From bistros to boutiques
Ah Paris, known as the global centre for art, fashion, gastronomy, culture, and of course, wine. If you’re looking for hidden gems and local favourites, we’ve lined up options that will have you too busy to even get to the Eiffel Tower. I was lucky enough to fly back to Paris in September, to check out the X+Q Exhibition at the Maison & Objet trade fair and the Le Meridien Etoile. The trip featured museums, art galleries, a day trip to a champagne vineyard, Michelin star dining and lots street food. If there’s one thing Parisians have mastered (other than lush leather loafers), it’s “l’art de vivre”, the art of living.
The culture cultivates a traditionally French appreciation for the everyday, which translates into irresistible cafés, quaint little boutiques, and live music on every corner. Whether you’re looking for the best places to eat, drink, shop and stay, or wondering how to ask for a proper Parisian baguette, we’ve got you covered…
Quick tip: The postcodes will tell you what “Arrondissement” (district) places are. For example, Le Meridien Etoile, the hotel I stayed at is located 75017, which is the 17th district.
Where to Stay:
Le Meridien Etoile is a tried and tested favourite for a reason. Located just a few minutes from the legendary Champs Elysées, it offers you easy access to all the prime spots, appealing to business travellers, art-lovers and city-goers alike. The sophisticated 1,025 guest rooms include 22 suites and newly renovated rooms, and the top floors have access to an all day Club Lounge. Yes, this means everything from cinnamon rolls, croissants and Nutella to fresh French butter, hams and cheese. Need I say more?
From it’s very own Jazz Club, a fitness centre, an in-room spa, dining spots, a heavenly breakfast buffet spread, and access to the Unlock Art Programme. Like many Le Meridien Hotels, all guests get an Unlock Art Programme, giving you immediate access to contemporary cultural centres. Paris’s partner? Picasso, of course. You simply get an Unlock Art pass left in your room, and can use it to check out the Musée Picasso. I’d definitely recommend it.
The hotel itself, offers classes like éclair making and cocktail making, and will be happy to suggest nearby spots worth checking out. It may be on the busy side, but it really does mean you have everything right on your doorstep. The concierge are more than ready to help book restaurants, boat rides, tours and day trips. I’d recommend taking the two-hour drive to Champagne. During our stay, the hotel set up a trip to the Veuve Clicquot estate, vineyard and cellar, making sure everything from transportation to English tours were seamlessly organised.
In case you need an extra selling point, Le Meridien is minutes away from the train station, and seconds away from a Crêpe stand. We couldn’t ask for much more.
Museums, Art Galleries and Sites to See:
When you’re not busy strolling through Rue Cremieux (the most colourful street in Paris), soaking in the pastel walls and street art, these museums, art galleries and sites are worth exploring…
Located opposite the The Louvre, and under one of Paris’s grand old Beaux-Arts railway stations, the galleries of the Musée d’Orsay contain the world’s largest collection of impressionist masterpieces. You’ll find everything from Monet to Van Gogh. Plus, if the guided tours aren’t your thing, there’s a bookstore, two cafés and an old restaurant to occupy your time.
Musée d’Orsay, 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France, www.musee-orsay
Musée de l’Orangerie
This beautiful, white gallery offers a quaint, intimate take on the art scene. Built as a greenhouse, the structure is now a spectacular small space, showcasing incredible art. The highlight is Monet’s waterlilies, but many other impressionist artworks surround the open area. It’s worth having a drink at the petit cafe on the mezzanine afterwards.
Musée de l’Orangerie, Jardin des Tuileries, Cote Seine, 75001 Paris, France, www.musee-orangerie
As mentioned, Le Meridien Etoile gives you immediate access to this, so you don’t have to worry about queuing or buying tickets. The architecture of the modest building takes you through paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and unique archival sketches, which brings a whole new perspective to the life and work of Pablo Picasso. You get insight into the women and men who inspired his work, whilst the rooftop café, shop and bookshop invite you to soak in all the art.
Musée Picasso, 5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris, France, www.museepicassoparis
Musée de Luxembourg and Luxembourg Gardens
After browsing the museum, you’ll want to check out the Luxembourg Gardens. Bordered by Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, these gardens are your excuse to bask on a lawn chair over a good book and croissant. Stroll past the orchards and the old apiary, where beekeeping is taught. If you’re there in Autumn, it’s a prime time to stock up on the fresh honey!
Musée de Luxembourg and Luxembourg Gardens, 19 Rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris, France, www.en.museeduluxembourg.fr
This beautiful Roman Catholic church and minor basilica is is the most well known spot in Montmartre. Set at the top of a small hill, within Paris’s 18th arrondissement, spend some time walking up and check out the street artists, views, architecture on the way. Musée de Montmartre is also a short walk away!
Sacré-Cœur, 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France, www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com
Shakespeare and Company
The library in Midnight in Paris! This independent bookstore was opened in spirit of the original. On a Sunday, when the rest of Paris is “resting”, head over from 6:30 to 8:30pm for a chance to meet likeminded people and share your love for literature. Bring your writing or just come and listen to the discussion.
Shakespeare and Company, 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France, www.shakespeareandcompany.com
Fondation Louis Vuitton and Musee Rodin are breath-taking art museums to have stored up for a sunny day. And remember to keep an eye on the rotating modern art at Centre Georges-Pompidou. The David Hockney exhibition was an eye-opening look at his life work, and there’s always something new in store.
Where to Shop:
These boutiques, pharmacies and concept stores are here to get you exactly what you’re looking for…
Don’t leave Paris without stocking up at this tax-free pharmacy. Expect crowds of people, but enough French beauty products and skincare to offer decent compensation. Planning on spending over €175? You’re eligible for a VAT refund! The helpful staff will sort you out from there – just don’t forget your passport!
Top Tip: Though the upstairs section is mostly medicine, it’s where you can get your hands on some, behind the counter, Homeoplasmine. This multi-purpose homeopathic ointment is a favourite throughout France.
City Pharma, 26 Rue du Four, 75006 Paris, France, www.pharmacie-citypharma
Women’s wear, men’s wear, homeware and more. This concept store is no longer a well-kept secret but the gorgeous items and the cute bookstore/café attached keeps it firmly on the list.
Merci, 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, France, www.merci-merci.com
A couple of days in Paris, and you’ll be more than ready to buy a “Paris Champagne Team” tee. This store comes with an outdoor dining section and homeware section that’s hard to beat.
Maison Plisson, 93 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, France, www.shop.lamaisonplisson.com
Le Bon Marche
This is the oldest department store in Paris, and is often known as the more local version of Galeries Lafayette. Located on the left bank’s Rue de Sevres, the elegant atmosphere and selective array of high-end products and services makes this an upmarket go-to.
Le Bon Marche, 24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris, France, www.lvmh.com/houses/selective-retailing/le-bon-marche
Fleux offers a fabulous selection of Scandinavian and French homeware brands, from home decor and prints to kitchenware, garden items and stationery. In other words, save space in your suitcase.
Fleux, 39 Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004 Paris, France, www.en.fleux.com
This is one of the few neighbourhoods open on Sundays. Browse quaint little stores and amazing street food. Rumour has it, you can find French favourites (like Claudie Pierlot, Sandro and Les Petites) at 30% off – or more – all year long.
Le Marais, spreads across parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in Paris.
Where to Eat:
Cafés, Bistros and Bakeries:
Make sure to get yourself a croque monsieur, a dozen croissants and a baguette. Any small bakery will get the job done. When ordering a baguette, just remember to ask for “une tradition” not just “une baguette.”
La Maison Rose
This fully pink café offers a modern angle to the beautifully historical neighbourhood, Montmartre. If you’re looking for a quirky take on a traditional bistro, this place ticks the boxes. Opt for an outdoor seat under an umbrella, and order heaven in a small glass dish – it comes in the form of chocolate mousse.
La Maison Rose, 2 rue de l’Abreuvoir, 75018 Paris, France, Montmartre. www.parisladouce.com/2016/05/paris-la-maison-rose-montmartre-petite
Les Deux Magots
Les Deux Magots is a famous café in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris, France – my favourite neighbourhood. As one of the oldest cafes (that used to be frequented by Hemingway, Picasso and Brecht), it’s no surprise that it’s now a popular tourist destination.
Sassy Tip: If the outside seating area is full, walk across the road to Café de Flore, which offers the same vibe. These spots are clichés for a reason.
Les Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 75006 Paris, France, www.lesdeuxmagots.fr/en/paris-restaurant
Le Petit Moulin
This traditional bistro in Montmartre only serves homemade dishes, with ingredients from France. Quiet, cosy and casual, this is a great place to grab an early dinner before sunset.
Le Petit Moulin, 17 rue tholoze 75018 Paris, www.lepetitmoulin-montmartre
The long queues are just proof that this is the best hot chocolate in Paris. Get the signature pastry Le Mont Blanc (meringue & chestnut cream) and skip your merry way along the Champs-Élysées. No regrets.
Cafe Angelina, 226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France, www.angelina-paris.fr
Restaurants, Wineries and Bars:
The drinking and dining options in Paris are in a league of their own. Here are some favourites (in no particular order) to add to your list…
- Le Perchoir: Dine al fresco with gorgeous views. Book in advance and go before sunset!
- Le Carmen: Unique Parisian nightclub set in French composer, Bizet’s, former residence. There’s no cocktail menu, but you’re in for a treat.
- Au 35: Loved by locals, this simple spot serves classic, French food. No fuss, no frills.
- Le Derriere: This quirky “home away from home” restaurant lets you have dinner and drinks in rooms of an apartment. Plus, the Andy Wahloo bar is right next to it.
- Carbón: Where the most ancestral cooking technique in the world, fire, meets modern French flavours. Check out the cocktail bar, LA MINA, in the basement.
- Chez Huguette: Seafood bistro in the heart of Saint Germain des Prés, offering everything from oysters to poke bowls.
- Hotel Particulier Montmatre: Ideal for a quaint, outdoor brunch. Take a stroll in the streets nearby after.
- Miznon Paris: busy, local vibe with fast, freindly staff. Expect a queue, a crowded doorway and loud music.
- Le Chardenoux: A famous French restaurant from a famous French chef Cyril Lignac
- Daroco: Italian food, Parisian vibes. Located in a former Jean Paul Gaultier design studio, the space is as beautiful as the food.
- Noste: casual French restaurant and tapas bar. Opt for an outdoor seat.
- Le Refuge Des Fondus: cheese fondue and wine in baby bottles. Need I say more?
- Plaza Athénée: Stunning hotel with Michelin Starred restaurant, beautiful courtyard and pastries. On the pricy side.
- Allard: Alain Ducasse’s Michelin bistro offers up traditional French dishes. This city’s alternative can be found at Rech by Alain Ducasse, at InterContinental Hong Kong.
- Ralph Lauren’s Ralph’s: For a decadent and delicious afternoon tea.
- Marlon: Though Californian brunch isn’t typically Parisian, the food is incredible.
- Season: Coffee shop, healthy restaurant and juice bar. Great for breakfasts and light brunches.
- Les Éditeurs: A tourist attraction, but you’re surrounded by books and the service is great.
- L’Entrecote: This place is known for their set menu: beef, fries and it’s famous sauce.
- Grand Amour Hotel: This Instagram-able hotel offers outdoor dining all day.
- Ciel de Paris: Dining at the top of Montparnasse Tower, 56th Incomparable view and delicious food, with the price tag you’d expect.
- Le Meurice: For the ultimate afternoon tea. Think chandeliers and fine dining that would make Hong Kong blush.
- Le Baron Rouge: A favourite winery and bar for locals. Bottles of wine go for €3. Better yet, bring your own bottle – they’ll fill it!
Sassy Tip: Check out special dining deals on the fork. This is a quick and simple way to book restaurants and bistros – and even get up to 50% off.
It’s always worth asking locals (like the helpful hotel staff) for their personal, tourist-free locations. The lovely lady serving breakfast at Le Meridien Etoile gave me some great coffee shop recommendations. Now, all that’s left for you to do is master “l’art de vivre”. Enjoy Paris!