Turns out you can stay in Paris’s 1st arrondissement without sticking out like a tourist.
*Editor’s Note: There are ongoing strikes in Paris that may affect some travelers. We’ve put together a guide to help you navigate.
When we travel, we aim to avoid being labeled a “tourist”; we’d much rather be explorers, or better yet, fool someone into thinking we’re locals. We don’t want to hit the hot spots, we want to stumble upon a city’s best-kept secrets. But often a city’s best attraction is its most popular. Enter: the Louvre in Paris and the surrounding Palais-Royal area.
The Louvre and Palais-Royal, the Arc de Triomphe, and tony storefronts label the 1st arrondissement a Parisian cliché. But if you stray from the masses crowding the Mona Lisa and wander down side streets or into empty bars, you might just uncover secrets of the Neighborhood. Delve into the histories of herbalists and literati, tuck away in bookshops, and browse uncommon goods with these tips.
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A stay in the historic, centrally-located Hotel Du Louvre might seem counterintuitive to seeing Paris like a local, but its unique backstory and the complimentary “inspirational guides” offered to guests will help you fulfill your off-the-beaten-path experience.
Once frequented by Victor Hugo and Sigmund Freud, this mid-19th-century hotel (part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection) is what you conjure when you think of old Paris. It hosted the fundraising Gala for the Statue of Liberty in 1875 and the 1855 World’s Fair. It’s situated close enough to the Louvre that you can literally throw a brick at it (though we don’t advise it), and it’s just around the corner from the Comédie Française and a short walk to the Opéra Garnier. Staying here allows you to beat the crowds and see touristy Paris on your own terms. The concierge will provide you with maps of one of six Parisian districts, all walkable from the hotel. In these guides, you’ll find places that inspired the hotel staff (they actually walked the neighborhoods and noted restaurants, sights, and shops that captured their attention). Balconies in the rooms let you “visit” the Louvre and Palais-Royal while still in your hotel robe.
Shop Without Breaking the Bank
Yes, you could buy Chanel without the added tax, or take home pieces from the collection of 1940s designer shoes and dresses in the vintage shops next to the Palais-Royal. Yet you could just as easily get thrifty and find sartorial gems for far less cash. Kiliwatch Paris, which teeters on the edge of the 1st arrondissement, is a treasure trove of second hand and vintage finds. You might have to dig a little, but you’re sure to find unique, wearable souvenirs.
You can also stroll through Galerie Vivienne, a covered arcade that houses a wine and candy shop and a used bookstore; you’ll feel like you’re Harry Potter wand-shopping in Diagon Alley.
Don’t Be Put Off by an Empty Bar
The sight of lonely barstools doesn’t often bode well for a fun night out. But in some cases, quiet is key. Take for example the secret speakeasy in Galerie Vivienne, whose entire bar visible from the window is just a front for the bar in the back (we encourage you to be daring and seek it out yourself). Or Danico, a pizza shop with a covert bar in the way back. There are also plenty of little cafés that double as the perfect spot for a pint or a glass of wine, where you can people watch out onto the cobblestone streets.
Splurge on a Sunday
If you’re seeking out the hottest spots to dine, your best bet is to grab a seat on a Sunday night, which tends to be quiet in Paris, or to enjoy le goûter, France’s version of afternoon tea.
At L’Officine inside Hotel Du Louvre, under its restored 19th-century glass ceiling, you can try herb-infused cocktails during le goûter. The cocktails are an homage to the botanists and herbalists who once called Hotel Du Louvre and its surrounding neighborhood home.
CoCo Restaurant (a 12-minute walk from the 1st arrondissement), is the designated dining spot for the Operá national de Paris, which is reflected in the interior’s art deco opulence. Dining by candlelight among French celebrities, either for le goûter or on a quiet Sunday dinner, is a treat in itself.
See Other Art
If you do want to explore the Louvre, you can skip the Mona Lisa which will be crowded with tourists, and opt for a tour of Napoleon III’s suite, which is sure to have at least 80% fewer visitors at any given time. Or you can peruse the gardens at Palais-Royal, where locals like to come and read a book, or the Tim Burton-esque Collonnes de Buren installation. Avoid the museum altogether and explore a contemporary gallery, like 59 Rivoli, a wildly colorful studio space in an artist residence occupying six floors.
Go With A Guide
A Fodor’s guide, that is. Part of our new fully-illustrated Inside series, Fodor’s Inside Paris is a pocket-sized guide to hidden gems and must-see sights across central Paris districts, as chosen by local writers. There are also tips for visiting with kids, what you should watch or read before coming to Paris, and much more.