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Eiffel Tower: An insider's guide

Avoid the hordes with this list of places around old Eiffel's filigree edifice...

No building better symbolises Paris than the Tour Eiffel. Maupassant claimed he left Paris because of it, William Morris visited daily to avoid having to see it from afar - and it was originally meant to be a temporary structure. The radical cast-iron tower was built for the 1889 World Fair and the centenary of the 1789 Revolution by engineer Gustave Eiffel.  Today it stands proud as one of the world's most famous monuments and draws the crowds to match: Avoid them with our handpicked list of locals' haunts and quirky things do around the Eiffel Tower, in the 7th and 15th arrondissements... Click here for more information on the Eiffel Tower.

Around the Eiffel Tower...

Attraction: Musée du Quai Branly

Surrounded by trees on the banks of the Seine, this museum, housed in an extraordinary building by Jean Nouvel, is a vast showcase for non-European cultures. Dedicated to the ethnic art of Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas, it joins together the collections of the Musée des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie and the Laboratoire d'Ethnologie du Musée de l'Homme, as well as contemporary indigenous art. Treasures include a tenth-century anthropomorphic Dogon statue from Mali, Vietnamese costumes, Gabonese masks, Aztec statues, Peruvian feather tunics, and rare frescoes from Ethiopia.

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South-west Paris

Attraction: Musée Valentin Haüy

The tiny Musée Valentin Haüy is devoted to the history of braille, a story intimately connected with the French Enlightenment just before the Revolution. Valentin Haüy, whose statue you will see as you pass the gates of the Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles, was an 18th-century linguist and philanthropist. He established France's first school for the blind, and it was here that Louis Braille became a star pupil some 34 years later. The one-room museum is hidden at the end of the nondescript corridors of the Valentin Haüy Association, which offers educational services to the blind. The door opens on to glass-fronted cases of exhibits with, in the centre, a huge braille globe. You can explore on your own with the aid of French, English or braille explanatory texts, or allow the curator, Noêle Roy, to show you round. She will give a tour in English if preferred.The first exhibit is a shocking print, depicting the fairground freak show that inspired Valentin Haüy to devote his life to educating not only the blind, but also the backward public who came to laugh at the likes of this blind orchestra forced to perform in dunce's hats. He wanted to prove that blind people had as great a capacity for learning and feeling as anyone else - in short, that they were human beings.Next begins the tactile tour, with a chance to touch books printed by Haüy in embossed letters. After the Revolution, another philanthopist, Charles Barbier, tried to develop a universal writing system using raised dots, but it was difficult to read. Braille, the son of a harness-maker, arrived at the school as a ten-year-old in 1819, having been blind since the age of four after he accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with a stitching awl.He spent his years at the school developing and perfecting his six-dot fingertip system. He was only 16 when he completed it, and went on to teach, write a treatise on arithmetic, and play the organ in two Paris churches. He died from tuberculosis at the age of 43. If it hadn't been for his childhood accident, this genius may never have had access to the education that led to his gift to humanity and his admission to the Pantheon.

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South-west Paris

Café: Le Café du Marché

This well-loved address is frequented by trendy locals, shoppers hunting down a particular type of cheese and tourists who've managed to make it this far (10-minutes) from the Eiffel Tower. Le Café du Marché really is a hub of neighbourhood activity. Its pichets of decent house plonk always go down a treat, and mention must be made of the food - such as the huge house salad featuring lashings of foie gras and parma ham.

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South-west Paris

Restaurant: Myung Ka

This small but sleek Korean canteen opposite the Cambronne metro boasts a generous 15-euro lunch menu. The food is authentic, refined and balanced in flavours and textures. DIY diners can cook their raw selections (including beef, pork belly, organic vegetables) on the table-top barbecues before rolling them in lettuce leaves with spices and herbs. The a la carte menu is extensive and includes 'bibimbap', a piping hot bowl of rice, with vegetables and sautéed beef;  soybean cakes; and 'kim chi' soup, which comes with delicious ravioli stuffed with fermented cabbage. Service is attentive and the room welcoming.

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15th arrondissement

Restaurant: Il Vino

A ten-minute walk from the Eiffel is Il Vino: Enrico Bernardo, youngest-ever winner of the World's Best Sommelier award, runs this restaurant where, for once, food plays second fiddle to wine. You are presented with nothing more than a wine list. Each of 15 wines by the glass is matched with a surprise dish, or the chef can build a meal around the bottle of your choice. Best for a first visit is one of the blind tasting menus for €75, €100 or (why not?) €1,000. The impeccably prepared food shows a strong Italian influence.

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South-west Paris

Shop: Jean-Paul Hévin

His creations are as much art as they are confection. Chocolate shoes, guitars, and diamond rings decorate the dark wooden counters, prompting dropped jaws among passersby. And they taste as good as they look, which is remarkable. For the adventurous, Hévin specialises in the beguiling combination of chocolate with potent cheese fillings, which loyal customers serve with wine as an aperitif.

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South-west Paris

Market: Saxe-Breteuil

Saxe-Breteuil has an unrivalled setting facing the Eiffel Tower, as well as the city's most chic produce. Join the locals looking for farmer's goat's cheese, rare apple varieties, Armenian specialities, abundant oysters and a handful of dedicated small producers.

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South-west Paris

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