Paris Travel Guide

Paris Travel Guide

Jessica Benavides Canepa

As the iconic grande dame of romance, Paris is a spellbinding metropolis for all things chic; from gourmet delights, inspired architectural treasures and a bounty of cultural pleasures, to her famed fashion scene and legendary nightlife, the enchanting city of lights is a savvy seductress intent on stealing hearts.

Wondering what to do in Paris? With a myriad of museums, gorgeously-lit bridges and green spaces to discover, Paris is the perfect place for intimate promenades. Whether your ideal day consists of scouring for vintage books along the Seine, hitting a bevy of boutiques and open-air markets in the 5th arrondissement, or world-watching from a cosy café corner or, instead, devouring artwork at the Louvre, shopping the ritzy Avenue Montaigne and candle-lit meals back-dropped by the cascading lights of a night-time Eiffel Tower sounds more appealing, this charmer has got your number.

The best hotels in Paris

Located at the site of a former 18th-century precious metals factory in the heart of le Marais, Jules & Jim is a striking melange of natural materials, minimalist décor and attention to detail distilled into 23 charming bedrooms, each with bespoke artwork and whimsical design winks. Guests enjoy soundproofed serenity in wood, glass and stone chambers equipped with a state-of-the-art lighting system, Molton Brown toiletries and romantic views over timeless Parisian rooftops or the equally divine courtyard. For a unique experience, choose one of the 13 Hi-Macs designer rooms boasting a cosy, cocoon-like vibe. Inspired concierge services include indulgent city tours in a 1961 Citroën DS or a Seine cruise aboard an authentic, vintage Murano boat. The earthy breakfast nook serving freshly baked temptations and the petite adjoining library space radiate a homey warmth. At night, the space moonlights as a cocktail bar; a cobble-stoned marvel with a fireplace, vertical garden and an essence so inviting, it’s become a neighbourhood hotspot. Even the entrance lobby is multi-functional; it doubles as a contemporary art gallery showcasing a curated lineup of local photography, street art and illustrations that extend into the courtyard and bar.

For a uniquely discreet stay surrounded by understated elegance, the chic Hotel Dupond-Smith is a hush-hush haven of tranquillity. Rooms (named after famous aliases) are tastefully stark with sleek design touches—from notables such as Philippe Starck and Hermés—a palette of neutral tones, panelled wood walls and an occasional splash of bold colour. Deliciously indulgent services including en suite massages and all-day breakfast treats are a real luxury, but the true appeal of this boutique beauty, located inconspicuously in lively Le Marais, are the marvellous bespoke memories on offer via an attentive staff ready to indulge your every whim.

A recent style-conscious refurbishment vaulted the 100-year-old edifice housing the posh Hôtel Vernet into the 21st century. Located just minutes from the swank Golden Triangle, all rooms are elegantly spacious affairs —a rare treat in Paris—with natural wood design elements and bold abstract lighting. Public areas are also decidedly modern; the white-walled dining room features rounded banquets and chairs in green, blue and pewter, artwork, voguish patterned rug and the piece de resistance: a striking, Haussmann-style stained-glass dome ceiling.

Opulent sans the attitude, La Maison Champs Elysées is a boutique beauty that celebrates upscale design in all its creative glory. Rooms are generous in size and come in two moods; chic, simple and uncluttered or starkly elegant and bathed with couture elements. The lobby and adjoining cigar bar feature a conceptualized yin and yang vibe; the first is a relaxing space entirely furnished in white while the latter is black and secretive – only cigar and spirits loving patrons can enter. The Table de Huit restaurant, serving classic French cuisine, continues the aesthetic folly with a columned glass ceiling, “magical” winged chairs and trompe l’oeil doors.

Hotel Vernet | Photo: Hotel Vernet

Hotel Vernet | Photo: Hotel Vernet

Where to eat in Paris

French cuisine arguably sets the bar by which all other gastronomy is measured. The food here is distinctive and lauded, despite a significant portion of specialities hailing from various regions. Fortunately Parisian restaurants, ranging from backstreet bistros to three-star Michelins, provide the perfect environment from which to sample all of the country’s edible enchantments.

A long-standing culinary favourite with foodies and undisputed Mecca for cooking excellence, Paris has her lovely fingers in virtually every piece of the proverbial pie; from cheese to desserts, meats to produce and wine, this leading lady knows how to seduce taste buds and keep ‘em coming back for seconds.

As one of the world’s gourmand capitals, new Paris eateries pop up just as frequently as the latest food trend, but when the focus is on quality and service, one can be a tad more adventurous with their table selections. Le Table Ronde in trendsetting Le Marais offers an intriguing premise; a rotating line-up of Michelin-starred chefs cook an experimental menu for a table of sixteen guests who face the open kitchen from concept to plate, with both sides encouraged to engage in active conversation. The Office takes the “secret table” concept in a creatively visual direction; diners walk into a fridge hiding a studio office that doubles as a fixed-priced convivial kitchen for twelve once the sun goes down. And for the most daring, two young culinary up-and-comers propose Les Tablées Cachées, a five-course menu in different locations (from casual to crazy) each time – depending on the night’s ambition, dishes are sometimes hit or miss, but rarely boring.

The Office | Photo: Vanessa Buhrig

The Office | Photo: Vanessa Buhrig

Cocktail culture has been enjoying a glitzy renaissance in recent years with upscale hotel bars, niche spots and speakeasies mixing inventive concoctions and craft specialities. The Experimental Cocktail Club is considered the crème de la crème in terms of quality tipples; it’s a tiny bar with a fantastic vibe and first-rate bartenders willing to go the extra mile to serve you the perfect drink. Retro-chic in feel and flavour Bar Le Coq is a dimly lit, black-walled stunner that aims to re-introduce France to time-honoured spirits with a modern twist. Good news for wine lovers; another steadfast trend is the latest wave of natural wine (without a trace of preservatives) bars on offer. Au Nouveau Nez is a quaint wine bar/shop featuring a nice selection of niche varietals with tasty sides, and if you have a penchant for bubbly, Ma Cave Fleury is a charming champagne bar that not only serves their own organic vintage label but those of their wine-grower friends.

Outdoor food markets are part of life in traditional Paris; many districts feature their version several mornings a week. But for a wider selection and in order to sample shops with other fine edibles, the Marché d’ Aligre has become a must for serious foodies. Other notables include the Marché Mouffetard located on the quintessential cobble-stoned street surrounded by charming edifices with flower-lined balconies and picture-perfect rows of produce, cheeses, meats, breads and homemade jams. Arguably the swankiest food market due in large part to its unbeatable location near the Eiffel Tower and surrounded by pungent greenery, the Marché de Saxe-Breteuil sells hard-to-find upmarket products such as fresh goat cheese, oysters and exotic produce

Paris has come a long way since its elitist “café society” golden years, today there is a wide range of stylish places for coffee lovers of all means to enjoy. Don’t let the eclectic, industrial décor of Café Lomi fool you, the expert baristas mean business; artisan coffee blends are made daily for in-house consumption, sold to other quality café houses or delivered to your door. Café Craft serves tasty brews and a kind word or two in an inspiring, monochromic space. For those who like their coffee with a splash of fashion, the Scandinavian-style concept shop The Broken Arm features a minimalist café that prepares high-quality Norwegian brand roasts to be enjoyed on their teeny terrace.

Cafe Craft | Photo: Samuel Kirszenbaum

Cafe Craft | Photo: Samuel Kirszenbaum

Things to do in Paris

As befits the definitive walking city, Paris always has a new hidden corner, exhibition or under-viewed architectural masterpiece to discover. When you tire of the same old (pun intended) haunts, experiment with a treasure trove of unexpected Paris points of interest hiding in plain sight. True Francophiles will appreciate a visit to the Musée Carnavalet, a fascinating 100-room visual presentation of Parisian life from pre-historic times until the 20thcentury. Highlights include personal items belonging to Marie Antoinette and Voltaire, a life-sized Belle Époque shop and the original Chat Noire sign. Visitors searching for “something different” will get their fill at Deyrolle, an eccentric exhibition of stuffed and mounted animal oddities from around the globe. For a peek at how the other half lived, spend some time at Musée Jacquemart-André, a one-time estate-turned-gallery of fine artwork. A visit to the main dining room is a must; it serves savoury meals in luxurious surroundings.

Shopping in Paris

As the reigning goddess of style, all eyes look to Paris for what’s en vogue. Specialty shops from boutique to classic to Haute Couture keep this ethereal beauty on top. For those who believe that a well-made garment is a visual work of art, a visit to the stunning, multi-ambiance design, clothing and accessories shop LECLAIREUR will confirm it. Loft Design By is a chain of design-savvy shops specializing in casual cashmere (yes it exists!) separates. For exquisitely made clothing so detailed you’ll (almost) weep, stop by LeMaire, the namesake shop of the former creative director of Hermés.

Vintage is king at Nationale 7, a quirky home design shop showcasing vinyl furnishings and records. Blou features a flat-like showroom filled with a veritable cornucopia of contemporary furniture, art pieces and inspired objects d’art. Resembling a fashionable loft residence more than a concept store, Merci‘s unique set-up inspires visitors looking for well-made furniture, tableware, linens, décor, lighting, stationary, clothing and quite possibly the kitchen sink.

Paris nightlife

Paris nights are not that far removed from French films; drinks are poured, and conversation flows in dimly lit venues with no one ever in a rush to leave. This scenario is perhaps the reason for the long-standing popularity of lounge bars. For a sophisticated substitute for the typical dingy jazz club, Le Duke Bar features live music in an English gentleman’s club setting. Though many spots have enjoyed legendary moments, few remain as perennial a favourite among the fickle glitterati set as the ultra-glam Le Bar. And for those who love a lively scene with their cocktail, the hip, graffitied bar at Les Bains is the perfect way to kick-start the weekend’s revelries.

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