WHAT TO DO
Paris needs no introduction. It is without doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The French capital is an overflow of captivating culture, charming neighborhoods and fascinating history. A visit to this illustrious city is never quite as simple as a quick look at a few landmarks. Take your time and explore all the delightful sights, sounds and smells the City of Light has to offer. Taking the metro (Metropolitain) is the most efficient way to get around town, but I encourage walking as there is something to see around every corner. Paris's splendor is inspiring with all of its iconic architecture, exquisite cuisine, artistic treasures and unique character.
Begin your voyage at Paris’s most emblematic structure - the Eiffel Tower. Located in the Champ de Mars on the bank of the River Seine, this elegant spire was constructed by Gustave Eiffel as a temporary exhibit for the 1889 World's Fair. Luckily, the art nouveau tower's popularity assured its survival and has made it today the world's most visited paid for monument. The Iron Lady is just over 1000 feet tall and lifts ascend to its three floors that include restaurants, shops and a champagne bar with commanding views at the top. Note: prebook tickets online to avoid painfully long lines. From there, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the left bank of the Seine until you arrive at the beautiful Musee d'Orsay. Located at 1 rue de la Legion d'Honneur in the glorious former Gare d'Orsay railway station, it is the home of France's national collection from the impressionist, post impressionist and art nouveau movements spanning from 1848 to 1914. The highlight is the painting collections that showcase masterpieces by Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Degas and Van Gogh. Save time by purchasing tickets online and combined tickets with the Musee Rodin is a good value. Note: the museum is open from 9a-6p and is closed on Monday. Next, head to the impressive Musee Rodin at 79 rue de Varenne. Sculptor Auguste Rodin donated his entire collection to the French state in 1908 on the condition that they dedicate his former workshop and showroom, the pretty 1730 Hotel Biron, to displaying his works. They did indeed and it is where you can view his most famous works including The Thinker, The Kiss and The Gates of Hell. The mansion was recently restored and its rose filled garden is one of the most peaceful places in central Paris. The museum is closed on Monday. Nearby is the lovely Jardin du Luxembourg. This 17th century park was dedicated by Napoleon to the children of Paris and it continues to hold a special place in Parisians' hearts. This inner city oasis of formal gardens, chestnut groves and lush lawns are a backdrop to the Palais du Luxembourg, built in the 1620s. Do as the locals do and pick up one of the iconic 1923 designed green metal chairs and find your own tranquil area of the park.
After a little r and r in the park, make your way back to the River Seine and Ile de la Cite (Island City) - the home of Cathedrale Notre Dame. It is Paris's most visited no ticket required site with over 14 million visitors per year. This masterpiece of French Gothic architecture has been the focus of Catholic Paris for seven centuries and its vast interior can accommodate 6000 worshippers. Highlights of Notre Dame include its three spectacular rose windows and bell towers which can be climbed. From the north tower, climb the spiral staircase to the top of the western facade where you will find yourself face to face with spooky gargoyles and a magnificent view of Paris. Inside, the central choir with its carved wooden stalls and statues representing the Passion of the Christ is noteworthy. Outside, one of the best views of the cathedral is from square Jean XXIII, the little park behind the cathedral - where you can better appreciate the forest of ornate flying buttresses. As mentioned, the cathedral is free of charge but the towers/treasury require a ticket. From Notre Dame and the western point of the Ile de la Cite, cross the Pont Neuf (the oldest bridge in Paris) to the right bank of the Seine. Opened in 1607, this arched stone bridge has a bronze equestrian statue of King Henry IV. Once you've crossed the Pont Neuf, head to the most famous art museum in the world - the Musee du Louvre. It isn't until you are standing in the great courtyard of the Louvre, with sunlight (in summer) shimmering through the iconic glass pyramid that you can truly say you've been to Paris. Holding tens of thousands of works of art - from Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek antiquities to masterpieces by artists such as da Vinci, Michelangelo and Rembrandt - it's no surprise that the Louvre is one of the world's most visited museums, with over 9 million visitors per year. Located on rue de Rivoli next to the Jardin des Tuileries, it was once a fortress then a royal palace until it became a public museum in 1793. The Louvre is comprised of three main sections - the Sully Wing, the Denon Wing and the Richelieu Wing. The richness and sheer size of the museum can be overwhelming so don't exhaust yourself trying to see it all. Make a list of everything you want to see or limit your viewing to one or maybe two wings - my favorite wing is the Denon Wing. Another option is one of the several innovative self guided thematic trails (around 2 hours and can be downloaded in advance from the website) which include a Louvre masterpieces trail. More formal, English language guided tours depart from the Hall Napoleon which has free English language maps. For many, the star attraction is Leonardo da Vinci's La Joconde, better known as Mona Lisa (room 6, 1st floor, Denon). This entire section of the 1st floor of the Denon Wing is hung with masterpieces by Delacroix, Raphael, Titian and Botticelli. On the ground floor of the Denon Wing, take time for Michelangelo's The Dying Slave and Canova's Psyche and Cupid. Others might prefer the treasures from antiquity such as the Venus de Milo (room 7, ground floor, Sully) and the Winged Victory of Samothrace (top of Daru staircase, 1st floor, Denon). Also of note are the Napoleon III Apartments (1st floor, Richelieu), Dutch masters Vermeer (room 38, 2nd floor, Richelieu) and Rembrandt (room 31, 2nd floor, Richelieu) and the 18th century French painting collection (2nd floor, Sully). The main entrance is through the massive Grande Pyramide, a glass pyramid designed by architect IM Pei. Note: be sure to get the Paris Museum Pass which gives you priority for the long security and entry lines. Purchasing tickets online will save you time. The Louvre is open from 9a-6p and is closed on Tuesday.
From the Louvre, stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries as you make your way towards the most famous street in town. The Champs Elysees was laid out in the 17th century and links the Place de la Concorde with the Arc de Triomphe. No visit to Paris is complete without walking this broad, tree shaded avenue lined with luxury shops and cafes. The Champs is the setting for the last leg of the Tour de France bicycle race and ceremonies on Bastille Day (July 14) and Armistice Day (November 11). Continue down the road until you reach the magnificent Arc de Triomphe. Commissioned by Napoleon and completed in 1836, this monument is known for its superb sculptures by Francois Rude including The Departure of the Volunteers in 1792 - better known as La Marseillaise (France's national anthem). The traffic circle around the Arc is named for Charles de Gaulle, but it's known to Parisians as Etoile (Star) - a reference to the streets that fan out from it. Climb the stairs to the top of the arch so you can see the star effect of the 12 avenues and the view down the Champs Elysees towards the Place de la Concorde. Beneath the arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Next, take the metro red line east from the Charles de Gaulle - Etoile station to the Auber station then walk a few minutes to one of the most gorgeous buildings in Paris. The Palais Garnier was designed in 1860 by Charles Garnier and it is stunning. This opulent opera house can accommodate 2000 patrons and its backstage corridors are famously haunted by the Phantom of the Opera. You can book a 90 minute English language guided tour or visit on your own - audio guides are available for a small fee. Do not miss the grand marble staircase, the ruby red velvet box seats, the massive chandelier or Marc Chagall's divine ceiling mural.
One of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris is Montmartre. It is located on a large hill in the northern section of the city (18th arrondissement). I would suggest taking the metro line 12 to the Abbesses station then take your time wandering the streets as you make your way up the hill. Montmartre has a charming village feel with rustic houses and cobbled streets. It has drawn bohemians and artists - resident painters have included Renoir, Picasso and Toulouse Lautrec, whose iconic paintings of the cancan dancers at the nearby Moulin Rouge are now souvenir shop fixtures all over town. Explore the narrow lanes and steep staircases, especially the rue du Calvaire off the Place du Tertre. Note: if the hills become too much follow signs from Abbesses station to the funicular and take it straight up to the Basilique du Sacre Coeur. It's hard not to feel as though you are climbing up to heaven when you visit Sacre Coeur, the white castle in the sky perched atop Montmartre. The French government built this church in 1873 and it was designed by Paul Abadie, using elements from Romanesque and Byzantine architectural styles. It was finally consecrated in 1919, standing in contrast to the bohemian lifestyle that surrounded it. Many people come to Sacre Coeur to admire the spectacular view from the top of the 271 foot high dome. The bell called La Savoyarde in the tower is the largest in France. Don't miss spending some time inside the basilica gazing at the massive golden mosaic set high above the choir. Created in 1922 by Luc Olivier Merson, Christ in Majesty depicts Christ with a golden heart and outstretched arms, surrounded by various figures including the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc. Other places in Montmartre that are worth a visit consist of Bateau Lavoir, Espace Dali and Studio 28. In the early 20th century, Montmartre poet Max Jacob coined the name Bateau Lavoir (boat washhouse) for the building which reminded him of the laundry boats that used to float in the Seine. It was here where Max Jacob and Pablo Picasso set up their studios and Cubism was born. Picasso painted the groundbreaking Les Demoiselles d'Avignon here in 1907. The original building burned down in 1970 and was rebuilt years later to house artists and their studios. Note: it isn't open to the public, but a display in the front window details this unimposing building's rich history. Located just west of Place du Tertre at 11 rue Poulbot is Espace Dali. More than 300 works by Salvador Dali, the flamboyant Catalan surrealist artist are on display at this basement museum. The collection includes Dali's bizarre sculptures, lithographs and furniture including the famous Mae West Lips Sofa. Finally, check out the rad Studio 28 at 10 rue Tholoze. This little movie house has a distinguished history - when it opened in 1928, it was the first theater in the world built for experimental film.
A few other neighborhoods that I always visit in Paris are Le Marais, Latin Quarter and Montparnasse. Le Marais includes the 3rd and 4th arrondissements (administrative districts). It has something for everyone - museums, cafes, courtyards and boutique shops. Wander around its charming streets and stop in to La Tartine cafe (24 rue de Rivoli) for some delicious French onion soup or a tartine topped with ham and cheese. Check out the funky shop Merci (111 blvd Beaumarchais), it's a coffee shop, bookstore, clothing store and specialty items all under the same roof. The highlights of Le Marais and not to be missed include Place des Vosges, Musee Picasso and Centre Georges Pompidou. The lovely Place des Vosges is Paris's prettiest square and is framed by 36 symmetrical houses (including Maison de Victor Hugo) surrounding a well manicured park whose inviting patches of grass are accessible to those needing some time to chill. Inaugurated in 1612, it is Paris's oldest square and along with 4 symmetrical fountains - it contains an 1829 copy of a mounted statue of Louis XIII. Located at 5 rue de Thorigny is the Musee Picasso. One of Paris's most treasured art collections, it is showcased inside the 17th century Hotel Sale - an exquisite private mansion owned by the city since 1964. Devoted to Spanish artist Pablo Picasso who spent much of his life living and working in Paris. The collection includes more than 5000 drawings, paintings and sculptures by the great master. Most of it was given to the French government by the artist's heirs in lieu of paying inheritance taxes after his death in 1973. There's much to see so plan on devoting several hours here. The do not miss paintings, listed in chronological order are Self Portrait (1901), Two Women Running on the Beach (1922) and The Kiss (1969). Note: the museum is open from 10a-6p and is closed on Monday. The Centre Georges Pompidou is found at Place Georges Pompidou and it is totally rad. Renowned for its extreme architectural statement, the 1977 opened Centre Pompidou brings together galleries, cutting edge exhibitions, cinemas and other entertainment venues with street performers and fanciful fountains outside its doors. It has over 100000 pieces of fauvist, cubist, surrealist, pop art and contemporary works (the Modern Art Museum occupies the top two levels). Former French President Georges Pompidou wanted an ultra contemporary artistic hub and safe to say he got it. Competition winning architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers effectively designed the building inside out with utilitarian features such as plumbing, pipes, air vents and electrical cables forming part of the external facade - freeing up the interior space for exhibitions and events. The rooftop provides sweeping views of Paris (look for the red door elevator to the left of the main entrance to take you up). Outside the building in Place Georges Pompidou you'll find colorful characters of musicians, jugglers and mime artists. Around back in Place Igor Stravinsky are fanciful mechanical fountains of skeletons, hearts and a large pair of ruby red lips. The Pompidou is open from 11a-9p and is closed on Tuesday.
So named because international students communicated in Latin here until the French Revolution, the Latin Quarter remains the hub of academic life in Paris. The Latin Quarter is the 5th arrondissement and is centered on the Sorbonne's main university campus, graced by fountains and lime trees. This lively area is also home to some outstanding parks and shops - 2 in particular are Jardin des Plantes and Shakespeare & Company. Founded in 1626 as a medicinal herb garden for Louis XIII, Paris's botanical gardens are an idyllic spot to stroll around or rest your tired feet on one of the many shaded benches. The Jardin des Plantes is visually defined by the double alley of plane trees that run the length of the park. Located at 37 rue de la Bucherie, Shakespeare & Company is more than a shopping destination. This legendary English language bookstore is a meeting place for expats and curious travelers alike. The wonderful cafe next door serves up lattes, teas, juices and yummy pastries. Montparnasse includes the 14th and 15th arrondissements in the southern section of the city. It is enjoying a brilliant renaissance and is now the premium district for edgy street art and sustainable contemporary architecture. The 2 must sees in Montparnasse are Les Catacombs and the Fondation Henri Cartier Bresson. Paris's most macabre sight is its underground tunnels lined with skulls and bones. In 1785 it was decided to rectify the hygiene problem of the city's overflowing cemeteries by exhuming the bones and storing them in disused quarry tunnels - thus the Catacombs were created in 1810. The 45 minute route through the Catacombs begins at a small building in the center of a grassy area of av Colonel Henri Roi Tanguy, next to Place Denfert Rochereau. The surface is uneven and can be slippery - the temperature in the tunnels is usually around 55 degrees. Note: online bookings include an audio guide and guarantee a time slot. The Fondation Henri Cartier Bresson is located at 2 impasse Lebouis and was opened by the legendary photographer in 2003. No fan of photography should pass up the chance to see Cartier Bresson's restored atelier (studio) which features a small collection of his work as well as photographs from contemporary artists.
Conclude your tour of Paris with a few more recommended options. Big Bus Paris operates two different routes around the city with a total of 13 stops and allows you to hop on and off as you please. Paris Canal Cruises offers seasonal 2 hour Seine and canal boat rides that depart from quai Anatole France near the Musee d'Orsay. For more terrific art or perhaps some football (soccer), head to the western part of town and the Musee Monet or the Parc des Princes. Located at 2 rue Louis Boilly, the Musee Monet showcases the world's largest collection of works by impressionist painter Claude Monet. It also contains paintings by Gauguin, Renoir and Degas. The Parc des Princes is the home of Paris's top division football club, Paris Saint Germain (PSG). The season runs from August through May and if you are unable to attend a match, taking a tour of the stadium is the next best thing. In the eastern part of the city is the world's most visited cemetery. Opened in 1804, Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise holds over 70000 ornate tombs of the rich and famous. Note: pick up a cemetery map at the conservation office near the main blvd de Menilmontant entrance. Do not miss the final resting place of Jim Morrison (division 6) and Oscar Wilde (division 89). Other notables buried here include composer Chopin, painter Pissarro and chanteuse Edith Piaf. Finish up at Place de la Bastille, the site where the French Revolution began when a mob stormed the fortress prison of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. At the center of the square is the 170 foot high Colonne de Juillet - a green bronze column topped by a gilded winged Liberty. The location of the long gone Bastille is marked by a triple row of paved stones that traces the building's outline on the ground.
WHERE TO EAT
Paris has boldly reclaimed its title as the best food city in Europe. The French capital is bustling with a brilliant constellation of new restaurants by talented young chefs from all over the world, plus an inventive and diverse array of casual dining options. Start your day at the brilliant bakery Hure. Located at 18 rue Rambuteau in the Marais, this modern boulangerie with a graffitied red brick wall has some of the best fruit tarts, eclairs, macarons and quiches in town. Also try Au 140 at 140 rue de Belleville in the eastern part of the city. This bakery is renowned for its crunchy to perfection baguettes and gourmet wood fired oven breads laced with honey, almonds and cheese. One of my favorite patisseries in Paris is Laduree, located at 75 av des Champs Elysees. It has been around since 1862 and first created the delicious ganache filled macaron in the 1930s. It also has yummy pastries, tasty croissants and its tearoom is the classiest spot to indulge on the Champs. Another classic Parisian tearoom is Angelina, found at 226 rue de Rivoli. Opened in 1903, this grand salon is famous for its hot chocolate and pastries.
When it's time for lunch, head to the Breizh Cafe at 109 rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais. Everything at the Breizh (Breton) is authentic and amazing - including its organic flour crepes and galettes that top many Parisians' lists for the best in the city. Go with a smoked herring and potato filled galette, then tuck into a matcha and white chocolate mousse filled crepe garnished with strawberries. For the best croque monsieur in town, hit the stylish Cafe Trama (83 rue du Cherche Midi) on the left bank. What makes this grilled ham and aged Comte cheese sandwich so perfect is that it's made with bread from the excellent Poujauran bakery and spiked with a pinch of truffled salt. If you fancy the ultimate French lunch - make your way to Chez Aline at 85 rue de la Roquette for jambon beurre, which is simply ham on a buttered baguette. If you have strong feelings for French onion soup as I do then be sure to stop in at Les Philosophes at 28 rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais. How can you not love a steaming bowl of onion soup - rich beef broth loaded with a soft sweet hash of sauteed onions under a cap of melted cheese floating on a crouton buoy. Another great place in the Marais is Clown Bar, located at 114 rue Amelot. The reason the beautiful art nouveau tiled interior of this extremely popular little restaurant has a clown theme is that it’s right next door to the Cirque d’Hiver (Winter Circus), the charming 1852 vintage theater where circuses once performed. Chef Atsumi Sota’s brilliant contemporary French small plate menu changes according to the season and the chef’s inspiration, but it’s consistently a superb showcase of the best casual contemporary French cooking in town. A fabulous little bistro not far from the Eiffel Tower is Au Petit Tonneau. Located at 20 rue Surcouf, it does an excellent blanquette de veau - a homelike classic of veal in cream sauce with mushrooms, onions and carrots. For outstanding oysters, try l’Huitrerie Regis at 3 rue de Montfaucon in the heart of Saint Germain. This tiny, no reservations raw bar serves some of the best oysters in the city and every customer is required to order at least a dozen, which come with really good bread and excellent salted butter. Wash them down with a glass of chilled French white wine. There are many exciting markets in Paris and I always enjoying visiting Marche Bastille at 8 blvd Richard Lenoir. If you only get to one open air street market in town, this is among the best. Its 150 plus stalls are piled high with fruit and vegetables, meats, fish, cheeses and seasonal specialities such as truffles. You'll also find a small amount of antiques. Another great spot is La Maison Plisson, located at 93 blvd Beaumarchais in the Marais. Framed by glass canopied wrought iron girders, this gourmet's dream incorporates a covered market style food hall filled with exquisite produce - meat, vegetables, cheese, wine, chocolate, jams, freshly baked breads and so much more. It also has a cafe that serves charcuterie, foie gras and cheese planks.
There are many dinner options in the city and I would like to share some of my favorites. Located at 7 rue de la Bastille, Bofinger is one of the oldest and most popular brasseries in Paris. Grab one of the tables dressed in crisp white linen under the glowing art nouveau glass cupola and enjoy classic dishes such as the seafood choucroute, steak tartare or smoked haddock with spinach. Au Bon Accueil is a chic little bistro close to the Eiffel Tower at 14 rue de Monttessuy. I enjoyed the roast lobster with mushroom risotto and for dessert it was the citrus terrine with passion fruit sorbet. Note: they are closed weekends and reservations are essential. Le Bistrot Paul Bert delivers everything you could want from a traditional Paris bistro, that is why it's always crowded. The menu is torn straight out of the classic bistro playbook with options like steak frites, andouillette and souffle. The stocked wine cellar is impressive, as is the friendly and efficient staff. It is located at 18 rue Paul Bert and is closed on Sunday and Monday. A sentimental favorite of mine and one of the last authentic French gourmet bistros is Allard. Found at 41 rue Saint Andre des Arts in Saint Germain, it feels like home. The dining room is intimate with dark wood paneling, red leather banquettes and tobacco stained walls. The menu is traditional - do try the escargot and the duck with green olives. The wine list is extensive with varieties from Burgundy, Bordeaux and beyond. Located at 32 rue Saint Maur near Pere Lachaise cemetery in the eastern part of town is the excellent Le Servan. Chef Tatiana Levha’s cosmopolitan cooking reflects her French, Russian and Filipino background with dynamite dishes like the steamed baby clams in a chili spiked coriander fish sauce. The portions are generous and the atmosphere is lively. Note: it is closed on weekends. One of the best restaurants in all of Paris is Chef Pascal Barbot's L'Astrance. This triple Michelin starred institution for haute cuisine is located across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower at 4 rue Beethoven. Look beyond the complicated descriptions on the tasting menus and expect exquisite elements making up intricate plates that are as spectacular as the artworks in the Louvre. Note: reserve one to two months in advance.
Another great place is Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie, located at 19 rue des Fosses Saint Jacques in the Latin Quarter. Hidden away on a small, fountained square this cafe and wine bar is a neighborhood favorite. It serves blackboard chalked wines by the glass and delicious seasonal bistro fare from oysters to grilled lamb sausage over lentils. Found at 68 rue Vasco de Gama is Le Beurre Noisette. Filled with locals, it features dishes such as tender veal loin in brown butter sauce with homemade fries and caramelized pork belly with braised cabbage and apple. Do not miss Marrow, located at 128 rue du Faubourg Saint Martin. This small, neo bistro has a great atmosphere, delicious bone marrow and dynamite drinks - do try the house cocktail Vieux Rectangle (cognac, aperol, vermouth, bitters and absinthe). Note: it is closed on Sunday and Monday. Tucked away down an inconspicuous alley in the Marais (5 rue du Nil), Frenchie is a tiny bistro with wooden tables and old stone walls. It is always crowded and for good reason - the modern dishes prepared by chef Gregory Marchand are excellent. Be sure to reserve well in advance or arrive early to put your name on the list, then head across the street to Frenchie Wine Bar while you wait. L'Avant Comptoir de la Mer is a chic seafood tapas bar located at 3 Carrefour de l'Odeon in Saint Germain. Menu standouts include succulent oysters, herring tartine, cauliflower and trout roe, blood orange razor clams, roasted scallops and salmon croquettes - complemented by fantastic artisan bread, hand churned flavored butters, sea salt and olives. For a truly Parisian experience, head to L'Ete en Pente Douce at 8 rue Paul Albert. It is in a hidden square wedged between two flights of steep staircases on the back side of Montmartre, in an untouristy residential neighborhood. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, several glasses of wine and the potato and leek soup or maybe the veal stew with mushrooms. End the evening at the best ice cream shop in town. Founded in 1954, Berthillon is located at 29-31 rue Saint Louis en I'lle (the other island on the Seine). Its 70 plus all natural, chemical free flavors include pink grapefruit and raspberry sorbet, white chocolate with candied chestnuts and cappuccino ice cream. They also offer flavors of the season and are closed Monday and Tuesday.
Paris has many cool places to have a drink and see a show. Start at Bar Hemingway, found inside the Hotel Ritz at 15 Place Vendome. Black and white photos and memorabilia of the great writer Ernest Hemingway fill this snug bar. The bartender mixes monumental cocktails, including three different Bloody Marys made with juice from freshly squeezed tomatoes. Legend has it that Hemingway himself, wielding a machine gun, helped liberate the bar during World War II. Next, head to Danico (6 rue Vivienne) if you can find it - the candlelit backroom is hidden in the Daroco trattoria. Once you arrive, treat yourself to one of Nico de Soto's extravagant cocktails. Chia seeds, kombucha tea, ghost peppers and pomegranate champagne are some of the more unusual ingredients you'll find on the drink list. The Experimental Cocktail Club is a sophisticated flashback to those crazy years of Prohibition New York. Located at 37 rue Saint Sauveur, this retro chic speakeasy with a black curtain facade fills to capacity quickly and stays open until 2a. The drinks are great and DJs keep the party going until dawn on weekends. Do not miss Candelaria Cocktail Bar, located at 52 rue de Saintonge in the Marais. A lime green taqueria serving homemade tacos, quesadillas and tostadas conceals one of Paris's coolest cocktail bars. Enter through the unmarked door at the back of the kitchen for phenomenal cocktails made from agave spirits including the always tasty mezcal. Note: make a reservation for the bar. Another cool spot is Le Syndicat, hidden away behind a decrepit facade covered with a thick layer of peeling posters at 51 rue du Faubourg Saint Denis. This dive bar can do no wrong with vintage bottles to updated classic cocktails and daring modern creations, this is a great place to discover forgotten tastes of French alcohols. Highlights include the velvety, tangy Picon Biere made with cognac, picon, beer and quince compote. The raspberry negroni was also tres bon. Also very good is Le Mary Celeste at 1 rue Commines. Try to snag a stool at the circular bar at this popular brick and timber floored cocktail joint or reserve one of the tables in advance online. Innovative beverages such as Ahha Kapehna (grappa, absinthe, beetroot, fennel and champagne) are the perfect partner to the bar's food menu. Finish up at Gravity Bar, found at 44 rue des Vinaigriers. This late night joint (closes at 2a) has a stunning wave like interior, crafted from slats of plywood that descend to the curved concrete bar. It also does some serious cocktails such as Back to My Roots (Provence herb infused vodka, vermouth, raspberry puree and lemon juice). If you're hungry, they have excellent tapas style small plates.
If you are in the mood for live music then I would suggest checking out the following 2 venues. La Cigale is located at 120 blvd de Rochechouart near Place Pigalle and the Moulin Rouge. Due to its intimate size (capacity around 1000), it's a favorite of both fans and acts. Now classed as a historical monument, this music hall dates from 1887 and has red seating along with gilded balconies. Notable performers include Radiohead and The Stone Roses. Le Bataclan is a lovely theater at 50 blvd Voltaire. It opened in 1864 and has a capacity of 1500. Sadly, this historic venue is now notorious for reasons other than entertainment. Despite the horrific terrorist attack on the Bataclan on November 13, 2015 - the venue reopened a year later and is once again providing entertainment for all to enjoy.
WHERE TO STAY
Paris has plenty of places to call home during your stay and there are 2 that I especially enjoyed. Both are in prime locations that provide exceptional service, modern amenities and comfort. The first is L'Hotel, located in Saint Germain at 13 rue des Beaux Arts. Set on a quiet street, this 20 room boutique property is where Oscar Wilde spent his last days (room 16), famously remarking "I am dying beyond my means." It's a short walk from the banks of the River Seine and the Louvre. Decorated with sumptuous drapes, warm tones and colorful artwork - the plush, individually styled rooms include flat screen TVs, free WiFi and minibars. Continental breakfast is complimentary and there’s a cozy bar along with a swanky restaurant featuring a water fountain. Other amenities include a hammam, a steam room and a modern swimming pool in the cellar.
A second option is Le Pavillon de la Reine, located at 28 Place des Vosges in the heart of town. Near the Marais, this sophisticated hotel in an elegant building is discreetly set off beautiful Place des Vosges - Paris's oldest square. The 56 contemporary rooms have mosaic tiled bathrooms, separate sitting areas and complimentary WiFi. There's a refined bar and a lounge with a library, plus a leafy courtyard and revitalizing spa render it a real country retreat from the urban hubbub. Other amenities include a hammam and loaner bikes if you want to go for a ride.
Paris is the most exquisite, the most iconic and quite possibly the most beautiful city in the world. I will always enjoy visiting for its culture, cuisine and illustrious history. Vive la France!