We had a little stopover between our flight from the States, and our housesit in Southwest France. This meant we got to spend 2 days in Paris! We didn’t do a ton, but I’m ok with that.
When I’m in the city, I never feel this urgent need to hit all the touristy spots, as I know it isn’t going anywhere (it’s only been around since the 3rd Century) plus we’ll be back in November to show my brother around for the first time (!!!!).
But all that being said, I do have my favorite things that I feel I should write down in case you’re interested.
First of all, Paris absolutely deserves its reputation as one of the best cities on earth. Romantic, enchanting, captivating, it’s a city like no other. Occasionally, someone will try to tell you otherwise, but ignore them.
The city is divided into neighborhoods, or arrondissements, as well as into sides of the Seine, the Right Bank or the Left Bank. You may remember on Gossip Girl, Serena was a Left Bank (artistic/bohemian) girl and Blair embodied the Right Bank (classy/upscale). Honestly, this helps me remember which is which. There are really wonderful things on both banks, I slightly prefer the Right, but only because it houses my favorite restaurant. Ok, so here goes:
Ladurée – Endless displays of pastel macaron perfection, desserts to die for, and the tea room has the best eggs benedict I’ve ever tasted. There are a total of 7 shops in the city, and one in Versailles, so skip the crowded Champs-Elysées location. Also, try their shop devoted exclusively to chocolate, Les Marquis de Ladurée.
L’Acanthe – This is my favorite restaurant, and it’s in the best neighborhood, Le Marais (4th arr), which is the oldest neighborhood in Paris and filled with charm. Look for the white and tan striped awning on the corner and get an Orangina, onion soup, and lobster risotto for me.
Le Bouillon Chartier – This place is old school. It hasn’t changed in literally decades, so I bring my English-French phrasebook and some cash.
Le Coupe Chou – Recommended by several people whose judgement I totally trust. The reviews were spot on of course, and it’s now my mom’s favorite restaurant.
L’Eclair de Génie – ECLAIRS!! Just go here and try one or ten. The most interesting of flavors and buying/trying them is a fun experience in itself.
Ralph’s – If you want to splurge a little for lunch, get a comfy table outside at Ralph Lauren’s rustic chic restaurant and lounge until your heart’s content.
Crepe Stands – There’s a crepe stand on nearly every corner, and there’s no shame in stopping at each and every one. Nutella and banana is a staple for a reason.
Bar Hemingway at the Ritz – The story goes that Hemingway sat here and put up a fight to save the bar from being taken over by the Nazis. If you want to sat where Ernie did, it’s definitely pricey, but the bartenders are filled with incredible stories, the drinks are STRONG, and the atmosphere is painfully amazing. The Ritz is almost finished with its renovation (arguably the most gorgeous hotel ever pre-reno, so I can’t wait to see it after, plus they added a Chanel Spa), but thankfully Bar Hemingway will remain untouched.
Gyro + Frites – You can find this sandwich anywhere, and some places are better than others. My favorite is a little hole in the wall off Rue de Rome in the 8th (don’t know the name, only the front door!), but try it whenever you see it. It’s a classic gyro with french fries on top. Salty, crunchy, and seriously addicting.
Hermès Cafe – There are 318 Hermès stores around the world but only one cafe. The store on Rue de Sèvres has a cafe and a bookstore, which is just posh and perfect. Not to mention a walk through any Hermès store is nothing short of heavenly.
Grande Mosquée de Paris – One of the largest mosques in France, with absolutely stunning interior gardens. Their tea room, filled with lush plants and bright tiles is one of my favorite places to go (and to suggest!). The mint tea is delicious, the Moroccan style ambiance is so relaxing and it’s an unexpected oasis in the middle of the city.
The Most Scenic of Spots – If you like your meal with a side of scenery, these three are some of the best spots. You’ll pay a little extra for the views, but honestly, the food’s only 50% of why you come here. For breathtaking 360 views, try Les Ombres (at Musée de Quai Branley), for charming people watching, try Monsieur Bleu (at the Palais de Tokyo). And for that quintessential Pyramid shot, try Café Marly (at The Louvre).
Versailles – Usually, people use Versailles as a quick day trip from Paris. That’s a good idea, but next time I’m there, I’m going to stay at the Trianton Hotel and have afternoon tea until I burst. Pack a picnic, explore the gardens, and don’t miss the summer fireworks show. Oh, and there’s a palace here too…
Garden Strolls – The two most popular are probably Tuileries and Luxembourg, but really any “jardin” in Paris is worth exploring. I just love the flower beds at Luxembourg and I REALLY love Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th arr. Also, a more recent discovery that I really enjoyed was Parc Monceau, in the 8th arr, it’s one of my new favorites because it felt more…local if that makes sense, plus they allow pups.
Museums – Musée du Quay Branley, Musée D’orsay, Musée Rodin, Musée Picasso, Musée de l’Orangerie, Espace Dalí, Foundation Louis Vuitton, I mean the list could go on forever. There’s a museum for everyone and you should go to at least one. My favorites are Espace Dalí and the gardens at Musée Rodin, which you can enter (without the house included) for just €2.
The Louvre – I mentioned museums above, but the Louvre probably deserves its own spot. It’s overwhelming for sure, and I feel like most people make their way to the Mona Lisa first (don’t kill me, but she’s super overrated) and then move into other wings. I prefer the Richelieu wing, filled with sculptures and sunlight. I also like to go inside from the entrance below next to the bottom of the pyramid to try and avoid the crowds.
Catacombs – Kinda creepy, kinda cool, an underground graveyard with lots and lots of skulls. If you’re into this kind of thing, you may also want to check out the famous graveyard, Père Lachaise, where Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried. Some people kiss Jim’s headstone so I guess bring your lipstick if you’re willing to cross that line.
Notre Dame – The Cathedral, as well as nearby Sainte Chapelle are more than worth the time. The famous love locks are (supposedly) in the middle of being removed, but I saw little evidence if this actually happening. It’s still charming, and you can shop the stalls along the river for artwork and children’s books en Francais.
Pont Alexandre III – Arguably the most gorgeous bridge in the city. One morning when you’re battling jet lag, go here and get early morning pics while its still somewhat pedestrian free. Walk onward to the incredible Les Invalides, which is just gorgeous in the early morning light.
Eiffel Tower – duh. (For the coolest view, go to the metro stop Trocadero, make a left out of the metro station, and start walking. You’ll see what you came for very soon.)
Îl de la Cité + Île Sainte-Louis – Antique shops, less crowded restaurants, tiny trinkets, and the views along the Seine from the northern point (Pont Neuf) of Îl de la Cité make this an A+ strolling spot.
Sacré-Cœur – If views is what you’re after, head to Sacré-Cœur. Walk the charming cobblestone streets of Montmartre and use your metro pass to take the funicular up to the Basilica. It stands like a perfect whipped cream pastry above the city and the interior is awe inspiring with its complex tile work.
Galeries Lafayette and Printemps – On Boulevard Haussmann (a great shopping street all around) in the 9th arr, both of these are massive department stores right next to each other. You can find anything and everything you could ever want here. Make sure you go up to the roof of Galeries for an incredible view of the city, overlooking the stunning Palais Garnier.
Colette – Colette is potentially the hippest store ever. It has a Water Bar, which is exactly like it sounds. A bar that has tons of different waters to taste. Sounds lame, but it’s actually pretty cool. Shop here if you wanna look super chic and Euro.
Deyrolle – If you’ve seen the movie Midnight in Paris, you’ll recognize this shop as the spot of their pretty funky 1920s dream party. Walls and tables and corners filled with taxidermy animals of all shapes and sizes. There are so many unique items in here, so even if you don’t find anything you want to take home, just a walk around this legendary shop is quite the experience.
Shakespeare & Co. – This bookshop is a Paris institution. Books are in English, so you can actually get something to take home and enjoy. Or something to take down to the bank of the Seine and laze away your days under the summer sun.
Le Marais (4th arr) – This ‘hood is a great place to stroll and window shop. I love to pop in and out of little shops, it’s a really good place to find something unexpected. Try the antique stores too for a unique souvenir.
Place Vendôme – Chic is the key word here. Some of the world’s very best designers make this square their home. The window shopping (and notable residents!) can’t be beat. If someone objects to your shopping, just tell them this spot is basically a standing history lesson.
Merci – This popular concept shop in Le Marais is a must visit, purely for the decor. The adorable car out front leads you into the painfully chic store, where there’s also a cozy bookshop/cafe.
Pharmacies – Follow the giant green crosses to any one of the tons of pharmacies and prepare to die with excitement. I get all my favorite French brands (Bioderma!!!), and I always buy too much, because I have a hard time resisting the urge to try everything. Plus, they usually have beautifully packaged French soaps, which make a great gift for your friends back home. (Try these articles from Vogue, NY Mag, and Into The Gloss for some of the best things to buy in French pharmacies.)
Side Note: my favorite items are Solgar Super Mélatonine tablets; Bioderma Atoderm Moisturizing Stick; Oenobiol Solarire Intensif capsules [life changing!!]; Berocca Effervescent tablets; “Magic Marshmallows”, which are these throat lozenges in the form of marshmallows and they are tingly and amazing; cult classic Bioderma Crealine H2O; Caudaline Beauty Elixir; and anything by Nuxe. Also, I’m prone to ear infections and they sell a great (and cheap!) over the counter ear drop that my mom and I grab when our ears are feeling sick-y.
Museum Gift Shops – Several years ago, I was in Paris over Christmas and was pretty determined that I was going to bring home a snow globe. I was at Musée Rodin and found the most beautiful, limited edition globe. Inside is a gold version of Rodin’s The Kiss sculpture and the “snow” is gold glitter and little red lips. It’s one of my prized possessions. Anyway, point being, I think museum gift shops make the best place to find a unique souvenir. Obviously Musée Rodin, but also Les Invalides and the delicious shop at the Picasso museum.
To be honest, I could talk/write about Paris all day, and I’ll update this when I remember more of my favorite spots. Paris is one of the most magical places in the world, so it’s pretty hard to ever go wrong.