How to avoid Paris's tourist traps

Paris river and Eiffel Tower

How to avoid Paris's tourist traps
How to avoid Paris's tourist traps

Flickr user Thomas Claveirole

If it’s your first time to Paris, no one is going to tell you to not go to the Louvre, unless it's another dude who's going to the Louvre who cunningly wants to cut down on the line. That said, this city has a hell of a lot to offer, and a ton of it is off the camera-wielding-visitor-beaten path. So if you’re looking to experience a different side of the City of Light, consider this your official guide.

Flickr user freddie boy

You want to do this: See the Mona Lisa
Do this instead: See The Thinker
Skip the horde of tourists flocking around the postage stamp that is the Mona Lisa with their phones, and freaking iPads in the air trying to snap a blurry-ass photo, and head to the Rodin Museum. Here you can explore the outdoor garden and check out the sculptor's famous piece The Thinker. While the Rodin Museum is popular with visitors, the nice part is that this famous work is outside, which means you’ll feel much less claustrophobic than in front of Mona (if you reaaaally want to see her, then at least use the secret entrance to the Louvre).

Flickr user photographerglen

Newbies: Eat a croissant
The savvy: Eat a good croissant
Well, actually you should eat many croissants. And baguettes. And cheese. But just because you’re in Paris doesn’t mean that all food establishments are amazing, in fact there’s a lot of mediocre food to be had, and sometimes finding a good boulangerie, fromagerie and boucher can be harder than you think. To get your grounding, try the Localers Paris Food Tour, which takes you to a collection of artisans on the Right Bank where you’re sure to get the real deal. General tips for finding a good croissant: find a bakery that’s independent and isn’t baking stuff that has been frozen. Also, look for a line of Parisian locals in the morning, then go when those suckers are all at work.

Flickr user austinevan

First timers: Go on a boat tour on the Seine
Second timers: Go on a boat tour on Canal Saint Martin
The Seine is a beautiful river, and a boat tour will take you by all the well-known monuments. But with footbridges and trees lining the waterway, the Canal Saint Martin is just as worth a boat tour. This is the hub of Paris’s hipster community, filled with cafes, galleries, fixie bikes, cocktail bars, and discarded Vampire Weekend albums. The canal stretches from the Seine near Bastille and extends to Canal de l’Ourcq, close to La Villette. On the 2.5hr cruise, you’ll pass through four locks, and you’ve got two tour operators: Paris Canal, which has a few different departure spots depending on where you want to start, and Canauxrama, which has a bar on board.

La Fine Mousse

Chumps: Drink Pelforth
Champions: Drink craft French brews
Paris, and France in general, doesn’t have the intent focus on craft beer like some other places (shutup Portland!), but it’s getting there. One thing is for sure: if you want to drink good beer, you’re not going to find it by randomly dropping into a bar that you happen to be walking by. Good beer in Paris must be sought out. Check out La Fine Mousse and Supercoin, both bars that serve good microbrews, and if you need to pick up a few bottles to drink on a picnic on the Seine, head to La Cave à Bulles, Bierissime, or Peoples Drugstore.

Flickr user Peter Rivera

Groupies: Visit Jim Morrison’s Grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery
The independently-minded: Visit any of the writers, artists, and badass intellectuals at Montmartre Cemetery
Apparently visiting cemeteries is a super-popular French past-time. Whatever, we're not here to judge. But why go and put flowers on an American grave when you can explore some of the creative European greats? On the west side of Montmartre, the Montmartre Cemetery is a classic French cemetery with a long list of notables, including artist Edgar Degas and filmmaker François Truffaut. Even if you don’t like honoring the deceased, the architecture of the tombs and layout of the cemetery make it worth a stroll.

Anna Brones

Guidebook readers: Go to the top of Montparnasse
Guidebook writers: Go to the top of Printemps
While taking the elevator up to the 56th floor of Montparnasse will get you a great view, it will also cost you 13.50€. Want a good view that’s completely free and just a little less well known? Head to the department store Printemps. On the ninth floor, you’ll find a rooftop cafe and a 360-degree view of Paris, complete with, uh the Eiffel Tower, the Opera 'hood, Sacre Coeur, and everything in between.

Anna Brones

Tourists: Hang out in front of Sacre Coeur
Locals: Hang out on the backside of Montmartre
Trying to get a feel for what the Montmartre neighborhood feels like? Get away from the front of Sacre Coeur immediately. If you’re within sight of a carousel and people selling cheap Eiffel Tower keychains, you’re deep in the heart of about-to-get-scammed-ville, but if you walk just a few blocks off, Montmartre is a fun area that has a very Parisian feel with plenty of locals. Take some time to explore the small streets and wander; you’ll be surprised to find that only a few blocks away from the flocks of tourists, you’ll be right in the heart of this lively neighborhood. Trek over to Barbes-Rochechouart and Goutte d’Or, also known as “Little Africa”, then go north to Rue Marcadet and Rue Lamarck, which are full of restaurants, cafes, and small boutiques. Grab a beer at any corner brasserie, like La Cave Café, watch the locals walk by, and pretend you’re Parisian.

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1. Musée du Louvre 99 Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 75001 (Louvre)

The Louvre is one of the most famous and acclaimed museums in the world, featuring works from Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo.

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2. Musée Rodin 79 Rue de Varenne, Paris, 75007

Established in 1916, the Rodin Museum is dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

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3. La Fine Mousse 6 avenue Jean Aicard, Paris, 75011 (Bastille)

This bar has an amazing beer selection (22 on tap), plus quality wines (obviously), and tasty cheese plates.

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4. Le Supercoin 3 Rue Baudelique, Paris, 75018

Located at 3 Rue Baudelique, Le Supercoin is a laid back bar that serves up quality microbrews.

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5. Cave à Bulles 45 rue Quincampoix, Paris, 75004 (Le Marais)

If you're looking to pick up some fine craft beers, Cave à Bulles is one of your best bets in Paris because of their expansive collection.

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6. Bièrissime 85 bis boulevard Magenta, Paris, 75010

Bièrissime sells a myriad of different craft beers from around the world, and they also have frequent in-store tastings.

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7. Peoples Drug Store 78 rue des Martyrs, Paris, 75018 (Monmartre)

Although this isn't your typical drugstore in the traditional sense, it does have plenty of "medicine" in the form of a gigantic craft beer selection.

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8. Père Lachaise Cemetery 16 Rue du Repos, Paris, 75020

This cemetery is one of Paris's most popular tourist attractions, mostly because it contains the grave of The Doors singer Jim Morrison, as well as other famous musicians and authors.

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9. Montmartre Cemetery 20 Ave Rachel, Paris, 75018 (Monmartre)

This cemetery may not be as famous or as popular as Père Lachaise Cemetery, but it does house a long list of notables including artist Edgar Degas and filmmaker François Truffaut.

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10. Tour Montparnasse 33 Avenue du Maine, Paris, 75015

The Montparnasse Tower is a 210-meter office skyscraper located in the Montparnasse area of Paris, and it offers some of best views of the city.

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11. Printemps 64 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris, 75009

Printemps is a large department store in Paris that has a rooftop cafe offering terrific views of the the City of Light.

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12. Eiffel Tower 5 Avenue Anatole France, Paris, 75007

Built as the entrance to the 1889 World's Fair, the Eiffel Tower is Paris's most notable and iconic landmark.

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13. Basilique du Sacré-Cœur 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, Paris, 75018 (Monmartre)

One of the most popular attractions of the city, this Catholic church and basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in Paris.

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14. La Cave Café 134 Rue Marcadet, Paris, 75018

This corner brasserie is an ideal spot to grab an adult beverage or a bite to eat and people watch while enjoying the quiet and comfortable setting.