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Is Paris still cool? Hell yeah! (But not for the reasons you think)

By Sheena McKenzie, for CNN
February 19, 2014 -- Updated 1646 GMT (0046 HKT)
Vintage masks, open flames, and a secret location? It must be "We are the Oracle" (WATO), Parisian party planners who transform the city's grand and abandoned buildings for one-off soirees. Here are a few more reasons why the French capital is a whole lot cooler than you think... Vintage masks, open flames, and a secret location? It must be "We are the Oracle" (WATO), Parisian party planners who transform the city's grand and abandoned buildings for one-off soirees. Here are a few more reasons why the French capital is a whole lot cooler than you think...
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Vive la Paris!
Candlelit dinner
Rothschild rave
Vintage velocity
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Street style
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Paris isn't the most fashionable city in the world. But here's why it's the coolest
  • Forget tired cliches, Paris is about discovering hidden gems away from tourists
  • Top tips: Partying in derelict mansions, or watching indie films in antique pagodas

Editor's note: Fashion Season: Paris takes you behind the scenes of the Paris catwalks and beyond, exploring the French capital's most stylish hidden corners. The show airs Monday 24 to Friday 28 February on CNN International, with daily reports in 'News Stream' at 1300 GMT and 'Connect the World' at 2000 GMT.

(CNN) -- So New York thinks it's the most stylish city on the planet?

Sure, the Big Apple was named top dog in the latest rankings of fashion capitals around the world, pushing Paris into second place, and London into third.

But can you party in an abandoned Rothschild mansion in New York? Can you watch indie films in an antique Japanese pagoda? Can you chillax on the beach in the heart of the city? Nope? Well, mes amis, you can in Paris.

Star bloggers change the fashion game?

Whatever the world's fashion dignitaries might say, the City of Light is much more than stripy t-shirts and the Eiffel Tower.

A month as a Parisian

In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a single Parisian jostling with the tourists atop that particular feat of architecture, says culture blogger Vanessa Grall.

"Paris doesn't have to be the crowded tourist city everybody thinks of," said the 29-year-old editor of messynessy.com, a website delving into the city's hidden artisan gems.

"The great thing about Paris is you can walk around quiet, very traditional neighborhoods that are like movie sets, and find these secret little pockets -- like a hilltop vineyard overlooking the city."

And when the sun goes down, you can continue exploring the city's sumptuous club scene -- if you know where to look.

"People who complain about Paris nightlife are people who don't get out much," said 28-year-old Arthur Mestrot who, along with 26-year-old Ruben Nataf, founded online city guide "Ten Days in Paris."

Paris doesn't have to be the crowded tourist city everybody thinks of
Vanessa Grall

"I feel as though there's a real link between night clubs and art, the buildings are some of the most beautiful in the world. We have a much different clubbing culture than other European cities like London and Berlin -- it's smaller, more intimate."

Grall's top tip for discovering some of these tourist-free treasures? "Rent an old 1960s scooter, you don't need a license, and it's the best way to take the side streets and get lost."

And when you've worked out how to find your way back again, here are a few more reasons why Paris is cooler -- if not always more fashionable -- than you think:

You can party in an abandoned Rothschild mansion

Or a World War Two bunker. Or a closed inner-city railway. In fact, if it's grand, vintage, and out-of-bounds, then event organizers "We are the Oracle" (WATO) will probably be holding an extravagant soirée somewhere inside.

A decadent dinner in a derelict, top-secret location in Paris? What could be cooler than that?
Courtesy WATO

Expect "Eyes Wide Shut" style secrecy, decadent dining, and thumping tunes -- all inside the city's most magnificent derelict buildings.

Thousands of baguette-toting, beret-wearing cyclists take over

As any hipster will tell you, retro is cool. Bikes are also cool. Artisan deli goods are definitely up there.

So the "Beret and Baguette" cycle ride through the city, involving 1,000 people dressed in 1930s costumes, and culminating in a picnic in the park, ticks all the right boxes.

Watch indie films in an antique Japanese pagoda

People who don't know, watch films in multiplex cinemas. People who do, watch them in a lavish 118-year-old Japanese pagoda.

The extravagant La Pagode was built as a present from Le Bon Marché department store owner Monsieur Morin as a gift to his wife. Today, movie-goers can sip tea in the surrounding bamboo gardens before marveling at the elegant theater adorned with golden murals and chandeliers.

French Riviera? Paris brings the beach to you

You don't have to go to Staint-Tropez to get a tan, just get yourself to the banks of the Seine and enjoy the sun with a breathtaking urban view.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Imagesourtesy

Let's be realistic, not everyone has pockets deep enough for a vacation in the south of France. Never fear, Paris has it covered, bringing 5,000 tons of sand and nearly 100 palm trees to the banks of the Seine each summer.

Ok, so it's not quite the Mediterranean. But there's still volleyball, giant sprinklers, and live jazz -- and all within the heart of one of Europe's biggest cities.

Go hunting for a secret underground river

But the Seine isn't Paris' only river. There's another secret stream flowing deep under the streets -- if you know where to look.

Centuries ago the Bièvre river wound its way through the city, becoming a polluted dumping ground for businesses, eventually sealed-up in 1912. Today, walking tours follow plaques marking the hidden river route.

You don't need to go to the Louvre to see amazing art

Skip the museum lines, and instead wander the bohemian neighborhoods of Paris, such as Le Marais, where beautiful street art lurks behind every corner.
Courtesy Fred le Chevalier

You could line up for three hours to get into the world's most visited museum. Or you could wander the city at leisure, taking in some of the most skilful street art in Europe.

If you want to see more than just the usual Banksys or pixelated mosaic "space invaders," then there are plenty of walking or cycling tours to give you an in-depth tour of Paris' more obscure murals.

Read: The charming and quirky of boutiques of Paris

See: Ghost stations to get stunning second life?

Watch: Keeping it in the Longchamp family

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