Paris.

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The light is different in Paris. Even at 10am it appears the city is still waking. The air fills with a milky, warm yellow glow and the buildings begin to perch at a rhythmic pace, standing side by side through the shortened days. Dusk turns the arrondissements into deep, gray-blue canals. Damp and cozy as the locals dip in and out of bistros and boutiques.

It’s not like this in New York. The buildings are always alive, piercing the air above with their concrete and metal frames. During the cold winter months, New York beams a piercingly bright, cyan sky. Deceptive and unbalanced, energized and crisp.

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Jetsetter’s Guide to Paris: 50+ Places to Explore, Eat, Drink, & Shop

What to do in Paris

T to B, L to R: Inside Hôtel Costes, Le Grande Roue de Paris, Passage Verdeau, The Eiffel Tower at Night & Velib / Photos by Meagan Kirkpatrick

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:

  1. 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.
  2. It’s not like NYC, taxis are sparse and most don’t accept credit cards. 
  3. Bring euro – many of the cafés don’t accept credit cards.
  4. 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!)
  5. 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.)
Paris Rooftops on Shutterstock

Paris Rooftops / via Shutterstock

Shop:

  • 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 HermèsChanel, 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) Continue reading

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