The locals' guide to...Paris

City of Love, City of Light, that place with the Eiffel Tower... Whatever you call it, the French capital draws the crowds. Make the most of your Paris holiday by doing it like the locals.

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How do I get away from large tour groups wearing matching caps?

Avoid the fearsome camera-wielding crowds who'd barge their own grandma out of the way to get a better shot of Notre Dame by planning your own tour and getting off the beaten track. Renting a Vélib' bicycle from one of the hundreds of bike bays throughout the city is a cheap way to get around and see the sights. Once you've braved the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay has one of the most amazing collections of Impressionist art around. Instead of a boat tour on the Seine, hop on a barge along the charming Canal St-Martin. If you fancy wearing the captain's hat on your Paris break, you can rent a rowboat at the Bois de Vincennes.

Where do the locals party?

Nightclub snobbery is rife in Paris. Some venues even employ 'physiognomists', who make you twirl around to check you're wearing the right clothes and are pretty enough to get in. If you're up to being judged by the door-dragons, hit Point Ephémère. A hang-out for young hipsters, it's also an artspace with a gallery and an outdoor eating area. Drinks are pretty cheap, there's a DJ and the crowd is chic and fun. Bartenders are a bit rubbish at the 'tending' part of their job description but the energy in the place makes up for any waiting time. And, hey, they look pretty.

Restaurants without an 'all-you-can-eat tourist buffet'?

Food doesn't need to be expensive to be good in Paris. Even very ordinary looking brasseries on street corners do great simple dishes like steak frites (steak and chips) and crème brûlée. Think bijoux dining and be wary of anywhere with a plasma screen and a table for ten. Cool bohemians and cash-strapped students alike travel to Paris's Chez Gladines near Place d'Italie for excellent food at a low price.

The locals' absolutely secret number one tip : Head to the Marais quarter for the closest you'll get to old-school Parisian decadence born out of the eccentric marriage of the area's Jewish heritage and contemporary gay scene.

A quick guide to where the locals hang out


The pick-up spot: Potentially anywhere, but the cosmopolitan cuties head to The Bottle Shop in Rue Trousseau.

The middle-of-the-night food stop: Head to the Place de Clichy in the 8th arrondissement for a little something to take the edge off tomorrow's hangover.

The museum: Rodin Museum. The artist's former home holds one of the world's most guarded sculpture collections, including his famous works such as The Thinker and The Kiss.

The view: If you don't fancy the queues at the Eiffel Tower take in the vista from the top of the Arc de Triomphe or the Sacré-Coeur.

The café: Head to Les Deux Moulins in the Montmartre quarter. The café from the film Amélie is as good in real life as it is in the movies.

The unlikely hotspot: Père-Lachaise cemetery. Designed as a city for the dead, it holds the graves of Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Édith Piaf and Jim Morrison.

The gourmet's paradise: Rue Montorgueil, a pedestrian street where shops and stalls sell food, food and only food. It's the home of La Maison Stohrer, one of the oldest bakeries in Paris and birthplace of the Rum Baba, a liquor-drenched yeast cake.

The place for people watching: Head to Jardin du Luxembourg near the Sorbonne University for a coffee and a relax in the sun.

Why not try? Moulin Rouge dinner and show

Can I drink the water?

The eight essential questions you'll need answering

Which local animal is likely to hospitalise me?

Keep an eye on your food when tucking into local speciality Moules Marinières, and ditch any mussels that haven't opened. There's nothing romantic about food poisoning.

Which native liquor will make me think I am attractive?

Wine of course. Unfortunately even though you may think you look sophisticated after a bottle of red, the dark purple stain that has engulfed your entire mouth will indicate otherwise.

How can I avoid a beating by the local hard nuts?

Don't get in the way of their smoking, drinking, driving, eating or loving and you should be fine.

Will I get lost?

Invest a few euros in a 'Plan de Paris par Arrondissement' (Paris Street Guide by District) and you'll always find your way back to your Paris hotel. You can pick one up at newsagents and bookstores.

Will I find myself?

Probably not, but you'll find Paris romantic, even if you're travelling alone. The accent, the architecture and the strains of an accordion floating in the evening air will make your heart skip a beat.

Should I take an umbrella?

No. Rain doesn't have to stop play on your Paris weekend break. Sheltering from the rain under a café awning is how great love affairs get started.

What should I order in a restaurant to impress the locals?

The French don't just want to eat cheese they want to get to know it. There's an ancient love affair here, so take your time over the cheeseboard.

Can I drink the water?

Mais oui. If you're on a city break in Paris, you'll be happy to know you can glug from the tap.

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