The locals’ guide to Paris

Say bonjour to the grande dame of Europe with top tips from a trio of insiders who’ve made Paris their adopted home

The avid photographer

Travel and lifestyle photographer Carina Okula shares the best places to go to capture photos that will be worthy of framing

1. Along the Seine. An early morning walk along its banks is one of the city’s most beautiful places to photograph. Now that the love locks have been removed from Pont des Arts, it’s a great spot for a full view of the islands and the majestic buildings on either side of the water. Head to water’s edge for the very best views of Île Saint-Louis. The earlier in the morning the better as, before the boat traffic starts, the water offers a perfect mirror reflection.  

2. Jardin du Luxembourg. Each of Paris’ gardens hold their own unique appeal but top of the list to photograph is Jardin du Luxembourg. Tucked behind Luxembourg Palace, home to the French senate, the gardens come to life in the afternoon with sauntering locals and toy sailboats bobbing in the pond. 

3. Paris’ royal squares. You won’t want to miss Palais Royal with its black and white Les Deux Plateaux art installation by Daniel Buren. It’s a fun place to master your ‘strike a pose’ moves. Similarly, Place des Vosges, one of the oldest city squares, will inspire you with its alcoves of morning light and shadows under the arches.

4. Rooftop vistas. Check out local landmarks with steps to the top – think Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame, Sacré-Cœur and the Pantheon (you can climb to the top of the dome) – for a bird’s eye view of mansard roofs and charming terracotta chimney pots.

5. Eiffel Tower. A visit to Paris wouldn’t be complete without photos of the Eiffel Tower – I’m still smitten with the beast myself. Make a beeline to Port Debilly and front row seats to the best show in town from the cobblestoned waterfront.

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The gastronome

A self-confessed culinary obsessive and food writer who will work for cheese, Catherine Down knows all the best spots for dawn to dusk dining

For my perfect picnic basket I head first to Laurent Dubois, my favourite cheese shop in the city, and potentially the world. The array of options is mind-boggling and he always has a great selection of goat’s cheeses and, in particular, aged Comté. Next is the legendary Poilâne bakery where you can buy their sourdough miche by the slice, and I can never resist their flaky, buttery individual apple tarts. I then head to Marché Couvert Saint-Germain for fruits, vegetables, olives and other spreads. Just next to the covered market is Maison Mulot with its great traiteur section, which is owned by talented baker, Fabien Rouillard. From there, it’s a short stroll down to the Seine for a cosy picnic in a beautiful setting. 

Mmmozza, the mozzarella-centric Italian shop near Temple Square Park in Le Marais, has excellent, inexpensive sandwiches and the park is popular with locals laying out in the sun or playing ping-pong. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is another gorgeous picnic spot high up on a hill. The former quarry has some of the dreamiest views of the city. Its Pavillon Puebla is a very pleasant café, with a nice outdoor space. 

Hot new openings include Terra, also in Le Marais, which is really taking off (the cabillaud en croute is particularly delicious). The space is beautifully designed and feels like you’re sitting inside a botanical garden. Robert, on Rue de la Fontaine au Roi is another brand new spot from talented chef Peter Orr. The menu changes daily with different homemade pastas, soups, terrines, and a variety of roasted meats and seafood. 

See and be seen at C.A.M, an unexpected spot close to République. The space is pretty bare bones – it’s the unusual Asian food and laidback vibes that bring the crowds. You’ll find packs of tissues instead of napkins on each table (they’re needed for when you dig into the steak tartare with spicy gochujang sauce and peanuts). Don’t miss the sambal soup with prawns. 

Paris’ outdoor market scene attracts people come from around the world. My favourite is the Marché Aligre in the 12th arrondissement. It’s open every day of the week except for Monday. The indoor market has meats, rôtisserie, cheeses, flowers and a bakery. Outside, you’ll find streets overflowing with produce vendors. The prices are great and the quality and selection is excellent. 

Le Quincy is a favourite spot as it serves exactly the hearty, classic French food you would imagine, but can rarely find done well. With the wooden beams, kitsch decor and red-checked tablecloths you feel like you’re in a country lodge. The elderly owner’s playful service makes every meal there a delight. And you can’t beat a place that does ‘serve-yourself chocolate mousse’ to finish.

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The international insider

An American in Paris, multimedia journalist Jake Cigainero swapped the Lone Star State for the City of Lights and is a fount of knowledge.

If you’re only in town for 24 hours, don’t miss Musée de l’Orangerie, if only to see the works of Claude Monet. The painter’s panoramic Water Lilies cycle will not disappoint and you can easily get lost staring into the swirls of colourful paint. Interesting fact: if the museum’s famous oval rooms were linear instead, the masterpiece would stretch more than 100 metres long. 

Replete with art-filled opportunity, once you’ve done the Louvre and Pompidou, Galerie Max Hetzler, Galerie Rabouan Moussion and Carpenters Workshop Gallery show interesting, thoughtful artists. 

Alternatively, to see classics in a new light, the recently opened Atelier des Lumières creates immersive experiences of iconic artists such as Gustav Klimt.

For peace and quiet, my zen spot is Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Built by Napoleon III, the trees, hills, waterfall and lake immediately transport you out of the city. When the weather is nice, forget the Seine and park your picnic blanket here.

Tourist chotchke aside, a little something from a Paris’ marché aux puces (flea market) is a nice memento to take home. Also, you never know what gems you might find at the famed Hôtel Drouot auction house.

For Paris by night and local flavour, La Gare is a jazz joint housed in an old train station in the north-eastern 19th arrondissement. With live music every night it’s not a place to chat with your pals as when the music’s playing, the owner will shush you. So, just get a drink and enjoy the vibes.

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