Paris has a reputation for glitz, glamour and expense but when you want to take a break from mink coats and Champagne on your Champs-Elysées rooftop there’s still plenty to do in the French Capital. Here is just my list of things I’ve discovered during my time here (with a slight bias for the top right of Paris). Special mention to those who didn’t make my illustrious cut; Ground Control, a space so large and creative it has it’s own radio station; any local Sunday market, they really put the British car boot sale to shame; and Saint-Ouen flea market, looking at French antiques you could never ever afford really is more fun than it sounds.
Open all year round and a creative space for truly everyone, you can come here to dance, learn, create, take part or just watch. Le Centquatre is free to enter and opens with a large hall, here you find energy in abundance with people of all ages coming to hone their skills in dancing, magic, yoga, music, anything you can think of. There are seats along the sides to rest and take in some extreme people watching or find yourself a space and have fun! If you can manage to dig deep and find €3-5, Le Centquatre also has an outside area that leads to numerous art exhibitions for which the entry is always cheap. Outside you will also find a free to borrow library and a café with a wonderful outside area to read. A great place to spend a day and I haven’t even mentioned the vintage Emmaüs shop yet…
Just off the Canal Ourcq is a fantastic venue for jazz fans or music lovers in general. The grand room inside hosts free music each evening in which the atmosphere is always special, chairs are available for those who arrive early, and the rest of the room fills up into more of a dance floor very quickly. Drinks are cheap, as is the décor, which is a mixture of old peeling paint from the venues old life as a train station and layers of graffiti. The animated bar staff ensure that the crowd is quiet whilst the music plays with some rather impressive shushing however if you prefer to have a chat, both front and back have large outside spaces with enough seats for large groups.
Canal Saint Martin
It can’t get any cheaper than this. Sitting. There are many spots in Paris to have a good sit and a late-night picnic and this is my favourite. Especially in the summer, the top of the canal (near the MK2 cinema) turns into a buzzing night time scene. Sit and have a drink or join in with petanque and what I can only describe as amateur tight rope walking (slack-lining?) that people do all alongside the water. Despite their reputation, the friendly Parisians are always willing to let you have a go. The last time I was at the canal, a man rode in on his full-size piano on wheels and played music for everyone, the best part being that nobody found this unusual.
You will never run out of options for music venues in Paris but for cheapness and reliability, you always need to remember l’International. Each evening you can catch free live music, check the schedule to see who’s on or just turn up and find out. There is a huge range of genres who come to play here, and the audience reflects that, a diverse crowd mixing from the head bangers in the front row to the white wine sippers gazing from the back. Just off Belleville, a largely Chinese quarter of Paris, go out for some cheap food and then head here for some head banging or back room gazing, depending on how much you ate.
The Parks of Paris
Photo: Guilhem Vellut / CC-BY
A seemingly obvious one but the parks in Paris are particularly beautiful and deserve a special mention. There is a great pride for Paris in providing calming and open spaces to the public and you can spend a day exploring the larger parks of Buttes Chaumont and Bois de Boulogne or posting up in a tiny park you’ve discovered and are pretending it’s your own Parisian garden. My own favourite for this is Square Alberto-Giaccometti, a tiny green paradise at the end of an incredibly beautiful traditional Parisian street, it is instantly secluding and a great spot to spend a day telling yourself you will start revising as your break slowly turns into a wonderful nap. These parks are everywhere so explore your arrondissement and find your own personal garden.
By Joey Hind, childcarer and CAP diploma graduate (2017/2018)