Secrets of Paris 
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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 
* Free Paris Resource Guide
* Calendar of interesting Paris events
* Private Secrets of Paris Tours
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Videos

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here

Calendar of Paris Events

October 4
One of the greatest contemporary British comedians, Eddie Izzard, is bringing his show Force Majeure back to Paris, this time....en français! Mais oui! He'll be performing at the Casino de Paris one night before moving onto a week-long tour in other French cities. Even if your French sucks, you'll likely be able to follow along Eddie's own version of Franglais as he explains World History, God, Hitler, and other light topics. Tickets from FNAC starting at €25.

October 8-11
The annual Puces du Design is a free market of vintage furniture and home decor from the 1950s to today, at the Place des Vins behind Bercy Village, 12th. Over 100 stands, free entry. 

October 8-18
Celebrate Oktoberfest in Paris all week long in a huge Bavarian-themed tent at the Porte de la Villette (19th), tickets €34-€44, including €15 of drink tickets.  There will be music, Bavarian Cancan dancers, and plenty to eat and drink. Dust off the lederhosen and be ready for fun! 

Through October 18
The 32nd annual funfair carnival, the Fête à Neu Neu, opens on August 30th in the Bois de Boulogne (Porte de la Muette, 16th, M° Rue de la Pompe). Open 4pm-midnight Mon, Tues, & Thurs; 2pm-midnight Wed & Fri; and noon to midnight Sat-Sun. Free entry, ATM, Vélib station, food tents and rides (tickets purchased onsite).  

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

Entries in French Culture (63)


Painlessly Navigating the Journées du Patrimoine September 19-20 

Established over 30 years ago by the French Ministry of Culture, the annual Journées du Patrimoine, or Heritage Days, opens up thousands of historic monuments to the public for the weekend, including museums, churches, gardens, embassies, theatres, schools, libraries, the Senate and National Assembly buildings, and even industrial engineering heritage like the Paris metro control center and the Paris sewers. Most of these places are either normally closed to the public, have heavily restricted access, or (like museums) require an entrance fee, so the Heritage Days are a chance for everyone to enjoy special access to the country's amazing architectural and cultural heritage. There are usually concerts, special tours, demonstrations, or other activities scheduled alongside the visits. The theme for 2015 is "21st Century Heritage", highlighting contemporary and innovative architecture (like the newly opened Fondation Louis Vuitton). 

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Can You Wear Shorts in Paris? 

Laurent, a stylish Parisian in picnic mode.

I get asked this question a lot. Especially this summer, which has been unseasonably hot (between 85°F-102°F off and on since early July). I always answer the same way: yes, of course you can! But then I have to go into the more extended version of that answer, because it's not a simple question. 

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Discover the Best Secrets of Paris in this TV Series

"Next Stop Paris" is a 13-episode Canadian TV series aired last year that features my good friend and fellow travel expert Lisa Pasold. Each 45-minute episode (now online) centers on a particular neighborhood around 13 Paris metro stations, so you can use it as guide for in-depth explorations of these districts: OpéraMontparnasseCharles-de-Gaulle-EtoileGrands BoulevardsPlace d'ItalieLes HallesSt-PaulSt-Germain-des-Prés, InvalidesBir HakeimBastilleButtes Chaumont, andGambetta.

If you live in Canada you may have seen one of the episodes on the Discovery television channel. Lisa is always stopped by Canadian tourists when we're walking through the city, it's hard to miss her! I helped with some of the research (and frequently ran into Lisa and the film crew while leading my tours last fall), so of course I highly recommend watching each 45-minute episode for a real insider view of the city and its colorful history. 


International Entrepreneurs: Paris Welcomes Your Startup

Some clichés just won't die.

Do you still think Paris is bad for entrepreneurs and small businesses? That there are no prospering startups or angel investors looking for projects to support? That the young Parisians with big ideas have all left town because of crippling taxes and paperwork? That the French government doesn't promote innovation?

If you still believe these clichés, you haven't been paying attention (or you've only been reading the click-bait "doom and gloom" news sites). Check out this video about why entrepreneurs are now choosing Paris for their startups:

For the past few years the City of Paris has made the development of startups in the capital one of its top priorities, quietly becoming one of the major world cities for innovation and intellectual capital. There is now over 100,000m² of space in incubators covering every sector from tourism and sports to digital publishing and commerce. 

Your Startup Ticket to Paris

This year the City of Paris is inviting entrepreneurial talent from all across the world to come set up their businesses in the French capital through a program called The French Tech Ticket. The lucky companies chosen to participate in the program will receive benefits including:

  • A place in a leading Parisian incubator
  • Financial support of €12,500
  • Mentoring services
  • Assistance with administrative processes
  • Practical support in relocating to Paris
  • Assistance in obtaining a visa

Applications should be made through before September 15th. The winners will be announced in December, and will set up in Paris from January 2016.

Learn More About Paris Startups and Incubators

Start-up City: Reinventing Paris (The Economist)

- France Strives to Become Startup-Friendlier (Wall Street Journal)

- French Billionaire Primes Paris to be Startup Hub of Europe (Upstart Business Journal)

- Top 10 Startup Cities Where Entrepreneurs Want to Meet Up (

- Startup Hubs Around the World: Paris (Entrepreneurial Insights)

- Paris is for Lovers...of Startups (USA Today)

- The First Incubator in the World Focusing on Tourism (France Diplomatie)

- Pioneering New Sports Incubator Opens its Doors in Paris (

- Rude Baguette: France's Startup Blog

- My Startup in Paris 

1000 Startups: Welcome to the World's Largest Digital Business Incubator

- Paris Startups List

- Invest in Paris (Paris & Co)


What to do in Paris on Bastille Day 

There's much to see and do on and around La Fête Nationale, aka Bastille Day, July 14th. This is a rundown of just some of the best options, including the dance parties, parade, and fireworks show, as well as some logistical tips on using public transportation, when you can legally drink alcohol on the Champ de Mars, and what shops and museums are open. 

Most of these events (except where noted) are free and open to the general public. Be aware that with large crowds come pickpockets! Only carry what you absolutely need and have a bit of cash hidden in your shoe in case you need emergency taxi fare!

Les Bals des Pompiers aka The Firemen's Ball:
July 13th & 14th

The traditional Bals des Pompiers take place in fire stations (or casernes), all over France. They are modeled after the guinguettes, informal outdoor festivals with food and live music, a bit like a countryside wedding reception where family members of all ages would spend the afternoon eating, drinking and dancing. The Bals des Pompiers in Paris fire stations are for entertainment and for charity. There's always a small entrance fee, food and drinks to purchase, and the firemen also sell tombola (raffle) tickets, all proceeds going to charities. By midnight most of the younger children have gone to bed and the party becomes more of a dance club with a DJ, young people (and firemen) dancing well into the wee hours (note that the metro will be open until 2:15am on July 13th and 14th).

These are open to everyone, space permitting. Here is a short list of the major ones in Paris (translated from the Que Faire Paris site): 

  • Paris Center (near the Louvre): Caserne Rousseau, 21 rue du Jour, 1st,
    M° Louvre-Rivoli or Les Halles
  • Paris Marais (near Place des Vosges): Caserne Sévigné, 7 rue de Sévigné, 4th, M° St Paul
  • Latin Quarter (Near Place Monge): Caserne des Arènes de Lutèce, 47 rue Monge, 5th, M° Monge (ONLY July 13th)
  • Rive Gauche (near St Sulpice): Caserne Colombier, 11 rue du Vieux Colombier, 6th, M° St Sulpice 
  • West Paris (near Eiffel Tower): Caserne Grenelle, 6 place Violet, 15th, M° Commerce or Emile Zola
  • Paris 9th (near Trinité): Caserne Blanche, 28 rue Blanche, 9th, M° Trinité (ONLY July 13th)
  • Canal St Martin: Caserne Landon, 188 quai de Valmy, 10th, M° Jaurès (ONLY July 13th)
  • Montmartre (near the cemetery): Caserne Montmartre, 12 rue Carpeaux, 18th, M° Guy Moquet (ONLY July 13th)
  • East Paris: Caserne Chaligny, 26 rue de Chaligny, 12th, M° Reuilly-Diderot
  • Port Royal (near Observatoire): Caserne Port Royal, 55 blvd Port Royal, 13th, RER Port Royal 
  • East Paris (near Père Lachaise): Caserne Ménilmontant, 47 rue Saint-Fargeau, 20th, M° Porte des Lilas (ONLY July 13th)

Défilé Militaire aka Bastille Day Parade: July 14th

One of the big events of Bastille Day is the military parade on the Champs-Elysées. The theme for 2015 is "Ordre de la Libération" to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris. The Champs-Elysées and all of the streets around it will be closed to traffic starting at 7am. Troops will start arriving from 9am. Then from 9:30am until 10:30am there is a succession of "inspection off the troops" by the officers and the French president Hollande, the placement of the Republican Guard, and then finally the "parade" begins at 10:40am with an Air Force flyover (you can see this from almost anywhere in Paris with a view of the sky). Then there is a succession of troops parading between the Place de la Concorde and Place de l'Etoile (Arc de Triomphe), a helicopter show, parachutes, and horseback troops. The guest country of honor this year is Mexico, so you will also see Mexican military troops in the processions. The president makes his exit at 11:55am ending the ceremony. 

What you should know:

  • Expect huge crowds. They will start gathering at 8am, and be impassable by 10am.
  • Expect that you won't be able to see over anyone's head (some people bring stools to stand on).
  • If you get there early enough you may get a seat in the upper level of one of the cafés or restaurants along the Champs-Elysées (they all have window seats overlooking the street, no idea if these will fill up fast or be closed until the parade is over).
  • Many of the metro stations on and around the Champs-Elysées will be closed for security reasons from 8am-noon: Tuileries and Concorde will be closed completely; Champs-Elysées Clemenceau, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George V and CDG-Etoile will have only one entrance open. These will be mobbed, so avoid if you can.
  • The Vélib' stations were closed last year on and around the Champs-Elysées (for drop-off or pickup). No news yet for this year, but don't expect there to be any access this year (or use your Vélib' app to check before you leave home). 
  • The Avenue des Champs-Elysées will be pedestrian-only until 6pm. 

Concert & Feu d'Artifice aka Fireworks Show:
July 14th

Parisians and visitors will be picnicking all day on the Champ de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, not just because it's a fun place to picnic, but also because they're staking out their spot for the July 14th music concert at 9:15pm and fireworks show at 11pm. If you decide to join them, here are some tips:

  • Alcohol is not allowed on the Champ de Mars after 3pm (so get your drinking done early). 
  • The very few public toilets in the area will be inundated, and nearby cafés won't tolerate non-paying visitors using the facilities, so have some cash handy to buy a drink if you need the bathroom, and have a Plan B in case of emergency (the Berges de Seine will have public restrooms). 
  • The fireworks start at 11pm (when it's finally dark enough!) They last 35 minutes, and will have the theme, Paris Welcomes the World. The show will be broadcast live on the site  
  • The metro stations Dupleix, Passy, and Ecole Militaire will be closed from 7pm. The stations Iéna and Trocadéro will be closed from 9pm. Station La Motte-Piquet-Grenelle will be closed from 23pm. Other stations may be closed if a secutiry risk is determined. In general other stations will be open until 2:15am. They will ALL be very crowded, so if you can manage, try to walk instead of taking the metro (don't even think a taxi or Uber is an option). 
  • The Vélib' stations around the Champ de Mars will all be closed (no pickup or drop-off). 
  • You can see the fireworks anywhere in Paris that you can se the top of the Eiffel Tower (you might not hear the music though). Bridges and the banks of the Seine and Trocadéro are popular spots where you can watch. A friend with a balcony is better (or anywhere with bathroom access!) 

Retrouvez l'intégralité du feu d'artifice du 14... par mairiedeparis

Other Entertainment on Bastille Day (July 13th and/or 14th)

  • Bal Populaire on July 13th in the North Marais in the square of the Mairie du 3ème (2 Rue Eugène Spuller) from 8:30pm, free.
  • Grand Bal Populaire on July 13th at the Butte aux Cailles (Place de la Commune de Paris, 13th) from 7:30pm, free entry.
  • Place de la Bastille? Normally there is a Grand Bal here, but I haven't been able to find any legitimate information for this year so I don't think it's scheduled.

What's Open on Bastille Day, July 14th? 

Food & Dining: In general, more things are open than in past years. The open-air markets are open as usual (although some stands may be absent), most supermarkets and convenience stores are either open all day or just for the morning, and the majority of restaurants and cafés are open as usual (but do call to make a reservation before crossing town). Basically, you're not at risk of starvation! 

Shopping: The soldes (summer sales) are still going strong, and shops aren't about to miss out on a day when no one has to work. So many larger shops will be open, including: 

  • Carrousel du Louvre (10am-8pm)
  • BHV (11am-7pm)
  • Le Bon Marché (10am-8pm)
  • Galeries Lafayette Haussmann (10:30am-8pm)
  • Printemps (10:30am-7:30pm)
  • Bercy Village (11am-9pm)
  • Italie 2 (10am-9pm)
  • Beaugrenelle (10am-8pm)
  • Passy Plaza (11am- 7pm)
  • Quatre Temps La Défense (10am-8pm)

    Parks & Pools: Some municipal services will be closed like libraries and town halls (mairies), but the parks are all open, and a few public pools will be open as well: the Piscine Pontoise in the 5th, Roger Le Gall in the 12th, Josephine Baker in the 13th, Aspirant Dunand in the 14th, Aquaboulevard and Keller in the 15th, Champerret in the 17th, Pailleron and George Hermant in the 19th, and Georges Vallerey in the 20th. 

    Paris and Nearby Museums and Monuments Open on Bastille Day:

    Getting Around:

    The RATP and SNCF will be running as usual, although as mentioned above there will be certain station closures around the Champs-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower on the 14th. The RATP (metro) will be running until 2:15am on both the 13th and 14th. Vélib' stations may be locked down around the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysées. Taxis will be very difficult to get (Uber as well) because of large crowds and road closures, all which can change without notice. Pack an extra pair of comfy walking shoes in your backpack!  


    Pétanque (or Boules) in Paris

    Whether you call it pétanque or boules, the traditional French game with the shiny silvery balls has made a comeback. It used to be the only people you'd see playing in were old men in berets sipping pastis. Now everyone plays, particularly Parisian hipsters (les BoBo's) who don't have to worry about breaking a sweat. 

    In the mood to try your hand? You can learn the rules of pétanque here, and find a great list of places to play here, but what about les boules? You can either buy inexpensive sets of balls at sporting goods store like Decathlon or from pro shops like Obut. You'll probably see another game with little wooden pins, almost like bowling. That Jeu de Quilles, a Finnish game that has become more popular around Paris, possibly because the equipment is lighter and less expensive, and little kids can play. Not sure where they rate on the cool-o-meter, though. Stick with boules unless you're devoid of hipster aspirations or immune to subtle Parisian mocking. 

    Casual pétanque games in the Arènes de Lutèce, for all ages (click here to see a cheeky angle to this pic). 

    If you're just passing through and don't need the extra kilos in your suitcase you can also rent them from Paris Ma Belle for just €10/person for the day, and they even deliver and pick-up the balls when you're done. Another option if you don't want to have to do anything yourself is to hire Paris Localers to take a Pétanque Tour including an apéritif and a match on the Place Dauphine. 

    Note that many people say you can play in the dedicated pétanque courts in Luxembourg Gardens, but they are usually reserved (and obsessively raked like a zen garden) for the local pétanque club. So feel free to play elsewhere in the park, there is plenty of space, but don't play in the reserved areas unless you get permission. 

    Serious pétanque player in the immaculate Jardin du Luxembourg.