Get the lowdown on four vibrant Paris neighbourhoods that are full of exciting nooks, but only if you know where to look.
For neo-hipsters: Bassin de la Villette
The buzz has moved upstream as Canal Saint-Martin saw more and more tourists. There’s no better evidence of this than at Grand Marché Stalingrad, a magnificent building where tax collectors used to be stationed, collecting duty on goods entering Paris. Today, it has morphed into a hip all-in-one dining and retail venue boasting music events and exhibitions.
Stop at the 19th arrondissement’s very own microbrewery Paname Brewing Company for a pint (or two) of artisanal beer. L’Oeil de Biche, a pale ale, is a great pick. If beer is not your thing, get your cup of third-wave coffee paired with organic treats lovingly prepared by Aaron and crew at Kaffee bar 19.
Emmaüs Défi at 104 is worth a look if you are into vintage clothes and wares. Our favourite thing to do around here? Round up some friends and grab a few bottles of wine for an evening picnic by the canal.
Nearest Metro station: Jaurès
For architecture buffs: Opéra
Café Jacquemart-André is a stunning tea room in a private museum, its walls adorned with giant 18th-century Flemish tapestries. The beautiful interiors aside, the cakes are absolutely delectable – a great place to go for your afternoon tea in the City of Light.
The Apple Store at Opéra is the perfect blend of minimalism and old-world grandeur in a gorgeously-restored bank, worth heading to even if you aren’t buying tech gadgets. Don’t forget to sneak a peek at the basement which used to be the bank vault.
As imposing as the headquarters of Société Générale looks, it’s ok to step inside this Belle Époque masterpiece by Jacques Hermant for a quick look even if you don’t bank with them.
The Galeries Lafayette needs no introduction with its Art Nouveau stained glass cupola. While you are there, head to Galeries Lafayette Gourmet to sample the amazing terrine by award-winning charcuterie Maison Verot. If you are lucky, there might be some pâté de cochon de la tête aux pieds (pork terrine “from head to feet”) left.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find another Starbucks as spectacular as the one here elsewhere. Its jaw-droppingly magnificent 19th-century ceiling murals alone are well worth the price of your Frappuccino.
And if you are in the area on a Sunday, stop by Kunitoraya, a Japanese udon restaurant housed in an elegant 19th-century French bistro, that transforms into a secret gypsy jazz bar every Sunday from 4.30-7.30pm.
Nearest Metro station: Opéra
For edible souvenir connoisseurs: Le Marais
La Chambre aux Confitures is Lise Bienaimé’s tribute to her great-grandfather who used to make jams at his speciality food store. Not sure which jam to get? You can sample their wares to your heart’s delight. Try the rhubarb & ginger or blackcurrant & violet.
The vast array of tea at Mariage Frères is probably a curse for indecisive shoppers like myself. What’s worse, I’ve also fallen victim to their clever marketing ploy; I can’t resist getting the Paris-Singapore blend every time I step into their flagship boutique.
If all that food souvenir shopping has made you peckish, get a pita sandwich to go from Miznon and enjoy it at the nearby hidden garden Jardin des Rosiers-Joseph Migneret. Or hit up Le Mary Celeste for tasty, original small plates paired with equally original cocktails by head barman Hyacinthe.
Down the street from popular multi-concept store Merci, Maison Plisson is an elegant one-stop shop full of lovely French artisanal ingredients (with prices to match) to fill your luggage with. Their dishcloths aren’t too shabby as gifts either.
Nearest Metro station: Saint-Paul
For apéro lovers: Gare de l’Est
In France, apéro (evening drinks) o’clock typically starts after 5pm. Start at Café A’s hidden courtyard (main photo) located in an 18th-century former convent.
Then, hop over to the Armurerie de la Gare de l’Est which stocks a good selection of Opinel knives, including the hard-to-find, versatile serrated knife N°113.
Fans of zany cult classic film Zazie Dans Le Métro would be pleased to see the church and train station from the film. And you heard it here first – there’s a secret rooftop bar in the train station, on a terrace usually closed to the public, if you are there in the summer.
La Pointe du Grouin is the perfect place to go for a snack and drink. The casual Breton bar offers a variety of French tapas like pig’s ears, all cheap and excellent. The only catch: you have to pay with tokens that are only available in increments of 10 euros.
For a proper meal, you can’t go wrong with the creative modern French offerings at Le 52, a short walk away from the majestic Porte Saint-Denis, one of Paris’ four triumphal arches.
End your night at Le Syndicat , a somewhat-hidden drinking hole teeming with hipsters, and serving up ingenious cocktails using forgotten French spirits like Marc de Bourgogne (pomace brandy), absinthe and gentian-based bitters.
Nearest Metro station: Gare de l’Est
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
– TEXT BY WEE LING SOH
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.