Paris: An Art Addict Guide
We always imagine Paris as a bohemian art capital of the world. Louvre, Impressionism, flea markets, street musicians… How to immerse yourself into this typical Parisian artsy atmosphere and lead there a life of a true connoisseur? We’ve decided to put this question to Daria, who not only works in art but also keeps her finger on the pulse of artistic Paris.
Hi, Daria, and thanks for agreeing to share your advice with our readers! Let’s begin :) Every adventure starts from your doorstep. How to choose a perfect place to stay in Paris if you want to blend in?
Hi, Kate! Yes, finding a suitable place to live is important and sometimes not very easy. I must mention right away that it’s difficult to manage without speaking French because most of the advertisements are in French. For a short-term lease, there’s always Airbnb, but for long-term offers, you should check advertisements boards online, for example, pap.fr, somhome.com. If you don’t want to stay for too long, try looking for sous-location – subleasing. Landlords are usually looking for somebody to stay in their flats while they are away for a couple of months, often in summer. They usually ask for fewer guarantees and caution money.
The districts in the city form a kind of a spiral, with numbering starting from the center. You can find great and not overly expensive places in 10, 11, 12 and 17. 12 is close to Bastille and Marais, and 10 is in the area of canal Saint Martin, a very popular place with a lot of cafes, bars, etc. 18 is Montmartre, and it’s good in its western and southern part, but north-eastern part can be less safe. 19 and 20 are even less safe, but there are some great deals if you want to save money. If you are looking for a true Parisian flat as they show them in movies, head to districts 16, 15, 6, 5 or to the center, but be prepared to pay for the prestige :) Wherever you decide to live while enjoying the Paris life, be sure to check the place thoroughly before renting! Pictures can be deceptive.
Oh yes, nothing is truer! And what is the best time to come to Paris?
There’s always a lot happening from the middle of September to December and from February to June. Nearly everything is closed in August, so leave the city to be plundered by tourists :)
If you’re into art, you should try catching one or more of the international fairs, for instance, FIAC – Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain, Art Paris Art Fair, and others. There are design and architecture fairs, for example, Paris Deco Off. All the fairs usually last for several days.
Interesting! So can you name some of the best places where to go if you want to appreciate art?
There is an association that links together all the galleries in Paris. Their web page always has the freshest information about what’s happening around. Fondation Louis Vuitton occupies a very beautiful modern building in Bois de Boulogne, and organizes lots of happenings, sometimes even at night! Other famous establishments are Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain and Musee D’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. New installations open nearly every week, and you can go to an opening – vernissage – to enjoy some art talk and welcome drinks! Entranсe to regular exhibitions is usually paid, but openings and special events are often free entry!
Another option to partake of modern art is to visit auction houses. The items are usually on free display for 3-4 days before the sales, and sometimes there are real gems! You are also welcome to visit the sales themselves, it’s often quite interesting, Some of the most famous sale houses are Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Artcurial.
If you don’t like to plan and are all for spontaneity, you can just walk around Le Carré Rive Gauche, a district rich in galleries, and see what catches your eye. It’s most active on Thursdays, but it’s never dull on other days too.
Is there a chance to meet a real breathing painter?
They sometimes appear on vernissages and sales, but you have to get lucky. Montmartre, home of so many famous artists in the past, is now mostly full of street painters that will sell you your portrait or a standard postcard city view.
And what would you recommend to a theater-goer?
Oh, there are hundreds of options! The most famous one is, of course, Comédie-Française, and it’s indeed very good. They have both all the classical things on the main stage and more experimental pieces on the modern stage. Another good option is Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, which is also a very beautiful building. I also like Rond Point des Champs-Elysees near Grand Palais – there’s always something modern and interesting on. I usually buy tickets on billetreduc.com – you can get a ticket for as little as 2 euros if you don’t care what to see!
Wow, a lot of things are going on in Paris theaters, And is there anything happening on music landscape?
Well, that depends on what kind of music you like. There are a lot of big youth festivals on the outskirts of the city and smaller ones in the streets and squares of the city in summer. They are great if you want to not only listen to music but also party and meet people. If you’re into classics, check the obvious suspects: conservatory and big concert halls. But what I really recommend doing in Paris is going to small jazz and other concerts in bars and cafes.
Le Caveau des Oubliettes is close to Notre Dame, metro St Michel Notre Dame. The stage is in the basement and concerts are free if you order something at the bar.
Le Pop-Up du Label is near Gare de Lyon, and there are free jazz concerts there on Tuesdays. On other days, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee and they play mostly electronic music.
Au Limonaire is a café chantant, an old french traditional restaurant where you can have something to eat but also see musicians and comedians on stage. After the performance artists go around with a hat asking for donations. It’s close to Grand Boulevards metro and a must-visit for everybody who wants real french flavor!
Zic Zinc is a very good chanson française place in 11th district.
Or if you feel lucky just walk around Montmartre in the evening and I’m sure you’ll find something interesting!
Now here’s something everybody wants to do in Paris: shop on flea markets. Only I’m never sure where to go, what to look for and how to bargain… Any clue?
Paris is definitely the place to go if you want to try flea markets shopping! The biggest antiquities flea market in Europe is called Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. It’s divided into several specialized markets, and you can find everything, literally everything there!
Le Marché Biron is great for furniture. Most of it is very rococo, but it’s possible to find something for a more modern interior there too.
There are thematic flea markets happening in a lot of places on the weekends, you can find them on facebook, on vide-greniers.org or on the district government’s web pages. Sometimes flea markets are organized by bars and cafes.
The markets usually open on weekends, about 8 am. It’s better to come early because the good stuff is usually gone fast! But if you find something you like close to the ending time, you can get is very cheap or even get something extra for free as a present! Once I bought a bedside table for 4 euros and got a lamp to go with it for free! Of course, you have to pay cash and bargain a lot! They speak English a little bit, but the best bargaining happens only in French.
There is also a charity organization called Emmaus, they have a boutique in Centre 104 and another one on 40 Rue Riquet, which is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. You can always find some nice clothes, tableware, and furniture there. Center 104 is a curious place by the way – it’s a free space where everyone can do what they want – dance, study etc., and there are also exhibitions and concerts.
Now to the most exciting topic: food! Everybody knows that Paris is the culinary capital of the world since we’ve all watched Ratatouille :) Want to say something to prove this statement?
Well I’m not a very big cuisine connoisseur, but eating in Paris is great, you have very little chance of getting something bad, even in cheaper places! I like how you can find not only French and European cuisine but foods from all over the world, all very authentic and prepared by the natives! Iranian, African, Indian – you name it! A lot of them are concentrated on Rue Sainte-Anne and are a good and cheap choice.
If a restaurant is good there is usually a queue there after 8.30 in the evening, so it’s better to order a table if it’s possible. Queues are usually also a good indicator that the place is worth visiting, and they are seldom longer than half an hour. I really like a small place on 68 Rue Lepic called La Mandigotte. It’s close to the touristic Montmartre, but not quite there, and the wine is good!
Speaking of wine, are there any special recommendations?
As with food, you can’t go wrong with wine in Paris! Even 3 Euro bottles are very drinkable. But if you want to try something special, it’s best to visit one of the wine shops. Look for cave à vins – wine cellars. Nicolas is one famous chain, but there are lots of others. The best way of buying there is asking the keeper for advice – they always know what’s good this year!
Bar à vin – wine bar – is a place to try new wines, talk about them with the sommelier and finding what you really like. In good ones they try to remember each client, and will greet you in a month with your name and a cheerful announcement that they have exactly what suits your taste.
Oh, a glass of wine in a wine bar could make a trip to Paris even nicer! Thank you for your amazing recommendations, Daria!