1. Boulevard Saint-Germain
No one would fault you for enjoying some upper-class window shopping along this avenue, or even overpaying for a cup of coffee at one of its iconic cafés. But afterward, promptly escape the commotion (and exhaust fumes) by sneaking one block north onto Rue de Buci. Though technically not a pedestrian street, it has the chilled out feel of one and is packed with terraced eateries and an outdoor market type of atmosphere. The famed Berthillon ice cream – the best in town – is also for sale there.
Photo: Kent Kanouse/Flickr
2. Rue de Rivoli (West)
Everyone in Paris ends up along Rue de Rivoli at some point (Angelina hot chocolate anyone?). But a more intimate and stylish thoroughfare lies just north called Rue Saint-Honoré. Once the path that led Marie Antoinette to the glistening blade of the guillotine, today it’s one of the most chic shopping lanes in Paris. The window displays never disappoint, and the exciting buzz of well-to-do locals bobbing in and out of boutiques offers a slice of Parisian life…or at least wealthy Parisian life.
Photo: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr
3. Rue de Rivoli (East)
Feeling claustrophobic near the Hôtel de Ville? Especially at rush hour the sidewalks of Rue de Rivoli are something locals avoid. Consider instead the street running parallel to it, Rue de la Verrerie. It’s not only much quieter but it offers great deals on food and fashion. Second-hand thrift stores like Kilo Shop and Free’p’Star will get you stylish on the cheap, and restaurant Le Chant des Voyelles serves all-you-can-eat moules frites at lunchtime. Major score.
Photo: Luc Mercelis/Flickr
4. Rue de Steinkerque
It’s a shame the majority of visitors to Montmartre approach Sacré-Coeur by climbing this street. It’s not an authentic experience by any stretch, saturated with souvenir shops and three-card-monte hustlers. Instead, approach the top of the hill like we do at Localers, by walking Rue des Abbesses. It’ll tap you into the charm of Montmartre’s calmer side as you pass small fashion boutiques, vibrant produce stalls, and one of the area’s original windmills from 1622.
5. Rue Cler
Just about every guide book will send you toward Rue Cler at some point, which is a fine street. Problem is everyone else knows about it, so the sense of a unique discovery is diminished. Try popping over to Rue Saint-Dominque instead, where fewer tourists roam and more authentic residential life bubbles to the surface. Don’t miss the block of three restaurants owned by beloved chef Christian Constant (Les Cocottes is a favorite), for one of the most memorable meals in the 7th arrondissement.
6. Rue de Sèvres
The popularity of Paris’ first department store, Le Bon Marché, ensures a constant flow of tourist crowds along this street. What few of them realize is that just one block south on the parallel Rue du Cherche-Midi, a treasure trove of trendy addresses can be found. Picture-perfect foods shops, uber-cool concept stores, and affordable restaurants are all secrets of the locals. A cozy stop for hot beverages and madeleines awaits you at tearoom Mamie Gateaux.
7. Place de la Bastille
This square feels like it was designed more for rush hour traffic than pedestrian enjoyment, and in fact the city plans to revamp it in the coming years. Until then, take advantage of a more intimate experience not far away called the Promenade Plantée. It’s an old elevated railway that meanders toward the city’s edge, transformed into a pedestrian lane full of plants, trees, and unique views of the surrounding neighborhoods. It’s the perfect embodiment of off-the-beaten-track Paris.
8. Grands Boulevards
The Grands Boulevards area (Boulevard des Italiens – pictured below – Boulevard Montmartre, etc.) was once a chic playground of Parisian society. But arrivals like Starbucks, Chipotle, and Hard Rock Café have tarnished that historic luster. Luckily there’s the Rue des Martyrs just a few minutes north, a street so delicious you’ll forget you’re trekking up a hill the entire time. Every specialty food you’ll ever need is on offer: crèpes, waffles, jams, roasted chickens, lemon tarts—and some of the hippest coffee inside KB Cafeshop.
Photo: Mark H/Flickr
There’s an easy way to abandon the overly commercialized Champs-Elysées for a concentration of truly elite boutiques. The Golden Triangle is delineated by a triangle of avenues: Montaigne, George V, and the Champs-Elysées itself. This is where you want to live out your Coco Chanel fantasy in Paris. Also don’t miss a chance to pop into some luxury hotel lobbies like the George V and Plaza Athénée, where Jack Nicholson filmed a scene for Something’s Gotta Give.
10. Rue de la Huchette
Once you’ve made the obligatory (but worthwhile) stop at Shakespeare and Company bookstore, you’re bound to get sucked onto the tourist-laden Rue de la Huchette. If you do, duck away to the short-and-sweet Rue de la Parcheminerie. It’s named after the parchment merchants that once inhabited this medieval lane, and perhaps fittingly there’s a Canadian bookshop called The Abbey that sells English language books, with the welcome bonus of free tea and coffee. While you’re there, don’t miss the gothic church of Saint-Séverin around the corner.