While most of your time in Paris should be spent exploring all the wonders the city has to offer, there is nothing wrong with a little rest and relaxation as well. As accommodation goes, Paris has something for every price point and every aesthetic. For those with money to burn, Hotel Plaza Athénée is a showcase of French luxury (as seen in the final episodes of SATC). Every amber-scented room has a spectacular view of the city. Regency meets Art Deco in an elegant fusion of style that has attracted film stars, politicians, and the fashion elite for decades. Alan Ducasse runs his three-star restaurant from the hotel. The restaurant also oversees all hotel catering, even room service. With its prime location moments from the Champs-Elysées, rooms with private terraces, and 18th-century decor, the Four Seasons Hotel, George V takes luxury up a notch. The super chic Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme boasts an enviable location a short walk from the Louvre and the Opera and it also boasts an equally enviable guest list.
Dubbed the “Hotel of Kings” by those in the know, Le Meurice makes list for its bar, its food, and its past guests, including Salvador Dali and Saudi princes. I am sure most of you have in your lifetime listened to a Hotel Coste CD (similar to Buddha Bar CD mixes)- well the hotel is just as amazing as the music. No detail is too small for owner Jacques Garcia, a man who takes pride in excess, particularly when it comes to drinks, lounges, parties and the beautiful people attached to them.
Stunning views are not hard to come by at the Hotel du Louvre: all four sides face a Parisian landmark – the Louvre, the Opera Garnier, the Comédie Française (make sure you visit), and the Place du Palais Royal (one of my favorite places to hang out in Paris). The traditional atmosphere of the guest rooms does not prevent the hotel from providing every contemporary comfort. With only 43 rooms, Hotel Therese is a boutique hotel in Paris. The rooms are elegant and come equipped with all the comforts you’d expect from a cosmopolitan hotel in the centre of things.
Cheap, chic, and charmingly small, Hotel Le Petit Paris is the Latin Quarter’s little gem. This is personally my favorite part of the city so I would highly recommend staying in this area to get a taste of the Rive Gauche. During the reign of Louis XV, the hotel was a coaching inn, but in the 1970s even Jim Morrison couldn’t resist a stay. Its 18th Century facade conceals bold, themed interiors designed by Sybille de Margerie.
The undisputed shrine of cool (and overpriced), Colette has a perfectly curated collection of fashion pieces, style must-haves, and design artifacts. It’s simply impossible to match. The absolute dictator in the reign of retail, it is the prototype for the ultimate shopping experience. It is more a fashion museum experience than a shopping experience for me. Although, when I lived in Paris I did frequent Colette often to do some crowd surfing- this is where the most stylish young clads of Paris hang out along with your wanna be parisian fashionista tourists. On my student budget it was pretty hard to afford anything here…even the water downstairs at the Cafe was overpriced.
Gallerie Lafayette is also a must for all tourists wanting to shop and not having time to hit all the boutiques around town (if you are there end of June/July you will also be able to take advantage of the summer sales). It’s a very glamorous version of a department store with every brand name you could ask for. Plus the inside of the Gallerie is so beautiful that it grants a visit just to see the cielings if not to shop. [note to shoppers: you can get your tax returns here]
One of my most cherished high end department stores which is tucked away from the tourist paths is Le Bon Marche located on 24 Rue de Sèvres in the 7eme arrondissement. This area in general has many great boutiques and shops so for those looking for great shopping you should definitely hit this side of town.
A Parisian must for every fashionista (and lover of random things like me), Le Marche Aux Puces is a deep ocean of merchandise treats. Often hit or miss, you can score anything from a rare, turn-of-the-century accessory to the odd, well-priced Givenchy vintage dress.
Noir Kennedy is a hipster’s dream: cool, vintage, cheap, and located in le Marais. The meticulous selection features pieces from underdog designers as well as rare garments collected in London, New York, and other vintage capitals of the world.
In terms of the best areas for shopping my personal favorites are: 1) Saint Germaine (6/7eme arrondissement), 2) le Marais, 3) Chatelet/Montorgeuil and 4) for window shopping I always make my way over to Rue St. Honore followed by a glass of wine at Place du Marche St. Honore).
Now on to my favorite hobby: eating. Dining in Paris is not simply a matter of a meal, it’s a total body experience – the food, people, decor, location, and more. Every meal is a precious opportunity to try something quintessentially Parisian so try not to squander a moment on something unworthy.
Café de Flore is (still) the coolest lunch spot in town for a young, fashionable crowd (and the intellectual?). Many of my days as a Political Science student in Paris were spent here having deliciously overpriced hot chocolate…and hoping to run into the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Café au laits and Christian Louboutins (the shoes and the man himself) converge in harmony at this Paris staple.
Chez George is a classic and my personal allllll time favorite for its unpretentious, old-fashioned, bourgeois French cuisine, service, atmosphere, and décor.
An area which I only discovered a few years ago is Place du Marche Saint Honore- just off of Saint Honore street this square has many wonderful restaurants where many locals hang out. It quickly became my weekly lunch spot since it was just minutes away from my firm. To top that off, last I checked Marc Jacobs had its outlet store (same as the one in West Village, NYC) tucked away in a corner.
L’As du Fallafel is my favorite place to catch a quick bite in the Marais. The crowds flock to this traditional jewish fallafel place to experience their amazing fallafels. In my student days this was a place to get cheap quality food with the gang. Now it seems that tourists have taken over, with large line ups. However, quality remains the same.
Ma Bourgogne- 19, place des Vosges, tel: 01 42 78 44 64, (M: Bastille). Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, this is a great spot to sit under the arches of the gorgeous place des Vosges. Standard French fare (the fixed menu is your best bet), generous salads, and Berthillon ice cream. No reservations or credit cards.
For people watching and eclectic french fare snatch a coveted outside table at L’Avenue.
Docked between vintage shops and Sonia Rykiel, Le Bouledogue is a local den that’s cheap, fast, and fun. Expect nothing but the best Parisian joie de vie on the terrace. It’s a prime spot for day-drinking festivities.
One of Francois Miterrand’s favourite spots, along with many intellectuals and artists, Brassiere Lipp breathes history from every inch of its original art deco walls. In short, as they put it themselves, it’s “chic, cheap, and hard to beat.” For the younger crowd, Chez Janou is a raucous bistro with a clubhouse vibe. The scene might be anything but simple, but the food is simply homey, excellent, and decently priced. Hipster headbands optional, but a spoonful of chocolate mousse is required. French critics and Parisians alike adore food expert Julien Fouin’s traditional French bistro Glou. The bistro boasts reasonable prices, an incredible wine list, and celeb patrons like Marion Cotillard and John Galliano. Neighbor to both Le Baron and Chez Regine, Le Comptoir du Relais is prime real estate for the hungry party crowd, but it’s the bellinis and caviar that really bring them in.
Le Fidélité was one of the trendiest spots in 2009 last when I was in Paris. It’s pretty easy to find close to gare de l’est. All the hipster/fashion’s avant-garde flock to this joint but the vibe is down-to-earth. Rosa Bonheur serves food, both small plates and simple plats du jour. But the reason the place is packed is because it is perched in a privileged spot at the top of the lush Parc des Buttes Chaumonts, with a sprawling terrace and a fine view. The mood goes from picnic to party as the day progresses. The trick is you have to make it inside the Buttes Chaumont gates before closing time at 8pm. The inexpensive tapas feed hipsters and fashionistas alike in a relaxed setting.
Le Relais de l’Entrecote is also a must. The restaurant serves just one dish: steak, fries and salad. So if you don’t eat meat you may want to stay away. There are several locations but I suggest hitting up the St. Germain location nestled in a cobbled stone street overlooking a beautiful church and steps away from the crowds on St. Germain.
Parisians rightfully treat every meal as something special, including the little meals in between. My all time favorite pastry shop is on my all time favorite street [rue montorgeuil]: La maison Strohrer is one of Paris’ oldest and most revered bakeries. I once purchased every single pastry with a friend in order to try all of them, since often times I usually end up with a chocolat eclair or macaroons I thought it was an appropriate occasion and the right shop to taste every single french pastry. 10 pounds and 5 hours of ultimate sugar high later, I was happy to say that I loved every single one. Unfortunately, in those days photographing the experience was not a priority and thus I cannot support my memories with any photos.
One of the most famous cafes in the city, Angelina’s signature pastry is the Mont Blanc, a meringue base piled with chestnut purée and then filled with whipped cream. If possible, it is actually better than it sounds.
Fauchon chocolates are a bedside table must and they’re as good as it gets … well unless you also take their kinky chocolate body paint in consideration. For conservative types, their teas, coffees, and infusions will hit the spot too.
No Paris visit is complete without a stop at Ladurée. (You may have already read my post on Laduree so you may already know how I feel about this sweet little shop). Order a cup of hot chocolate and try not to exceed the human limit of macaroon consumption while you’re at it. There is another macaroon option as well. Better known as the “King of French Pastry,” or the “French Willy Wonka,”Pierre Hermé’s tiny boutique on Rue Bonaparte has a queue around the block. The man made it his life’s work to perfect the macaroon and succeeded. If there was ever a time to line up for pastry, this is it!
Morning drinks, afternoon nibbles, and evening cocktails, Paris has the perfect place for them all. As the apéritif du jour, Café de Flore‘s evening crowd is trendy, famous, and rich. There’s no mistaking where these people come from and where they work (Paris, London and Prada) and no doubt where they’re going either: Le Montana. A see-and-be-seen spot for the “it” crowd, this is the last stop before pulling an all-nighter at a neighbouring spotlight joint. Castel is the Quartier Latin spot de rigeur.
Known for its cocktails, multi-coloured goblets, and bizarre glasses in a Neo Art Deco atmosphere, the Metropolitan Cocktail Bar in the Metropolitan Hotel is a solid drinking den for the smart rock n’ roll set. A bar worth the door hassle is Le Mathis (strongly recommend). Dubbed “le refuge chic” by insiders, if you can make it past the door, you’ll find yourself in one of the most exclusive addresses in town (I have to underline ‘exclusive’ since its practically impossible to get in unless you are a vogue supermodel or Parisian socialite). This is a very small bar draped in velvet looking more like a brothel than a club but the crowd is the cooler than cool. A bit too snobby for me… but well when in Paris do as the Parisians do… point your nose up and walk in like you own it.
A Paris cocktail joint with a splash of masculinity is Hemingway Bar at The Ritz Hotel. With leather armchairs, single-malt Scotch, and Spanish tapas, it’s Hemingway’s greatest legacy … well, that and his writing.
Conveniently located just steps from the Louvre, Le Fumoir is one my personal favorites (see my post dedicated to it). It attracts the kind of guy who loves a glass of scotch and a good cigar in hand or a gal like me who loves a glass of sancerre staring at the wonders of the Louvre glowing at night. Across the road from le Jardin de Tuileries, Le Meurice’s bar, 228, hosts the fashionable Parisians for after-work drinks. Think of it as the couture equivalent to your local British pub on a Thursday evening. Not much has changed since Picasso once frequented La Palette. Why change a formula that works so well? Expect classic drinks with a whirlwind of heavy-hitters mixing with the Parisian locals.
Every Friday night a sea of hipsters spills out on the streets outside La Perle. Featuring flamboyant fashion students and walking art manifestos in their late teens, this pre-gaming Le Marais haunt is heaven for the sartorial voyeur.
An off-centre option, Chez Moune is the nightlife epicentre of Pigalle. Themed parties are the name of Moune’s game, but be sure to study up on them before attending as they tend to be very specific and targeted to a particular demographic.
A Studio 54 predecessor, Chez Regine has kept its owner, Régine Choukroun, partying since the 70s. Renovated and reopened only a couple of years ago, Chez Regine is operated by the collective behind Le Baron and Le Montana.
Andre’s pièce de la résistance is the toughest door in town, trumped only perhaps by that of its sister club, Le Montana. Le Baron’s tabletops have been graced with the moves of such names as Sofia Coppola and Bjork. On a good night, crowds of paparazzi wait patiently outside hoping to snap a shot of a celebrity (I can assure you my photo was never taken). Always booked solid for private soirees during Paris Fashion Week, Le Montana is the new joint for counter-cultural celebrities and the creative Parisian upper class. Models are the lowest common denominator in the boîte’s attendance hierarchy. Good DJs, monthly Friday night parties, and a host of other events have earned Maxim’s quite the reputation with the party crowd.
If you have any suggestions as to the new hip,trendy and delicious places to eat, shop, drink and be merry please let me know so I can include it in the guide.