Understanding French life is a lifelong journey of mine. I’ve been in love with all things français since my very first French class in grade 4. While everyone dreaded going, I’d cling to my desk to hear my teacher just speak. French just has to be one of the most beautiful languages there is.
On my most recent travels to Paris, I devoted myself to finding quintessential Parisian charm and immersing in true local living. Our studio apartment was in the 5th arrondissement, and in the heart of the Latin Quarter. I rented from a lovely, older Parisienne couple who spoke little English and gave me an opportunity to practise my français! It all couldn’t have been more perfect. Like a village of small winding roads, our apartment was off Boulevard Saint Marcel, and our entrance just steps to sweet-smelling boulangeries on every corner. Each morning, I would open our balcony doors to take this all in and each night stumble back home into this very quaint and local neighbourhood.
If you’re in Paris for a week or longer, renting an apartment is your cheapest bet. You can pack your lunches or cook for dinner. €500 can land you a decent place for a week while hotels will set you back at least €100 a night. Renting a flat also gets you off the tourist grid into local neighbourhoods like this one!
The best part of the 5th is being able to roll out of bed onto Rue Mouffetard. At the turn of the corner, a few steps further from our studio was my favourite little cobblestone street. I can’t think of a more quintessential French neighbourhood and street to spend my mornings. The pedestrian rue is known for its artisanal food shops. Shops selling French cheeses, local wines, the freshest (and most natural) baguettes, and traditional cafés line the rue ready for people-watching. The tiny narrow road fills very early with the most colourful fruit and vegetable market. Here, vendors are always quick to smile and eager to know you by name. The fruit sellers in their stands or the bakers in their boulangeries, they are the people that make this neighbourhood feel like home – warm and cozy even if you don’t live here.
“Le Mouffe” is a trail of a medieval Roman past. Colonial references still remain on many of the old storefronts including up the street at no. 12, Au Nègre Joyeux. The painting of “The Happy Negro” depicting a happy smiling black servant and his white master always stirs soft whispers and debate by passersby. It’s now on Paris’s registry of sites deemed historical and unable to remove or modify. The site was one of the first chocolate factories in Paris. Ironically, today the popular supermarché below is run by minorities.
Nothing says francais like the local cheese shop. I can still sense the fresh aroma from the fromagerie, Veron. Not to mention the massive quiche I found further along.
Try the deliciously famous crêpes at Chez Nico and Aup ’Tit Grec. They make some of the best in the city! Best part they’re the cheapest in the city at €3-4.
Other places to check out on Rue Mouffetard:
The Italian traiteur, Androuet, at the bottom of the rue for handmade pasta.
Famous tarts at Le Maison des Tartes
Organic bread at Pain au Naturel
Le Vieux Chêne, one of Paris’s oldest bars dating back to the 18th century and a popular meeting point for revolutions in 1848.
Church of St-Médard
Best way to get here: Métro Censier-Daubenton
Do you have a favourite local neighbourhood?