The days are long, the terraces are taking over the sidewalks and the scent of jasmine wafts from bushes as you walk by. It’s a beautiful time to be in Paris. Of course, I think any time is a beautiful time to be in Paris, but I may be bias now.
Alas, I’ve been getting a ton of emails lately asking for my recommendations on what to do, where to stay and where to eat while visiting this season. Rather than continue to write up variations of the same email, I’ve decided to put together one handy-dandy guide filled with my favorites in Paris right now. Keep in mind, this is not all-inclusive, but rather mere suggestions based on my own preferences and what I’ve discovered and enjoyed in the last few months.
If you wanna pretend you’re a local: stay in the 10th or the 11th. The areas by Canal Saint-Martin or Strasbourg-Saint Denis in the 10th, and rue de Charonne in the 11th, are brimming with new or super popular restaurants, boutiques and an overall Parisian bobo vibe. If you fit into that category and want to blend in, these would be the spots to do it. Both are also not far from major transport hubs (Republique and Bastille), which will make getting around easy.
Hotel options: Hotel Fabric in the 11th or Hotel Paradis in the 10th.
If you wanna be super central: stay in the 3rd or the 4th. Clearly, I’m a Rive Droite Girl, but being in the lower or haute Marais is kind of like staying in SoHo when it comes to shopping, yet it’s just a hop and a skip to all the sights if touring is also what you’re after. You’re near the newly reopened Museé Picasso, Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame and a straight shoot down rue de Rivoli for the Tuileries, Palais Royale, Louvre and more—without necessarily being on top of them or at high-risk of settling into an overpriced bistro with menus in English.
Hotel option: Jules + Jim
If you wanna be a trendsetter: stay in “SoPi” or South Pigalle, close to where the 9th meets the 18th/Montmartre. With rue des Martyrs, you have all the most amazing specialty shops from the obvious (bouloungerie, patisserie, boucherie, poissonnière, fleuriste) to the extra artisanal (honey, madeleines, olive oil, etc.) But then just around the corner on rue Henry Monnier and its surrounding streets, you’ve got a ton of just-opened restaurants, cocktail bars and boutiques to choose from, too. Your only real metro access is line 12 or 2, so it’s not as central as the other areas, but it’s a bit under the radar and very hip if that’s your thing.
Hotel option: The Grand Pigalle
First, I’m going to refer you to the food guide I did for Saveur.com a few months ago. Not only does it include restaurant suggestions—both classic and new—but also food activities, too, such as don’t-miss tours from food authority Paris By Mouth, which is a website any foodie visiting Paris should know for its comprehensive (English) guide to good eats in the City of Light. Then there’s the French Le Fooding, which is an equally hip and on-point alternative to the Michelin guide. Of course, there are a ton of blogs to check out, too, but I’ll refer you to my friend Lindsay of Lost in Cheeseland since she’s been here 10 years and is pretty much an expert on all things pastry if that’s your, er, sweet spot. Since the Saveur piece came out, I’ve visited a few other restaurants that I’d highly recommend. Here are a few:
Bar Martin: This is one of those spots where you get atmosphere and incredible fresh food that changes daily. Plus, the service is good, which is a rarity. It’s a small plates, sharing type of joint where the stellar indie rock music can’t compete with the sound of Parisians imbibing and gorging out on the likes of peas with mint and feta cheese and organic wine. It’s a place locals visit regularly since the menu changes everyday and the terrace is open to the street. No reservations, set menu for lunch.
Dersou: I’ve eaten here twice now: once for lunch and once for brunch. Both times were fantastic, but brunch was out of this world. Japanese chef Taku Sekine mixes flavors like nobody’s business. They only take reservations for their 5 or 7 course tasting menu, but you can (and should) walk-in to order a la carte. It’s way cheaper and you probably don’t need all the cocktail pairings that come with each course. Should you go for brunch, don’t miss the avocado toast with poached egg, feta, radishes, & herbs—and get the pancakes with apple slices and honey for dessert.
Ellsworth: This newcomer near the Palais Royale in the 1st arrondissement comes from the same (American) team behind another popular nearby spot: Verjus. This is another place for sharing, which is good because you’ll want to order everything—from the grilled artichokes with labneh and fava beans to the lamb ragu with potato gnocchi and Parmesan. Definitely reserve ahead through their handy online system.Play
I’m not going to include some of the obvious, more touristy spots as I’m sure most people have them covered. Some of these are timely or seasonal, and may be otherwise forgotten about for the “classics”—but shouldn’t be:
Ogle at Frank Ghery’s new Fondation Louis Vuitton
I don’t think most visitors understand that this is an actual art museum. (Spoiler: I didn’t.) So much has (rightfully) been written about the building itself, many don’t quite realize that the space that opened last fall houses some pretty spectacular art, too. In fact, through July 6, there’s an exhibit titled “The Keys to a Passion” that features many works by major masters such as Munch whose popular “The Scream” is on display, along with Matisse’s dancers and some of Monet’s water lilies. Whatever’s on, it’s worth a slow wander, taking in every crevice and facade of Frank Gehry’s most recent triumph.
Inside the townhouse of Yves Saint Laurent’s former atelier remains a small museum that hosts exhibits on or about the designer himself, or art that influenced him in some way. Until July 19, designs from his infamously hated spring/summer 1971 collection—dubbed “The Scandal” or “Nazi” collection because it harkened back to the ’40s or war years—are on display, alongside explanations as to what went wrong and why. The exhibit was definitely interesting, but the real experience was going into the atelier and studio of YSL himself—which you have to book way in advance via the tour company Cultival. I can’t recommend this experience enough as you’re taken not only into the room where he held his couture fittings, but his office, too, which was left as if he were coming back to create a new collection tomorrow. Admire another Fashion Legend at the Lanvin Exhibit at Palais Galliera
Personally, I didn’t feel this was curated all that well. More specifically, I didn’t feel it was arranged in a way that would help someone who doesn’t know much about Jeanne Lanvin understand her process and rise to fame in a cohesive manner. Still, her designs, which are spectacular and incredibly timeless, are worth drooling over if organized chaos ain’t a bother. Through August 23.
Have Lunch (or Take a Dip) at the Piscine Molitor
Known for being the location where the two-piece bikini made its debut in 1946—and also for its inspiration to the popular book and movie Life of Pi—this recently renovated pool (and now hotel and restaurant) was the place to see and be seen in its heyday. It remains that way today, hosting photoshoots, events and Parisians with high enough incomes for a membership to its two pools and spa. I don’t think a day pass is even an option, but I believe the public can eat lunch on the rooftop overlooking the outdoor pool. It’s a bit of a shlep outside Paris, so show up with a reservation. And maybe bring your bathing suit—just in case.
There are a ton of great local markets all over Paris, but this one—where I went in the winter to get ingredients for a soup in my attempt to start cooking more—remains my favorite. It’s open everyday (except Monday, and with a midday break from 1p.m.-4p.m. all other days) and there’s so much character among the stalls and a large variety to choose from, not to mention first-rate artisan shops nearby. Stock up, grab a baguette and then…
Have a Picnic in Parc Monceau or Buttes Chaumont
So both of these are actually not at all near Marché D’Aligre, but I think they’d be my top pick for a picnic because neither are overrun with tourists. These are pure local spots where Parisians come with their blankets, bottles of wine, chunks of cheese, sliced up fruit and just hang out. Parc Monceau, which is way smaller and easy to walk around in its entirety, is where I go for a run, but there’s loads of grassy areas to lay out on, along with lovely benches in the shade. Buttes Chaumont is a hike all the way in the 19th arrondissement, which is seeing some gentrification, but it’s similar to Central Park in size, depth and range. There are hidden walkways and waterfalls and rocky walls to climb and brooks to dip your toes in. There’s also a very cool bar in the park called Rosa Bonheur that comes alive in the spring/summer for day-drinking debauchery that goes late into the evening.
One of my most favorite things about Paris are all the independent boutique shops that dot each neighborhood. Most of them carry very reasonably priced French designed (and often French made) products that you can’t find anywhere else: leather handbags from Nat + Nin, flowy skirts from Sha Cha and skinny jeans with flamingos from Lab Dip. While many of the boutiques often carry each of these local brands, they still retain their own charm.
Personally, I prefer to shop this way than the bigger department stores—though, let’s be clear: The department stores here are pretty epic. If I had endless funds, I’d go to Le Bon Marché because it’s just beautiful, serene and a lovely experience. Galeries Lafayette, while ancient, stunning and fairly easy to navigate because of its circular shape, can get intense crowd-wise, though the items and brands are more accessible. The oft-forgotten about Printemps, just next door, has most of the same brands and usually remains pretty quiet. Or, at least, quieter. Both Printemps and Galeries Lafayette have amazing rooftops where you can rest from all the shopping and sit back to enjoy the view—and your fashion finds.
That said, the following areas are my recommendations for areas to shop local.
Bastille: Specifically rue de Charonne and the streets that stem from it—including rue de la Roquette and rue Keller—are chock full of French brands and small, charming shops with lots of personality.
Favorites: Mademoiselle Jeanne and Les Rock’ettes (on rue de la Roquette) and Courbettes et Galipettes (on rue de Charonne)
Le Marais: The whole of it. From the small streets in the 4th near rue de Rosier and around Place des Vosges, to the northern area of the 3rd where things get a bit less commercial, you could spend hours going in and out of the stores around here. It’s way more crowded in the 4th, especially on the weekend, so if you’re not up for being elbowed, veer north towards the concept shop Merci.
Favorites: Fluo (on rue des Archives), Nilai on (rue des Rosiers)
Montmartre: The length of Rue des Abbesses is filled with designer chain stores like Cos and Zadig & Voltaire and Maje—French, yes, but also international (aka you can get most of it at home in your own currency). But along this great thoroughfare at the foot of Sacré Coeur (and dangerously close to my house!), are a few gems that offer lesser-known brands for affordable prices—and not just during soldes.
Favorites: Homies (on rue des Abbesses), Chiffon et Basile (on rue des Martyrs) and Make My D (on rue la Vieuville)
And there you have it! I’ll try to update this seasonally. Bonne vacances!