About Secrets of Paris

American-born travel journalist and guidebook author Heather Stimmler-Hall created the Secrets of Paris in 1999 to share the hidden side of the City of Light. Discover what you've been missing:

* Custom Travel Content
* Travel Writing Workshops
* Calendar of interesting Paris events 
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Tours & Travel Planning

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here

 

 

 

Calendar of Paris Events

May 13-16
The 27th annual Artists' Open Studios in Belleville takes place for four days in over 120 ateliers in Belleville (11th, 19th & 20th arrondissements). It's a great chance to see some neighborhoods tourists don't normally see, to meet local artists, and of course purchase some lovely artworks! Pick up a map and program at the Espace Jordain (3 rue Jean-Baptiste Dumay, 20th, M° Jourdain). Free entry. Open 2-8pm, Fri-Sat until 10pm. 

May 21
Check out your favorite Paris museum at night during the 12th annual Nuit Européenne des Musées, when all over Europe museums stay open until midnight...for free! Special flashlight tours, live music, installment arts, film screenings, costumed museum guides, and other fun events throughout the evening at each museum.

May 21-22
Attention equestrian fans: it's time for the one of the legendary horse racing events in Paris, the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris at the Hippodrome d'Auteuil (16th). There will be food trucks, snack stands and you can also dine in the panoramic restaurant overlooking the racetrack. Tickets are €8. 

Click here to see the full calendar of events...

Secrets of Paris gives 10% of all tour fees to the French food bank, Les Restos du Coeur

Wednesday
Feb102016

How to Avoid Lines at the Paris Catacombes 

The Paris Catacombes are known for their long waiting lines. No one likes wasting time in lines, right? A popular misconception is that going “early” is the best tactic to avoid lines. When I run past in the morning at 9am – a full hour before they open – there are already at least a dozen people standing in front of the door. They have guaranteed they’ll be waiting an hour to get in. That’s just absurd.

As I’ve mentioned before, almost everyone goes to the museums first thing in the morning. That means the best time to go is in the afternoon, two hours before closing time is optimal. And since 2014 the Catacombes have extended their opening hours to 8pm, with the last entrance at 7pm, you have plenty of time if you go right around 6pm. In fact, the official website even recommends visiting Tuesday through Friday after 3pm for the shortest wait times.

But let’s say you just can’t take a chance on waiting for even a few minutes, so you want to purchase a “skip the line” ticket for a specific time. Up until now the only option was to book a group tour through one of the many tour operators selling tickets for €48-€85 per person. I usually tell people it’s not worth it for that price, considering the actual entrance price is only €12, and the audio guide an additional €5. There's another option you won't find on TripAdvisor or Viator. 

Best-Value Catacombes Skip the Line Tickets

To save money (or avoid being in a “group”, which I know many of the Secrets of Paris readers hate), you can now actually book your tickets in advance through the official Paris Municipal Museums website for just €27 per person (kids 5-17 years old are €5), including audio-guide in several languages. There are two catches: the only booking times available are Wednesday-Friday 3pm, 4pm, 5pm or 6pm. And the ticketing site is only in French (you have to create an “account” with your name and address before purchasing tickets). So you have to work for that discount, but it’s worth it if you’d rather spend those extra euros on a nice dinner afterwards!

Paris Catacombes
1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy (Place Denfert-Rochereau), 14th 
Metro/RER Denfert-Rochereau 
Opening hours are Tuesday-Sunday 10am-8pm.

Tip: To find the entrance look for the little green building in the center of the intersection. If you can’t see it when exiting the metro, look for the huge lion statue in the center of the square: his left ear is pointing to the entrance.

Warning: there are no bathrooms, no coat or bag check, a lot of stairs…and a lot of bones. But you no longer need flashlights, the lighting was completely redone a few years ago. 

 

Monday
Feb082016

The Pass' Marie Antoinette 

For all of you Marie-Antoinette aficionados out there, the Centre des Monuments Nationaux has quietly launched a special new Pass’ Marie Antoinette good for four lesser-known monuments in and around Paris that have a strong connection to the young French queen:

Château de Rambouillet: This charming royal residence between Versailles and Chartres (accessible via regional train from Montparnasse station) is known for its vast gardens, with a Rococco Shell Cottage and the Queen's Dairy House. Only part of the actual chateau is open in 2016 while it undergoes renovations. Open daily except Tuesdays. This is a nice little town to visit on a sunny day. 

La Conciergerie: The prison on the Ile de la Cité in central Paris where Marie-Antoinette spent her final months before her trial and death at the guillotine. Open daily 9:30am-6pm.

La Chapelle Expiatoire: This chapel stands in the park where the bodies of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI were originally buried in a mass grave during the Revolution. Note that the inside of the chapel is currently only open May 2nd through September 30th on Thursday-Saturday from 11am-6pm (until 7pm in July and August).  

Saint-Denis Basilica: This basilica where Marie-Antoinette was finally laid to rest during the Restoration Monarchy is where all but three of the French monarchs are buried. It's in the suburb of St-Denis, accessible by metro line 13. Open April- September 10am-6:15 pm, Sundays noon to 6:15pm; October to March 10am to 5pm, Sundays noon to 5:15pm.

How it Works

You get the pass on request when paying the full rate at the first monument, allowing you the discounted rate at the remaining three monuments. It’s a nice alternative for everyone who has already “done” Versailles or anyone who wants to avoid crowds and save a few euros. 

Saturday
Jan232016

Secrets of Paris Travel Writing Workshops

Ever dream of living the travel writer’s life in Paris? After over a year of plotting and planning, fellow Parisian travel journalist (and running buddy) Bryan Pirolli and I are excited to announce our newest collaboration for 2016, the Secrets of Paris Travel Writing Workshops.

Join us for five days learning the craft of travel writing through daily lessons and hands-on experiences in the field. We can’t promise it’ll all be as glamorous as everyone thinks it is, but we guarantee you’ll have fun discovering Paris in a completely new way!

Just 10 spots in each workshop, dates available in May, August and October, sign up now to save €400 off the regular price! 

Friday
Jan222016

False News Alert: The “Doggy Bag Law” That Never Was

Journalist Bryan Pirolli weighs in on the latest "news" fail and the bigger issue of why this keeps happening. 

It’s been in the headlines for the past few weeks. I didn’t really pay attention, mostly because I always finish my food at dinner. The press, however, was fascinated with a new law requiring restaurants to offer doggy bags in France.

“‘Doggy bag’ law introduced in France” hailed The Telegraph. “Mais non! The doggy bag will never catch on in Paris” cried The Irish News. “‘Le doggy bag’ comes to France” alerted The Washington Post.

The only problem was that no such new law existed and no one in France was forcing doggy bags on anyone.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan212016

Freegan Pony: Will this secret restaurant revolutionize the Paris food scene?

A Parisian restaurant hidden in the “bad” part of town has a mission to combat food waste by serving creative, market-fresh cuisine...for the cost of a movie ticket.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jan202016

Recommended Podcasts for Francophiles 

I love listening to podcasts when I'm running around Paris, making dinner, or looking for an a local alternative to NPR. I like the ones that are engaging enough to entertain, but informative enough to make me feel like I’ve learned something.


My absolute favorite local podcast of the moment is the Join Us in France Travel Podcast, a weekly podcast about France hosted by Annie, a French-born woman who lived in the US for 18 years, and Elyse, an American-born historian and tour guide living in France for over 20 years. Topics include everything from little-known towns and famous French characters to dining etiquette and truly useful travel tips. The production quality is superb, but most impressive is the wealth of knowledge these ladies share and the fascinating people they’ve interviewed in their 98 episodes.

For more specialized topics, there are three more recent podcasts on the scene:

Paris Paysanne, by the author of My Paris Market Cookbook Emily Dilling, covers French terroir and the Paris food market scene, including topics like craft brewing, seasonal recipes, how to shop the food markets, and interviews with local wine makers, restaurant owners and coffee roasters. She has just moved to the Loire Valley, so you can also read her blog articles on her new life in the French countryside, chickens and all!

 

I actually met Emily through Forest Collins of 52Martinis.com, who has just posted the second episode of her new podcast, Paris Cocktail Talk, which covers the latest Paris cocktail bar reviews and interviews with all the movers and shakers in that scene such as such as Josh Fontaine, the co-owner of Candelaria, Glass, Le Mary Celeste, and Hero. She's also the founder of the fabulous private cocktail events club, The Chamber

 

Finally, if you’re looking for a dose of literary Paris from your armchair, look no further than Spoken Word Sounds, a new podcast of recordings from the popular Spoken Word open mic nights at the Chat Noir featuring local poets, singers, storytellers, and comedians. All podcasts are free, but donations are appreciated. 

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