Left: Vanessa Grall, aka Messy Nessy, wears a blue dress and stands in front of an old house in the French countryside, Right: Vanessa Grall, aka Messy Nessy, wears a white coat and off-white hand, standing in front of a display of books in Paris.
Messy Nessy Chic

Just before the travel freeze was put in place, we met up with travel blogger Vanessa Grall, aka Messy Nessy, to fuel our travel lust. Seeking out those spots that are worth their salt is Vanessa’s primary trade. A skilled storyteller, her blog is steeped in stories of under-the-radar places and iconic figures in cities like Paris, New York, and London. If there’s an abandoned château to be explored, a museum that’s not in the guidebooks, a restaurant with interiors that date back centuries, or just a locked door somewhere in the city hiding a secret garden, then Vanessa’s the one to dive beneath the surface and unlock the story.

Left: A stone statue of a person with the shadows of leaves on it on a sunny day in the Jardin de Plantes in Paris, Right: The front of the Grande Mosquée de Paris on a sunny day
Agnès Iatzoura / Guilhem Vellut

We met with the secret-uncovering explorer, who shared her top tips for spending a perfect day in Paris à la Messy Nessy with us. As soon as travel is possible again, we hope you’ll let yourself be tempted to wander off the beaten track to stumble up on those secret gems the city has to offer.

Left: Neon signs from the restaurant "La Tour de Jade" shine bright in the night in Paris' Chinatown, Right: Sun shines from above and illuminates the colors of the plants in the greenhouse of the Jardin de Plantes in Paris
Liam Martens / Manuel Cohen

Lazy Left-Bank Strolls

“First of all, my perfect day depends on whether or not I feel like having a lazy day or not. If it’s a lazy day, then I tend to stay in the neighborhood and have a walk around. Maybe pop into the Jardin des Plantes in the Latin Quarter to go and see the greenhouses, which offer this amazing tropical environment come rain or shine. 

Left: Vanessa Grall, aka Messy Nessy, and her husband at the Mairie on their wedding day, Right: A gate that is overgrown with lush green shrubbery from Messy Nessy's Instagram account
Messy Nessy Chic

I also like to pop into the Natural History Museum next door, which is probably one of the few museums in Paris that hasn’t been written about to death. There’s everything I love here – old bones, dusty corners and cobwebs, lots of archives, and generally plenty of nooks and crannies to keep me busy. 

Left: Twopairs of chopsticks and two bowls of pho sit on a countertop in Paris 13th arrondissement, Right: The beautiful hallway, bright, white, and tiled, of the Grande Mosquée in Paris
Huong Pham / Abricot Pistache

For lunch, I like to stop at the Grande Mosquée de Paris (Paris Mosque) as they have this pretty courtyard where they serve Moroccan food among the birds chirping. There’s also a hammam there, which I’ve been meaning to try for years.”

Left: An omelette, espresso and basket of bread sit atop a wooden table at Au Petite Suisse restaurant in Paris, Right: A red table and chairs sit in front of a red wall on a Parisian terrasse
Yu Chen / Charles Loyer

Urbex Gold

“On days I’m feeling more energetic, I like to explore. Maybe go see a squat I’ve heard about or an abandoned castle on the outskirts of Paris. I love finding abandoned châteaux for instance. I still get goosebumps when I stumble upon one – it never gets old. I also like to have a look around the 19th district as there are still quite a few places that have been left off the beaten track, like old mom-and-pop-style shops – they’re the most soulful places.” 

Beautiful, bright green plants grow in the greenhouse of the Jardin de Plantes in Paris' left bank
Manuel Cohen / F.-G. Gradin

Time-Warp Restaurants 

“I don’t usually have breakfast, so I usually head straight out. I like to eat at places that aren’t necessarily trendy but that have soul, like Au Petit Suisse just across the Jardin du Luxembourg. And on days when I hop over to the Marais, I love stopping at Robert et Louise. It’s a restaurant run by a husband and wife, and it’s been around for ages. It has a great big open fireplace, too. But if you don’t like meat then give it a miss, as this is what they do.

Alternatively, I love having a wander around the 13th district’s Vietnamese restaurants. I eat Asian food literally five times a week, so Chinatown is a haven for me. It’s cheap, it’s always open, and the food is great every time. And no matter what’s going on anywhere else in the city, you just know this area will always be alive and well. I also like it here because there are still a lot of secrets to find.”

Left: The storefront of the quaint, authentic french restaurant Robert et Louise in Paris' Marais neighborhood, Right: An overview of an assortment of items on a table, including the New York Times, an espresso, a pair of glasses, a croisant and the book "Don't Be a Tourist in Paris" by Vanessa Grall
Verónica Algaba / Messy Nessy Chic

Vintage Finds Aplenty

“Another thing I love to do is go to markets – especially the Marché Vernaison, which is part of the bigger Saint-Ouen flea market in northern Paris. It’s the most picturesque of them all, in my opinion. I love to make the most of the vintage ambiance and stop off at Chez Louisette for lunch when I am there.

Left: A beautiful tree shades a blue door at the Jardin de Plantes in Paris' left bank on a sunny day, Right: A fountain sits atop blue and white tiles and between plants at thebeautiful Grande Mosquée de Paris
Garance Andre / Chloé Vander Poest

Another market I love, especially for shoe shopping, is the Marché Saint-Sulpice in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. When I’m in the neighborhood, my husband, Alex, and I like to take in a film at one of the cinemas in Odeon like at Christine 21. Actually, I wonder if the name of the area is linked to the fact there are so many cool, quirky little cinemas there! Watch this space…!”

Left: The inside of the quaint Parisian café Robert et Louise in the Marais in Paris, Right: Left: The exterior of the quaint Parisian café Robert et Louise in the Marais in Paris
Robert et Louise

Part British, part American, Vanessa Grall launched Messy Nessy Chic eight years ago as a way of documenting and sharing her fascinating finds as she explored Paris, her adopted home city after moving from London. Today, Messy Nessy’s blog is one of the most-read travel sites, and her captivating stories now fill a series of beautiful Don’t Be A Tourist books. 

Left: Vanessa Grall, aka Messy Nessy, holds a copy of her book "Don't Be a Tourist in Paris" book in front of the Notre-Dame, Right: Bright white flowers flowers bloom on a sunny day in the Jardin de Plantes in Paris
Messy Nessy Chic / Clangart

Messy Nessy’s Addresses

Jardin des Plantes – 7 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris

Natural History Museum – 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris

Grande Mosquée de Paris – 9 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 75005 Paris

Au Petit Suisse – 16 Rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris

Robert et Louise – 64 rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris

Chinatown – near Olympiades metro station, 75013 Paris

Marché Vernaison – 99 Rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-Ouen

Chez Louisette – 36 Avenue Michelet, 93400 Saint-Ouen

Marché Saint-Sulpice – Place Saint-Sulpice, 75006 Paris

Christine 21 – 4 Rue Christine, 75006 Paris

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Written by Rooksana Hossenally for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a  fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.

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Rooksana Hossenally

Originally from London, Rooksana moved to Paris for what was supposed to be six months – it’s now been 12 years. A freelance journalist, she’s contributed to many publications from the New York Times, Forbes, and BBC Travel to Condé Nast Traveller and the Guardian. She’s headed up several print and online travel and culture magazines, and has worked with brands from L’Oréal to Glamour Magazine optimizing their online platforms. When not working, Rooksana’s scouring the city for new creative pockets, hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurants, and procrastinating about the book she’s meant to be writing.

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