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Paris landmarks: An insider’s guide

Tick off the main monuments, and still see the city like a native

Visiting Paris is a double-edged sword. On one side there are the city's glorious museums and monuments, fabulous dining, thrilling culture and great shopping. On the other, there are hordes of tourists, shops selling tat and legions of overpriced, underwhelming cafés. This guide is designed to show you the real Paris, away from the bum-bag-sporting, digital-camera-wielding mob.

After all, the French capital isn't just a museum city – it's inhabited by three million locals who like nothing more than keeping certain addresses to themselves, especially when they live in the shadow of the Panthéon or the Opéra. We've listed some of those secrets here, ensuring that even as you take in the big tourist hitters, you're also eating, drinking, shopping and partying like a native.

Where to find local colour near...

The Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is the iconic centrepiece of traffic-heavy place de l'Etoile (the meeting point of twelve, elegant, Haussmannian avenues including the Champs Elysées) and a must-see for first-time visitors. But that doesn't mean you have to sightsee like a fresher. The area is both a heaving business and residential district, frequented by well-healed Parisians who love mothing more than avoiding the tourist crowds. Follow in their footsteps with our list of the best places to shop, eat, drink and sightsee around the Arc de Triomphe. Click here for more information on the Arc de Triomphe Museum: Musée Jacquemart-André Long terrace steps and a pair of stone lions usher visitors into this grand 19th-century mansion, home to a collection of objets d'art and fine paintings. The collection was assembled by Edouard André and his artist wife Nélie Jacquemart, using money inherited from his rich banking family. The mansion was built to order to house their art hoard, which includes Rembrandts, Tiepolo frescoes and various paintings by Italian masters Uccello, Mantegna and Carpaccio.The adjacent tearoom, with its fabulous tottering cakes, is a favourite with the smart, Champs Elysées lunch set. Museum: Musée Cernuschi From the Arc de Triomphe, head down avenue de Wagram to Ternes, then take boulevard de Courcelles to the beautiful, neo-classical Parc Monceau. On it's east side lies one of the city's best kept secrets, the Musée Cernuschi: Since the banker Henri Cernuschi built a hôtel particulier by the Parc Monceau for the treasures he found in the Far East in 1871, this collection of Chinese art has grown steadily. The fabulous displays range from legions of Han and Wei dynasty funeral statues to refined Tang celadon wares and Sung porcelain. Restaurant: La Fermette Marbeuf La Fermette Marbeuf 1900 restaurant in Paris just a few steps from the Avenue George V and the Champs-Elysees is also the shortest route into Belle Epoque Paris of a century ago. This jewel of a restaurant, dating from 1898, was rediscovered in the course of renovation thirty years ago and it must have been like opening King Tut’s tomb. There are wonderful things here: Art Nouveau mosaic and stained glass sunflowers, peacocks, dragonflies, beautiful women, cast iron pillars, and a soaring glass ceiling. Chef Gilbert Isaac mainly sticks to French classic dishes, like chicken liver pate with onion marmalade, whole grilled seabass flamed in anise, and rhum babas. This is a hotspot for celebrity France to see and be seen. Restaurant: Philippe et Jean Pierre If you're looking for a decently-priced, semi-gastronomic meal just off the Champs Elysées follow the suits and high-heels to Philippe et Jean Pierre, a beautiful art deco restaurant with a very local clientele. Orchestrated by Philippe Garon, the service is elegant and attentive, while Jean Pierre Brault creates generous plates of sunny, Mediterranean food in the kitchen - think roast langoustine ravioli, fresh anchovy tart with parmesan ‘lacing’, and oysters salted with Avruga caviar in raspberry vinegar. Heavenly! Pub: Sir Winston Sir Winston is one of the oldest English pubs in Paris, ensconced just around the corner from the Arc de Triomphe. Though the Champs Elysees professionals who pack this chicly eccentric bar are too young to recall the place's namesake, they clearly appreciate the delicious colonial-style refit: deep leather Chesterfields in the Indian smoke lounge, cigar smoke in the red-walled smoking room, and a leopard skin rug in the darkwood bar. Sir Winston’s faux-fur covered basement booths are the kind of place James Bond would take a date at 3am for martinis and seduction to the sound of chill-out tunes. There are outside pavement café tables to sip hot chocolate and look cool at, too. And the fine food is Indian-based. Bar: Charlie Birdy Not a reference to Charlie Parker, but to Winston Churchill’s parrot. A stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, this enormous pub is a cross between a New York loft and a colonial gentleman’s club, attracting many a tourist and ex-pat. There’s a regular programme of jazz, blues, folk and funk gigs with reasonable prices for the area, and it has the distinct advantage of staying open until 5am daily. For live concerts, or to follow football and rugby matches on giant screens, you hang out on comfortable Chesterfield sofas. On the menu, the unmatched burger is always good value – huge, impossibly tender and served with fantastic chips – but it’s best to give the fajitas and tapas a miss. For drinks, try something from the huge cocktail menu, preferably during happy hour – 4pm to 8pm Monday to Friday – though if you’re in a hurry come back another time, as the service can be slow.Charlie Birdy is famous for its enormous if unrefined Gospel & Soul brunch at €19. With the menu ‘à l'américaine’, you’ll get a hot drink, fruit juice, pastries, bread, butter and jam, followed by a main course: hash browns, boiled eggs and bacon, a salmon and cream cheese bagel or a Caesar salad. Then a sterling dessert menu: cheesecake, pancake, chocolate cake or – more original – a fresh fruit minestrone.There are two other branches of this bar in Paris: Charlie Birdy Montparnasse and Charlie Birdy Commerce, which only stays open until 5 on the weekends. Shop: Alléosse If you're a fan of walk-off-your plate cheese do not miss Alléosse (10-minutes from the Arc de Triomphe on foot), where delicacies from almost every French region are represented. People cross town for these cheeses - wonderful farmhouse camemberts, delicate st-marcellins, a choice of chèvres and several rarities. Alléosse is also in a plum spot for exploring the covered market near Ternes (head up rue Bayen). Shop: Byzance Champs-Élysées A place to go piggy in: Spanish hams here have the Bellota-Bellota label, meaning that the pigs have been allowed to feast on acorns. Manager Philippe Poulachon compares his cured hams (€98 a kilo) to the delicacy of truffles. Restaurant Bellota-Bellota (18 rue Jean-Nicot, 7th, also sells the hams at its adjoining épicerie.

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The Centre Pompidou

The Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers designed Centre Pompidou (also known as 'Beaubourg') is one of the most iconic and colourful pieces of architecture in Paris. Inside you'll find the largest collection of modern art in Europe - some 50,000 works of art by 5,000 artists, representing Primitivism, Fauvism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, American Color-Field painting and Abstract Expressionism, of which only a fraction - about 600 works - can be seen for real at any one time. The best way to avoiding the queues is to come after 6pm (the museum is open until 9pm - sometimes later during temporary exhibitions); otherwise you'll just have to grin and bear it. We have, however, complied this list of the best eateries, bars, shops and attractions around the Pompidou Centre. Follow it and you should be rubbing shoulders with a resolutely Parisian clientele.For more information on the Pompidou Centre, click here. Check out... Museum: Musée de la Poupée Down a narrow alley in the Beaubourg area, this small, private museum and doll hospital enchants little girls and boys (and their parents) with its collection of some 500 dolls, mostly of French origin, and their accompanying accessories and pets, which are arranged in thematic tableaux. A few teddies and quacking ducks are thrown in for good measure, and storytelling sessions and workshops (along the lines of making doll's clothes or miniature food for dolls' houses) are held at 2pm on Wednesdays (in French, reserve in advance; €8-€13). There's even a clinique pour poupées if your doll is falling apart at the seams. Restaurant: Le Hangar It's worth making the effort to find this bistro by the Centre Pompidou, and a stone's throw from the doll museum (Musée de la Poupée), with its terrace tucked away in a hidden alley and excellent cooking. A bowl of tapenade and toast is supplied to keep you going while choosing from the comprehensive carte. It yields, for starters, tasty and grease-free rillettes de lapereau (rabbit) alongside perfectly balanced pumpkin and chestnut soup. Main courses include pan-fried foie gras on a smooth potato purée made with olive oil. The chocolate tart dessert is to die for. Café: L'Estaminet When hunger strikes in Beaubourg head north to L'Estaminet, a charming neighbourhood café tucked away in the Marché des Enfants-Rouges market, the oldest market in the city. The café has a warm interior, with a grandfather clock in the corner and guests eating €13 plats du jour (think burgers, succulent salmon steaks and hearty salads) off Limoges porcelain. Wines from around €4 a glass. Bar: Le Georges When the Pompidou Centre closes at 9pm, those in the know head to the top floor via the transparent escalators to Georges, the museum’s panoramic French-fusion restaurant. From this privileged perch, you can watch the sun set over the capital’s steely rooftops and contemplate the art you’ve just admired, cocktail in hand. You’ll be fighting for table room with trendy after-work crowds, and the ice-cool service can be slower than a snail, but it’s a small price to pay for such an unbeatable vantage over the whole sparkling city. The view isn’t the only draw either: architects Dominique Jacob and Brendan McFarlane's quirky industrial-chic interior wouldn’t look amiss in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Make sure you reserve in advance - it's the only way to secure a table. Bar: La Fusée Good bars are hard to find in this corner of Beaubourg, but Le Fusée attracts plenty of young people with its warm atmosphere, charming little terrace and reasonable prices for the area. Its hangings of coloured garlands go well with the ambiance, which includes live concerts of gypsy jazz, swing and chanson Française on Sundays. Inside, this ancient literary café has kept a quirky décor of kitsch old posters. You feel like you’re in a market café with the constant flow of people between the tables, the waitresses shouting orders while performing acrobatics to deliver the drinks. Bundles of sausages hang above the bar, cut into generous slices to order and best matched with a pitcher or a bottle of red chosen from the enormous list. Against the background of cult music (Beatles Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash), you’ll naturally fall into conversation with your neighbours at the next table. Gay & Lesbian: Raidd Bar Between the Pompidou Centre and Hôtel de Ville, Le Raidd is a Marais LGBT venue to be reckoned with. Famous for its bare-chested barmen straight of a modelling agency the major draw is surely the soap-sud-covered, brief-sporting, body-building go-go dancers that flaunt their wares under the front window’s built-in showers (summer only). Running every 30 minutes, the show naturally creates quite a buzz among the gays – but also among legions of screaming girls in need of a fix of rock-hard six packs and pillowy pectorals. It gets pretty wild, sometimes bordering on a riot. Drag queens and gays naturally frequent the venue – the red velvet rooms downstairs are cosier and more relaxed, ideal for making new acquaintances. With free entry, a warm welcome and reasonably-priced drinks for everyone, this humming club is always busy, and closes late all week. Tuesday night is nostalgia night (70s, 80s, 90s), Wednesdays are Latino, and weekends electro, giving everyone plenty of opportunities to dress up while wearing as little as possible. Jazz Club: Au Duc des Lombards Set on the corner of Paris's 'jazz alley', rue des Lombards, and just a few minutes from the Centre Pompidou, this venerable jazz spot goes from strength to strength, attracting a high class of performer and a savvy crowd. Friday and Saturday night jams are free (although you have to buy a drink). You should also check out the 'bon plans' section of the website, which offers reduced-price tickets for certain concerts. Food is served here too, should you decide to make a night of it. Bakery: Legay Choc Run by two brothers (one gay, one straight) whose surname just happens to be Legay, this Marais boulangerie and pâtisserie is very popular. The pastries are delightful, and the lunch-hour sandwiches are generous, so expect lengthy queues. A satellite store, serving only sandwiches, is at 17 rue des Archives ( For that special occasion, try their penis-shaped loaf! Shop: Free 'P' Star Late-night shopping is fun at this Aladdin's cave of retro glitz, set in the heart of the Marais, just a few minutes walk from Beaubourg. Among the accessories, jackets, fur hats, 70s shirts and 80s dresses you'll find ex-army wear and glad rags that have provided fancy dress for many a Paris party. Don't miss the basement area, accessed via a near invisible spiral staircase. The place looks like a bomb has hit it, but this is where you usually find the best bargains - especially if you're looking for men's coats and jackets. Shop: I Love My Blender Christophe Persouyre left a career in advertising to share his passion for English and American literature: all the books he stocks were originally penned in English, and here you can find their mother-tongue and translated versions.

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The Eiffel Tower

The world's most famous monument understandably draws the crowds: Avoid them with our handpicked list of locals' haunts and quirky things do around the Eiffel Tower, in the 7th and 15th arrondissements...

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Les Invalides

Napoleon's tomb, inside the Dome Church, is the crowd magnet here; but while in Les Invalides (a former hospital complex commissioned by Louis XIV for wounded soldiers) don't miss the Musée de l'Armée, Paris's military museum, which contains one of Europe's largest collections of weaponry. Once that's done, leave the coach loads behind and check out 'real' Paris, courtesy of our insider's guide to the Invalides area. Click here for more information on Les Invalides. Check out... Museum: Musée des Egouts Descend, if you dare, into the deep and (sometimes) stinking depths of Paris's sewers. For centuries, the main source of drinking water in Paris was the Seine, which was also the main sewer. Construction of an underground sewerage system began at the time of Napoleon; and today you can admire the engineering in this fascinating working museum. The Egouts de Paris is part of the city's 2,100km (1,305-mile) system. As you walk through, look out for tunnels marked with a replica of the street sign above. The Egouts can be closed after periods of heavy rain. Museum: Musée National Rodin Next-door to Les Invalides, the Rodin museum occupies the hôtel particulier where the sculptor lived in the final years of his life. The Kiss, the Cathedral, the Walking Man, portrait busts and early terracottas are exhibited indoors, as are many of the individual figures or small groups that also appear on the Gates of Hell.Rodin's works are accompanied by several pieces by his mistress and pupil, Camille Claudel. The walls are hung with paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Carrière and Rodin himself. Most visitors have greatest affection for the gardens: look out for the Burghers of Calais, the Gates of Hell, and the Thinker. Rodin fans can also visit the Villa des Brillants at Meudon (19 av Rodin, Meudon,, where the artist worked from 1895. Attraction: Chapelle de la Médaille Miraculeuse In 1830l, saintly Catherine Labouré was said to have seen a vision of the Virgin, who told her to cast a medal that copied her appearance - standing on a globe with rays of light appearing from her outstretched hands. Today, away from the beaten tourist track, this kitsch chapel - murals, mosaics, statues and the embalmed bodies of Catherine and her mother superior - attracts two million pilgrims every year. Reliefs in the courtyard tell the nun's story. Restaurant: Chez L'Ami Jean This long-running Basque address is an ongoing hit thanks to chef Stéphane Jégo. Excellent bread from baker Jean-Luc Poujauran is a perfect nibble when slathered with a tangy, herby fromage blanc - as are starters of sautéed baby squid on a bed of ratatouille. Tender veal shank comes de-boned with a lovely side of baby onions and broad beans with tiny cubes of ham, and house-salted cod is soaked, sautéed and doused with an elegant vinaigrette. There's a great wine list, and some lovely Brana eau de vie should you decide to linger. Restaurant: Les Cocottes Christian Constant has found the perfect recipe for pleasing Parisians at his new bistro: a flexible menu of salads, soups, verrines (light dishes served in jars) and cocottes (served in cast-iron pots), all at bargain prices - for this neighbourhood. Service is swift and the food satisfying, though the vraie salade César Ritz, which contains hard-boiled egg, shouldn't be confused with US-style Caesar salad. Soups such as an iced pea velouté are spot-on, and cocottes range from sea bream with ratatouille to potatoes stuffed with pig's trotter. Bar: Café Thoumieux Café Thoumieux is a laid-back destination for cocktails, tapas and big-screen sport. Banquettes snake around the room, and spiky Aztec-pattern lamps light up the faces of the pretty young locals who have made this place their own. The flavoured vodkas are delicious, with unusual flavours including vanilla, caramel and banana; just watch out for the treacherous, extra-high bar stools (the banquettes are definitely the safest option to avoid accidents) and the monstrous, pebble-dashed sink in the toilets - it's real. Cinema: La Pagode This glorious edifice is not, as local legend might have it, a block-by-block import, but a 19th-century replica of a pagoda by a French architect. Renovated in the late 1990s, this is one of the loveliest cinemas in the world. Pierre Hardy Ever wondered where the classy looking Parisians in the 7th buy their footwear? Look no further: This posh black-and-white shoebox is home to Hardy's range of superbly conceived footwear - the 'must-have' of the Left Back, with a price tag to match - for men and women. Shop: Marie-Anne Cantin One for cheese lover this: Cantin, a defender of unpasteurised cheese and supplier to many posh Paris restaurants, offers aged chèvres and amazing morbier, mont d'or and comté.

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The Louvre

The world's largest museum is also its most visited, with an incredible 8.8 million visitors in 2011. It is a city within the city, a vast, multi-level maze of galleries, passageways, staircases and escalators. Some 35,000 works of art and artefacts are on show, split into eight departments and housed in three wings: Denon, Sully and Richelieu. You'll find treasures from the Egyptians, Etruscans, Greeks and Romans as well as Middle Eastern and Islamic art, and European decorative arts from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century. Needless to say the whole area is geared to tourists, so follow this guide to escape the backpacks and flashing cameras in the 1st and 2nd arrodissements. Click here for more information on the Louvre... Museum: Musée des Arts Décoratifs Taken as a whole (along with the Musée de la Mode et du Textile and Musée de la Publicité), this is one of the world's major collections of design and the decorative arts. Located in the west wing of the Louvre since its opening a century ago, the venue reopened in 2006 after a decade-long, €35-million restoration of the building and of 6,000 of the 150,000 items donated mainly by private collectors. The major focus here is French furniture and tableware. From extravagant carpets to delicate crystal and porcelain, there is much to admire. Clever spotlighting and black settings show the exquisite treasures - including châtelaines made for medieval royalty and Maison Falize enamel work - to their best advantage. Other galleries are categorised by theme: glass, wallpaper, drawings and toys. There are cases devoted to Chinese head jewellery and the Japanese art of seduction with combs. Of most immediate attraction to the layman are the reconstructed period rooms, ten in all, showing how the other (French) half lived from the late 1400s to the early 20th century. Gallery: Jeu de Paume The Centre National de la Photographie moved into this site in 2005. The building, which once served as a tennis court, has been divided into two white, almost hangar-like galleries. It is not an intimate space, but it works well for showcase retrospectives. A video art and cinema suite in the basement shows new digital installation work, as well as feature-length films made by artists. There's also a sleek café and a decent bookshop. The Jeu de Paume's smaller site is the former Patrimoine Photographique at the Hôtel de Sully. Café: Le Fumoir There aren't many places around the Louvre that can compete with this elegant local institution: neo-colonial fans whirr lazily and oil paintings adorn the walls. A sleek crowd sips martinis or reads papers at the long mahogany bar (originally from a Chicago speakeasy), giving way to young professionals in the restaurant and pretty things in the library. It feels a wee bit try-hard and resolutely well behaved, but the cocktails get tongues wagging soon enough, and food is consistently top notch. Restaurant: Higuma Higuma's no-nonsense food and service makes it one of the area's most popular destinations for locals. On entering, customers are greeted by plumes of aromatic steam emanating from the open kitchen-cum-bar, where a small team of chefs ladle out giant bowls of noodle soup piled with meat, vegetables or seafood. You can slurp at the counter or sit at a plastic-topped table. Restaurant: L'Ardoise One of the city's finest modern bistros, L'Ardoise attracts gourmets eager to sample Pierre Jay's reliably delicious cooking. A wise choice might be six oysters with warm chipolatas and a pungent shallot dressing; equally attractive are a gamey hare pie with an escalope of foie gras nestling in its centre. A lightly chilled, raspberry-scented Chinon is a perfect complement. Unusually, it's open on Sundays. Wine bar: Le Garde Robe This wine bar, near to the former Samaritaine department store building, will please even the most demanding epicureans. No Saint-Emilion or Château Latour here. Instead, with advice of the friendly owner, a self-taught wine buff (and depending on your budget) you’ll encounter unusual natural, organic or ‘biodynamic’ bottles from local growers. Biodynamic vineyards favour natural methods, managing the exchanges between the soil and the vine to better express their specific terroir, or spirit of the earth,in the grape. Does it really change anything? The purity, the complexity of the aromas, the minerals? You’ll have to taste them yourself to judge. To go with the booze, choose between superior boards of cheeses and Parma ham, or oysters if you’re drinking white. With its brick walls and its ancient floorboards, Le Garde Robe is a warm and intimate address, if a little pricey (and there’s an obligatory corkage fee of €6 a bottle if you want to BYO) – but the bottles are worth their weight in gold. Bar: Experimental Cocktail Club A ten minute-walk from the Louvre and you're in the land of creative cocktail making.  The Experimental Cocktail Club’s mixes are to cocktail bars what McDonald’s is to Michelin stars, re-inventing cocktails with strange spirits, fresh fruit juices and subtle spices. Try, for example, the Tommy’s Margarita Especial, an insane 100% agave tequila Arette mix with lime juice and organic agave honey, infused with Bourbon vanilla and cloves. Or perhaps the Bee’s Kiss, a balance between the Jamaican rum Appleton VX, cream, organic floral honey and crushed Indonesian pepper. Shop: Espace Kiliwatch The trailblazer of the rue Etienne-Marcel revival (a 10-minute walk from the Louvre) is filled with hoodies, casual shirts and washed-out jeans. Brands such as Gas, Edwin and Pepe Jeans accompany pricey, good-condition vintage garb. Kiliwatch is also a prime spot for shoes by labels like Puma, Fred Perry and INK, designer sunglasses and even watches. In short you can get your entire look under this one (and rather hip) roof.

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The Musée d'Orsay

The area around the Musée d'Orsay is somewhat of a desert in terms of cafés, as much of the surrounding buildings are given over to government institutions. Follow our guide to the top non-touristy cultural attractions, restaurants and shops around the museum, but for endless rows of watering holes head along rue de l'Université to the Saint-Germain quarters, where you'll find venerable institutions like La Palette. For information of the Musée d'Orsay and it's wonderful 19th-century collections, including its world-class displays of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art click here. Check out... Museum: Musée Maillol Dina Vierny was 15 when she met Aristide Maillol and became his principal model for the next decade, idealised in such sculptures as Spring, Air and Harmony. In 1995 she opened this delightful museum, exhibiting Maillol's drawings, engravings, pastels, tapestry panels, ceramics and early Nabis-related paintings, as well as the sculptures and terracottas that epitomise his calm, modern classicism.Vierny also set up a Maillol Museum in the Pyrenean village of Banyuls-sur-Mer. This Paris venue also has works by Picasso, Rodin, Gauguin, Degas and Cézanne, a whole room of Matisse drawings, rare Surrealist documents and works by naïve artists.Vierny has also championed Kandinsky and Ilya Kabakov, whose Communal Kitchen installation recreates the atmosphere of Soviet domesticity. Monographic exhibitions are devoted to modern and contemporary artists. Last year saw a fascinating exhibition of death's heads from Caravaggio to Damien Hirst. Café: La Palette A fifteen-minute stroll from the Musée d'Orsay is La Palette, the café-bar of choice for the beau-est of the Beaux-Arts students who study at the venerable institution around the corner. Don’t be surprised if you stumble across young couples stealing kisses in the wonderfully preserved art deco back room, perhaps overcome by the art on the walls and the sprit of decadence. And perhaps trying to distract themselves from the prices: a glass of Chablis here sets you back €6, a demi €4.50. But you’re paying for the vintage of the place as much as the drinks; these premises were once frequented by Jim Morrison, Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. Grab a spot on the leafy terrace if you can – there's formidable competition for seats. Burger Truck: Le Camion qui fume Fancy one of the best burgers in Paris? Forget your posh napkins, tablecloths and seating, the Camion Qui Fume is Paris’ first American-style burger truck, run by Californian Kristin Frederick; and you only have to look at the long lines of salivating bobos to know that the burgers here are good. The secret lies in the ingredients: baker-made bread, top quality meat, hand-cut fries and real cheddar; and in the price – just 10€ for a succulent bap and chips. The truck’s nomadic concept is quirky too: driven to a different spot everyday (often place de la Madeleine, Porte Maillot, the Canal St-Martin, MK2 Bibliothèque and in front of the Musée d’Orsay), its whereabouts is confirmed just days before on the website and on the Camion's Twitter and Facebook pages. Restaurant: Les Ministères Les Ministeres restaurant resides among the historical antique shops of Paris’s Left Bank, near the Orsay Museum, and across the river from the Louvre. Popular among fashion models, politicians, journalists and military men since the second world war (though its origins stretch as far back as 1870), its semi-circular Belle Epoque booths sheltered by a grand ceiling are perfect for intimate tete a tetes among cosmopolitans. The seasonal menu is excellent: try a plate of oysters with a pichet of Petit Chablis, followed by sautéed rabbit a la Provencale, and a slice of classic pear and apple tart. A very good brasserie for lunch, Les Ministeres offers swift service and decent prices. Restaurant: La Taverna degli Amici The ideal spot for a lazy lunch after a morning jaunt around the Orsay. Occupying two floors, the yellow-walled rooms are well lit and airy. Run by the exceptionally friendly Notaro family, who own, manage and cook, the restaurant is constantly bustling. Don't miss the mixed bruschette, which includes three vegetable toppings, such as grilled courgettes marinated in olive oil, lemon and parsley. Pastas feature fresh, tasty toppings, such as their most popular dish, penne with caccioricotta (made with ewe's milk) and rocket. Most of the regulars finish with home-made tiramisu. Bar: Le Saut du Loup It's work crossing the Pont Royal in front of the Orsay, then wondering through the Tuileries gardens to get to the Saut du Loup's terrace. Museums are usually daytime destinations, places of discovery that welcome their guests then politely expel them well before dusk. However the Saut du Loup, set inside the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, has made a concerted effort to reel in the Parigots after hours with a dapper restaurant, terrace views to die for over the Tuileries gardens, and a bar that’ll knock you up a cocktail or two before bedtime. You can always tell a good joint from the quality of its mojitos, and Le Saut du Loup’s version of the drink passes the test: not too sweet and not too sour; you get an initial slap from the rum and lime, before the fresh mint and sugar settle things down. Lush. Shop: Richart Each chocolate ganache has an intricate design, packages look like jewel boxes, and each purchase comes with a tract on how best to savour the stuff. Richart is the moneyed locals' favourite chocolatier, its boxes are the 'must' for a dinner party present and it's hard to walk past without being tempted to go in yourself. Shop: Papillon pour Bonton Bonton's new venture is all about nostalgia, with hand-knits, cashmere and alpaca, dinky stripes and Liberty prints in the shades of a hand-tinted photograph (old rose, grey, aubergine, sage).Pretty buttons accompany the fine finish that Bonton is famous for, and christening robes and pyjamas complete the collection, displayed in an old perfume shop amid flowery wallpaper and hunting trophies. Pure Bagpuss.

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Paris's twin-towered lady, Notre-Dame, took 200-years to build, between 1163 and 1334. The west front remains a high point of Gothic art for the balanced proportions of its twin towers and rose window, and the Treasury contains ornate bishops' copes and reliquaries of Jesus's Crown of Thorns (which long sat in Sainte-Chapelle, see below). The cathedral was plundered during the French Revolution, then rededicated to the cult of Reason. The original statues of the Kings of Judah from the west front were torn down by the mob (who thought they represented the kings of France) and rediscovered during the construction of a car park in 1977. By the 19th-century, 'Our Lady' was looking pretty shabby. Victor Hugo, whose novel Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) had been a great success, led the campaign for its restoration. But the man behind the building work was architect Viollet-le-Duc.  To truly appreciate his masonry, climb up the towers. The route runs up the north tower and down the south. Between the two you get a close-up view of his gallery of chimeras - the fantastic birds and hybrid beasts designed along the balustrade. After a detour to see the Bourdon (the massive bell Quasimodo rang in Hugo's novel), a staircase leads to the top of the south tower where the views are utterly breathtaking. Needless to say, Notre-Dame throngs with tourists all year round, but you don't need to cling to the crowds to find the best places to eat and drink nearby - or indeed visit other decent attractions. Follow this guide to find out where the locals go; and click here for more information on Notre-Dame Cathedral.

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Opéra Garnier

The Opéra Garnier is a mini-city unto itself, with a museum, gourmet restaurant, one of the world's lovliest theatres and even an underground lake (the inspiration for Gaston Leroux's 'Phantom of the Opera') now used for specialised underwater fireman training. Its location between department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, the Louvre and the Japanese quarter by rue St-Anne, makes it one of the city's most visited monuments, so if you want to escape the tourists, you have to be inventive. We recommend heading ten-minutes eastwards on foot towards Grands Boulevards, or northwards into the heart of the 9th arrondissement where young crowds of Parisians are setting up shop, bringing with them a trail of cool boutiques, bars, cafés and attractions. Here's our pick of the bunch.... For more information on the Palais Garnier, click on the following links: the Musée de l'Opéra - programme and reservations - the Restaurant de l'Opéra - the Palais Garnier Check out... Attractions: Les Passages Couverts In 18th and 19th century Paris, the areas around today’s Grands Boulevards donned themselves with glass-roofed shopping galleries known as les passages couverts (covered passages). These forerunners to modern-day malls simultaneously allowed you to take a shortcut through the city, shelter from the rain, shop, dine, and (for many men) spend a debaucherous hour in the arms of a lady. Who knows, Paris’s reputation for its ubiquitous merde may even have roots in this era, as most passages were equipped with a salon de décrottage – literally a de-pooping room, in which punters had their shoes scraped clean! Nowadays these passages are real architectural gems – olde-worlde galleries perfect for tantric browsing. Galerie Vivienne (4 rue des Petits Champs, 5 rue de la Banque, 6 rue Vivienne, 2nd) is one of the prettiest with ochre paintwork and mythology-themed mosaics. It also has a tearoom. While Passage des Panoramas (11–13 bd. Montmartre, 151 rue Montmartre, 2nd) built in 1800, takes the credit for being the first public area in Paris to be lit by gas in 1817. Best for a mooch though, are Passage Jouffroy  (10–12 bd. Montmartre and 9 rue de la Grange Batelière, 9th) and its continuation, Passage Verdeau (6 rue de la Grange Batelière and 31bis rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 9th) both built around 1847. Here you’ll find the Musée Grévin waxwork museum and dinky boutiques that flaunt everything from precious stones, stamps and jewellery to antique cameras and furniture. Tea Room: Zenzoo Between 2.30pm and 7pm this tiny Taiwanese restaurant doubles as a 'tea bar', the only place in Paris that serves China's famous tapioca cocktails - sometimes known as 'bubble tea', they are served with an extra-wide straw to suck up the little tapioca balls at the bottom. The sensation may seem strange at first, but the tastes are great; among the flavours are mango, coconut and kumquat. Up the road at No.2, a spin-off boutique sells excellent oolong flower teas. Restaurant: Chez Miki There are plenty of Japanese restaurants to choose from along nearby rue Ste-Anne, but none is as original - nor as friendly - as this tiny bistro run entirely by women, next to the square Louvois. The speciality here is bento boxes, which you compose yourself from a scribbled blackboard list (in Japanese and French). For €15 you can choose two small dishes - marinated sardines and fried chicken wings are especially popular - and a larger dish, such as grilled pork with ginger. Don't miss the inventive desserts, which might include lime jelly spiked with alcohol. Restaurant: Les Fils à Maman In the up-and-coming neighbourhood near the Folies Bergère a band of five ‘mothers’ boys’ has created a restaurant evoking their mums’ home cooking. Even the mums themselves get into the kitchen on the first Tuesday of the month to turn out blanquette de veau, chicken cordon bleu with beaufort cheese and Nutella-flavoured puddings. Whether or not you think Babybel has a place in Gallic cuisine, it’s a chance to relive the school French exchange or 1980s après-ski in the company of an ebullient crowd. Restaurant: Supernature Who said eating healthily was boring? Certainly not the many regulars who flock each afternoon (and on Sunday for brunch) to this tiny canteen in the 9th arrondissement. There’s no overriding organic or vegetarian concept, just well-cooked, daily-changing healthy dishes. There’s at least one delicious vegetarian dish each day, and they often have an ‘Assiette vitalité’ which brings together fresh vegetables goat’s cheese and organic galettes in a wondrous combination. Burger Bar: Big Fernand A brilliant little burger joint, which takes the traditional American burger and gives it the French terroir treatment. Nowhere’s been left out, with regional specialities from all over France wedged between delicious sesame seed buns from the bakery next door. There’s fourme cheese from Ambert, tomme cheese from Savoie, Saint-Nectaire cheese, Charolais and Blonde d’Aquitaine beef and more.The menu lists five house burgers, but you can also build your own. Choose from beef, chicken, lamb and veal and then add cheese, grilled vegetables, streaky bacon, sauces, herbs or spices. You order at the counter and then try and find a seat, which isn’t always easy – but if all else fails you can get it to go. Chips (known here as ‘fernandines’) come with, and the concept even extends to the drinks and desserts, with homemade soda, organic lemonade, and traditional puddings.Quick and friendly service comes from moustachioed men in checked shirts, all part of why Big Fernand has shot to the top of Paris’s burger ranks. The only slight quibble is the price – about €15 without dessert. The quality of the ingredients is high, but the portions aren’t huge and it feels a little much to pay for what is still fast food. Bar: Les 36 Corneil Note the address well, because there’s no other sign to indicate the whereabouts of this tapas bar, opened at the end of 2010 by a chap called Cornélius (whence the name). But once you do find your way inside, to the room with its big windows and warm atmosphere, it’s easy to settle in. No pretentious clientele here, but rather the neighbourhood regulars drinking a glass of wine or a bottle à la ficelle (you only pay for what you drink) chosen with the wise counsel of the proprietor. You can also eat very well here, snacking on canailles [‘rogues’], a sort of French tapas, from a regularly changing menu. At three top quality canailles for €12, or five for €15, the prices are really very good for what you get. Beneath the gaze of the enormous scarecrow installed behind the bar, you can also spend your weekends dancing to disco and rock. Overall, a great find in the 9th arrondissement. Club: Rex Club The Rex's new sound system puts over 40 different sound configurations at the DJ's fingertips, and has proved to be a magnet for top turntable stars. Once associated with iconic techno pioneer Laurent Garnier, the Rex has stayed at the top of the Paris techno scene, and occupies an unassailable position as the city's serious club music venue. Club: Le Social Club Set right in the hub of the city's club activity around Grands Boulevards, this electro venue has some of the hippest acts from the French and international scene, thanks to its owner's multidisciplinary career as a producer and founder of the record label Uncivilized World. Recent refurbishment should make it even better. Shop: Gabrielle Geppert If Didier Ludot is too intimidating, visit Gabrielle Geppert's shop, where much fun can be had rummaging in the back room or trying on the outrageous collection of '70s sunglasses (about €380 a pop, but they will get you into any party worth going to). A new exclusive room dedicated to accessories by the likes of Hermès and Manolo Blahnik can be opened on request, and she also carries a range of original costume jewellery by Elisabeth Ramuz.

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The Panthéon

The Latin Quarter's all-white beacon to France's defunct intelligentsia (a neo-classical gem built by Soufflot) is a sight for sore eyes - nestled on Ste-Geneviève's knoll like a bijou version of Washington's White House. Tourists come from far and wide to see the tombs of Voltaire, Rousseau, Dumas and Marie Curie, and climb the colonnade encircling the Panthéon's dome for sweeping views of the city. You'll certainly get more peace up there than on the ground; but for full retreat from the tourist troops, check out these hand-picked venues... For more information on the Panthéon, click here. Museum: Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine The history of medicine is the subject of the medical faculty collection. There are ancient Egyptian embalming tools, a 1960s electrocardiograph and a gruesome array of saws used for amputations. You'll also find the instruments of Dr Antommarchi, who performed the autopsy on Napoleon, and the scalpel of Dr Félix, who operated on Louis XIV. Park: Jardin des Plantes Less touristy than Jardin de Luxembourg (south of the Panthéon), Paris's botanical garden - which contains more than 10,000 species and includes tropical greenhouses and rose, winter and Alpine gardens - is an enchanting place. Begun by Louis XIII's doctor as the royal medicinal plant garden in 1626, it opened to the public in 1640. The formal garden, which runs between two dead-straight avenues of trees parallel to rue Buffon, is like something out of Alice in Wonderland. There's also the Ménagerie (a small zoo) and the terrific Grande Galerie de l'Evolution, part of the Natural History Museum. Ancient trees on view include a false acacia planted in 1636 and a cedar from 1734. A plaque on the old laboratory declares that this is where Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity in 1896. Restaurant: Aux Verres de Contact The name of his new restaurant, Aux Verres de Contact (‘contact lenses’) might lead one to suspect that Guillaume Delage, the former chef at Jadis, is getting short sighted. In fact, it’s a reference to the famed writer, journalist and bon vivant Antoine Blondin, who used to write off his bar receipts as ‘verres de contact’ on expenses claims forms. Just down the hill from the Panthéon, the restaurant has a modern yet welcoming décor, with deep red and cream walls and dark wooden furniture.On the starter menu, there’s a good selection of charcuterie and high-quality cheeses, but also some more original things that really show off the talent of the young chef. For instance, an innovative croque-monsieur composed of layers of bread in cuttlefish sauce, mozzarella fondue and grilled vegetable. It’s a surprisingly effective reinterpretation, though the balance of bread to cheese could have been more generous to the cheese. Then there was a fresh and crunchy celeriac remoulade with whelks, followed by an exotic fruit jelly baba. It’s all just about right for a light lunch.For bigger appetites, there are also lunch menus (€22 or €29) that depend on the chef’s whim of the day. On our visit, it was a duck fillet salad and a shellfish soup with a quenelle of horseradish mousse, followed by a fillet of cod in a lemongrass sauce and an assortment of satisfying mini-desserts, especially the creamy rice pudding.The service was perfect – though we were there on a slow day. However, in a touristy district where good restaurants are few and far between, this friendly bistro will soon find a loyal clientele. Breakfast in America Even in Paris, the city of haute cuisine and knock-your-socks-off Brasserie fare, there comes a time when nothing but bacon, fried eggs, juicy burgers and fluffy pancakes drizzled in maple syrup will do. For those moments, Breakfast in America (known lovingly amongst regulars as B.I.A) offers bona fide American diner surroundings, all-day breakfasts and artery clogging delights like sticky pecan pie, washed down with bottomless mugs o’ Joe.  Needless to say it’s a hit with the brunch crowd who come in droves so large they queue up outside, rain or shine. Fortunately turn over is quite fast, so you rarely have to wait more than half-an-hour. The €15.95 brunch menu gets you comfort staples like sausages and eggs (over-easy, sunny-side up or scrambled) with toast and fries or a generous Connecticut ham and cheese omelet and a squidgy chocolate muffin. B.I.A won’t take reservations, but there’s a second branch in the Marais, so if Latin Quarter students have hogged all the tables, you can try your luck on the Right Bank. Café: Le Rostand Le Rostand has a truly wonderful view of the Jardins du Luxembourg from its classy interior, decked out with Oriental paintings, a long mahogany bar and wall-length mirrors. It's a terribly well-behaved place and you should definitely consider arriving in fur or designer sunglasses if you want to fit in with the regulars. The drinks list is lined with whiskies and cocktails, pricey but not as steep as the brasserie menu. Still, with a heated terrace in winter, it's perfect for a civilised drink after a quick spin round the gardens. Bar: Le Requin Chagrin ‘Requin Chagrin’, or the ‘narked shark’, actually comes from Réunion creole slang, meaning ‘old prostitute’. At the Requin Chagrin, broke students laugh with pleasure as, unlike at the other bars in the area, having a few drinks here won’t break the bank. The cosy wooden bar is filled with tall round tables where students sip on pints of Guinness, Hoegaarden or Grimberger from a wide selection – a ‘tasting platter’ of a dozen beers is only €12. One could also opt for a whiskey, house cocktail, or rum punch (another nod to the West Indies?). On game nights, large screens are set up throughout the bar, and the atmosphere instantly changes, hoots and hollers filling the air. A second room in the basement houses a U-shaped bar, which encourages spontaneous conversation and making new friends. The décor is constantly changing based on the night’s festivities, such as sports games, parties, etc. On weekends, the Requin Chagrin welcomes after-hours drinkers with a 4am closing time. In the summer, there’s a small, pleasant terrace that overlooks the charming pedestrian square, Place de la Contrescarpe, and its bubbling fountain. Bar: Le Pantalon A local café that seems familiar yet is utterly surreal. It has the standard fixtures, including the old soaks at the bar - but the regulars and staff are enough to tip the balance firmly into eccentricity. Friendly and funny French grown-ups and foreign students chat in a variety of languages; drinks are cheap enough to make you tipsy without the worry of a cash hangover. Market: Marché Monge This pretty, compact market is set on a leafy square. It has a high proportion of producers and is much less touristy than nearby rue Mouffetard. If you're on a budget (or just fancy a picnic) buy some fresh bread and cheese and tuck in on a bench in Jardin des Plantes. Shop: The Abbey Bookshop Celebrating 20 years in business, the tiny Abbey Bookshop is the domain of Canadian renaissance man Brian Spence, who organises weekend hikes as well as dressing up in doublet and hose for a spot of 17th-century dancing.The tiny, narrow shop stocks old and new works, a specialised Canadian section, and highbrow subjects down the rickety staircase. Several thousand more books are in storage, and he can normally order titles for collection within two days.

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Père Lachaise, Paris's famous neo-gothic cemetery, lies in the heart of the city's hippest quarters, the 11th and 20th arrondissements - former proletariat areas with a cosmopolitan population and a bourgeois-bohemian soul. Within a ten to fifteen minute walk in any direction from the cemetery you'll find some of the city's funkiest bars, shops and concert venues. We've picked the best of an already rather cool bunch for you, so enjoy...  For more information on Père Lachaise cemetery, click here.  Museum: Musée Edith Piaf Set in an apartment where Piaf lived at the age of 18, when she sang on the streets of Ménilmontant, this tiny museum consists of two red-painted rooms crammed with letters, pictures, framed discs and objects belonging to the singer. Curator Bernard Marchois doesn't speak English. It helps, therefore, to have seen the Marion Cotillard film before you go, to allow you to piece together the scrapbook of Piaf's highly mythologised life. The museum's real treasures are two letters, one a chatty number written on her 28th birthday, and another more passionate pen to actor Robert Dalban. These - and the well-worn, human-sized teddy bear cuddling a tiny monkey soft toy - are the only clues to the real Piaf, the greatest singer the nation has ever known. Restaurant: Mama Shelter Still the place to see and be seen in the 20th, the Philippe Starck designed Mama Shelter Hotel is a Bobo HQ for dinner and cocktails. Traditional French cuisine is served in the Chic-Chic brasserie-style restaurant (reservations required), while the table d'hôte pizzeria often gets raucous as friends turn up (first come first served) for a quick 4-fromages before a concert at the Flêche d'Or over the road. Café: Lou Pascalou A café and art space in Ménilmontant, Lou Pascalou has been also been enthusiastically appropriated as a neighbourhood canteen thanks to its endlessly inventive nature. There’s nothing trendy here, but rather a sweetly boho chic hangout and its youthful local clientele. The drinks are at rock bottom prices (€2.50), as is the food (shepherd’s pie from €6.50) and there’s an enormously varied range of entertainment. On the first Wednesday of the month you’ll find screenings of short films, on the third a theatrical improv competition organised by the Parisian League of Improvisation, and every Sunday there are gypsy jazz concerts, Brazilian music, French singers, flamenco, rock, brass bands and more. You can always look forward to a celebratory atmosphere in this charming bar, which also hosts temporary exhibitions every month, invites you to participate in citizen’s debates, and places board games at your disposal. On weekends the bar is rammed, so don’t arrive too late if you want to be able to find a seat. Bar: Le Café des Sports Le Café des Sports' fine and eclectic music programme ranges from electro (Saturdays), to pop or chanson (Tuesdays and Thursdays) to world dub. Beer and wine are fabulously cheap (just €2 from 6pm to 8pm) and there's even sometimes free couscous or tapas with your drink on a Monday evening. Unlike its sprawling neighbours, Le Café des Sports has just one room to call home. DJs play in the space around the back. Bar/Club: La Bellevilloise The Bellevilloise is the latest incarnation of a building that once housed the capital's very first workers' co-operative. Now it competently multitasks as a bar, restaurant, club and exhibition space, hosting regular film and music festivals on the top level (where there's a fake lawn with deckchairs and a massage area). Enjoy brunch in the Halle aux Oliviers or decent views of the quartier from the charming terrace; downstairs the club-cum-concert venue has launched some of Paris's most exciting new bands, and on '80s nights you can hardly move for the thirtysomethings living it up like they were 20 again. Live jazz music at the Sunday brunch. Concert: La Flèche d'Or This much-loved indie and electro venue is set in the old Charonne train station - a quirky setting for concerts by a stream of local and international groups and DJs. Needless to say the line ups are eclectic, with three or four bands playing a night. This is a great place to discover the crème of Paris's up-and-coming groups. Concert: La Maroquinerie La Maroquinerie's former life as a leather factory is little in evidence these days. It's now a bright café and bar in competition with La Bellevilloise, with a coveted downstairs concert venue that hosts the odd literary debate and a wealth of cool music acts. It's home to the Inrocks Indie Club nights, but there are still traces of its world music roots.  The food is excellent - you can eat your way through the menu quite reasonably for around €25 - and wine sourced from across France starts at €3 a glass. The interior, with exposed brick, is cosy, and in summer chirpy locals invade the shaded terrace. Shop: Un livre - une image This tiny photography boutique is open by appointment only, but don’t let that put you off. Owner Emmanuelle Fructus has one of France’s most exciting collections of rare photography books and anonymous photos from the 19th-century to today – a veritable art gallery unto itself and must for photography lovers, or anyone looking for something fun to put on the wall or coffee table.   As time goes by, photos change hands, and the names of the people in the images, and indeed of the photographers themselves, are frequently forgotten. This is where Emmanuelle steps in, unearthing thought-provoking images of folks unknown to give them a new lease of life in her boutique. And she’s certainly got an eye for art: Every photo, be it a 1950s bathing scene or a turn-of-the-century family portrait, exudes something so eye-catching it could be in a museum. Un livre - une image also lends its walls to contemporary artists (like Céline Duval, Philippe Jusforgues, Coco Fronsac and Valentine Fournier) who use anonymous photography in their work. Shop: GoldyMama Finding well-presented vintage clothes that have been washed, ironed and don’t smell like dirty underpants is possible – GoldyMama, north of Père Lachaise, is the proof. This small boutique in the heights of the 20th has retro treasures aplenty and makes an original spot for gift hunting. 1950s skirts, 40s suits, empire dresses, wacky 70s tops and multi-era accessories line the walls. The choice is as vast as the shop assistants are helpful. Then, once you’ve tried on half the shop, free your inner child at GoldyMama’s ‘Bar à Bonbons’ filled with boiled sweets, caramels and all sorts of other teeth-rotting delights.

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Away from the monuments...

A promenade in Passy

Paris’ 16th arrondissement has to be one of the most overlooked areas in the city – partly because it is tucked away in the west corner of town, and partly because it has a reputation for snobbery. It’s true that its inhabitants are moneyed: You just have to look at the posh cars, chic art-nouveau apartment blocks and designer-suited locals carrying luxury shopping bags to understand that. But this is also one the city’s most authentic areas – especially around Passy where, off the beaten tourist track, you’ll find luscious eateries, cools cafés, and atmospheric old village lanes.

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Behind the scenes in Butte-aux-Cailles & Bercy

The former Left Bank village of Butte-aux-Cailles in the 13th, near Place d'Italie and Chinatown (Avenues de Choisy and d'Ivry), may be surrounded by modern shopping malls and tower blocks, but an olde-worlde ambiance still prevails in its labyrinthine cobbled streets and toy-town houses, draped in ivy and street-art signed Nemo. Just a few Métro stops away on the Right Bank, Bercy is the perfect example of successful urban rejuvenation: This former wine warehouse area is now a shopping village with restaurants, bars, a multiscreen cinema, a modern park, the Cinémathèque film museum and Bercy stadium.

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