You’ve heard of springtime in Paris, but how about autumn in the City of Light? France’s capital city deserves every superlative ever lavished upon it, and fall is the time to relish the fabled ville in all its glory. Gorgeous architecture, interesting and ethnically diverse street life, meticulously landscaped parks, beautiful people, and even more adorable dogs meld to create a visually rich landscape that dazzles, delights, and bewitches. Take an excursion through some of Paris’ 20 unique districts, called arrondissements, and discover a few of the gems that give this city its sparkle.
Cheap & Cheerful
A small community of Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, and Indians call the up-and-coming 10th arrondissement home. Here, sari shops rub shoulders with Bollywood music stores, and the smell of incense and spice perfumes the air. At Krishna Bhavan, a vegetarian restaurant on a side street crammed with South Asian eateries, you’ll relish lip-smacking favorites such as masala dosa and idli sambar, plus less familiar snacks like bonda—battered and fried potato balls—and savory doughnuts called vada served with a heavenly coconut sambal. The best deal in the city, nothing on the menu costs more that seven euro.
24 rue Cail; http://krishna-bhavan.eresto.net/
Live Like Locals
To get into the rhythm of everyday Parisian life, regular trips to any of dozens of outdoor markets are a must. This writer’s favorite, Marché d’Aligre in the 12th arrondissement, offers the best combination imaginable: fruits, vegetables, and flea market. Buy your crisp, fragrant apples, dried figs. and fresh flowers first, then meander through a mish-mash of stalls offering funky art, dishware, clothing, and other treasures. Open every day sauf Monday.
rue d’Aligre; http://marchedaligre.free.fr/
The right-bank neighborhood of Faubourg St. Antoine was once a neglected quartier inhabited by recent immigrants and Parisians on a budget, but the last few years have brought gentrification and transformation. Today, international celebrities can be spied mingling among the locals at the trendy restaurants, bars, and shops dotting the tree-lined rues. One trendy eatery with heart is Tesnime, an Algerian bakery/restaurant where exquisite vegan pastries, savory breads, and filling dishes such as couscous and tajine tempt the hungry. The addictive olive oil-and-semolina bread called kesra is a must-try.
207 rue du Faubourg St. Antoine; http://tesnime.com/
In many Middle East and Islamic cultures, the hammam, or communal bathhouse, is a semi-sacred space where families—segregated by gender—go to relax, socialize, and yes, get clean. At Les Bains Maures, a women-only hammam in north Paris’ 18th arrondissement, you’ll be welcomed into a steamy, convivial cocoon where letting it all hang out is the order of the day. Fifteen euro buys you all-day access, and affordable add-ons like massage, body scrubs, and hair-removal services are available. Try the “toute” special: steam bath, full-body exfoliation, and massage for 41 euro.
54 boulevard de la Chapelle; http://lesbainsmaures.com/
One of the city’s oldest districts, the Marais, is also the most cosmopolitan. Here, the world of orthodox Jews, gays, and tourists collide against a quintessentially Parisian backdrop framed by sidewalk cafés, boutiques, and musées. On rue des Rosiers, several falafel shops vie for attention, but nothing beats Rami et Hanna when that late-night hunger for Middle Eastern fare hits. Try the super falafel plate, loaded with roasted eggplant, freshly fried and generously proportioned falafel, and garlicky hummus for dipping the endless supply of pita bread into.
54 rue des Rosiers