9th arrondissement

If you’re looking for an exciting, under-the-radar Parisian adventure, you won’t find it in the mainstream heart of the ninth arrondissement. What you will find instead are packed (though admittedly impressively decorated with rooftop view of Paris) department stores like Galeries Lafayette or Printemps, the famous Opéra Garnier national ballet theater and a few museums. You’ll be able to tick off these must-see spots, but, fair warning, you’ll be doing so amongst an ocean of tourists. For a taste of how a true Parisian might spend their time around the ninth, head up towards SoPi — South Pigalle.

Opéra Garnier / Grands Boulevards

Some­body told all the tourists to go here for nightlife. We’re not sure who it was, but it cer­tain­ly wasn’t us. The effect is as expected—bars cater­ing to tourists. If you flew all the way to Paris to vis­it a wax muse­um or a Hard Rock Café, that’s on you. Don’t blame us for wast­ing your time star­ing at wax fig­ures of Mbap­pé and John­ny Hal­l­i­day. This com­plex neigh­bor­hood strad­dles the sec­ond and the ninth dis­tricts, which keeps it hum­ming and thrum­ming day and night, and packed with Paris’ biggest col­lec­tion of basic, high­ly avoid­able, main­stream pubs, and ‘just-keep-walk­ing’ restau­rants (the clubs and the­atres are cool though, so don’t lump them in with the bor­ing chain pubs that line the traf­fic-choked ‘boulevard’—depending on who is spin­ning, the Rex Club can be LIT…). With the good, the bad, and the ugly all smashed togeth­er, the Grands Boule­vards quar­ter is any­thing but subtle.

Instead of get­ting engulfed in this main­stream may­hem, keep it real by wan­der­ing around the cov­ered pas­sages, where the best restau­rants in the neigh­bor­hood can be found (Vic­to­ria Sta­tion, Racines…). Faux­hemi­ans pre­fer the Marais, but, if you hap­pen to be here and are a dis­cern­ing per­son (ahem, you are read­ing PARIS » DEFINED, so…), you’ll want to drill down a lit­tle deep­er on small­er side streets and spend time among locals by sip­ping on a straw of our lov­ing cura­tion below.

Rue Lafayette / Rochechouart

Light a can­dle and repeat Roche­chouart three times fast in the mir­ror, and one of the neigh­bor­hood guys sell­ing stolen bikes and cell phones will appear in front of you. Escape from pol­lut­ed and noisy rue Lafayette, and take cov­er around the fun­tas­tic zone encom­pass­ing rue des Mar­tyrs and Avenue Tru­daine. Don’t miss the Musée de la Vie Roman­tique.

Pigalle

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Called Pig Alley by puri­tan­i­cal Amer­i­can G.I.s after the lib­er­a­tion of Paris, they were aghast at how one could allow maisons clos­es to be so bla­tant­ly vis­i­ble. Pigalle is where Paris spreads its legs—in more ways than one. Actu­al­ly, just in one way, to vary­ing degrees, depend­ing on how much you’re will­ing to pay. On the high end, there’s the Moulin Rouge, one of Paris’ most-pho­tographed build­ings, the birth­place of the French can-can, and the worst place in Paris to pro­pose to your sig­nif­i­cant oth­er. On the low end, well, just take a look around. You have your choice between the Sex­o­drome, Pussy’s, La Diva…good luck and Godspeed!