I’ve been to Paris at least a dozen times. I hesitate to give a list that people will stick to because the places we love in Paris are so tied to memories and specific days. I usually end up writing back to people with “Just walk around! and here are a few spots to mark on your map to hopefully stop at along the way.” Which is really what you do in Paris if you are doing it right- wander the city, stop and eat, stop and shop, wander some more, see some art, wander some more, coffee or drinks every few hours and you have figured out Paris. Still, after having some fully endorsed recommendations, which I’m ready to share, you really can’t go wrong by just ducking into most simple, sweet Paris cafes or bistros and enjoying the view.
STAY: I’ve always found myself staying close to Republique or somewhere between the 2nd and 9th Arr. On my most recent trip, we stayed at Hotel Panache. They originally had us in a depressing room, changed rooms (more than once) but the staff was helpful and we ended up really liking this place. It’s small and quirky but has everything you need. In renovating the place, they kept the old charm of the hotel while sprucing it up well. I wouldn’t say it felt luxurious but it was chic and very well located. My favorite Paris hotel that I have stayed in is Hotel Providence. Also a boutique hotel with an incredible eye to detail. The rooms are beautiful, the amenities top notch (best in-room bar, great products) and I dream of the breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Providence books up quickly so hard to snag a room on last minute trips. Paris has some of the best Airbnbs in the world. I’ve stayed in three or four different ones and have never been disappointed, highly recommend.
EAT (and drink): Let’s dive in hard with my favorite restaurant in Paris, Chez Georges. It’s everything you want a classic French bistro to be and has been this way forever. The brass, the low ambient lighting that warms the room, banquette seating lining the walls and all of the classic dishes served by uniformed servers. So few places exist like this anymore, it feels like a throwback but not dated. The staff is surprisingly friendly and got us champagne and radishes to nibble on while we waited for a table. I love snails and they have some of the best.
Frenchie is one of those restaurants that everyone in New York is always talking about. It’s small and hard to get a reservation so the Frenchie wine bar across the street, that does not take reservations but serves similar food, is the ticket for non-planners. I love this place. Fresh, small bites paired with good wine in a cool, relaxed vibe. Feels hip without being pretentious. Our server at Frenchie recommended Terra for dinner. You can’t really see it from the street, it has a sexy, modern feel with beautiful, thoughtful food and the dining room sits under a gorgeous glass (greenhouse like) high ceiling. The vibe is a little serious for my liking but the food is excellent. Most dishes are meant to be shared, there’s a meat focus though we actually got this noodle casserole that was comforting and delish. There’s an open kitchen with the usual perfect French cookware and it’s fun to watch. Babalou is a no frills Italian restaurant that I go to every time I am in Paris. It sits on a residential street just behind the Sacre Couer and one of my favorite Paris rituals is to sit on the steps of the Sacre Coeur at sunset followed by pizza at Babalou. I usually save it for a later part of the trip when I need a break from French food. The pizza is some of my favorite in the world. When the weather is nice in Paris, there’s nothing better than a long lunch outside. Le Bébé feels local yet festive and cool, a downtown NY kinda cool with French food. A typical French menu, we got salads with fried chicken, fries and spritzes (all of my favorite things). The food combined with a beautiful day, great patio seat and a buzzy little Paris Saturday makes this one of my favorite daytime spots…could have stayed all day.
Some days I love grabbing a croissant and a cappuccino on the go for breakfast. Some days, I want some real coffee and a healthy, proper meal for breakfast. Enter Matamata Coffee. Paris is slowly getting onboard with good coffee but it’s still hard to find non-espresso coffee in the morning. If you’re a coffee person you understand the relief of finding a place that can make you a pour over just as you like it. Both the coffee and food are so fresh and I promise this will become a go-to. This neighborhood spot is small and well designed and has everything you want to eat and drink in the morning. The avocado toast will change your life which is a phrase so rarely said these days.
Ok let’s talk cafes. Here’s a few that you can pair with some of the “must do” Paris activities. The Picasso Museum is a must. Post Picasso, there’s a little Marais corner spot nearby called La Petit Place. Coffee, wine, small bites, beautiful little nook of Paris.
Le Nemours sits in the arcades of the Palais Royal, across from the Louvre in the 1st Arr. While it’s a heavy tourist area, it’s such a fun spot to drop into after a long day to watch the beautiful hustle around you. I love that area in the evening when it’s lit up. We got cocktails and smoked fish with toast, perfect pre-dinner snack.
For cocktail bars, two that will have you raving are Little Red Door and Candelaria. Little Red Door has some of the best bartenders in the world, it’s seated only so you’ll often find a line outside but it’s simply because they want everyone to settle in and be comfortable. Candelaria is a little more down and dirty, Brooklyn vibes, tequila focused, hidden door, you know the type.
It’s fun to hit one of the formal, old school, Paris hotels for cocktails. We had a blast in the lounge at George V, serious cocktails, three piece band playing the classics and some of the best people watching in Paris. The floral and decor are also top notch.
SHOP: I live for Thanx God I’m a VIP. It’s one of my favorite stores in the world- designer vintage, my version of an art gallery, the whole store is organized by color and tightly curated. They open at 2pm daily and are closed in Sundays…oh to be French. They also have a “No Photos” policy but here’s one.
Although Sézane has now opened a store in New York, it doesn’t (in my opinion) compare to the Paris Sézane Apartment experience. love it in there, beautiful store and all the right French basics. For some small pick ups, stop at Les Saintes Cheries, cute shop with cute things in a little strip of quaint boutiques including the florist next door. Also stop into Delfonics in the Louvre for good gifts to bring home. I always stock up on their pouches and notebooks for myself and others.
The E. Dehillerin kitchen store has been around since the 1800s. It’s bare bones and where the chefs shop. I regret not pulling the trigger on some copper pots and it’s top of the list for my next trip.
I have a thing with rugs. I collect them. I think every rug I own I bought while traveling. My man Tristan is the Paris Berbère. He sells online, has a well followed Instagram and also has this cool storage warehouse in the burbs right outside of Paris if you happen to be in town and want to see them in person. I’m a hunter when it comes to rugs and like to browse through in person. Tristan is a shipping whiz and my massive heavy rug arrived to my New York home five days post purchase for very few Euros. Drop Tristan an email to get in touch.
DO: I’ve never been disappointed by Paris clichés. Do the touristy things. A highlight of my recent trip was Basquiat at the LV Foundation. It’s showing through January 2019 and is one of my most favorite exhibitions ever. There are works that have never been shown before and it’s just a very well curated show. It was my first time to the LV Foundation, a fairly new museum and cultural center designed by Frank Gehry. The building alone will blow your mind, it’s spectacular.
As I mentioned above, go to the Sacre Coeur end of day, sit on the steps, buy some single Heinekens from the dudes walking around selling them, sing along to a guitarist playing la bamba and watch the sun set on the city. Never disappoints.
Hit whatever museums you can throughout the city- Pompidou for modern art, D’Orsay for the classics, Picasso. If you have an extra day go to Versailles, unlike anything I have ever seen. Maxed out decadence, unreal gardens, stunning. It’s crowded, go on an off day if possible. I also like the little town when you get off the train for Versailles.
For some sweat, go to Yoga Bikram Yoga. I never do Bikram Yoga at home. A while back I added this to my Paris agenda. The combination of long days of walking and travel put me on a hunt for a good yoga class. There’s not too much out there and even less in English. There’s a class per day taught in English at both locations. I’ll usually go twice if in Paris for at least 5 days and it help everything. I also love running along the river, there’s a path for runners and I like going down one side and back on the other with a couple crossings of the Seine bookending the run.
Go to the Trocadero at night to see the Eiffel Tower. It lights up on the hour every hour. You’re welcome.