Discovering Paris’ iconic neighbourhoods

Aug 4, 2017

There is more to Paris than the Seine river and splendid Haussmann buildings. Paris resident and travel writer Wee Ling Soh, who has lived in the city for four years, gives us the lowdown on four vibrant neighbourhoods that are full of exciting nooks, but only if you know where to look.

For neo-hipsters: Bassin de la Villette

The buzz is definitely moving upstream these days as Canal Saint-Martin gets saturated with tourists. There’s no better evidence of this than at Grande Marché Stalingrad, a magnificent building where tax collectors used to be stationed, collecting duty on goods entering Paris. Today, it has morphed into a hip all-in-one dining and retail venue boasting music events and exhibitions.

Stop at the 19th arrondissement’s very own microbrewery Paname Brewing Company (above) for a pint (or two) of artisanal beer. L’Oeil de Biche, a pale ale, is my poison of choice. If beer is not your thing, get your cup of third-wave coffee paired with organic treats lovingly prepared by Aaron and crew at Kaffee bar 19.

Emmaüs Défi at 104 is worth a look if you are into vintage clothes and wares.

I’ve been back at Instagram-perfect Yikou multiple times since it opened in 2016. The brainchild of French-Chinese duo Pierre and Chen, Yikou serves up next-level fusion dim sum, with the help of a Guangdong chef formerly of The Peninsula Paris, using regional French ingredients like pink biscuits from Reims and black truffle oil from Périgord.

My favourite thing to do around here: Round up some friends and grab a few bottles of wine for an evening picnic by the canal.

Nearest Metro station: Jaurès

SEE ALSO: The Louvre in Paris: how to enjoy your visit and what you need to see

For architecture buffs: Opéra

Café Jacquemart-André (above) is a stunning tea room in a private museum, its walls adorned with giant 18th-century Flemish tapestries. The beautiful interiors aside, the cakes are absolutely delectable – a great place to go for your afternoon tea in the City of Light.

The Apple Store at Opéra is the perfect blend of minimalism and old-world grandeur in a gorgeously-restored bank, worth heading to even if you aren’t buying tech gadgets. Don’t forget to sneak a peek at the basement which used to be the bank vault.

As imposing as the headquarters of Société Générale looks, it’s ok to step inside this Belle Époque masterpiece by Jacques Hermant for a quick look even if you don’t bank with them.

The Galeries Lafayette needs no introduction with its Art Nouveau stained glass cupola. While you are there, head to Galeries Lafayette Gourmet to sample the amazing terrine by award-winning charcuterie Maison Verot. If you are lucky, there might be some pâté de cochon de la tête aux pieds (pork terrine “from head to feet”) left.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find another Starbucks as spectacular as the one here elsewhere. Its jaw-droppingly magnificent 19th-century ceiling murals alone are well worth the price of your Frappuccino.

And if you are in the area on a Sunday, stop by Kunitoraya, a Japanese udon restaurant housed in an elegant 19th-century French bistro, that transforms into a secret gypsy jazz bar every Sunday from 4.30-7.30pm.

Nearest Metro station: Opéra

For edible souvenir connoisseurs: Le Marais

Maison de la Prasline Mazet in Paris

La Chambre aux Confitures is Lise Bienaimé’s tribute to her great-grandfather who used to make jams at his speciality food store. Not sure which jam to get? You can sample their wares to your heart’s delight. My picks: rhubarb & ginger and blackcurrant & violet.

The Maison de la Prasline Mazet (above) has been making praslines since 1903 using a 381-year-old recipe. These little caramelised almonds are seriously addictive, weigh almost nothing and make the perfect gift for your foodie friends back home.

The vast array of tea at Mariage Frères is probably a curse for indecisive shoppers like myself. What’s worse, I’ve also fallen victim to their clever marketing ploy; I can’t resist getting the Paris-Singapore blend every time I step into their flagship boutique.

If all that food souvenir shopping has made you peckish, get a pita sandwich to go from Miznon and enjoy it at the nearby hidden garden Jardin des Rosiers-Joseph Migneret. Or hit up Le Mary Celeste for tasty, original small plates paired with equally original cocktails by head barman Hyacinthe.

Down the street from popular multi-concept store Merci, Maison Plisson is an elegant one-stop shop full of lovely French artisanal ingredients (with prices to match) to fill your luggage with. Their dishcloths aren’t too shabby as gifts either.

Nearest Metro station: Saint-Paul

SEE ALSO: Hidden treasures and alternative places to visit in Paris, France

For apéro lovers: Gare de l’Est

Le Syndicat cocktail bar, Paris

In France, apéro (evening drinks) o’clock typically starts after 5pm. Start at Café A’s hidden courtyard (main photo) located in an 18th-century former convent.

Then, hop over to the Armurerie de la Gare de l’Est which stocks a good selection of Opinel knives, including the hard-to-find, versatile serrated knife N°113.

Fans of zany cult classic film Zazie Dans Le Métro would be pleased to see the church and train station from the film. And you heard it here first – there’s a secret rooftop bar in the train station, on a terrace usually closed to the public, if you are there in the summer.

La Pointe du Grouin is the perfect place to go for a snack and drink. The casual Breton bar offers a variety of French tapas like pig’s ears, all cheap and excellent. The only catch: you have to pay with tokens that are only available in increments of 10 euros.

For a proper meal, you can’t go wrong with the creative modern French offerings at Le 52, a short walk away from the majestic Porte Saint-Denis, one of Paris’ four triumphal arches.

End your night at Le Syndicat (above), a somewhat-hidden drinking hole teeming with hipsters, and serving up ingenious cocktails using forgotten French spirits like Marc de Bourgogne (pomace brandy), absinthe and gentian-based bitters.

Nearest Metro station: Gare de l’Est

SEE ALSO: 6 quirky Paris cafes to sip a latte at

Singapore Airlines  flies once daily non-stop from Singapore to Paris. During the Northern Winter season, the Airline will operate 10 weekly non-stop services from Singapore to Paris starting October 30, 2017 until March 24, 2018.

– BY WEE LING SOH

PHOTOS: CAFÉ A FACEBOOK, MAISON DE LA PRASLINE MAZET FACEBOOK, LE SYNDICAT FACEBOOK