01 of 09
Quirky Walking Tours of Paris' Hidden Spots With Eye Prefer Paris Tours
Richard Nahem of Eye Prefer Paris Tours offers walking tours in English that provide a quirky take on several Parisian quarters, including the Marais, St. Germain, the Latin Quarter, Montmartre, Montparnasse, and Bastille). This review applies only to the Marais tour.
You Will Love This Tour If:
- You don’t know Paris very well but don’t feel like hitting the major sights just yet, or have seen enough of them
- You live in Paris but haven't explored its nooks yet
- You love perusing specialty food stores, boutiques, galleries, food markets and a variety of unusual shops
- You are the kind of person who digs through tourist books and websites to find hidden gems
- You're more interested in the contemporary life of the city than in its history
- You enjoy ambling around a neighborhood to really get to know it
This Tour Is Not For You If:
- You prefer historical, architectural, or more standard churches-and-monuments tours
- Walking or ambling is not your thing
- You prefer a more tightly structured,... information-packed tour
- You don’t care for shopping (while the tour can be tailored for more or less shopping, all tours will have some shopping)
Reservations and Cost: Make reservations here
- A 3 to 3 hour 15 minute tour for up to four people costs 175 Euros (approx. $238). Larger groups can be accommodated with advance notice.
- 50 Euros/ approx. $68 is due upon reserving; 125 Euros/approx. $170 is to be paid in cash on the day of the tour.
- Pay reservation fees by, check, or credit card through PayPal
- Gratuities are at your discretion
- After you reserve, you will receive a questionnaire to tailor the tour to your interests
- You will also receive information about where to meet in your confirmation e-mail
Please note that prices and details may change. Consult eyepreferparis.com for updated information on prices.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
- You don’t know Paris very well but don’t feel like hitting the major sights just yet, or have seen enough of them
02 of 09
How to Get the Most Out of Eye Prefer Paris Walking Tours
Continue to 3 of 9 below.
- Don't forget to bring the full amount required for the tour in cash (minus the deposit you should have paid online when reserving)
- The tour is on foot, so wear your walking shoes
- Make sure to bring an umbrella if it looks like it might rain
- Tours frequently include stops at cafes, so bring extra cash
- Because many shops are closed during the weekend and on Mondays, the best days to take this tour are Tuesday through Friday; however, Sunday morning can be a great time to see Paris outdoor markets
- Before taking a tour, you may want to check out the EyePreferParis blog, in which Richard Nahem gives a spirited and witty account of some of the places you are apt to see on one of his tours, as well as various musings about life in Paris
03 of 09
The Marais Neighborhood's Charming Nooks Come Alive
The Marais is a preferred spot among visitors to Paris. And no wonder: this area is central, not far from Notre Dame Cathedral, and offers an especially wide variety of restaurants, clothing boutiques, speciality food shops, bookstores, cafes, and grand old buildings with exquisite architecture and manicured gardens. Although it’s an area I already know well, Richard showed me dozens of things I’d never noticed before as he took me from the bottom of the Marais on rue de Rivoli, to the top, a ways into the 3rd arrondissement.
A Fresh Take on an Over-chartered City
In the one and a half years that Richard has been in Paris, he has repeatedly found himself guiding friends-- and friends of friends-- around the city. As a native New Yorker, he is also a natural pedestrian. These two qualities combine to make Richard an astute investigator of Paris' lesser-known spots. He is also a low-key and friendly guy, which made the tour an easy and enjoyable experience.
Richard began giving tours... professionally this past January, and he has been honing his technique ever since. Because he looks for the quirky, unusual, and hidden, his tours can be enjoyable for short-term visitors and long-term expats alike.
Tours Tailored to Your Niche Interests
When you book an Eye Prefer Paris tour, you'll have the opportunity to fill out a questionnaire. I strongly recommend that you reflect on your preferences ahead of time: art, shopping, outdoor exploration, cafés and restaurants, etc. You have the option of filling in specifics. In one case, a father and son expressed an interest in science and Richard found a great little hunting museum-- le Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature. The visitors loved the museum, but would probably have never found it on their own.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Handbags, Blouses and Heels, O My!
While you can tailor your own tour (see tour tips), my tour focused on shopping. We began on rue de Rivoli near the beautiful old Saint Paul Church.
Read related feature: What Shops are Open on Sundays in Paris?
We headed straight onto the smaller streets north of Rivoli, first stopping at Canzi (2 Rue Ferdinand Duval ), an organic scent shop created in 2002 by Stéphane Mottay. All scents are organically made without chemicals or synthetic additives. Some of the products were high-end beauty products (priced accordingly). But the highlight of the shop is its many different perfumes, lighter scents, and perfumes designed by Stéphane in his own laboratory. The scents were light, natural, and generally floral or fruity, but never too strong or sweet. Stéphane first sprayed me with a light orange blossom and vanilla spray. I also tried a very pleasant orange blossom lotion and another, spicier herbal lotion. Products here are for men and women alike.
The designer shoe store we visited next... was a small boutique with gorgeous shoes by top designers, including Marc Jacobs. Here, both Richard and I admired silvery lamé sandals and a pair of pistachio-colored heels with a black stitching effect. More lamé was on view at an all-handbag shop we visited that featured a line of pink, blue, silver and gold bags.
As we wound through one small street after another, I could see that Richard had carefully culled a selection of the most interesting and unique shops. Over the course of the tour, he showed me an upscale children’s clothing shop with a remarkable assortment of colorful little shoes, several designer boutiques, handbag and shoe shops with handmade products, and a handful of quirky clothing stores.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
The Marais Shopping Tour Continues...
Oddly enough, as we meandered in and out of Marais shops, Richard and I began to notice that each boutique seemed to have its own distinctive scent. Most remarkably, the children’s shop smelled a lot like the orange blossom scent that began the tour. That Richard noticed this is part of the charm of taking an individualized tour with such an affable guy: the experience is very personalized and friendly. I think this is what really won me over in the end. This tour had none of the gruelling pavement-pounding of a standard tour that tries to cover as much ground, physically and historically, as possible.
One of our final shopping look-sees was a discount designer outlet shop that, Richard claimed, is the only of its kind where finer threads are actually discounted. Wary and skeptical, glutted on fine designer goods, and afraid to hope I might finally be able to afford something, I went in to take a look. Lo and behold! This is a place I will return to when I have a full... afternoon ahead of me and only two days since payday behind me.Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
Gourmet Marais : Chocolate, Cafes, and More
My Eye Prefer Paris tour of the Marais covered more than just clothing, continuing on a decidedly gourmet note.
We tasted some delicious chocolates at the Joséphine Vannier shop. This is not the only artisanal chocolaterie in the Marais, but it’s better-quality and less expensive than the more well-known chocolate shops on rue Vieille du Temple (closer to the neighborhood's center of activity). I bought four rich and delicious individual pieces for about 2 Euros/approx. $2.70. Richard told me the shop specialized in thematic chocolate sculptures. One of the small shop's walls featured chocolate reproductions of circus-themed creations vintage advertising posters (see above photo).
It’s clear to me that Richard enjoys staking out the city's best culinary shops and cafés. For example, he pointed out a café to me that has not only kept its old-fashioned charm, but also serves a whopping bowl of chocolate mousse for dessert; you... aren't expected to devour the whole bowl, but you're given a fair shot at getting in as much as you can.
Richard next showed me around a covered market (most Paris markets, or marchés, are open-air) that features a variety of foods, including middle-eastern selections, flowers, and a little cafe in the back on a small, intimate square.
Eye Prefer Paris tours generally include a stop to eat or sip hot chocolate. Since eating is such a fundamental part of French life and experience, this is only fitting.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
Art for Art’s Sake: Galleries and Aesthetic Spots Around the Marais
Oscar Wilde famously quipped that art should exist for art’s sake. Richard’s tour seems to take this maxim seriously. While he clearly enjoyed showing me the hidden boutiques and designer shops of the Marais, this only took up about half the tour.
Because Paris is so full of wonderful major museums, it’s easy to neglect smaller galleries. What visitors tend to pass over, though, is precisely what Richard seeks out. It would have been impossible to visit all of the Marais' galleries, but we did go into a few that I had passed several times without venturing to explore.
We saw a collection of photographs of Paris from the 1930s at one gallery, works by the edgy 1980s New York artist Jenny Holzer and other contemporaries at a second gallery, and a variety of multi-colored glassware at a nearby shop.
We also scoped out one of Paris' more unusual, and artistically avant-garde, hotels, l’Hôtel du Petit Moulin (Book direct). With an intricately designed neo-retro interior (which I was... not allowed to photograph), this place is really something to see. The concierge was happy to have us pop in to take a look, so we did (see above photo).
All in all, the artistic and more generally aesthetic appeal of Paris was a memorable part of the tour. The tour's slow pace allowed us to linger in the galleries and other aesthetically pleasing places and to get a real feel for them.Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
Marais Gardens and Squares (Some Secret)
In the course of discovering what Paris' Marais quarter has to offer for sale, Richard and I passed by or through gardens, squares, landmarks, markets, and cafes. The Marais boasts some lovely squares, gardens, and parks. Early on our tour we passed through the Hotel de Sully’s gorgeous manicured lawns and found ourselves, much to my surprise, at the southern end of the famous Place des Vosges.
Paris is full of little squares and gardens. Richard pointed out a few that I hadn't noticed before, and showed me a somewhat secret garden that I’d never seen before and that doesn't appear on my map (and so I’ll let Richard keep this secret for his tours; but see photo above). It’s a rose garden that wasn't quite in bloom when we were there, but which was noticeably missing the ever-present tourists and teenagers that one usually finds during peak tourist season at places like the Vosges in the Marais, or in the more prominent Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens. It was a calm,... quiet, and very charming little garden. I definitely felt I had been let in on one of the city's best-kept secrets.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
My Bottom LineThe Upside: Richard's style is friendly, low-key, and engaged. He works to provide a good tour by making the experience as personalized as possible. I have to admit that I was a little worried as I made my way to the meeting place that I’d be confronted by another efficient but uninteresting tour guide. In this, I was immediately relieved; Richard was not your typical guide. We had some great chats about different cities, art, and expat life in general. This added another dimension to the tour. We were never just walking: there was a lot of chatting and noticing things together. So I can wholeheartedly endorse the claim that this really is a tailored and personalized tour that feels like an amble with a very knowledgeable, interesting, and articulate friend of a friend.
The Downside: As a fair and accurate reviewer, though, I should point out some of the downsides to this tour. First, as noted in this review’s introduction, you'll find yourself frustrated if you aren't... somebody who likes to amble casually from place to place or if you’re hoping for a lot of information. This is more of an impressionistic experience than an historically-oriented tour.
Finally, the tour itself was somewhat unpolished. I think this is inevitable for this style of tour, and I think it will take a little time before Richard will have his tours working like well-oiled machinery.
My Conclusion: If you're looking for a traditional and fact-packed tour, this may not be your best choice. However, I found Richard’s tour to be refreshing and very memorable. But then, I find any tour that involves a microphone, a bus, or a large group too aggravating to be worthwhile. From my perspective, this tour was a very welcome alternative to your standard and ever-so-predictable city tour.