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Word of Mouth: Paris

Tricked-out photomatons, a dancing sandwich man, candy cocktails and more with our local hosts

by Kelly O'Reilly in Travel on 20 December 2012

On a recent trip to Paris we had the chance to see a first-time visitor fall in love with the City of Lights. Crashing with locals, our group took the obligatory (but no less bewitching) trips to bistros, cafes, cathedrals and grand museums—but also managed to squeeze in a few more clandestine stops. After a successful week soaking in the classic Paris experience from Colette to la Tour Eiffel, and discovering some native favorites, we've got a handful of tips for your next trip.

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Chez Hamadi

Tunisian culture factors significantly among the city's many influences, and locals have long flocked to this somewhat hidden bistro tucked right off the main tourist drag in the famed Odeon neighborhood. The low-key, pleasantly kitsch interior provides the perfect backdrop for a relaxing and delicious meal of meat and vegetable couscous dishes with free-flowing wine and mint tea.

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Louis Vuitton Espace Culturel

Weave your way past the mega-rich foreign tourists buying up monogrammed leather goods, and have the operator take you up a strangely blacked-out elevator from the second floor. After a few seconds in total darkness, you'll find yourself in the light-filled, smartly curated gallery space with a tremendous view of the beloved rooftops of Paris. For each rotating exhibition a selection of fabric, hardcover catalogs are on hand to take away as a souvenir and the knowledgeable, multilingual staff will willingly walk you through the work or leave you to explore a well-stocked reading room. The best part is, it's all free.

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La Famille

In a city with a bistro on ever corner, La Famille stands out as a cozy neighborhood haunt putting an experimental riff on the traditional French menu. Located on a quiet side street in Montmarte, the setting is low-key, quirky and sexy at the same time. Bartenders serve up house-specialty mojitos brimming with smoky dry ice, Pocky sticks and candy for a young, hipster clientele.

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Palais de Tokyo

Reopened earlier this year after a 10-month renovation the Palais de Tokyo now claims the title of Europe's largest non-collecting art center. The airy, concrete space encourages free roaming among a mix of established and up-and-coming French artists in the massive building's promising new iteration.

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Bonton

Whether you've got kids or not this whimsical French children's shop is worth walking through. We popped into the Marais location, beating a bit of shopping fatigue by playing around in the black-and-white photobooth (complete with props) and browsing adorably nonsensical wares like coffee cups for squirrels, party favors and whimsical oilcloth fabric.

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Vegetarian Crepes at Marche Les Enfants Rouges

As the oldest market in Paris, Marche Les Enfants Rouges is a worthy stop on your itinerary, best scheduled at lunchtime. Be sweet to Alain at the crepe stand in the center, and not only will he dance and sing while concocting his famous, monster vegetarian crepe, but he'll toss over a few waffles to munch on while you wait. The size of an American football, the wrap is a glorious combination of carrots, mushrooms, avocado, fennel, parsley, sesame, goat cheese, lemon zest and honey. Be sure to have Alain point you towards a charming secret garden to sit and eat, as seats within the market are reserved for certain other restaurants.

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Chez Sarah

Open throughout the week while most of the larger Puces flea market shutters, Chez Sarah stocks a treasure trove of well-preserved vintage clothing and accessories. We spent hours chatting with the friendly staff and browsing exquisite French lingerie and slips, 1960s Balmain and Dior and wildly rich hats. Among the big-ticket items are hidden plenty of unlabeled frocks from around 100€.

Images by Kelly O'Reilly, Caroline Kinneberg, Bonton and Chez Sarah

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