Seasoned Traveller
Paris Eatinerary

A Lesser-Known 48 Hours in Paris

Words by Sofia Levin
Images by Sofia Levin & supplied

This two-day itinerary will show you the real Paris, from classic French bistros and a multicultural neighbourhood food crawl; to abandoned railway walks, street art and lesser-known points of interest.

If you are searching for a guide to Paris that includes the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, you’re in the wrong place. This is a food-focused guide that delves deep into Paris’ heart. It’s been lovingly assembled off the back of obsessive research, eating of stomach-stretching proportions and visiting more than one too many “hip” wine bar-restaurants that seemingly succeed on regurgitated recommendations, rather than actual quality. Expect a taste of Paris both new and old; a different vantage point of familiar romance alongside places to eat that go beyond the city’s cliches.


9am: A Belle Époque Breakfast
Le Train Bleu

Begin your day at arguably the most picturesque place to eat in Paris without a view of the Eiffel Tower. Le Train Bleu is a vast dining room located inside Gare de Lyon. It’s an exquisite example of Belle Époque architecture, originally built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition at the peak of Paris’ pre-war prosperity and artistic merit. There are more than 40 Art Nouveau scenes painted across soaring ornamental ceilings, grand arched windows and painstakingly restored statues and chandeliers. Later in the day you can pre-order roast lamb leg carved tableside and an overpriced sur la pouce ("on the go") menu in the adjacent lounges, but you’re better off with one of the simple set breakfasts so you can admire the space and keep yourself fuelled until lunch.

Gare de Lyon, Hall 1, Paris,

10.30am: Stroll Above Paris
La Promenade Plantée

You’re a 10-minute walk (850 metres) from Coulée Verte René-Dumont, the start of La Promenade Plantée. This elevated green corridor was built on an abandoned 19th-century railway viaduct in the early ‘90s. It snakes through the 12th arrondissement for just under five kilometres (three miles), emerging at the Bois de Vincennes park. To fit more into the day, walk the 1.5-kilometre section from Coulée Verte René-Dumont to Jardin de Reuilly. If you’re interested in artisan makers, from furniture to jewellery, check out the Viaduc des Arts before ascening the stairs, which is a string of brick archways below Coulée Verte René-Dumont housing showrooms and studios. 

1 Coulée Verte René-Dumont, Paris

11.30am: Shop Paris' Pretty Passages
Historical Arcade Crawl

Walk to Montgallet Station and catch mauve-coloured metro line 8 to Grands Boulevards. This spits you out on the doorstep of Paris’ charming 18th-century arcades. Start at Passage Verdeau, head to Passage Jouffroy and then Passage des Panoramas opposite, before walking to Galerie Vivienne, the pick for clothes shopping. You’ll come across stores selling antiques, vintage clothing, souvenirs and books, as well as small museums and galleries, tea rooms, cafes and more. Even if you’re not spending, it’s worth window shopping to experience the Belle Époque architecture and historical value.

1.30pm: Déjeuner Classique
Lunch at Chez Georges

One of the most enchanting Parisienne bistros is just two minutes away from Galerie Vivienne. At Chez Georges in the 17th, tradition has been upheld since 1964. A red velvet doorway curtain shelters diners from the weather. A vast mural of people playing croquet in the 1800s stretches across one side of the room. The tiled floor, cracked and discoloured from 60 years of spilled stories and wine, leads to a rectangular dining room fringed with arched mirrors, banquettes and tables dressed in white linen. Julia Child sung the praises of Chez George when she lived in Paris, and the sole meunière that changed her life remains on the menu. Other highlights include decadent house foie gras, perfect puy lentil salad and sweetbreads with creamy morel sauce. Be sure to book ahead, just in case. More here.

1 Rue du Mail, Paris,

3.30pm: Shop like a Chef
E. Dehillerin, est. 1820

Digest by strolling another five minutes to E. Dehillerin, a popular kitchenware store that has been selling copperware to locals and visitors – including Julia Child – since it opened in 1820 (it has been in the current location since 1890). It might not be a hidden gem, but it is certainly an experience. Smaller copper items, such as canelé and pudding moulds, make great souvenirs.
8-20 Rue Coquillière, Paris,

4.30pm: The ‘Other’ French Church
Église Saint-Eustache

A few hundred metres away is the largely underappreciated Saint-Eustache Church (at least compared to Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur and the like). If it’s Gothic architecture and jaw-dropping art you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. And, if you happen to visit on a Sunday at 10.45am or 5pm, you’ll experience its glorious acoustics when the 8000-pipe organ plays. There are a number of food-themed features, thanks to the church’s location near Les Halles, the former site of Paris' medieval marketplace. Look for the stained-glass window in the chapel funded by the Society of French Charcuterie that features a pig, sausages and the patron saint of butchers, Saint Antoine. Within the Pilgrim Chapel of Emmaüs, there's also a 1969 caricaturist tableau of Les Halles stallholders by Raymond Mason called "The Departure of the Fruits and Vegetables," a reference to the market closing and its merchants moving on (currently undergoing restoration). 

2 Imp. Saint-Eustache, Paris,

5.30pm: Modern Art, Historical Building
The Pinault Collection

Yet another five-minute walk will take you to a museum that juxtaposes history with modernity. Dating back to the 1700s, the Bourse de Commerce was rebuilt as a stock exchange in 1889 for the Universal Exhibition, following its previous life as a grain and commodities exchange. The rotunda, drenched in natural light from the colossal, iron-clad skylight, is worth a visit alone. The domed building has been lovingly restored and is now home of The Pinault Collection, the private, 10,000-strong art collection of billionaire François Pinault (founder of Kering, the multinational behind luxury goods such Gucci, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent and more). Expect works from some 350 artists in the permanent collection and check the website for rotating exhibitions.
2 Rue de Viarmes, Paris,

8pm: Dinner in a Garden Oasis 
Golden Poppy, La Fantaisie Hotel

It’s finally time to ditch your bags and put your feet up. You’ll have more time to rest if you book dinner at Golden Poppy and stay in the building at La Fantaisie, a recent hotel with 63 rooms and 10 suites in the middle of Faubourg Montmartre. Rooms start at €349 off-peak (around $570 AUD), a decent price for fashionable boutique accommodation in this area. If you’re on a budget, stay in Belleville (see day two’s itinerary). Regardless, it’s worth dining at Golden Poppy, a California-inspired restaurant by French-born, San Francisco-based celebrity chef Dominique Crenn. Snuggle into upholstered floral banquettes in the conservatory-like dining room, or enjoy the serene garden setting, which feels a million miles from the bustle of Paris’ 9th arrondissement. Playful plates include glistening parker house rolls baked in a skillet with egg yolk jam, as well as dry-aged sea bream with seasonal condiments, pickles and leaves to wrap each mouthful. 

La Fantaisie, 24 Rue Cadet, Paris,

10pm: Cocktails & A Show
Classique & Sister Midnight

There are plenty of spots to drink and play in Paris, but the duo of Classique and Sister Midnight are convenient if you’re based at or near La Fantaisie, or going straight from dinner at Golden Poppy. A 15-minute walk away in Pigalle, formerly Paris’ red-light district, people vie for terrace tables at Classique bar, which occupies a 19th-century pharmacy. You’ll spot the serpent-entwined green apothecary cross on the side of the building, which is also referenced on custom-stamped ice blocks bobbing in seasonal cocktails. You could conceivably start here before heading to Sister Midnight around the corner to see a cabaret or drag show on Saturday. It's the antithesis of its neighbour: deliciously dark and over-the-top with teal and leopard print interiors.

Classique, 1bis Rue Lallier, Paris,
Sister Midnight, 4 Rue Viollet-le-Duc, Paris,


8.30am: To Marché, To Marché
Belleville Market

Head to Marché Belleville if you’re exploring on a Tuesday or Friday, a colourful market with produce and goods reflective of Belleville’s multicultural community. It takes over the traffic island in the middle of Boulevard de Belleville between 7am and 1.30pm on those days. If you want to go deep on Belleville eats beyond this itinerary, see this article.

Corner Rue de Pali-Kao and Boulevard de Belleville, Paris,

9.30am: Breakfast & Street Art
Pastry, a Revived Icon or Chinese

Hopefully you haven’t snacked too hard at the market, because Le Petit Grain is nearby on Rue Dénoyez, which is famed for street art. At this boulangerie, kouign-amanns are crusted with sesame seeds, cinnamon is spiralled through brioche and everything is made using natural leavenings. It’s take-away only, so eat while admiring the street art before cutting through to Rue du Belleville. On your left is an institution, Aux Follies, where eccentric locals sip coffee (and beer!) first thing in the morning. Continue right, up the slope to Place Fréhel. Here you’ll spot Benjamin Vautier’s 1993 street art instillation featuring two workers mounting a chalkboard-like billboard that reads, “Il faut se méfier des mots” (beware of the words). If you prefer to sit and eat breakfast, try Le Café des Delices, a terracotta-tiled institution among the Jewish Tunisian community revived by the Le Petit Grain team in 2023. Best Tofu is another option for a Chinese breakfast of tofu pudding.

Le Petit Grain, 7 Rue Denoyez,
Le Café des Delices, 4 Rue Lemon, paris,
Best Tofu, 9 Boulevard de la Villette, Paris

11am: Hilltop Lookout & Subway Stroll
Parc de Belleville & La Petite Ceinture

Next, walk five minutes to Belvédère de Belleville, a lookout at the top of Parc de Belleville with sweeping views of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower. It’s hard to imagine that these hills were once covered in vineyards and orchards; all that remains is a small section of 140 vines that produces up to three kilograms of grapes each year. Continue down through the park, heading towards Le Mezze du Chef. If you can manage a snack, stop for Turkish coffee and çig köfte, mock steak tartare kofte from southeast Turkey that’s spiced and vegetarian friendly. Moments away at 79 Rue de Ménilmontant is a staircase descending to La Petite Ceinture. Venture down to explore the abandoned railway that served as public transport until the 1930s, and was used for freight, before it was deserted in the 1970s. Parts of it are on the grungier side, with graffiti’d walls and overgrown weeds, but it’s another part of Paris that’s seen less often. Use common sense and avoid at night. 

Belvédère de Belleville, 27 Rue Piat, Paris
Le Mezze du Chef, 80 Rue de Ménilmontant, Paris,
La Petite Ceinture, 79 Rue de Ménilmontant, Paris,

1.30pm: Browse Belleville’s Local Art
Ateliers d'artistes de Belleville

Walk to Ateliers d'artistes de Belleville, an open-studio gallery founded in 1989 that brings together more than 250 artists and 23 art collectives based in the Belleville area. Artists work within the space, with about 20 rotating exhibitions a year that are open to the public within the gallery. It’s open Thursday through Sunday from 2pm to 8pm. Next, return to your accommodation for some downtime!

1 Rue Francis Picabia, Paris,

4pm: Paris’ Most Magical Park
Parc de Buttes-Chaumont

After a rest, collect yourself and head to Parc de Buttes-Chaumont at the upper reaches of Rue de Belleville. It’s a huge, exquisite park built on an old quarry, which explains the hills. There is plenty to see – waterfalls, caves, a suspension bridge – but the main feature is the Temple de la Sibylle, a miniature Roman-style temple atop a 50-metre cliff on an island in an artificial lake that's inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli.

5.30pm: Aperitif & Snack Crawl
Buttes Snack Bar & Soces

By the time you’ve finished exploring the park, it will be well and truly aperitif o’clock. One could easily do an entire aperitif crawl of Belleville, but Buttes Snack Bar and Soces are near each other and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Buttes is a small venue where wine is accompanied by cured meat, pimped-up seasonal vegetables and larger plates like char-grilled octopus and duck macaroni, while Soces is an ecallier (seafood restaurant) with a display of shellfish on ice and seafood-focused dishes. There are also several independent boutiques and stores south of Soces on Rue de la Villette that you might enjoy browsing before dinner. 

Buttes Snack Bar, 20 Rue Pradier, Paris,
Soces, 32 Rue de la Villette, Paris,

8pm: The Best French(ish) Bistro Dinner
Quedubon or Le Cheval d'Or

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to dining in Belleville, but these two options are nearby. Quedubon is hard to beat for classic French fare. It’s a wine-focussed bistro near Parc des Buttes-Chaumont that’s warm, welcoming and specialises in game and offal dishes from its blackboard menu (try cervelle de veau, creamy veal brain gently poached in lemon butter and pan seared until every crevasse has a caramelised crust). Nearby, Le Cheval d'Or opened in 1987 but was taken over by a slick young team in 2023. The neo-bistro menu is a nod to the Chinese community who moved into Belleville in the ‘80s. Think poached cod quenelles wrapped in fried tofu and ricotta-filled tortellini with the spicy fermented funk of doubanjiang bean paste.

Quedubon, 22 Rue du Plateau, Paris,
Le Cheval d’Or, 21 Rue de la Villette, Paris,

10pm: Cocktails & an Historical Club
Combat, Kissproof & La Bellevilloise

If you’re tiring, there are a couple of wonderful cocktail bars back down the hill near Belleville’s best accommodation, Babel Belleville and Hotel Scarlett (from €132/AUD $215 and €116/AUD $190 per night respectively). Combat is an airy, women-owned cocktail haunt with a seasonal drinks menu and a sustainability focus. It’s across the road from Kissproof, a cocktail bar from Beirut that butts up against Place Fréhel. You could call it a night here, or you could walk another kilometre south to La Bellevilloise. This restaurant, bar, club, exhibition space and live music and events venue was once Paris’ first worker’s co-op in the 1800s. Check the website to see what’s on when you’re in town. 

Combat, 63 Rue de Belleville, Paris,
Kissproof, 50 Rue de Belleville, Paris,
La Bellevilloise, 19-21 Rue Boyer, Paris,

12am: A Midnight Tunisian Feast
Les délices de Tunisie

Looking for a late-night feed after you finish partying? Fast-food restaurant Les délices de Tunisie is 650 metres away from both the cocktail bars and La Bellevilloise. It’s open until midnight during the week and until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights. Order a Tunisian souffle (like an overside empanada) or makloub (a spicy street sandwich reminiscent of a calzone or folded flatbread). Both are spiced and loaded with ingredients like tuna, merguez sausage, chicken, three cheeses, and more. 

9 Rue du Liban, Paris

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