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There are more than 6,100 roads in the city of Paris and you can rank them any number of ways: by age, length, average property price, and even, subjectively, by beauty. But none of that means anything if they’re not especially fun places to hang out. Below are the 10 most happening streets in the French capital and dozens of tips about what to see and do while you’re on them.
The Rue Denoyez is just one of the cool, cobbled streets which branch off the Rue de Belleville, the main thoroughfare of the city’s most up-and-coming neighborhood. Its heavily tagged walls are a magnet for trendy types, who love nothing more than spending the afternoon, evening, and the small hours of the night in its restaurants, cafés, and bars. Once you’ve taken in the sights and sounds of the surrounding area, pay a visit to Frichez nous la paix, a small, independent gallery and artists’ workshop.
Another Parisian road famed for its street art is the Rue Oberkampf. One square, the one by the Café Charbon and the intersection with the Rue Saint-Maur, attracts more attention than any others thanks to Le Mur, an association-managed wall which is repainted every few weeks by local and international artists. The Rue Oberkampf is also the place to head for a grungy sort of night out, with numerous quirky bars and music venues along its 1.2km length. The Bar Les Pirates and Les Philanthropes are two safe bets for a fun time.
The Rue de Marseille’s most obvious selling point is its proximity to the Canal Saint-Martin, an area rich in history and people-watching potential. As one of the most popular neighborhoods with young Parisians – no more so than during the summer months when it is packed with happy revelers most days and nights – it has all the great bars and restaurants that you’d expect. But what sets the Rue de Marseille apart is its growing reputation as a destination for fashionistas. Concept stores and boutiques for women and men just keep popping up here like Centre Commercial and Balibaris.
The Marais is known as Paris’ LGBTQ quarter but, historically, it has also been a point of entry for the city’s Jewish and Asian communities, making for a unique and wonderful mix of cultures and traditions. The Rue Vieille du Temple and the Rue des Archives are the two main roads which run, roughly, north to south through the neighborhood. On the former, you’ll find loads of cute places to curl up with a book. Glou is also a simple but chic little bistro for lunch or dinner and Breizh Café does an excellent crèpe for folks on the go.
Of all the foodie streets in Paris, and there are a whole lot of them, the Rue Montogueil is the foodiest of them all. This largely pedestrianized street running between the 1st arrondissement and the 2nd is lined with not only bars and restaurants but fish mongers, fruit stalls, butchers, and bakeries. It’s also the place where you can find the best, or at least the most traditional, croissant in town. You can’t really go wrong with dining out here but Les Artizans is something special.
The Rue des Martyrs is one of those streets which, 20 years ago, no Parisian would have been caught dead on but today is the place to see and be seen. This steep slope between the 9th and 18th arrondissements is the backbone of the hip SoPi (or South Pigalle) district, once a collection of grotty streets, home to dive bars and brothels, and now a thriving scene of gourmet stores and boutique hotels. The Rue des Martyrs also boasts the winning trio of the coolest place to play chess, the chicest vintage stores, and most delicious millefeuilles in Paris.
In a city famous for its long, straight boulevards, the Rue Lepic, which winds its way nonchalantly up the western side of Montmartre, offers a refreshing change of urban landscape. It is also home to the finest restaurants in Paris’ most artistic neighborhood. If you can’t get a table at La Mandigotte, try La Rughetta just down the hill. Both are a stone’s throw from 54 Rue Lepic, the one-time residence of Vincent van Gogh. The Moulin de la Galette, the windmill which he and so many other artists have painted over the years, is just around the corner.
Most of the streets on this list embody an understated, effortless kind of cool. The Avenue Montaigne, on the other hand, embraces all-out glamour. It is the undisputed home of Paris’ luxury retailers and a must-visit location for lovers of women’s fashion. Carrie Bradshaw stayed (and got slapped) at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée when she visited the city in the final episodes of Sex and the City and shopped (and tripped) at Dior just across the road. If you do visit the Avenue Montaigne, try to keep your own fashion moments a little more elegant.
To walk along the Rue Mouffetard, from the Place de la Contrescarpe at one end to the Square Saint-Médard at the other, past its green grocers and merchants, is to take a trip back in time or, at least, to some small French village that time has forgotten. It was also, during the Roaring Twenties, a favorite spot for meeting and drinking of Hemingway and the rest of the city’s expat writers and intellectuals. It still attracts a lively crowd today, many of whom are meeting friends for a tasty brunch.
Last but by no means least is the Avenue de Choisy, one of three roads which form the principle triangle of Paris’ Quartier Asiatique. This neighborhood, with its mix of nationalities and ethnicities, is one of the reasons why Paris is among the most multicultural cities in the world. If you are in town at Chinese New Year, the parade isn’t to be missed but, on any day of the week, the avenue and the streets off it are ripe for discovery.
Click here for a map of all the streets listed above.