I walked through 20 Paris arrondissements in 20 consecutive days: Here are 20 things I learned

Paris is a big city. I know, I know, you can walk everywhere and it feels like a village. But I’ve learned it’s actually huge.

You see, I recently did a live video walk through all 20 Paris districts over 20 (mostly rainy) days.

I did it consecutively, starting from the 1st arrondissement in the centre of Paris, then each day spiralling slowly clockwise (and quickly out of control). It’s incredible just how much distance there was between, for example, my spot in the 15th (Parc Georges-Brassens) and my spot in the 16th (Trocadero).

Photo: Max Pixel
Photo: Max Pixel

Anyway, my idea: To explore one area or one landmark in each district, with the help of a tour guide, expert, or an interesting guest each time. And to film it all on Facebook LIVE.

Here’s a recap of 20 intriguing things I learned. And a little note: The first five minutes of (almost) all these videos are available on Facebook here. The rest of the videos – sometimes up to an hour long – are for Patreon subscribers to the show. Sign up now to watch the replays of all 20 videos.

Here we go!

1. Colette shocked Paris with a ‘nip slip’

Yes, just like how Janet Jackson made headlines at the 2004 Super Bowl for her “Wardrobe Malfunction”, famed actress and author Colette did more or less the same thing many decades before. Apparently no one in the audience knew she was about to expose her breast during a play and it caused quite a stir at the time.

This tip was courtesy of Heidi Evans from the Women of Paris tour, where we saw Colette’s old home and where she used to perform.

2. Rue Montorgueil embraced the hashtag for Christmas

The most beautiful street in Paris (according to me) embraced the digital age for Christmas and put the word “Montorgueil” in lights high above the street itself. And keen flaneurs may have noticed that before the word, city hall officials added a big old hashtag. #whatnext?

Anyone else notice that Paris embraced the Christmas lights a little more noticeably for 2018?

The Montorgueil walk was for the 2nd arrondissement, with Amanda from Boneshaker Doughnuts as my guest. Watch our video here on Facebook.

3. You can find the oldest graffiti in Paris at the Place des Vosges

On the western edge of the Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, you can also find the oldest graffiti. Put there by an author called Nicolas-Edme Rétif in 1764, it remains a point of curiosity for Paris treasure hunters to this day. Find it at number 11 place des Vosges – and it features at the end of the video below. 

4. There are traces of the old city wall in unusual places

One of my favourite Paris details is the Philippe Auguste Wall, which circled the city back in the 1180s. Now you can only find traces of it – scattered especially through parks in the Marais. The longest stretch is beside what is now a basketball court. Watch my video here.

5. Where gladiators once fought to the death, Parisians now play football

Did you know there’s a 2000-year-old Arena in the fifth arrondissement? A lot of people don’t know about it, it’s kind of hidden away near Rue Monge. But instead of fighting lions, those in the arena today are much more likely to be fighting over a football as I found out during this walk.

6. The Saint Sulpice church has world class art on display

Even if you’ve never heard of the artist Delacroix, I guarantee you can appreciate his works that hang on the walls of the Saint Sulpice Church. Maybe you remember the church from the blockbuster film The Da Vinci Code? Check out my walk inside the church below, with Amber Minogue as my guest and guide.

7. The famed hotel Lutetia has renovated its bar: And it’s amazing

My walk through the stunning 7th arrondissement ended in this hotel, which has a more interesting history than most hotels in Paris. Picasso stayed there, James Joyce wrote Ulysses there, and the Nazis occupied the hotel in the second world war. But what really caught my attention was the new bar – go check it out if you get the chance!

8. You can get after-hours access to Parc Monceau

But you have to live next door. Yes, during a fascinating tour of “the most elegant park in Paris”, according to Boris from Paris in Person tours, we saw the private paths leading to the gates of the park’s neighbours. And these people all have after-hour access to the park. But to be fair, I think the park is best enjoyed during the day.

9. You can find Eiffel Tower-shaped sex toys in Pigalle

Paris has a very naughty side indeed – but you surely knew that already. If you ever find yourself on the Boulevard de Clichy, you’ll find yourself surrounded by neon lights and sex shops, some of which proudly display Eiffel Tower sex toys in their windows. Watch my video with Rosie from Not Even French here.

10. Tourists keep falling for the same old scams

If you see people hustling on the streets of Paris or if something seems to good to be true – please do not hand over any money. Just walk on. Please. I can’t believe how many tourists I saw handing over their hard-earned tourist money to con artists.

There are better things to spend your money on in Paris. Like Earful Tower membership, for example.

11. There’s a water fountain that dispenses sparkling water in a park in the 11th

Who needs normal water when you can get it fresh and sparkling in the 11th arrondissement? This tip was courtesy of Guy from Cafe Mericourt, who showed me around the trendy 11th district and shared his thoughts on the Yellow Vest movement going on that very day.

12. Paris inspired the New York High Line

If you’ve ever seen the New York skyline walkway, you’re just seeing a copy paste of the Coulée Verte pathway in Paris. It’s really beautiful in any season – but was particularly fresh and crisp on this video with tour guide April Pett from April in Paris Tours. We started the walk in the famed Aligre Markets, see below.

13. The Buttes Aux Cailles is one of the best places for street art in Paris

Ever heard of the Buttes Aux Cailles? It’s one of the charming little villages in Paris, tucked away in the 13th arrondissement. And the mayor has given the green light for street art, which seemingly crops up on every wall.

Here’s a guided tour of it with Bénédicte from Explore Paris.

14. People leave Metro tickets on the grave of Serge Gainsbourg

Serge Gainsbourg was the poet hero of France, the badboy of the stage and the cigarette-smoking king of the French music scene. Now, unfortunately, he is dead.

And if you can track down his grave at the Montparnasse Cemetery, you’ll find it littered with used Metro tickets. Why? Because he once sang a song about a ticket collector on the Paris Metro. It’s attached below with English subtitles.

15. There’s a park with both beehives and a vineyard in the 15th arrondissement

People love to tell you that Paris has a vineyard, one solitary vineyard, and that you can find it on the northern side of Montmartre. But there’s another mini vineyard in the Parc Georges-Brassens that took even me by surprise. And if that’s not enough to rock your socks, there are also beehives right next to the vines! Check out my exploration here.

16. The best view of the Eiffel Tower is from Trocadero

If you’re looking for that picture postcard shot of the Earful… I mean the Eiffel Tower, then head to the 16th arrondissement and see it from a distance. I was here with Lindsey Tramuta from Lost in Cheeseland.

17. The Cité des Fleurs is the most charming alleyway in Paris

You may have never heard of it, but the Cité des Fleurs is a short walk in Paris that is absolutely worth tracking down. It’s in the 17th arrondissement on the edge of the ever-intriguing Batignolles area.

18. You can find the doorway to Vincent Van Gogh’s old apartment

During a nighttime and very rainy walk through the exquisitely beautiful Rue des Abbesses in Montmartre, I pointed out that where Vincent Van Gogh once lived. Wanna find it yourself? It’s at 54 Rue Lepic – look for the blue door.

19. The canal is lined with moored boats that house restaurants and mini-concert halls

They may just look like normal boats – and I suppose they are. But if you step onto the peniches along the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th, but if you play your cards right you can find yourself watching a show inside one of these peniches. 

20. There’s a road full of murals that almost reach the sky 

Turns out another great spot for street art is in the 20th arrondissement, notably Rue du Retrait. That’s where I started the walk below, with tour guide Kasia from Street Art Tour Paris.

Well that’s it! 20 tips for 20 arrondissements. Hope you learned something because I sure did.

Now, if you want to watch all these videos and – more importantly – watch all the upcoming live videos, then sign up in the member club on Patreon for US$10 a month. There were 85 live videos over 2018 – and the next one will be in Montmartre next week. See you there?

That’s it! If you like these tips, be sure to check out The Earful Tower’s Guide to Paris.

The Earful Tower’s Guide to Paris

It’s here! After six seasons of making The Earful Tower podcast and 100+ expert guests, I’ve finally put together the ultimate guide to Paris.

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