Paris Travel Guide

Paris Travel Guide

Paris is a spellbinding metropolis for all things chic; from her gourmet delights, architectural treasures and abundance of cultural pleasures to her famed fashion legacy and vibrant nightlife, the enchanting city of lights is a savvy seductress intent on stealing hearts. With a myriad of museums, gorgeously-lit bridges and green spaces to discover, Paris is the perfect place for intimate promenades and post-sundown dawdling. Whether your ideal day consists of scouring for vintage books along the Seine, hitting a bevy of boutiques and open-air markets, or world-watching from a cosy café corner, be sure to spare some time to devour artwork at the Louvre, shop the ritzy Avenue Montaigne and enjoy at least one candle-lit dinner in the glittering vicinity of the Eiffel Tower. With a huge gay pride parade in July alongside myriad LGBTQ+ events year round (including a Lesbian Book Fair, Existrans parade and Chéries-Chéris film festival), France is truly one of the world’s most gay friendly cities, particularly so in gay nightlife hotspot Le Marias, as well as queer-friendly Quartier Pigalle and Bois de Boulogne. Plan ahead to make every moment count with our definitive Paris gay scene guide.

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The best hotels in Paris

Let’s start our Paris gay travel guide with a roundup of 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, with each room featuring bespoke artwork, whimsical design and romantic views over the city’s rooftops or the equally divine courtyard. Opt for a Hi-Mac designer room for a unique experience and make sure to check out the breakfast nook and adjoining library space when you awake. During the day, consider taking a hotel organised city tour by car or by boat, and return at night for a courtyard cocktail in between the fireplace and the fragrant vertical garden.

For a discreet stay surrounded by understated elegance, the chic Hotel Dupond-Smith is a hush-hush haven of tranquillity. Tastefully stark with sleek design touches, this hotel also offers indulgent services including en suite massages and all-day breakfast treats. The true appeal of this boutique beauty, however, is the inconspicuous location in the centre of lively Le Marais. A recent style-conscious refurbishment has ushered the posh Hôtel Vernet into the 21st century. Located just minutes from the swanky 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 featuring rounded banquets, amid artwork, voguish decor and the piece de resistance: a striking, Haussmann-style stained-glass dome ceiling.

Hotel Jules et Jim Paris

Hotel Jules et Jim

Celebrating upscale design and opulence is La Maison Champs Elysées, a boutique beauty boasting spacious rooms in two moods; chic and simple or starkly elegant with couture elements. The lobby and adjoining cigar bar also feature a contrasting 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. Hidden away down an alley in the 2nd arrondissement is Hôtel des Grands Boulevards, a 4-star feature teaming 18th century elegance with a touch of avant-garde quirkiness. Inside guests will find stately Louis XVI furniture, canopied beds and marble tables alongside more provincial touches, as a nod to the revolutionaries that reshaped the country. The hotel’s Experimental Cocktail Club is also worth experimenting with!

Hôtel des Grands Boulevards

Hotel des Grands Boulevards

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Recommended hotels in Paris
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Photo: Pedro Lastra

Photo: Pedro Lastra

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For a peek into the lives of the Parisian elite, spend some time at Musée Jacquemart-André, a one-time estate-turned-gallery of fine artwork

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 haunts, uncover 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 right up until the 20th century. Highlights include personal items belonging to Marie Antoinette and Voltaire, a life-sized Belle Époque shop and the original Chat Noire sign. For a peek into the lives of the Parisian elite, 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.

Spend an afternoon getting lost among treasures in the labyrinthine Musée des Arts Décoratifs, located between the Louvre and Tuileries on Rue de Rivoli. While you’re here, marvel at the museum’s vast collection of decorative arts, spanning Medieval tableware, Renaissance tapestries and 20th-century graphic arts. The museum’s various spheres will allow you to focus on one movement, be that Art Nouveau and Art Deco, Sèvres Manufactory porcelain or glass pieces from the likes of Tiffany and Gallé. A more disruptive offering in the city is the Palais de Tokyo, a gallery and exhibition space shaking up the traditional art world and museum concept with its cutting-edge, politically charged exhibits and immersive performance art.

Louvre | Photo: Maggie Jaszowska

Louvre | Photo: Maggie Jaszowska

Get outside to the city’s parks and manicured gardens for the most authentic Parisian experience. The Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement is a perfect choice, as one of Paris’ go-to parks since its conception in the 17th century for the Luxembourg Palace. While the French Senate now sits where the palace once was, the gardens themselves are as splendid as ever, full of formal lawns and gravel paths dotted with 19th-century statues, honouring as many as 20 French queens. In addition to an orchard of rare apples, apiary and various greenhouses, one sight worth looking for is the Medici Fountain which dates back to 1630.

Paris’ quarters are diverse and disarming, each coming at you with a certain je ne sais quoi. Saint-Germain-des-Prés, located on the left side of the Seine, may have seen its heyday in the middle of the 20th century, but its appeal firmly remains today. Former home and haunt of trailblazing thinkers, writers and artists such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett and Juliette Gréco, this quarter has a long reputation for its wild nightlife and non-conformist culture. Home of Paris’s best jazz clubs, gay community and cheap student friendly offerings since before WW1, Saint-Germain-des-Prés still remains young, stylish and dynamic, becoming the go-to place for bookshops, bars, galleries and historic cafés on quaint, narrow streets.

In both the 3rd and 4th arrondissements is hip Le Marais, a once uninhabitable piece of swampland north of the city. Despite its swampy roots, from the 13th to the 18th century, Le Marais became the preferred locale for Paris’ nobility and is now home to a large LGBT community, as well as countless art galleries, ateliers and boutiques. Peaking in the 17th and 18th centuries, with the commission of the Place des Vosges, this quarter still reeks of past wealth, with various dignified properties dotted throughout. Our favourites to pin down are the old Hôtel de Soubise, now the Museum of French History, and the Hôtel de Rohan, now the site of the national archives.

Photo: Pharat Patil

Photo: Pharat Patil

National Museum of Natural History | Photo: Mat Reding

National Museum of Natural History | Photo: Mat Reding

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What to see in Paris

Of all the many choices of what to see and what to do in Paris, soaking up the city’s impressive historic sites and timeless architecture is an absolute must. Its churches are as good a place as any to start and the Sacré-Coeur is perhaps the most famed Roman Catholic Church outside of Rome. This Romana-Byzantine basilica dressed all in white stone has been standing since the 1870s, marking the nation’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian war. The journey to the Sacré-Coeur is also a treat in itself, accessible via the manicured square of Louise-Michel and up the regal steps of Butte Montmartre hill. When you reach the landmark, either head inside to marvel at the immense mosaic ceiling or get your safety equipment on and scale the church’s domed roof for a complete view of the city.

Another landmark Paris sightseeing spot is the Palais Garnier, perhaps the world’s most famous opera house, built in the 1870s on commission from Napoleon III. Get up close to this architectural marvel, designed in the Beaux-Arts style by Charles Garnier, to spot the stone busts of famous composers among the Corinthian columns and art sculptures. To get inside you can either opt to view a real opera performance, or take a tour of the opera house’s ornate interiors, taking your time in the Grand Foyer and Grand Staircase. After sitting for hours at the opera, stretch your legs with a walk along Coulée Verte René-Dumont, a 5-kilometre promenade running from Opéra Bastille to the Boulevard Périphérique joined by various viaducts and tunnels. Although dating back to the 1850s, this walkway was abandoned for many years and, while the greenery threatens to take over in some sections, in others, such as the Viaduc des Arts, the path is neatly landscaped with water features and trimmed hedges.

Opera de Paris | Photo: Alessia Cocconi

Opera de Paris | Photo: Alessia Cocconi

Sat atop a hill in the 20th arrondissement is the 19th-century Père Lachaise Cemetery, where various important historic figures were laid to rest. While the site may seem like a melancholy way to spend time, the joy here is tracking down and paying respects to the many famed people buried here; including Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison as well as cultural icons Balzac, Chopin, Molière and Piaf to name just a few. Next on the itinerary is another leisurely stroll, this time along Canal Saint-Martin which traverses 4.5 kilometres through the 10th, 11th and 19th arrondissements. This open-air walkway has been a popular place for unwinding for over 200 years and now offers plenty to see along its banks, including old industrial warehouses turned stylish properties, as well as shops, café bars and various waterside terraces enveloped in foliage.

One more noteworthy park is Parc Monceau, located in the painfully posh northern area in the 8th arrondissement. Built by Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans who saw an untimely death during the revolution, this park’s original features are in good condition, including a large 18th-century rotunda entrance, a pond-flanking Classical colonnade and numerous time-worn monuments. After all that walking, fill your stomach at the glorious Marché des Enfants Rouges, the oldest covered market in the city established in Le Marias as early as 1628. As well as selling fresh fruit, veg, flowers and bread, the market also hosts restaurants where shoppers can buy fresh cooked food in iconic, lively surroundings. Choose between Italian, Moroccan and Lebanese dishes, or try it all! Standouts include the upscale eatery Enfants du Marché and cacti store Aux Succulents.

Père Lachaise Cemetery | Photo: Fabrice Nerfin

Père Lachaise Cemetery | Photo: Fabrice Nerfin

Photo: Joe Desousa

Photo: Joe Desousa

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French cuisine arguably sets the bar by which all other gastronomy is measured

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

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

Photo: Valentin B Kremer

Photo: Valentin B Kremer

Shopping in Paris

As the reigning goddess of style, all eyes look to Paris for what’s en vogue. Speciality 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-ambience design, clothing and accessories shop LECLAIREUR will confirm it. Loft Design By meanwhile 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.

A new boutique gallery and concept store on the scene is BOON Paris which launched in 2018 as a showcase for art, design and fashion brands. Stocking more than 80 artists from around the world, including classic designs from Gratz and fashion from Viu eyewear, what’s special about BOON is the cross border collaborations and gallery curation. As well as their own publication and St Paul’s Apothecary concession store, the gallery also hosts monthly exhibitions. Another showroom/store hybrid is Le Marais-based Norwegian Rain. Located in an atelier of Hotel Particulier on the centuries-old Ruelle Sourdis, this menswear boutique is less of a store, more of a ‘conceptual tailoring universe’, featuring Scandi design and projects spanning both art and culture before winding back at practical yet sophisticated apparel.

Vintage is king at Nationale 7, a quirky home design shop showcasing vinyl furnishings and records. To find new pieces for your apartment, Blou features a homely 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 is Merci. The unique set-up here will inspire any amateur interior designer looking for well-made furniture, tableware, linens, décor, lighting, stationery, clothing and quite possibly the kitchen sink.

LECLAIREUR Royal | Photo: Davide Leggio

LECLAIREUR Royal | Photo: Davide Leggio

BOON Paris

BOON Paris

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Cocktail culture has been enjoying a glitzy renaissance in recent years

Paris nightlife

And now for Mr Hudson’s Paris gay scene guide. 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.

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.

Photo: Aurelien Lemasson

Photo: Aurelien Lemasson

Experimental Cocktail Club | Photo: Simona Belotti

Experimental Cocktail Club | Photo: Simona Belotti

Le Duke Bar | Photo: Le Duke Bar

Le Duke Bar | Photo: Le Duke Bar

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