Today’s city guide is brought to you by Vanina who is a native Parisian. Vanina shares her favorite spots in Paris and how one might spend their time in the city of lights!
I would suggest for the latest on entertainment and exhibits pick up a copy of Paris Voice that is written for ex-pats. Also before you head out to any museums check on the times as many are closed either Monday or Tuesday. Also look for the days that they are open late so you can take advantage of daylight hours when shops are open.
The Louvre is the most well known museum in Paris and it can be a bit overwhelming. Try to go on Wednesday or Friday evenings for discounted prices and lighter crowds.
If you love French Impressionist art then this museum is a must. There is also a cafe upstairs where you will find a beautiful view out of the clock/window towards Montmarte. They are open late on Thursdays.
Jeu de Paume
The grounds of the Tuilleries gardens are such a treat. The exhibition is always something new and exciting to see.
Musee des sciences
It’s in La Vilette (modern new development), north of Paris near the peripherique.
Musee de la Decouverte
The Musee de la Decouverte is more central and within a beautiful building.
It’s between Notre Dame and the Quartier Latin. I would try and do Notre-Dame, La Conciergerie ans Ste Chapelle on the same day as they are so close even if I risk an old stone overdose. Actually, I would finish with Notre-Dame and then go to the restaurant ‘Le Petit Chapelet’ for lunch and/or dinner. Ask for a table on the 1st floor!
Sainte Chapelle – A must see for all
Les Invalides – Museum of the French Army
This is where Napoleon is buried – from there, either walk West to the Eiffel Tower or East (and probably closer to the Musee d’Orsay) Careful, ALL museums are closed in Paris either on the Monday or Tuesday. Ask your hotel’s concierge to avoid disappointment.
Entertainment and Parisian Culture
Shakespeare& Co. 37 rue de la Bucherie 75005
Stop by the English language bookstore that is not far from Notre Dame. It is covered from floor to ceiling in used books.
Marche Aux Puces
There are tons of Flea markets all over the city.
If you are around the first Saturday in October then you are up for a treat! The city stays awake all night for “White Nights”.
During the summer you can visit the Seine for a fabulous faux beach.
Jardins de Paris
There are hundreds of parks all over Paris. Find one that is close by your hotel and visit for a stroll.
Instead of waiting in a long line opt for a picnic on the Champs de Mars, which is the grassy area in front of the tower. This is the BEST way to enjoy the Eiffel Tower.
The boat tours are a great way to see the city. Try a tour at night and day as they both give a different perspective.
Samaritaine (best view in town)
Beware – I heard somewhere that the Samaritaine might have closed down… but don’t quite know where to verify the info. If it’s closed, they can always stroll to either Le Louvres or cross the Pont Neuf and go to the Quartier Latin from there. Talk to your Hotel Concierge/Maitre D, and ask them if La Samaritaine is now reopen, and if the roof-top is accessible… If so, you are in luck! So rush and have a coffee – if there is still a coffee shop up there… The address is Rue de la Monnaie, off rue de Rivoli. Metro Chatelet and/or Les Halles. Just a quick top about ‘Les Halles’ – It used to be a food market and is now a huge mall… but not too well acquainted unfortunately. For Parisian shopping, go to Rue de Rivoli and La Samaritaine if you are by the Louvre; and Le Printemps and/or Les Galleries Lafayette on the Boulevard Haussmann if you happen to be on the Right Bank by the Opera.
Shopping: From the dearest but oh! so chic
Note: Rue du Faubourg St Martin; Place Vendome; Les Galleries Lafayettes and the Boulevard Hassmann are all do-able by foot because they are all in the same vicinity. However, I would recommend taking a walk around 2 areas that are less touristy and more for ‘people-in-the-know. Try out the little boutiques of the St Germain de Pres area and/or Le Marais.
LeComptoir des Cotoniers
This is one of my favorite shops. It is a high street chain + department store ’boutique’ – I have re-discovered them: fan-tas-tic! Casual yet elegant and quirky. Great cuts, finish and detailing. (and they also have a range for little girls! I bought a cardigan for my 5 year old last year. It washes beautifully, looks effortlessly chic, and I get compliments about it all the time!)
The Frenchies swear by it. Cheap and great cuts.
French Touche 1 rue Jacquemont 75017
If you are looking for homemade French this is a great place to go.
Casual + work. more grown up. very nice
For clothes and esp. undies (a must!) At Etam you will find for clothes and undies that are cut very well. Parisian Ladies swear by their everyday underwear.
Colette 213, rue Saint Honoré 75001
Colette is one of the hippest shops you will find in Paris. They have everything from clothing to make-up, books, and more.
Le Petit Atelier de Paris 31, Rue Montmorency 75003
For beautiful handmade ceramics and handmade porcelain wonders.
Food: Restaurants, Brunch, Desserts and Sweets
Desserts & Sweets
Experience a an explosion of color with macaroons over at Laduree. Choose an assortment then wash them down with a French herbal tea. You will find locations all around the city.
Angelina’s: 226, rue de Rivoli 75001
The hot chocolate is absolutely magnificent! It is served up with fresh whipped cream. You must try this.
Bertilion Ice Creams
Have an ice-cream at ‘Le Fou en L’isle (Ile St Louis) – They serve the infamous Bertillon Ice Creams!
This is the French version of London’s Fortnum & Mason… awesome! I often go there with my mum – she dresses up especially, I love it!
Restaurants / Brunch Spots
Le Coupe Chou
Here is the one that ticks all the boxes – and is proudly off the beaten tracks. ‘Le Coupe Chou’. Genuinely historic decor, Suave ambiance, fine food… Take your loved one there on a date, and in for a real treat. The memories I keep from going there with my husband are those of shear indulgence, understated opulence, and privacy/togetherness.
Le Petit Chatelet 39 Rue de la Bûcherie, Paris – 01 46 33 53 40
The restaurant I would recommend that is more central and easy to find, yet still special, is situated by Notre Dame, and is called ‘Le Petit Chatelet’. You get the feeling you are having dinner at your Great-Aunt in a country chalet (Dools house look with a warm log fire). It’s Lovely. Note: Ask to be placed on the 1st floor by the window – the view is something else! It is situated almost next to an old English bookshop called ‘Shakespeare & Co’ (worth stepping in too!).
Le Grand Café des Capucines 4 Boulevard des Capucines Tel: 01 43 12 19 00
Finally, if you happen to be near the Opera, do stop at ‘Le Grand Café des Capucines’, often referred to as just ‘Le Grand Café’. It’s lovely and feels very exclusive. The food is naturally excellent, but you could also just stop for a coffee and a Patisserie and check the beautiful Art Deco decor.
La Tour d’Argent
Let you jaw drop from the luxury of La Tour d’Argent and its food.
Le pain quotidian 18 Place du Marché St Honoré, 1st ‘arrondissement: This is where I meet with my friends each time we are in Paris, ‘Le pain quotidien’ (our daily bread). There are 2 in Paris, and the one you want is 18 Place du Marché St Honoré, 1st ‘arrondissement. It’s in the vicinity of Place Vendome (where Cartier, Vogue’s head office, Boucheron, Tiffany’s are) and next to Le Louvre.
Nearest metro… there are several options: Pyramides; Tuileries; Opera. I don’t think you can book; you just have to turn up before 10am. Do go upstairs as it is really cosy. They make the best brunch by far, and the décor makes you feel you are in Granny’s country house for the w/e. It’s really nice. They also make this fabulous white, milk or dark Belgian chocolate spread! There is no particular view, but a strong feel of Bourgeois opulence that is quite ‘invigorating’. There is now one in NYC too. Bliss!
Bars, Pubs, and Nightlife:
This is a tricky one because they change all the time. However, here are my ex-HQs:
Le Bar sans nom (literally the bar without a name)
It is situated in the Bastille area. The metro station is ‘Bastille’ too. This bar is called ‘Bar sans nom’ because it’s the only bar in that street (rue de Lappe) that hasn’t got a name or a name board. The décor inside is very bizarre, theatrical, decadent. Plus they have excellent old Rums. …Having said that, maybe it doesn’t exist anymore… or maybe now it’s got a name! If you cannot find it, please ask around for it.
Quartier Pigalle (Red Light District where the Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeur are) North of Paris:
Folies Pigalle: Ever trendy disco. London’s Soho atmosphere.
Le Divan du Monde: My favorite one. Long queues but you will be able to listen to your favorite bands live! (it’s a concert hall/trendy venue/fumoir-lounge-strange and laid back)
Man Ray, Mandala Ray, World Place (known by all 3 names): Owned by major young Hollywood actors. Le 1515 32-34 Rue MarbeufRue Marbeuf (perpendicular to Les Champs Elysees)
L’Appart: If you fancy meeting Elite Top Models… also they do good cocktails
BarFly: 49-51 Avenue George V Paris 8e 33-1-5367 8460 Bar Fly (B Fly) is a very trendy bar and restaurant creation by Raymond Visan, not only popular as restaurant and bar but also for lavish functions.
Quartier Concorde and Jardin des Tuileries (at the bottom of Champs Elysées, near Hotel Crillon):
Note: Hotel Crillon, where Michael Jackson and Princess Diana used to stay.
Buddha Bar: I’ve never been, but people rave about it so I’d like to see it. The décor is amazing I am told.
Paris is a walking city and seeing it on food is quite spectacular. Here are some I think you should try.
I STRONGLY recommend walking down to La Madeleine (it’s a neo-classic church that looks very much like the Bank of England in London, where posh and famous people get married). Once you are there, have a cake / tea at ‘Fauchon‘ it is awesome!
The second ‘compulsory’ walk I would advise to do is go all the way to La Bastille by tube, then go to ‘Rue St Paul’ (one of the avenues off Place de la Bastille) or hop on/off bus 69 (the ‘carnet’ (10 ‘billets’) is ok, but better have a one day ticket in this case) all the way down rue de Rivoli and onto Place de la Concorde where the Obelisk is and if you feel really brave enough… walk up the Champs Elysées. On the way, you can do various stops that include:
Stop 1: Hotel de Sully: On rue St Paul, go through the “Hotel de Sully” (enter the Mansion & Park from rue St Paul (in the old Paris – Le Marais). You will end up on the other side Place des Vosges – absolutely stunning ‘Empire’ architecture!
Stop 2: Bertilion Ice Creams: Have an ice-cream at ‘Le Fou en L’isle (Ile St Louis) and fall in love with the infamous Bertillon Ice Creams!
Now, after the ice cream you will need to start to make your way back onto rue St Paul / rue de Rivoli. After you pass the Hotel de Ville (town hall) – when rue St Paul becomes Rue de Rivoli more or less – you need to carry on, not onto rue St Denis (which is another trip… ‘with the boys’) but onto Rue de Rivoli and into La Samaritaine. Have a coffee at the top, admire the view, etc… IF it is now open to the public (last I checked it was closed). Once there, you have lots of options via bus, beateau-mouche or walking:
1. Bus: Take bus 69 (also as suggested above) Last stop: the Eiffel Tower, and it goes via all the posh ‘quartiers’. It used to be my bus back home. Loved it.
2. Bateau-Mouche: Take a bateau-mouche towards Pont de Bir-Hakeim/ Eiffel Tower (actually, this is a very good idea!)
3. On Foot: Carry on all the way on foot as suggested above. Walk down to Le Louvre (3 min max from La Samaritaine), say Hello to Mona Lisa and the Venus from Milo if you have the time, go check out Les Colones de Burene in Jardin du Palais Royal, and then walk down towards Place de la Concorde via Les Tuilleries (the other Royal garden) instead of rue de Rivoli. This is a lovely stroll, actually. Please note that your entrance ticket to Le Louvre is valid all day, so you can go in and out. This will take a bit part of a Saturday.
On Sunday you should go to the market in the morning (check with your hotel reception where the nearest market is on Sundays). And I suggest the bateau-mouche in the afternoon if you haven’t done it already. Alternatively, visit the Musee d’Orsay (impressionists wing is the best) and then have a coffee in St Germain des Pres (where Kylie lives) – ideally in ‘Café de Flore‘ for it’s politico-eyebrow history.
Talking about St Germain des Pres… I would book a hotel in the area and shop ’till you drop on the Saturday or Monday. Beware! most shops are closed on Sundays. I know, it’s the 21st Century and Paris is a major Metropolis… but France has a strong Catholic history and Sundays are for Church and (never ending) family lunches. Anyway, there are exquisite designer boutiques in St Germain des Pres and Odeon (adjacent ‘quartier’). My favorite shopping street? Rue St Sulpice! My second favorite in the vicinity? Rue du Four. Enjoy!
We hope you enjoyed this view of Paris! If you have any questions for Vanina or comments just post them here!
MarlaFebruary 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm
Awesome! Now I want to go back and spend a month there!
ericaogradyFebruary 4, 2011 at 7:05 pm
I just got back from Paris. Always such a charming place to visit ;)
Thanks for all the tips – I’ll keep them in mind for next time.
Carrie PaciniFebruary 7, 2011 at 9:26 am
@Vanina We are planning a trip that includes a week in Paris and I can’t wait to check out your suggestions! Just reading it makes me feel like I walked through the streets of Paris today.