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A Transatlantic Life: Williamsburg, Brooklyn vs. Ile St Louis, Paris

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by The All-Nite Images, Brandie

Williamsburg & Île Saint Louis (The All-Nite Images & Brandie)

Of all the things to do in Paris, taking a stroll on the Ile St. Louis on a sunny day and grabbing a cone of Bertillion ice cream is on just about everyone’s favorites list, whether they be a tourist, expat or long time Parisian. Personally, I’m a devout fan of their chocolate noir.

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Ana Luiza Oliveira

Île Saint Louis (Ana Luiza Oliveira)

The Ile St. Louis, smack dab in the center of Paris, is full of old Parisian families, award-winning butchers, and beautiful limestone buildings from the 1630s. It’s clean, peaceful, and just a bit removed from the whirr of Paris proper.

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Jo Morcom

Williamsburg (Jo Morcom)

I like it even more than ever before because I somewhat miraculously found a flat here to rent last summer. Now that we are fully ensconced on the Ile as official residents, I’ve fallen in love with my little island in the way that almost everyone does with their own little corner of Paris. 

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Doni

House of Small Wonder in Williamsburg (Doni)

Contrast that to the life I lead back in NYC, in hipster-rich Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Williamsburg is filled with young families, artists, gallery-owners, musicians, and kids just out of college. We are decidedly on the older end of the spectrum, but after years of living upstate in the countryside, we are thrilled by the plethora of affordable, trendy, local, vegan-friendly restaurants that don’t need to be booked in advance.

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Igal Malis

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Sylvain Bourdos

Top image: Williamsburg (Igal Malis) & Bottom image: Île Saint Louis (Sylvain Bourdos)

Nothing is old here, except for the few brick factory buildings that haven’t been torn down yet. There’s trash and graffiti everywhere, and an art house cinema that serves a mean mojito. Every guy sports a fierce-looking beard, there’s a juice-bar on every corner, and, of course, a Whole Foods is soon to open nearby. And since folks like us have arrived, the true hipsters are picking up and moving to Bushwick.

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Alex, Allswell photo by Donny Tsang

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Jo Morcom
Top image: Île Saint Louis & Allswell in Williamsburg (Alex & Donny Tsang) & Bottom image: Williamsburg (Jo Morcom)

So what of this bizarre juxtaposition, Erica Berman asked me recently. Hipster heaven vs. classic old-world Paris — do I really like both or am I just a little schizophrenic? Add our Bordeaux country house into the mix, and you might start feeling a little confused about me.

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Igal Malis

Williamsburg (Igal Malis)

But moving between these three very different worlds is what I prefer. I hate being pigeonholed. I like cheese whiz and foie gras. I wear mom jeans for comfort and skinny ones for a night out. I love to garden, but I also love to stay up until 3am dancing at the hot new club where my son is DJ’ing. I listen to Billy Holiday and Daft Punk. I love trying the next-best-thing while relishing the old in both Paris and New York.

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Allswell photo by Donny Tsang

Allswell in Williamsburg (Donny Tsang)

My top three picks for each locale? On the Ile St. Louis, in addition to a cone of Berthillon ice cream from the original Berthillon café of course, I like a funny looking place called Les Fou de L’Ile – a neighborhood bistro that serves an honest Blanquette de Veau. For a really big night out, I’d splurge at Sergent Recruteur for Chef Antonin Bonnet’s surprise prix-fixe 7-course menu.

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Les Fous de l' Ile

Les Fous de l’Ile on Île Saint Louis

In Williamsburg, we adore Allswelll pub for brunch or a pint; Samurai Mama for gyoza and ramen; Pies and Thighs for fried chicken; Zenkichi for an omakase meal; and House of Small Wonder for a perfect, light lunch. Nighthawk cinema is a movie goer’s dream, with a full bar, waiter service, really comfy chairs, and movies from around the world.

Vive la Différence!

Hipster vs. Classic, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Guillaume Lemoine, Allswell photo by Donny Tsang

Île Saint Louis & Allswell in Williamsburg (Guillaume Lemoine & Donny Tsang)

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Written by Doni for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

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Written by Doni Belau

Doni BelauDoni Belau is the founder and creator of Girls’ Guide to Paris, a website and online guide to Paris. This September her new book, Paris Cocktails, was published by Cider Mill Press. Join Doni on Dec. 2nd at New York's Le District for a book signing, cocktail tasting, and holiday party planning event or in Chicago at Debi Lily’s Parisian Loft on Dec. 9th. Tickets required.

Website: Girl's Guide to Paris

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Posted in Parisian Living, Travel | 13 Comments »

13 Responses to “A Transatlantic Life: Williamsburg, Brooklyn vs. Ile St Louis, Paris”

  • Earlhayes says:

    This place is amazing, I want to go for a Brooklyn trip soon. Thanks for this great post.

  • susan says:

    Love this comparison + I appreciate not wanting to be pigeonholed…being a Libra I find myself very much in your position! I like bot classic and modern, elegant and rough. Contrast makes life interesting.

  • Carin Olsson (HiP Paris) says:

    Hope you’ll have a great time on Île Saint Louis Trisha.

  • Carin Olsson (HiP Paris) says:

    We love Brooklyn as well. Hope you’ll get to come to Paris soon!

  • Carin Olsson (HiP Paris) says:

    Glad you liked the post Megan!

  • Carin Olsson (HiP Paris) says:

    Have a great time in Brooklyn!

  • Audrey says:

    Wonderful photos, very inspiring. I guess these two ways of living are so different you can’t really chose between them. The ancient charm of Paris vs the modern and trendy NYC !

  • Erin says:

    Very inspiring! I am living in Paris now, but am planning my first trip to Brooklyn in August!

  • […] a city I love as much as New York, it’s Paris. Yesterday I stumbled upon a great post by Hip Paris Blog, written by a New Yorker living in Ille St. Louis, a gorgeous little neighborhood in the City of […]

  • Megan says:

    Life is short. Why choose if you don’t have to? I love how you framed both places positively instead of pitting one against the other. So much to love in both places.

  • LOVE it!! I am a Brooklyn girl now living in Maryland in a D.C. Suburb, but there is something about Brooklyn, even if you have to leave it, it never leaves you and there are times that I do miss it, but I do love it here too. Of course, I’ve never lived in Paris and would love to even if it’s just for a few months.

  • Trisha says:

    Great post! I will be staying on the Ile St. Louis and can’t wait! I feel that I would also love to go to Williamsburg/Brooklyn. Thanks!

  • I really enjoy your site and special finds around paris. I am a huge francophile myself. If you ever wanted to pay writers to go exploring and writing for you I specialize in french church history, cathedrals and saints and would love to write a column for you:-) Hope to meet you one day.
    All the best- a bientot,
    Cynthia Louise Butler

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