Home to café-lined boulevards, vibrant culture and fabulous food, the City of Lights is in a league of its own
Long considered the epicentre of fashion, art, culture, gastronomy and romance, the French capital needs no introduction. From elegant boulevards and world-class museums to Michelin-starred cuisine and effortlessly chic locals, the city has an undeniable je ne sais quoi that beguiles even the most seasoned visitor.
Split by the Seine into two halves – the Right and Left banks – Paris is further divided into 20 Arrondissements (districts), each with their own style and atmosphere. On the Right Bank, the upmarket 1st Arrondissement is home to iconic sights such as the Louvre and 17th-century Tuileries Garden, while the Champs-Elysées is the heart of the exclusive 8th Arrondissement. Spread across the 3rd and 4th Arrondissements, the Marais is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in town.
On the Left Bank lies the elegant 6th and 7th Arrondissements, where you’ll find historic pavement cafés and big-hitters like Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin and the Eiffel Tower. The 5th Arrondissement, meanwhile, is home to the Latin Quarter and the famous Sorbonne University.
And as the city celebrates the 130th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower and 350 years of the Paris Opera in 2019, there’s never been a better time to visit. Here’s how to do Paris in style…
Find the perfect place to sleep in the French capital.
Paris is home to nearly a dozen ‘palace hotels’ – ultra high-end properties whose amenities surpass those of five-star hotels – including the Ritz Paris and the Peninsula Paris. The former is home to 142 rooms resplendent with Louis XV furnishings and marble fireplaces, along with two Michelin-starred restaurants and the world’s first Chanel spa. The latter, meanwhile, is just steps from the Champs Elysées with 200 sumptuous rooms and some of the best views in town from the top-floor restaurant.
Hoping to join the elite club is the newly renovated Hotel Lutetia. the only grande dame on the Left Bank. The historic hotel features 184 contemporary rooms, along with a subterranean spa, sun-lit swimming pool and brasserie overseen by three-Michelin-star chef Gérald Passedat.
A perennial favourite of ours is Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris, which boasts stunning suites designed by Philippe Starck.
For those who crave a more intimate experience, Maison Armance recently opened in the 1st Arrondissement, feels like your own Parisian pied-à-terre. There are just 20 rooms with parquet floors and soothing shades of dusty pink or duck egg blue, while the top-floor lounge has dreamy views over the city’s rooftops.
Moored on the Left Bank of the Seine, OFF Paris Seine is Paris’s first boat hotel and a favourite with Instagrammers, thanks to its plunge pool (complete with inflatable gold swans). It is home to 58 sleek rooms, but the buzzy poolside lounge-bar is the draw.
Eat like a Parisian in a cosy neighbourhood bistro
Astair Opened last year in the Passage des Panoramas, this glamorous yet unpretentious spot – think rattan chairs, bow-tied waiters and a smooth jazz soundtrack – boasts a menu by three-star chef Gilles Goujon. Aim for a cosy corner table.
Benoit Dating back to 1912, this one-Michelin-starred spot looks like the quintessential Parisian bistro: crisp white tablecloths, red velvet chairs and polished woodwork. Enjoy classic French fare such as escargots swimming in garlic butter.
Mensae This modern bistro in the Belleville neighbourhood favours Scandi style over red-checked tablecloths, while Korean chef Jun-sik Cho’s menu is full of twists-on-classics. The prix fixé menus offer exceptional value.
Home to some 150 museums, Paris is one of the undisputed arts capitals of the world. Of course you have to visit the Louvre; 15,000 people file past the Mona Lisa every day, but you can beat the crowds by visiting during the late-night openings on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Housing the largest collection of impressionist art in the world, the Musée d’Orsay is another must-see, while you can get your modern and contemporary art fix at the Centre Pompidou.
Make time for smaller museums and galleries, such as the Jean Nouvel-designed Institut du Monde Arabe, which showcases treasures from the Arab world, and L’Atelier des Lumières, which features a new immersive digital exhibition on Vincent van Gogh.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton, meanwhile, is currently exhibiting 110 Impressionist masterpieces from the collection of English industrialist Samuel Courtauld (until June 17).
L’Astrance Book well ahead for a table at chef Pascal Barbot’s two-Michelin-starred spot in the 16th Arrondissement, which seats just 25 diners. Then look forward to a tasting menu that combines modern French cuisine with influences from the Far East. astrancerestaurant.com
Ducasse sur Seine One of France’s most iconic chefs has opened his latest restaurant on a sleek riverboat. Opt for lunch to see the sights, or float by night to see the lights, while you dine on classic dishes such as chilled lobster and pan-seared lamb. ducasse-seine.com
Arpège Alain Passard has retained his three Michelin stars at this restaurant near the Musée Rodin for more than two decades. His vegetable-driven menu features produce from his own organic garden, with dishes like vegetable arlequin jardinière with argan oil semolina.
At the turn of the 19th century, Paris was home to more than 200 passages couverts (covered arcades) lined with fashionable shops and cafés. Today around 20 remain, with many found in the 2nd Arrondissement.
Passage des Panoramas, off Boulevard Montmartre, should be your first stop. Home to philately shops and vintage postcard dealers, the city’s oldest arcade has been revitalised with the opening of Astair [see Best Bistros].
Cross the road to Passage Jouffroy, where sunlight streams through the glass roof, and treat yourself to coffee and cake at Le Valentin.
Continue on to the exquisitely restored Galerie Vivienne to admire the mosaic floor and browse high-end boutiques such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Nathalie Garçon.
Pop into nearby Galerie Colbert to marvel at its beautiful glass dome, then finish up in Galerie Véro-Dodat, which boasts a black-and-white tiled floor and Christian Louboutin boutique.
Trawling for treasures or stocking up on gourmet goodies in one of Paris’s many markets is a great way to spend a couple of hours. Founded in 1870, Marché aux Puces St-Ouen is the largest of the city’s famed flea markets.
Open from Saturday to Monday, the sprawling market is a must-visit for art and design lovers, with more than 2,000 stalls selling antiques, mid-century furniture, paintings and bric-a-brac. Foodies, meanwhile, should make a beeline for Marché Bastille.
Open from Thursday to Sunday, there are more than 150 stalls piled high with local produce and seasonal specialities like truffles. For a quick lunch in between boutique hopping in the Marais, pop into Marché des Enfants Rouges (closed Mondays). Opened in 1615, the covered market has stalls serving multi-cuisine, ready-to-eat dishes.
Nous Founded in 2018 by ex-Colette employees, this achingly cool boutique on posh Rue Cambon specialises in streetwear, exclusive watches and high-tech gadgets. You can also stock up on limited edition Adidas trainers. nous.paris
L’Appartement Sézane For effortless French-girl style without breaking the bank, head to this millennial pink-hued showroom in the chic Grands Boulevards district. The cult fashion label is renowned for its laidback, feminine aesthetic – think boho dresses, silk shirts and rope-soled espadrilles. sezane.com
Printemps This iconic department store on Boulevard Haussmann is the go-to place for luxury fashion, Swing by La Scent Room for exclusive perfumes, and don’t miss the new food hall dedicated to French gastronomy. printempsfrance.com
Gang of Earlybirds Founded by a former buyer at Lanvin, this hip boutique in the Marais stocks the best up-and-coming international designers such as Mara Hoffman and Simon Miller. The store features a carefully curated selection of women’s ready-to-wear, accessories and jewellery. gangofearlybirds.com
Merci In the same neighbourhood, this sprawling three-level concept store is housed in a former factory and boasts an eclectic edit of homewares, men’s and women’s fashion, beauty products, stationery and more. Just look for the Insta-famous red Fiat parked out front. merci-merci.com
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Words by Lara Brut