12th Arrondissement

The 12th is large, mostly uneventful, and home to Paris’ largest public park—the Bois de Vincennes: if you’re looking for prostitutes (and chances are even if you’re not, you’ll find the…ahem…remnants of a fun time), you’ll come across them in this vast forest. But fret not—if this sort of rendez-vous isn’t up your alley, then perhaps the sordid but fascinating past of the Bastille will entice you. Or the indoor and outdoor Aligre market, which dates back to the late 1700s. Here, aside from excellent fish, cheese, and produce, you may also encounter some (consensual or not) physical touching, and/or many vendors trying to play a game of who can rupture your eardrums first. For the cultured folks, there’s the Opéra Bastille, home of high-quality opera or dance. Whatever turns you on (we won’t judge), you’ll find it in the 12th, in a local, non-touristy kinda way.


This used to be a grit­ty work­ing-class neigh­bor­hood so for­get about find­ing the glitz and glam­our of Paris that way too many Insta­gram­mers try to sell you (and let’s not even men­tion THAT show). This ain’t it. What you’ll find instead is damn tasty food that won’t break the bank, thanks to a mar­ket that will give you a sam­ple of what Parisians love doing best—find­ing and eat­ing fresh pro­duce from around France. The Marché d’Aligre is the place to go and rub elbows with fel­low hip­sters in your search for knock-your-socks-off cheeses (fig­u­ra­tive­ly and literally—France has some smelly-ass cheese), salt­ed but­ter, char­cu­terie, and maybe an antique from the flea market.

Bastille / Arsenal

Per­haps you’ve noticed Bastille/Arsenal pop-up a few times already, and that’s because this area bor­ders two oth­er arrondisse­ments, the fourth and the 11th. See Place de la Bastille, where the infa­mous name­sake prison stood, and if there’s a strike or protest going on (as the French are wont to do, and often), feel free to join in to get into that real French spir­it. Catch a qual­i­ty bal­let per­for­mance at the mod­ern Opéra Bastille, and if your lungs are gasp­ing from the lack of oxy­gen in this busy cross­roads, head towards the Coulée Verte—a lus­cious ele­vat­ed park, built on top of a dis­used rail­way. Man­hat­tan’s High­line was inspired by this ele­vat­ed walk­way. Below it, the wide side­walk on Avenue Daumes­nil is lined with glass­mak­ers, choco­latiers, car­pen­ters, and oth­er kinds of arti­san shops.

Cour St. Emilion / Bercy

If you want your soul to be sucked out of you, go ahead and vis­it this recent­ly recon­vert­ed, main­stream Paris quar­ter. Pre­vi­ous­ly the largest wine mar­ket in the world, you would need to be drunk to be duped by the old-world facade of the Cour Saint-Émil­ion pedes­tri­an area, with its for­mer stor­age hous­es turned into main­stream chain restau­rants and shops. There’s noth­ing of note here apart from the pret­ty cob­ble­stoned street, the adja­cent park, the megaplex show­ing flicks mer­ci­ful­ly NOT dubbed in French, and the occa­sion­al art instal­la­tion. If you’re a Frank Gehry fan, check out his archi­tec­ture at the near­by Ciné­math­èque Française, a small build­ing hous­ing a cool muse­um ded­i­cat­ed to cin­e­ma with tons of well-curat­ed indie and his­toric movies in their reper­toire. For a taste of quirk­i­ness, there’s the Pavil­ions of Bercy, a pri­vate muse­um show­cas­ing old attrac­tion park rides from the 19th and 20th cen­turies. Except between Christ­mas and ear­ly Jan­u­ary, when it’s open to the pub­lic, you need to pre­book for a tour (the vin­tage, work­ing rides require host­ing and han­dling by experts), so take this into consideration.