Looking to spend an entire month in Paris?
First off - how awesome! My partner and I were both working remote jobs at the time (he is a photographer and I’m a freelance graphic designer), when we realized we could do so anywhere in the world, we started planning a temporary move to Europe. We decided to ring in 2018 in Paris, where we would spend a month working and exploring this big city. We took almost every metro line, ate way too many baguettes, and learned A LOT. Here are some things we wish we would have known before. If you are just starting out, here is a great article on picking which neighborhood is right for you.
Our contenders were:
Le Marais (the kitchens here were a little lacking, so that got crossed off)
Montmarte (we decided that it looked like it was too far away, which we learned later didn’t really matter… because the metro system in Paris is top-notch)
Belleville (hmmm… up and coming neighborhood. View of the Eiffel Tower. CHEAP.)
Choosing your Location
When choosing which arrondissement (subdivisions of the city of Paris) we wanted to be closest to, we considered a few things:
Distance to Metro Stations
Distance to Parks (growing up in WA state means I need trees in my life or i’ll go crazy)
Distance to Markets/Cheap Food Options (I’ll get to this in a bit…)
Ultimately, we decided on Belleville.
Our Air BNB was located in Belleville, a neighborhood easily accessible to the heart of the city by jumping on the Metro line 11. If you hopped off at the Belleville Metro Station, you would emerge thinking this was the melting-pot mecca. Chinese men group next to the magazine kiosk stands and have heated conversations. You’ll find Algerian bakeries among the artisan boulangeries and Vietnamese restaurants. and LOTS of graffiti.
Here’s the wikipedia low-down:
“Belleville is an edgy neighborhood hosting a monthly street food market that sprawls along Boulevard de Belleville with outdoor tables. Part of the area is a Chinese quarter, with grocery stores and no-frills restaurants, as well as a new wave of contemporary galleries and street art. Rue Sainte-Marthe is a quiet street lined with art studios and global eateries, while hilly Parc de Belleville offers city views.”
My favorite thing about this neighborhood was that we had a park close by, could see the Eiffel Tower, and had a plethora of food options.
If we we're craving Pho, it was a two-minute walk away.
Korean BBQ… all right at our fingertips!
I also have an unhealthy relationship for Bahn Mi, so I was stoked to find Saigon Sandwiche, a great option for only 3€50. There is also a nice man serving paninis at the bottom of the hill, which we munched on while walking to Parc des Buttes Chaumont.
Edith Piaf was a French cabaret singer, songwriter, and actress who became widely regarded internationally for her singing, but she started in this very neighborhood. At this very cafe! (As the legend goes, she was born in a doorway at 72 rue de Belleville, only a couple doors down from us.) We loved sipping espressos during the day at Aux Foiles, and joining the massive local crowds here at night for a biere. (Photo courtesy of neverending voyage)
So should you stay in belleville?
Belleville is a perfect neighborhood to stay while you are in Paris and save some €€. It was quiet, had a plethora of food options, and was insanely easy to get to wherever we wanted to go. If these are selling points for you… find a cute Air BNB in this charming neighborhood!
If we were to do it all again, however, I would definitely want to stay in Montmartre.
We we're on our second week here, and hadn't spoken to a single person outside of struggling through a dinner order, (I was sad to realize my years of French in high school and college were long gone) when I found a free walking tour of Montmartre, courtesy of Discover Walks that we ADORED.
The Montmartre neighborhood sits atop of the city, with Sacré Coeur crowning the highest point in Paris. We started our tour at Moulin Rouge, before climbing through the winding cobblestone paths with local shops selling delicious pastries and fromage. I loved visiting the same streets that inspired artists like Picasso, Van Gogh, and Renoir. Also to see some of the most popular caberets in the world. This tour seemed to also eloquently avoid all the tourist traps, which was a plus in my book!
If you are only visiting Paris for a few days, it's definitely definitely definitely worth it to visit Montmarte. DiscoverWalks has free tours twice a day in English and they meet right by the metro station Blanche. Look out for their hot pink vests!
All in all, Paris was nothing short of a learning experience. Here are some of our favorite memories from the last month, including our day trips down to Trocadero, Disneyland Paris, and Versailles:
I contemplated deleting the rest of this, but I think it's fair to keep because it's something I wish I read on a blog before coming here. Read at your own risk!
Disclaimer: Paris was not my favorite place I've been to. Coming from Seattle, I think I expected to love this city like my own, but it was definitely a different experience trying to adapt here. We we're always a little weary trying to go find food that we liked at the super markets. Don came home one night excited he found chicken strips, only to realize when he took a bite it was a fish stick. If you are moving to Paris or considering an extended visit, here are the things i'd would have wanted to know:
Paris is expensive. This should not have come as a surprise to us, as we we're prepared to shell out a lot to stay for an entire month. But still... it hurt our wallets. We did get lucky and scored some budget-friendly meals here and there, but most of the time the food we ate was nothing extraordinary for the price we paid.
Winter in Paris was also kind of a disappointment. All the fountains have their water drained, statues are protected from the cold and wrapped up, and it rained. A lot. (and that's coming from a born and raised Seattle girl!) To be fair, we felt really lucky on the days when we had sunshine! It just took a lot of planning... so if you're considering coming to Paris in winter and only have a few days, don't be surprised if the sun hides your whole trip. ;) On the plus side, it really gave me a reason to return and see the beautiful parks and spring flowers! (and i'm still silently praying we will wake up tomorrow before our flight and see some snow....)
I can’t wait to return to see this city in the springtime one day. Our next destination was a month in Prague before we rented a car and road tripped through Austria and Germany. Check it out below! Have a specific question about navigating a month in Paris? Post in in the comments below. xoxo