INSIDR’s main mission is to help tourists discover the real Paris. We want travellers coming to the capital to avoid the over- commercialised tourist traps, and delve into the exciting and fascinating Paris that the INSIDR team knows and loves. Step one of achieving this authentic Paris experience is knowing where NOT to go, so take note Paris-bound travellers, here are the biggest tourist traps in the city and how to avoid them.
1. La Place du Tertre
Home to some of France’s most prestigious artists, Montmartre was the epicentre of the modernist art movements of the 20th century and located at its very centre is Place du Tertre, overlooking the North Eastern city skyline. Today, however it has become a cheap parody of its former self; knock-off portrait artists have replaced painters, tacky souvenir shops have replaced authentic art galleries and what’s worse, the prices are comparable to those found in International airports.
Alternative: Musée de Montmartre
Don’t get me wrong, there are still big brush strokes of charm to be found in the arty cobbled streets of Montmartre, you just need to know where to look. For example, you need to take a trip to Musée de Montmartre, a hidden gem retaining the authentic art traditions of this arrondissement with impeccable taste. Decked out with exquisite art workshops and fascinating galleries showcasing the original pieces of Montmartre based artists, you can step back in time and experience the authentic arty world of Montmartre.
Don’t think by choosing this spot that you miss out on your view, far from it! The museums vineyards (yep.. that’s right… vineyards!), allow you to take in the Parisian skyline, with a glass of wine in hand, free from jostling crowds of tourists.
Check out INSIDR’s article on musée de Montmartre to find out more.
2. Moulin Rouge
With its iconic neon red exteriors and windmill façade, this infamous building was once the bastion of French cabaret and sexual exuberance during the belle époque era, the go-to hangout for the super rich who came to ‘slum it’ in the fashionable district of Montmartre. Today, however, the crowds of wealthy pleasure seekers have been replaced by selfie stick wielding tourists and a somewhat soulless ambiance. If you are willing to pay an arm and a leg for a cabaret show ticket, you may just get a glimpse of the fun cancan atmosphere, but otherwise you definitely can’tcan’t
Alternative: Paradis Latin
This is the most authentic of the Parisian cabarets, not only because it’s family-run, but also because the clientele is mostly French. Show-wise you can expect the usual generous doses of glitter, live singing and and cheesy entr’ acte acts performed in a traditional belle époque room.
28 rue Cardinal Lemoine
Check their website for more info
3. Les Champs-Elysées
From the insufferable traffic to the crowded, overpriced cafés, to the unoriginality of the big brand-named shops; your idealistic visions of a stroll down the infamous Parisian high-street leaves a lot to be desired.
Alternative: Azzedine Alaïa
There are plenty of locations where you can enjoy a more original, glamorous shopping experience than on the Champs-Elysées, without having to crowd dodge. We recommend a trip to Azzedine Alaïa, where ringing the doorbell gains you entry into the workshop-style showroom in the same building as Alaïa’s headquarters and apartment, where the Tunisian creator continues to impress with his originality. Stunning haute-couture creations are in the back room, and sexy shoes are scattered among the mannequins and rails.
Open Monday- Friday: 10am- 7pm
7 rue de Moussy
4. Le Café Oz
This chain of Australian pubs has invaded numerous spots in Paris. Their pubs stay open all night during the week-ends. The result? Hordes of tourists, predominantly Anglo-Saxons, cramming noisily to the bar, in the hope of finding a cheap beer with the sole aim of drinking to get drunk, on bad beer, whilst eating microwavable hot-dogs. Guys, you’re in Paris, we can do better.
Alternative: La Bellevilloise and the bars at Ménilmontant
If Parisians want to drink good artisanal beer, they go to the bars in the 20th arrondissement, to fine establishments such as Fine Mouse or Trois 8. Rub shoulders with Parisian locals whilst listening to good music, whilst drinking good beer and eating good food. And after? You can head to la Bellevilloise, an ancient cooperative renovated into a club with concerts and DJ sets of all styles, open all night, deserving that privilege.
5. Les bateaux mouches
It may seem like there is nothing more idyllic than a charming boat trip down the Seine, passing all the major Parisian tourist sites that perch on its embankments, and whilst the “bateaux moches” can be fun, they have been over commercialized beyond belief to become boat size money making machines.
Alternative: Hire a boat on the Marin D’eau douce
You can still get your jolly jaunt on the water, but in a more peaceful setting if you go to the heart of the Villette park where you can hire a family-sized electric boat by the hour to cruise the leafy surroundings of the canal at your leisure.
For more information, check their website.
6. ‘Traditional’ French brasseries at Opéra
If you don’t mind paying 100 € for a below average croque-monsieur, this place is your jam. But for the rest if us who are looking for a decent, traditional French lunch which won’t cost half our annual income, these brasseries need to be avoided!
Alternative: INSIDR recommended French brasseries
These are some INSIDR tried and tested brasseries that serve great traditionally French food, at a reasonable price.
This French neo-bistro serves great food in a warm and cosy setting.
Open everyday: 8am- midnight
2 Rue Richer
Check their website for more info
Juveniles Wine Bar
It may be a wine bar, but the relaxed ambiance and delicious food means it merits a star brasserie status.
Open Tuesday- Saturday: Midday- 11pm
47 Rue de Richelieu
Check their website for more info
7. Jardin du Luxembourg
It may seem postcard perfect at first glance, and it certainly does have its charm, but once you have been told to move off the grass a billion times by the park staff/ tourist park rangers, after having carefully laid out your picnic, this park, often overcrowded, should not be your number one picnic spot.
Alternative: Buttes- Chaumont park
A real Parisian treasure that we don’t often divulge to tourists, the Buttes-Chaumont park is a discreet oasis of green in the north east of Paris. With its fairytale worthy lake, bridges and grassy hills, this park is a perfect picnic spot when the sun is out.
8. Rue de la Huchette at Saint-Michel
For the true Parisian, rue de la Huchette and place Saint-Michel have been branded the worst tourist traps in the capital; the fake Breton crêperies, fake Greek restaurants, fake French brasseries that fill the streets of this historic area ensure there is very little left of its authentic medieval roots.
Alternative: Sentier quarter
If you want to see a more authentic old Paris, you need to make your way to Sentier. Here you will find the oldest passage in Paris, passage Caire, where you can wonder in and out the quaint boutiques which are a pleasant echo of it’s former textile heritage that this area is famed for. Sure, this quartier has become trendy over recent years with bars such as Lockwood or Hoppy Corner, and restaurants such as Frenchie and Edgar opening, but it’s staying true to its textile background, with concept stores such as La Garçonnerie recently opening its doors.