It’s no secret that Paris is my favorite city on the planet. I’ve been at least a half a dozen times in the last two years (I know, cry me a river), and each time I go I discover a new must-visit place. If you find yourself traveling to the city of light and are looking for something to do, below are a few of my go-to spots. For those of you who are social media-savvy, use Foursquare’s Explore feature to find even more places by location.
While I organized my list by topic, I recommend that you chose a central neighborhood to stay in (one of the arrondissements with a single digit) and then tackle a neighborhood a day. Spend a day or two strolling through St. Germain (6e), a day shopping in the Marais (3&4e), a day on Saint-Honorè (1e), a day in Operá browsing the famous Parisian department stores (perfect way to spend a cold or rainy day, 8e), and then whatever’s left in the Latin Quarter (5e) or Trocaderó (16e).
A few other things to remember:
- Paris shuts down on Sundays. You can still shop parts of Le Marais, but the rest of the city’s shops will be closed, so use this day to visit museums or walk along the Seine.
- It’s not like NYC, taxis are sparse and most don’t accept credit cards.
- Bring euro – many of the cafés don’t accept credit cards.
- Try to at least speak a little French. Even saying bonjour or merci in a terrible American accent will dramatically improve your experience. (When in doubt, imagine how you would respond to someone who stops you on the street speaking another language!)
- Tips – while not expected in many restaurants, bars or taxis, if you’re American and expect servers and drivers to speak your language, please tip 10-15% as a gesture of gratitude. (Again, you will need cash for this. You cannot tip on cards in Paris.)
- Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen – This is the flea market of all flea markets. Do not miss if you like shopping for rare european treasures and antiques. Bargain with the dealers and they’ll even ship back to the states. Take the train, this one is on the outskirts of Paris – not far from Montmartre. (140 rue des Rosiers, Saint-Ouen, 18e)
- Merci – This uber-concept store has fabulous designer finds, housewares, office accessories and local fashions. A portion of the proceeds go to charity. (111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 3e)
- Champs Élysées – A little disclaimer with this one: I’ve never cared for the avenue much – other than to visit during the winter season for the holiday lights. It’s a tourist trap for the most part, and filled with the same stores you’ll find elsewhere in Paris – just with infinitely more people and far less personality. (If designer brands are what you seek, shop along Rue Saint-Honoré from Rue Cambon to Rue des Pyramides where you’ll find the flagship boutiques for top French designers including Hermès, Chanel, Lanvin, Annick Goutal and others).
- Colette – A must-see concept store, featuring a gallery space, clothing shop, bookstore and restaurant under one roof. Many of the items you’ll find in this store are limited editions made exclusively for Colette by big name brands. It also happens to be Karl Lagerfeld’s favorite hangout. But whatever you do, don’t try to take a photo inside, the staff is extremely protective over their brand. (Note: Colette and the next 2 shops are also along Saint-Honoré.) (213 Rue Saint-Honoré, 1e)
- Austier de Villatte – The finest ceramics and candles in the world. (173 Rue Saint-Honoré, 1e)
- Christian Louboutin – There are several Louboutin stores in Paris, but this location just off of Saint-Honoré is a world of its own. It’s right at the entrance to Passage Vérot-Dodat, and surrounded by exquisite architecture. Can’t think of a better place to buy yourself a little red-soled indulgence. (19 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1e)
- Le Marais – too many shops to name, so just spend a day snaking the streets from Village Saint Paul, Lieu Commun, Maison Européenne de la Photographie and Bubblewood in the fourth to Marché des Enfants Rouges and Comme un Roman in the third (or visa versa).
- Deyrolle – Taxidermy is at it’s finest at this historic Parisian shop. Come, explore this multi-level boutique and then head to the antique galleries nearby. (46 Rue du Bac, 7e)
- Printemps Haussmann – The best department store in Paris, in my opinion. Printemps has everything from Chloé to Isabel Marant. (64 boulevard Haussmann, 9e)
- Galeries Lafayette & Galeries Lafayette Maison – Go just to see the architecture, and then the selection. The lower level is shoe heaven – stocked with everything from Parcours to Dior. The home store across the street is also amazing, and puts our interior department stores to shame. (40 & 35 Boulevard Haussmann, 9e)
There are so many fantastic restaurants in Paris that I try never to eat at the same one twice. I also like to stop by local markets and stock up to eat in after walking all day, but here a few recs worth checking out:
- Market – It’s Jean Georges. Need I say more? Do the tasting. (15 Avenue Matignon, 1e)
- Glou – Trendy, simple and authentic. Bring someone who speaks French. (101 Rue Vieille du Temple, 3e)
- Frenchie – Excellent authentic fare. Book early, they fill reservations weeks in advance. (5-6 Rue du Nil, 2e)
- Le Georges – Good cocktails, decent food and an amazing rooftop view. (Centre Pompidou, 4e)
- Café de Flore – Probably the most famous restaurant in Paris. Touristy but tasty. (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain , 6e)
- Kong – Made famous by Sex and the City, this stylish restaurant next to the LVMH headquarters also serves the most amazing Cod I’ve ever tasted. Book a reservation for just before sundown to take in the spectacular river views. (1 Rue du Pont Neuf, 1e)
I prefer dark, cozy bars wherever I travel, and despite what many people say, the cocktail is alive and well in Paris. Here are a few spots to unwind:
- Experimental Cocktail Club – Dark, romantic and friendly. This is the original Parisian speakeasy and the perfect place to relax after shopping on Saint-Honorè or Le Marais. (37 Rue Saint-Sauveur, 2e)
- Curio Parlor – A hidden haunt in the Latin Quarter, this bar is brought to you by the same people as the ECC. (16 rue des Bernardins, 5e)
- Le Bar du Plaza Athènèe – An upscale and elegant place to have a pre or post-dinner drink. Bring a credit card or two, drinks are pricey. (25 Avenue Montaigne, 1e)
- Hôtel Costes Le Bar – Come late and stay later. Sink into one of their plush red velvet chaises, sip some bubbly and you’ll never want to leave. (239 Rue Saint-Honoré, 1e)
- La Conserverie – As good for dinner as it is for cocktails. Just be sure to save room for dessert. The fondant au chocolat is the best I’ve had. (37 Bis Rue Du Sentier, 2e)
The obvious picks here are Ladurèe, Angelina and Pierre Hermè. The bottom line is that the French take their desserts very seriously, and it shows. Ladurèe can be found in the 6th, the 1st, and the 8th, but don’t be afraid to duck in somewhere quant and try something new – truffles, petits fours, or simply a macaron or two. The many crêperies throughout the Marais and St. Germain are also excellent for serving up a quick, hot treat.
With all that eating in shopping, you may not have any time left to be a tourist. But just in case, here are my favorite places to explore:
- Les Passages de Paris – just pick up a map, find a tiny passage or two and explore. I’ve found some of the best cafés and shops by doing this. Galerie Vivienne, Passage Verdeau and Passage Jouffroy in the 2nd arrondissement should get you started. If you’re as into passages as I am, this article by The Guardian explores 10 of the best.
- The Seine – Reserve at least an afternoon to just walk along the river, snake the many bridges at dusk, drink wine on Pont des Arts, watch the boats pass Pont Neuf.
- Museé d’Orsay – One of the most beautiful museums in Paris. It took me 5 trips to finally go, but please don’t wait that long. You can do it in an hour – or two. d’Orsay is ocated in the heart of St. Germain, so head to Le Bon Marché and Deyrolle for some shopping afterward. (1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 6e)
- Centre Pompidou – A fantastic modern art museum located in Le Marais. A must see for art lovers. Grab a drink at Le Georges on the roof afterward. (4e)
- Parc du Champ du Mars – The landmark home of the Eiffel Tower, this park doesn’t disappoint. Go in the winter or in the summer, I promise it will take your breath away. (45 Avenue de la Bourdonnais, 7e)
- Maison Européenne de la Photographie – A must see for every photographer or lover of the arts. Open Wed through Sunday. (5 Rue de Fourcy, 4e)
- Jardin du Palais-Royal – I first stumbled on the gardens at the Palace during a January trip to Paris. It was frigid and empty, but magnificent. The gardens are lined with trees, exclusive one-off boutiques, and benches for reading or catching up with friends. Very well worth a stroll – especially after some shopping on Saint-Honoré. (1e)
- Trocaderó – A beautiful place to take in the Eiffel Tower, and lined with fantastic cafés and boutiques. (16e)
Oh, and there’s also the Louvre, Sacre Coeur, and the Arc de Triomphe (not worth a separate visit, but take a peek while shopping on the Champs Elysées).
2 or 3 trips ago, I told myself I’d start renting apartments when I visited Paris. The only problem is I love the boutique hotels so much that I just can’t give them up. There are so many fantastic places to stay, that all I ask is that you please, please, not stay in one of the big name, tourist-magnet hotels. Paris is THE place for exquisite, one-off boutique hotels, and with the French attention to detail, you’ll love them even more than the most expensive suite at a big name chain.
A couple notes of caution before you book: 1) There is a massive price difference between 4-star luxury boutique and 5-star full service hotels, and virtually no difference in quality. If anything, the 4-star boutique hotels are nicer, friendlier, and more accommodating. They just may only have 1-2 bellmen on staff overnight vs. 5-6. A few sources for finding great hotels are Tablet Hotels and SLH. Otherwise see my top picks below:
- Marquis Foubourg Saint-Honoré – First on my roster of places to stay, this boutique hotel is getting lots of praise from travelites and locals, and housed in an 18th-century courtyard townhouse. (From €300/night, 1e)
- Le Bellechasse – The first of two Christian Lacroix hotels on my list. (I bet you’d never guess my own apartment is all white!) This boutique hotel is situated in St. Germain – the hip, literary center of the city. (From €380/night)
- Hôtel du Petit Moulin – This is my favorite hidden gem of a hotel in one of the chicest shopping districts of Paris. There are only 17 rooms, and all of them were uniquely designed by Christian Lacroix. (From €250/night, 4e)
- Hôtel Costes – Sexy, dark and glamorous, Costes is the place to see and be seen. Pick up a few CDs by DJ Stephané Pompougnac while you’re there. (From €400/night, 2e)
- La Maison Favart – Barely a year old, this quaint little “House” is immaculate and designed to perfection. There’s a fantastic breakfast room and a decadent hot pool in the basement. (From €280/night, 2e)
- Hôtel Duo – Rooms are teeny at this hotel in Le Marais, but well appointed and clean. Staff is friendly and the bar is chic and casual. (From €250/night, 4e)
- Hôtel Jules et Jim – My Parisienne friend Sophie adores this hotel in Le Marais. I have yet to stay but it looks fantastic, quaint and affordable. (From €200/night, 3e)
- Hôtel Lancaster – Beautiful, elegant and a bit more mature than some of the others on this list. (From €200/night, 1e)
- La Maison Champs Elysées – Another hotel discovered by Sophie, and one I can’t wait to try. Elegant, fresh and in the heart of the most luxurious shopping area in Paris. (From €220/night, 1e)
For more recommendations of what to do, where to go, and what to eat in Paris, follow Paris and New York on tumblr and check out my Paris list on Foursquare. You can also download Superfuture, GoGo and Wallpaper* Paris travel guides from iTunes.