Everybody knows France for its cuisine – but nobody goes to Paris just for the food. Parisian culture is too rich for that! To know Paris, you have to walk Paris.
The city has long been considered heaven for the idle walker with a nibble in mind. There’s always somewhere new to discover, and coffee, pastries, or cheese to be found.
One hundred years ago, it was Boulevard St. Germain on the Left Bank that became the place to (slowly) be. The Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots fed and watered famous French thinkers and writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
Today, these venues continue to serve loyal regulars and mysterious strangers. Meanwhile, the mirrored enclave of Brasserie Lipp, a favourite of Hemingway, remains a discreet spot to chill out while you work on a fish dish or sip coffee.
But don’t fall into the trap of rushing to take it all in. Parisian street life is about taking time to savour your surroundings and your snacks.
Slow food on the boulevard
As life gets faster and faster, it’s helpful to remember the culture of flâneurs – who deliberately tasted the city in as slow a manner as possible.
“Around 1840,” writes Walter Benjamin, “it was considered elegant to take a tortoise out walking. This gives us an idea of the tempo of flânerie.”
The flâneur’s Paris is not the Paris of haute cuisine but of everyday life and hidden gems. With its romantic architecture, romantic people, and unique café culture, wandering and people-watching like this was a natural development for the curious Parisian with time on his or her hands.
As the poet Charles Baudelaire put it, “the spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.”
L’Arbre à Cannelle is a particularly suitable spot to share a salad with your tortoise, or a homemade tart with your sweet one! This corner restaurant offers views back on the shopping arcade through which you walked to reach it; the very type of arcade which Benjamin wrote about in close connection with the migration patterns of the flâneurs.
A walk through authentic Paris
Wandering alone or with friends is a wonderful way to discover something just for yourself. But there’s always the chance you’ll miss out on one of the area’s best-kept secrets. The Hip Eats and Backstreets tour offers the best of both worlds.
The tour traces the thread that leads from Baudelaire’s flâneurs to the way Parisians walk around their authentic local neighbourhoods today. It will lead you to the places whose chefs observe, reflect, and compose fresh recipes inspired by tradition but with a step into the modern.
Centuries-old cheese-making processes alternate with exotic twists from Paris’s increasingly diverse culture. A plate of cured meats and a glass of wine is excellent fuel for the body and inspiration for the mind as you prepare to wander to your next destination. Perhaps it will be Le Haut Marais, the current hot-spot of Paris.
While the pace of Parisian life has, in some quarters, kept up with that of the rest of the world, the soul of Paris remains that of the idle scholar of everyday life. Have you been neglecting your inner flâneur? Slow down and enjoy Paris as it’s meant to be enjoyed!