of the usual hot breakfast items, cold meats and of course, the bread and cheese that make France a carb lover’s paradise.
From Mama Shelter much of Paris can be reached by foot, especially if you’re keen to take a stroll and just absorb the surrounding areas and aren’t fussed about getting a bit of exercise.
Art lovers can make the easy walk to Couronnes and find rue de la Mare. What might look like a simple street with a bit of street art is actually loaded with artists’ studios and workshops where you can browse the work of painters, ceramists, and milliners such as Estelle Ramousse at No 64, who’s earned a reputation for creating some quirky and customised hats.
If you do decide to venture into the ever-buzzing city, Berges de Seine (between Musee d’Orsay and Pont de l’Alma), you’ll find what can only be described as a bit of a recreational playground for both young and old. With play areas for children, napping pods which can be pre-booked by the hour for adults as well as a variety of activities always taking place such as yoga classes, food trucks and so much more, there’s also something to be discovered – whether it’s your second or seventh time in Paris.
Have you got any tips for seeing Paris the second time around? Let us know below!