This was a unique city break to Paris, France. We did absolutely none of the things that normally top a tourist’s must-do list in Paris. Instead, we spent a handful of days learning how to live like a local in Paris.
And, this worked fine for us. This is my fourth trip to Paris and Eric’s second. We’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, and the Musee d’Orsay. I’ve seen a lot more than Eric, but he’s okay with that. Instead, for both of us, this trip was more about living the Parisian life. We hoped a quick flight on Air France to Paris and started to live the Paris life.
Rent a Luxury Airbnb Apartment
This was the first time we rented an apartment in Paris. And, when searching for flats on Airbnb, we choose the most Parisian one we could find. It was a little far to the north, in the 10th Arrondissement, or neighborhood, of Paris. But, it was Parisian, to the extreme.
The apartment was in an old building, with wrought iron balconies, crown molding, ancient hardwood floors, and a claw foot bathtub. The owners kitted the flat out with artwork from famous artists I had never heard of. And, like I imagine most Parisian apartments to be, it was filled with stacks of books, on politics, and travel, and famous art exhibits. It’s exactly how I imagine the French to live. Surrounded by art and intellect.
Learn more about where to stay in Paris.
Eat Like a Local in Paris
And, because we were far from the touristy parts of town, we had the opportunity to eat like a local as well. During my first trip to Paris, as a young 17-year old, I survived on crepes made with banana and Nutella, and drank wine from a bottle. This was an entirely different experience.
I went to my friend Anne of Part-Time Traveler, who has spent a good amount of time in Paris, for some recommendations, and asked some locals. Even within the first 24 hours, I had stuffed myself silly of French pastries, cheese, and wine. All things that France is famous for.
Check out our video of a day eating in Paris:
Where to Find Great Pastry in Paris
First, other friends came across a local boulangerie, or bakery, called Liberté, about a 15-minute walk from our apartment. As I passed pastry shop after pastry shop during the walk, I thought this must be a special place. And, it was.
Liberté is definitely more of a bakery than a cafe, with only 2 tiny tables. But, the team of bakers was busy preparing more delicious French pastries, as we browsed the selection. And, I kind of went overboard. A chocolate choux, a traditional French pastry filled with chocolate cream, along with an apple filled pastry, and of course, pain au chocolat. Okay, maybe a couple pain au chocolat. All of it tasted flaky with the perfect amount of sweetness. Best part, this was far outside of the tourist zones, so a pain au chocolate was only €1.10!
Liberté is located at 39 Rue des Vinaigriers, at the southern end of the 10th Arrondissement, just a block from the canal. They are open from 7:30 am – 8:00 pm six days a week. They are closed on Sunday. Here are recommendations on gluten-free options in Paris. Or, check out Passage Jouffroy, one of the prettiest streets in Paris with some adorable cafes and tea salons.
Learning About French Cheese in Paris
Another must eat for me when visiting France: cheese. This time, rather than just hitting up a random fromagerie, we choose an Airbnb Experience focused on French cheese.
We made our way up to Fromage et Ramage, about 5 stops on the Metro from our apartment, in a neighborhood we never would have found otherwise. We met Fabrice, a cheese monger, and newly minted certified cheese taster. Fabrice schooled us on the history of cheese, cheesemaking, and walked through each of the cheese making regions of France. You’d be surprised to know there actually are parts of France that don’t make fabulous cheese. That was news to me. During our two hour cheese tour, Fabrice also plied us with as much cheese as we cared to eat, along with a few French white wines for pairing.
I didn’t want to let the experience end there, so I brought some more cheese home, to enjoy, of course, with a bottle of Champagne, on the balcony of our French apartment. How Parisian.
Fromage et Ramage is located at 3 Rue Eugene Jumin in Paris. They are open six days a week, and are closed on Sunday. They do close during the middle of the day, like many shops in Paris.
You can book The Cheese Experience with Airbnb for €60 a person.
Drinking at a Local French Wine Bar
One of Anne’s recommendations was spot on. We made our way to the 11th Arrondissement, to drink wine at Le Baron Rouge, or The Red Baron. A petite wine shop and bar, with loads of character, and barrels of wine along the wall. We enjoyed a liter (yes, a liter) of very good quality Cotes d’Rhone, straight from the barrel. A plate of cheese and charcuterie, much of which I didn’t recognize, accompanied the wine. Although a few American students found the location and were sharing the table next to us, Le Baron Rouge still felt like an authentic French wine bar, and one I never would have found while staying in a touristy area.
Le Baron Rouge is located at 1 Rue Théophile Roussel. They are open 7 days a week, but times vary on each day.
Dining at a French Bistro
For me, one of the most stressful things about traveling in France is trying to find great food. I know it is there, but it’s sometimes hard to find, particularly as a tourist who doesn’t speak French. This is one of the best things about living like a local in Paris, even if for only a few days. Being outside of the main touristy areas, surrounding the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe, means we were able to find some great food, and not feel like we were being ripped off.
After finishing our wine at Le Baron Rouge, we asked the bartender where he would recommend to eat in the neighborhood, and he sent us to nearby Chez Paul. A typical French bistro, where diners get cozy, sitting practically shoulder-to-shoulder, while dining on tender steaks slathered in black pepper sauce or béarnaise. It felt classically Parisian, and I would definitely recommend it.
Chez Paul is located at 13 Rue de Charonne. They are open all day, seven days a week. Main courses start around €17. Portions are large.
Being an American in Paris
Well, I can try to live like a local in Paris as much as possible, but I have to own up to my roots. And, there were a few things we wanted to do while in the big city that we just can’t do living in Girona. We managed to experience dusk on the Seine, while watching the Eiffel Tower come to life. We did a little shopping at some stores we don’t have at home, and came out with a suitcase a little more plump than when we arrived.
And, the one truly American thing we did: ate burgers at Five Guys. Five Guys is an American chain, born out of the Washington, D.C, area. We’ve been eating at Five Guys probably since the 1990’s. When we found out they had a few locations in Paris, it became a must eat for us. And, before being criticized for eating a cheese burger and French fries instead of eating like a local, we were surrounded by the French! There was almost a line out the door, and the diners were certainly not all American. I enjoyed every minute of our expensive burger meal at the Five Guys in Paris, and it made our city break all the better.
Ride The Metro Like a Local in Paris
Paris is huge! Coming from our petite Girona, where we can walk absolutely everywhere, Paris is a monstrosity. It’s home to over 2.2 million people, and with very few high rises, that means mega sprawl. We tried to walk as much as possible, but we also took advantage of the Paris Metro.
Thanks to some tips from the Planet D, we knew we could buy a package of 10 tickets for €14.50, saving €.40 on each ticket. The Paris Metro map looks like a multi-colored bowl of spaghetti, and can seem intimidating. We used Google Maps to help us navigate, and had no problems at all, other than that one time I lost Eric while trying to exit the Metro.
We also managed to take a few Uber rides while exploring the city, but found the Metro to be a quick and easy way to avoid the Paris traffic.
Check out our YouTube Video about our city break to Paris:
Flying Air France to Paris
We flew Air France to Paris for our little city break. We were able to select our seats on check in, meaning Eric was able to get a perfect window seat for all of his #AvGeek photos, and I was able to sit on the aisle. Once at Charles de Gaulle we took the airport train into the city for €10 a person. The airport train (RER B) took us right into Gare du Nord, and because our apartment was in the 10th arrondissement, we were nice and close. Heading back home, it only took us 90 minutes from the time we left the apartment until we were at our gate at CDG!
We were supported by Air France and Airbnb on our city break in Paris, but as usual, all oh la la sounds are my own.
Wondering what to do in Paris, check out this recommended Paris itinerary or this list of the top 25 free things to do in Paris. Looking for something different? Check out this list of unusual things to do in Paris.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.