The Mole Diaries: Paris (Volume 2)

Parisian students by beestunglips

This article was written by Hannah Wroblewski, published on 27th April 2011 and has been read 8306 times.

Hannah Wroblewski, studying French and Spanish at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, is on her year abroad. During her stay in Paris, working as a teacher, she got to discover the hidden secrets of Paris, thanks to her French friends. Here, she shares her discoveries of the French capital...

Off the beaten track: Paris

If you’re a first-timer in Paris, the Louvre, the Sacré-Coeur and the Eiffel Tower will be the obvious hot-spots to visit. For curious year-abroaders, though, it’s definitely worthwhile checking out some of the lesser-known gems of Paris that the tourist guides won’t tell you about.

Where to go...

1. If you want to be cultural: Fondation Cartier (2 Rue Victor Schoelcher, Métro: Raspail/ Denfert Rochereau)
If your fed up of pushing past tourists, but still want to see some quality art, make your way to Fondation Cartier. Located in a stylish glass building in the 14th arrondissement, the Fondation Cartier (yes, that Cartier!) consistently showcases quality contemporary art exhibitions. The exhibitions change pretty regularly, so it’s useful to visit their website to see what’s on, and when. Whatever the theme, though (ranging from African voodoo to comic-book artists), you can be certain to come across a range of mixed artistic mediums - videos, sculpture, drawings - you name it, they’ll have it! It’s open every day except Mondays, and students get a discounted entrance fee, so it’s worth bringing your card along! 

2. If you want to laugh out loud: La Tête Dans Les Nuages (5, Blvd des Italiens, Métro: Richelieu-Drouot)
It’s raining, you’re down to your last 10 euros. What to do? Get down to Paris’ top gaming center! Open past midnight, LTDLN is a haven for gaming fanatics. In return for your cash, you are given a pile of gaming tokens to spend as you choose. You can try your hand at the usual favourites - air hockey, snooker, bowling - or take your chances on some of their two-person shoot-em-ups. Don’t forget to bring some friends along! It’s like a mini-Japan in the centre of Paris.  

3. If you’re skint and hungry: Montparnasse crêperies (Métro: Montparnasse Bienvenue)
The Gare Montparnasse was the destination for Bretons who came to Paris. Thankfully, many of them never left! Crêpes, and galettes (their savoury sister), are a Breton speciality that can be found in abundance at the many crêperies in Montparnasse. For 5 to 11 euros, you can get a decent (and delicious) meal. With toppings such as scallops and crème fraîche, chicken or pesto and mozarella, there’s something for everyone. First-timers should opt for the traditional caramel au beurre salé pancake (hot, buttery caramel!) with a carafe of fresh cider on the side. You’re guaranteed to leave with rosy-cheeks and a full belly.  

4. If you want to explore: Les Frigos (91 quai de la gare, Métro: Bibliothèque François Mitterrand)
A graffiti-covered, Tim Burton-esque building filled with music and art studios. What’s not to love? Les Frigos used to serve as a warehouse for storing meat back in the 1800’s, but today the artistic community have taken it over and are keen to share its charm (and their work!) with the world. The doors are always open, so step inside, pick a door on one of the winding corridors, and have a chat with a real French artist! 

5. If you want to spend your wages: Colette (213 Rue Saint-Honoré, Métro: Tuileries), Citadium (50/56 rue Caumartin, Métro: Saint-Lazare)

Colette is the shop to go for Paris' young, rich and trendy crowd. Situated in the 1st arrondissement, its neighbours are pretty stylish, too (Marc Jacobs, anyone?). On the ground floor you’ll find limited edition mobile phones, trainers and a range of clothes designed or endorsed by celebrities (Pharrell is known to pay a visit once in a while), as well as skateboards and baseball caps. Upstairs you can feast your eyes on an array of designer couture for both men and women. If you’re not in the mood for buying a 500 euro t-shirt, though, Colette do ‘surprise goody-bags’ for about 15 euros, so you can leave with a little souvenir! A cheaper, but equally branché alternative is Citadium. It boasts four floors of popular brands (Franklin Marshall, DC shoes, Miss Sixty etc) and in-house djs, as well as a café. Here’s where young Parisians go to fill their wardrobes.


6. If you want a tipple or two: le 10 Bar (10 rue de l'Odéon, Métro: Odéon)

You could walk past le 10 Bar  and not know it was there, yet this place is always bursting with students! Le 10 Bar is your typical dingy, poster-covered, yet infinitely charming Parisian haunt, perpetually filled with the eager chatter and drunken laughter of its bohemian punters. This isn’t the place to come if you’re looking for speciality beers, or cocktails, though. Here, you’ve got to have sangría! The fruitiest and sweetest in the whole of Paris.


7. If you’re in dire need of junk food: Breakfast in America (17 Rue des Écoles, Métro : Jussieu/ Cardinal LeMoine)

BIA is Paris’ American Diner. You’ll feel like a character from Grease, as you tuck into a hearty burger surrounded by red pvc and chrome! The food is far from greasy, though. Whether you fancy pancakes and syrup for breakfast, or an indulgent dinner after a hard day at work, BIA will never disappoint! Expect queues at lunch and dinner time.


8. If you want to go to a gig with a difference: Batofar (Opposite 11 quai François Mauriac, Métro: Quai de la Gare) 
Batofar is the top gig-spot for Parisian music fans, and is situated on the quay at Bercy. Yep, it’s a boat! And a big, red one at that. There is a bar on the top deck, which is usually busy in the summer, and serves great cold beers to the sounds of visiting djs. The concerts are held inside, and the boat is known to rock slightly during particularly lively gigs! It’s a small, but atmospheric venue, and the top-choice for rock/hardcore/punk/electro bands from around the world who flock to Paris. Check out the usual gig-tickets websites, or go to FNAC for more info.

Our Mole Diaries are insider city guides written by students about their experiences, filled with top tips and recommendations. Please view our 200+ Mole Diaries arranged by language, and if you'd like to contribute, do find out more about becoming a Mole!

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