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By Sandra Gribe Ouaknine, MSN contributor

Top tips from a local in Paris

Take a trip with TV producer Sandra Gribe Ouaknine as she spends her perfect day exploring Paris' bars, boutiques and sights off the beaten track


It's well known that Paris is the most romantic city in the whole world, and I'm in love with the city. Even though everyone knows the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triomphe or les Champs Elysees, Paris is full of surprises with so many things to see, to visit, and to explore in Paris.

Eating and drinking

If the hip Paris restaurants like gastro-burger joint Blend and or the bohemian Café de la Mairie seen in the video take your fancy, then you must head to Le Rosa Bonheur, hidden in the heart of the Buttes Chaumont park.

Le Rosa Bonheur (© Le Rosa Bonheur)

Enjoy a beer outside at Le Rosa Bonheur

This unique Parisian venue is inexpensive, relaxed, and frequented by a great mix of people who often take advantage of its beer garden in the summer months, making Rosa Bonheur a must-visit.

If you'd like to sample some of France's famous cheese check out La Palette. La Palette is a veritable institution in Paris, once frequented by luminaries such as Jim Morrison, Ernest Hemingway and Picasso.

Located in the middle of Saint Germain quarter, La Palette is best known for its cheese and charcuterie platters (it's the place to sample a classic Croque Monsieur toasted sandwich) but it also serves great daily specials from 15 euro. If you want to meet Parisian gallery owners, artistes and hipsters this is the place to go.

Sightseeing

Paris is well known for famous venues such as the Eiffel Tower or the steps of Montmarte but if you're interested in escaping the tourist crowds and living like a true Parisian, take a trip to the anarchic artistic hub Les Frigos de Paris. Over 200 artists use the old storage depot for refrigerated railway wagons as a gallery and studio space and it regularly holds special events.

If Les Frigos whets your appetite for culture, then a trip to Le Moulin de la Galette in Monmartre should be on the cards. Once a small "suburb" of Paris, Montmartre was characterized by its fourteen grain mills. Today, it remains a vestige of the past with the Moulin de la Galette and the Moulin Rouge (the latter was rebuilt in 1921 after a fire)found here.

Street art in Belleville (© Press Association Images)

Soak up the atmosphere of Belleville

Immortalized by Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir and especially in his 1876 painting The Ball at the Moulin de la Galette, this mill was a popular attraction in the late nineteenth century for its famous dance hall.

Located at the corner of Girardon and Lepic, you can see it perfectly. Unfortunately you can't go inside but the charm remains and it is a worthwhile visit as the area is rich in small and unusual details.

If you feel like seeing Paris from a different perspective head underground to Les Catacombes located near the former gates of the city. The characterful underground cemetery holds the remains of nearly six million people, including revolutionaries such as Robespierre and Marat.

If you prefer your Parisian sights at street level head instead to Belleville. Paris' China Town, Belleville is well known for its lively atmosphere and colourful street art. Spend a couple of hours strolling or stop for some tasty Chinese food. If you're lucky you might find a slam poetry night taking place (often in English) in Le Café de la Culture Rapide.

Shopping

Champs Elysees Christmas market

Pick up gifts at the Champs Elysees Christmas market

Anyone visiting Paris will be tempted by its world-famous shopping opportunities - French fashion designers are famous for a reason.

After hitting Les Grands Magasins (department stores like Le Bon Marche, Les Galeries Lafayette and Printemps), head in the direction of smaller, less crowded streets such as La rue de Charonne and La rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the trendy Le Marais district to browse a selection of the best current French designers.

In nearby rue des Saints Peres you can find jewellery designers like Laetitia Uzan in bijoux boutiques like Baby Buddha. While you're in the area visit La rue des Rosier.

This typical Parisian street in the Jewish quarter of Paris is packed full of beautiful shop fronts and quaint boutiques, many open on a Sunday (unlike many shops in Paris) - making it a wise destination choice for a weekend break.

When to visit

Paris is perennially busy, but the best time come is in May or September, when the mild weather, mixed with fewer hoardes of tourists makes the city a joy to discover, but bear Christmas in mind.

Festive illuminations add extra sparkle to the Champs Elysees, the displays in the shop fronts of the Grand Magasins delight even hard-hearted adults and you can see for yourself why it's called the City of Lights!

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