Paris is one of the world’s most visited cities. For many years, Paris dictated global trends in fashion, food, architecture and design. Paris led and other cities followed. It remains the capital of couture and one of the best places on earth to enjoy the good life. Paris is also home to one of the world’s best gay scenes.
Although Paris is a byword for romance, the reality on the ground is more nuanced. If you step out of central Paris – a sort of gilded wedding cake with a huge motorway cutting through the middle – you’ll find a big, brash and in some ways quite dirty city. Like all great cities, Paris is great because it’s a real place and it’s a magnet for interesting people. You can live your Amelie and Midnight In Paris fantasy, but there’s more to Paris than the Hollywood myth.
Word of warning: these days Montmartre is a major tourist trap. That being said, it’s well worth a visit. Head there in the morning before it gets flooded with people. If you don’t have a heart condition, then you can follow in the footsteps of Amelie and walk up the endless stairs to the top.
Before you do, take a stroll along Rue Pigalle. Here you’ll find Paris’ sex shops and also the legendary Moulin Rouge. You’ll definitely want to take a photo outside the world’s most famous cabaret venue. From the Moulin Rouge, you can head up the stairs to Montmartre.
At the top you’ll find Sacre Coeur, a church with a long, turbulent history. It’s been a holy site since Pagan times. The Christian foundations were laid in around 475 A.D. to honour St. Denis, the first Bishop of Paris. You’ll be greeted with one of the best views in Paris. All those steps will have been worth it!
From Sacre Coeur, head up the road to Montmartre and explore the historic bohemian quarter. This is where much of Amelie was set. Montmartre has been associated with art for many years. Peak Montmartre was peak bohemia. Everyone in Montmartre was writing a novel or preparing to paint their masterpiece, and many of them did! People flock to Montmartre for a taste of this creative energy. Bohemian Montmartre is a thing of memory. Today tourists flood the streets, eating ice cream and taking photos. But if you head there before the crowds show up, you can get a feel for the magic of Montmartre. You can also pop back later at night to try a bit of bar hopping.
One of the wealthiest and most glamorous districts of Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés is a must. You’ll find many boutique shops, art galleries and cafes spilling onto the pavements. For a perfect Parisian Instagram moment, head to Rue de Furstemberg. It’s a charming, romantic and classically Parisian street.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church is well worth a visit. It’s the historic heart of the district. The present structure of the church dates back around a thousand years. It’s a remarkable building and it’s been part of so many seminal events in Parisian history.
After all that walking you’ll need a drink. Saint-Germain-des-Prés is home to some Paris’ most iconic brasseries, Deux Magots and Cafe de Flore. Sit on the terrace of one – or both – of these brasseries and have a carafe of wine. You’re on vacation and it’s Paris, daytime drinking is fine! As these establishments are so iconic, they’re a bit touristy. You should still check them out. If you’d like a less touristy place, head down one of the smaller side streets and find somewhere that catches your eye.
Notre Dame is one of the greatest cathedrals in the world. Its history stretches back to 1160. Notre Dame has survived so many dramatic episodes of history, not least the fire that almost destroyed it in 2019. It was the home of the Cult of Reason for a brief period during the French Revolution. In one of history’s most potent acts of blasphemy, Sophie Momoro danced half-naked as the Goddess of Reason inside the cathedral. Notre Dame reverted back to its sacred origins under Napoleon.
You’ll definitely want to take a photo outside Notre Dame. It’s right by The Seine. Just across the river you’ll find Shakespeare & Co – it’s right by the Latin Quarter. It’s Paris’ most famous English language bookshop. They have an excellent selection. You can ask for a Shakespeare & Co stamp on your book when you purchase it – gift ideas!
Paris’ famous gay district is within easy walking distance. Head back across the river and past Les Halles and into Le Marais. It’s both the gay and the Jewish district. Le Marais is one of the most stylish districts in any city in Europe. It’s packed with luxury boutiques, restaurants and bars. Walk around, stop off for a drink at a brasserie and enjoy a bit of people watching. Le Marais is one of the best places for people watching. You’ll see some of the best-dressed people in Europe. They always seem to look effortlessly cool.
18-May-2020 by Alex | More: Gay Paris