A 20- something’s travel guide for the best vegetarian food, vintage shops and exhibitions in Paris
When one of my best friends told me she was going to be in Paris in July I couldn’t resist booking a long weekend to visit her and explore one of my favourite cities. I couldn’t have been luckier with the timing because not only was I blessed with gorgeous weather but my trip also coincided with Bastille Day and France winning the World Cup Final. So, it made for an amazing weekend in Paris.
Paris is a city that oozes romance and beauty more than any other European city and it’s a place that’s totally captured my heart. I absolutely adore the French capital for its culture, the effortless Parisian chic style, the magnificently detailed architecture and the fact that there’s a patisserie or boulangerie on almost every street, each as equally wonderful as the last.
I think that Paris is really underrated as a European city as it’s often thought of as a bit stuffy which is a HUGE misconception and whether you’re looking for vintage shopping, quirky cafes or late-night bars, Paris has got everything to offer and more. Here are some of my recommendations for the French capital.
Areas you need to visit
La Marais district
La Marais is an area that’s spread over the 3rd and 4th arrondissement of Paris and its most definitely the trendiest part of the city. This was my first time knowingly visiting this area and now I’d say it’s my favourite part of Paris. I can only describe it as very ‘London Shoreditch’ with lots of street art, vintage shops, proper coffee shops (which are harder to find in Paris) and boutique stores.
Be sure to check out Mad Vintage for inexpensive second-hand fashion, the quirky Igor Stravinsky fountain and surrounding square and the Jewish district at Rue des Rosiers.
I’ve been to Paris a few times and I always have to go to Montmartre. Probably one of the most obviously beautiful parts of the city, Montmartre is the artist’s corner of Paris and the entire area with the beautiful Sacre Couer church and the surrounding cobblestone streets are a photographer’s paradise.
There’s so much to do in this part of the city but one thing that can’t be missed is taking a walk up to the Sacre Couer because it’s hard to beat the view over the city from up there. Any film buffs will recognise this church from the classic film, Amelie starring Audrey Tatou- one of my personal favourite films. (Speaking of which make sure to check out the Cafe des Deux Moulins if you’re in the area as it’s the cafe that Amelie was also filmed in).
I love Montmartre because it’s known as the artists part of Paris and along with the portrait artists in the main square you will find lots of independent galleries and exhibitions here. More about these further on in this post.
Bastille (like the band)
Not just great for shopping, Bastille is packed full of record stores, trendy bars and music venues.
Be sure to check out Supersonic, a live bar with a New York loft-style design, cheap drinks and a party that keeps going until the early hours of the morning at the weekend.
If you’re after somewhere a little more low-key then try Le Berliner. This german bar had a vintage, rustic vibe with squishy armchairs, a Photo Booth and underground music.
Rue Crémeiux (the 12th arrondissement)
You don’t need to look hard in Paris to find gorgeous architecture. However, Rue Cremiux, a quiet Parisian cobblestone street with multi-coloured houses is more beautiful than most and the perfect place to go and take your Instagrams (Come on, you know you want to).
The Latin Quarter
Although touristy, the Latin Quarter has too many beautiful narrow streets, bookstores and cafes to be ignored. One place you can’t miss is Shakespeare and Company. Surely one of the most famous bookshops in the world, I could spend hours pondering over the books in this chaotic jumble of a bookshop located right over the road from the Notre Dame.
Since opening in 1951 Shakespeare and Company has become world-famous however wandering around between the narrow rows of books, you’ll still feel like you’re one of the first people to discover this literary oasis.
If you’re a film lover or if you’re just looking to take a break from walking then the Latin Quarter has lots of Arthouse cinemas such as Le Champo and Le Reflet Medicis for you to escape in for a couple of hours and watch a movie.
On the recommendation of my friend, we went to La Villa Extraordinaire which is a really crazy and quirky immersive exhibition that was on in the Montmartre area. This building had loads of rooms full of interactive and contemporary exhibitions, each totally mental and different from the last. It also has a really nice garden area where you could sit and have a drink. You can find out about other similar events on Eventbrite.
Palais De Tokyo
I’m really annoyed that I didn’t have the time to visit Palais De Tokyo on this trip as it’s somewhere I really wanted to go. This really cool modern art museum has more than most cutting edge contemporary art exhibitions that are fun and edgy. It has a few different exhibitions at a time of which vary every few months and tickets cost $12 with concessions for students. It’s located near the Eiffel Tower so you could stop by if you’re looking to take a break from sightseeing.
Paris lacks the volume of outdoor green spaces that you find in other cities like London however there are still lots of pockets that you can go to and escape the urbanisation of the city.
Every city needs its water source and in Paris that’s the river Seine. If you’re visiting the city in the summer then you can take advantage of the deck chairs and makeshift beach areas set up along by the river or alternatively just take a stroll along in the sun. Also it’s obligatory to grab a friend and spend the early evening by the river with a bottle of wine.
Parc de Belleville
The only other place to rival the view from the Sacre Couer is the one from the Parc de Belleville. Unlike the Sacre Couer this park actually has views of the Eiffel Tower and it’s more of a popular choice with locals rather than tourists ( it’s a bit further out in the 20th Arrondissement) so it’s a much quieter place to go and escape the hustle and bustle.
Jardin des Tuileries
If you head over to the Louvre then you’ll come across the Jardin des Tuileries, a beautifully manicured park with a lake, a few cafes and views of the Eiffel Tower. I picked up some hummus, baguette and french tarts for a makeshift picnic here.
Paris really is the ultimate city destination for foodies and I’m completely enchanted with the french relationship to good food. Parisians understand that there’s more to food than just energy and shopping for food is an essential part of the day. While there are plenty of supermarkets in the city Paris’s streets are also adorned with speciality food stores like fromageries, wine stores, chocolatiers and delicatessens as well as patisseries advertising colourful and ornate pastries and tarts in the windows and boulangeries with bundles of freshly baked sourdough bread. In the mornings there are also lots of markets selling fresh fruits and vegetables too.
While traditional French brasseries and cafes are still the most common restaurants around, being a huge cosmopolitan city it’s possible to get every cuisine you could ever dream of. As I prefer to eat vegetarian I tend to favour the more contemporary eateries in the city however there were no limitations to the number of times I would pop into a boulangerie in one day.
Here are a few of my favourite places from this trip
Soul Kitchen is a charming canteen-style cafe in the heart of Montmartre that serves home-cooked food and great coffee with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options available. It’s a really great place to go for lunch where you can sit on one of the little tables outside and it has a small but ever-changing menu that focuses on seasonal produce with meals for around 13 euros. I had the vegan quinoa salad which came with bread topped with the most fantastically fresh savoury lemon spread on top. They also do really good coffees.
I’m very grateful to my friend for introducing me to traditional french galettes which we ate for dinner at L’Ouest. This fantastic creperie that’s also in Montmartre, has an extensive two-page menu of galettes which are thin savoury crepes made with buckwheat and then topped or filled with ingredients like cheese, vegetables or eggs.
There were lots of vegetarian and Gluten-free options at this place and it’s very affordable with prices starting at 9 euros. I went for the summer galette with tomatoes, ricotta pesto and pine nuts and we had them with a jug of traditional french cidre. We couldn’t resist ordering another crepe each for dessert (and an extra jug of cider) and my one (which was topped with very tart lemon curd) was absolutely phenomenal.
In Paris, a cafe tends to be an eatery so if it’s a brew that you’re after then it’s coffee shops that you want. We stopped off at Motors Coffee, a really great, grungy style cafe not far from Notre Dame. They do proper coffees, teas and cafe snacks like bagels, pancakes and English muffins. They also serve oat milk which brings me great joy.
Patisseries and Bakeries
Staying in the apartment with my friend was great because it meant we had the added bonus that we could cook. Having a kitchen is one reason I always aim to book an apartment or a hostel for city breaks as it’s nice not to be dependent on eating out, especially in Paris when you can just grab some bread from the bakery and some cheese from the shop.
However eating pastries was absolutely an item on my Paris itinerary and I consequently happily gained a pound or two visiting the many patisseries and bakeries in the city. Here are my favourite places I spent my money at this time.
There are a few branches of this artisan bakery and patisserie in Paris, one of which was right over the street from where I was staying with my friend so I went there daily. Not only do they have one of the most aesthetically pleasing patisserie selections I have seen but they have the most fantastic bread selection. They stock all of the usual varieties of artisan bread as well as loads of obscure loaves like a chocolate loaf and pink coloured brioche aux pralines Roses.
It’s a great place to get a good espresso and a buttery Pain au Chocolat in the morning (which were also wonderful) and I got a box of their macarons for the journey home and instantly wished I’d bought an additional box or two as soon as I tasted one.
Odette is a lovely little patisserie that’s tucked away in the Latin Quarter with views of the Notre Dame. This was the first place I stopped when I got off the coach from Paris as I was drawn to its beautiful building and little outdoor seating area. They mainly serve mini choux buns and coffee, of which I had a praline one and a cafe au lait. A couple of these little buns are just perfect as they’re not overwhelming meaning you don’t need any excuses to eat them.
Paris really is a very walkable city. You can easily cover the highlights in a weekend on foot so make sure to bring comfortable footwear.
A couple of apps that were invaluable on this trip were:
Citymapper is a travel app that those in London will be familiar with. You simply plug in your start and end destination and this clever app with give you all the possible routes, be it by walking, metro, bus or taxi as well as approximate travel times and prices.
Thanks to my friend I found out about the fantastic app, Dojo. It operates in Paris as well as London, and it’s something I couldn’t recommend enough downloading if you’re visiting either city. Dojo lists all the best independent cafes, restaurants, gigs and exhibitions in the city with price guides, photos and a brief description. You can filter it by what’s around you or by specific categories like coffee shops, bars or vegetarian food so it’s great if you have dietary requirements. When you’ve found somewhere that you want to go it works with Citymapper to help get you there.
Other useful apps and websites:
- Yandex: Yandex is a good free language translation app that works without internet and allows you to translate by typing, photo or by speech.
- https://en.parisinfo.com The official website of the Paris Tourism Bereau: (As far as tourism websites go, the paris one is really good and it’s a great place to see what events are going on in the city and for eating and drinking recommendations)
- Veilb: If you plan on picking up a city bike in Paris then make sure you download this app. Use the app to find the nearest Velib bike docking stations in Paris and buy a pass to use a bike.
- G7 Taxi: G7 taxi is the main taxi booking app in Paris. You can use the app to book an immediate pickup or in advance for up to 14 days. You can also use Uber.
I hope that you guys found this post useful and that your ready to start planning a long ‘hipster’ weekend in Paris. I really loved Paris this time around as I really saw the city in a new light. I always think there’s something lovely about revisiting somewhere that I’ve been previously because everything has a sense of nostalgia to it and when you’ve already seen the landmarks you can spend time getting to the soul of a place instead.
Of course, there are many more things to do in Paris than what’s on this list (and the great thing about the city is that it’s always changing on a daily basis) but here are a few suggestions to start you off.
I’ll be writing up a Paris coffee guide soon so keep checking back and drop me a message if you have any questions in the meantime.