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How to Spend 24 Hours in Paris Like a Local

02/24/2015 11:46 am ET | Updated Apr 26, 2015

The way she tells it, Anne-Charlotte Moulard grew up in a fairytale. "I was born in northern France, close to the sea," she says. "We could see the coast of England when the sun shone and the sea was calm." It was a rustic childhood, the kind most of us only dream about -- so why leave? The answer, of course, is Paris.

"This town is an open-air museum," Moulard says. "What an amazing gift!" It's been ten years since she first arrived for art school -- and while some call it the City of Light, Moulard calls it home. Here, as a fashion photographer, she creates visual narratives right of storybooks: in her photographs live cabaret women and femmes fatales, harlequin dolls and Galatea -- but of all her characters, none is so memorable as Paris itself.

Moulard knows the city like only a photographer can. She shoots the red brick of alleyways, deserted streets in the 20th arrondisement, and the vine-choked graves of Père-Lachaise. If you ask her for the most beautiful place in Paris, she won't even miss a beat: Saint-Germain-des-Prés, her own neighborhood. "It's a mythical place where Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin used to live," Moulard says. "It's still full of the memory of famous writers, singers, and actors."

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She isn't kidding. Visit Saint-Germain, and you can't swing a croissant without hitting something legendary. In fact, at its heart are two of the world's most iconic establishments: Les Deux Magots and Café De Flore, once frequented by the likes of Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir, and Picasso. Around the corner stands a church dating back to the 12th century; beyond that, the school that produced Monet and Renoir. For all the city's landmarks, though, Moulard makes this much clear: there is only one way to see Paris -- like a local.

"I think Paris is really incredible if you live in this city as if you were a resident," she says. Forget the Mona Lisa; this means coffee at the corner bistro and getting lost in the Jardin du Luxembourg. It means the market on weekends, biking through the Marais, an apéritif on a rooftop at sunset. And what of the Eiffel Tower? The Louvre? The Champs Elysées? "Tourist guides are for that," Moulard says. "The best ever is to be Parisian for a day."

Let's be honest: who hasn't dreamed of living like a Parisienne? Photographer Anne-Charlotte Moulard takes us through the city, from dawn to dusk, the local way.

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When did you first know you wanted to be a photographer?
I grew up in a romantic atmosphere where spoken or read stories were appreciated. I kept this taste for storytelling: I tell stories, whether a single image or a series of many. My vision is cinematographic. I work like a filmmaker, doing location scouting, casting, and storyboards.

If someone only had 24 hours in Paris, what should they see or do?
You have to go for a run or a walk in Le Jardin du Luxembourg -- and don't forget to borrow your neighbor's dog. Then, you have to take a coffee at a bistro with a newspaper and talk with the barman and people around about the news. Then, if it is the weekend, you go to the market to taste fresh products and pastries...

You also have to join Parisian friends for lunch -- Parisians always have a new restaurant to test. So, take a share bike called Vélib and join them for lunch time. The best ever would be to sit on a terrace if the sun shines. Parisians are like lizards; they look for the sun that they miss from October to March.

Where are your favorite places to eat?
Brunch & Tea
1. Mama Shelter is the place to be in Paris -- very trendy. This hotel, designed by Philippe Starck, is the definition of a modern hotel. It mixes everything: the lobby gives you access to a vast room where you have a store, a pizzeria, sofas to sit and drink, and tables more isolated for couples. There is also a terrace for the sunny days. At night, you have concerts and DJ sets with really good music. After a short night, you need to regain strength, and Mama Shelter has thought of everything. Its brunch is absolutely incredible! You have to taste it.

2. Café Coutume is my favorite place in Paris to have a fantastic coffee and work. Close to the Bon Marché and designed by Cut Architectures, this place is a spot where girls and boys scribble on Moleskine notebooks and take pictures of their cappuccino, because the primary goal of this lab design is to remind you what a really good coffee is. The WiFi allows you to work all day, which is really nice when you're freelance like me.

3. La Chambre aux Oiseaux is another favorite breakfast place. This coffee shop is located in the trendy neighborhood République, along the Canal Saint Martin. The duo behind this project, Lena and Hervé, are decorating and cooking enthusiasts. Between painting, laughter and friends, they managed to create a really timeless place: the chairs, wallpaper and even the dishes were unearthed, chosen with passion. Here, you'll remember your childhood. The kitchen, for its part, is tasty and light.

4. Pierre Hermé is a famous pastry chef and incidentally, my neighbor. Every weekend and during holiday periods, the queue is always full and stretches to the corner of the street. Everything is very good; I still recommend l'Ispahan, my favorite dessert. Here, the pastry becomes art.

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Restaurant & Bar
1. Fish La Boissonnerie is a place for gourmets. The tiled façade of this former fish shop has been a must in the neighborhood for 10 years.

2. La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is a really select bar à vins. It is a hangout for oenophiles; savvy or not, they will taste delicious dishes, always in agreement with a wine from their supernatural cellar.

3. Oenosteria is an Italian restaurant, quite hidden and only known by Parisians. It is as if you were in Italy! The service is made by Italians boys who speak and sing. With cushions on the keypad and large windows, the Oenosteria retains a sleek simplicity.

4. Les Editeurs is an institution of the sixth arrondissement, a classic brasserie but quite chic. This place is open every day and very late. Its comfortable seating and refined but hearty cuisine make it a popular meeting place. During the day, professional appointments are organized there. In the evening, you meet writers and politicians -- and even later, young lovers kissing.

5. Le Manger is a restaurant located in the Bastille neighborhood. The entry is simple; the dining room is just designed well, and the skylight splashes all other tables in a warm atmosphere. The specialty of this place isn't only the decoration: Le Manger aims to help the unemployed re-enter society as they learn to cook, guided by the chefs. The food is really good, and it is good to know that by coming here, you help people.


Where's the best place for nightlife?
In Paris, rooftops bars have started to open. Two are now famous:

1. Le Perchoir is a bar located in the Ménilmontant area on a wide open rooftop with panoramic view over the capital. Discovering such a place must be earned -- and like any new Parisian place that's a victim of its own success, the world is jostling at the gate, while the seats are limited. Cocktails and good music are offered here.

2. Le Nuba is located on the top on a newly rebuilt place, which includes the new school building of IFM (French institute of Fashion), a museum of playful art, restaurants, and shops. At night, the view on the Seine, its bridges, and its famous Bateaux-Mouches is incredible. The place provides food, drinks, and cocktails, and you can listen to trendy DJ sets all night long.

How would you describe your personal style?
I would say I have a preppy style: I often mix beautiful pieces with simpler things purchased in high street shops. I love a denim shirt, black skinny jeans, soft pants, and short jackets because I am small. For dresses, it is above the knee and still graphics. My colors: black and navy blue for trousers, gray and beige for knits, and flashy color accents like yellow for accessories and jewelry.

Despite my small size, I don't wear heels -- my size is part of my trademark. So, I discovered a passion for derbies and Chelsea boots.

Anything else you'd like us to know?
The best period ever to visit Paris is spring. I advise you to take your tickets as soon as possible and to book a room on Airbnb to live like a Parisian.

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Photos of Melody Sanderson by Anne-Charlotte Moulard; Pierre Hermé Macarons by Brett/Flickr