As I’ve mentioned before, my family and I go to Paris frequently because we have an apartment in the city. It is so easy, just over two hours on the train and you’re there. But just because we go frequently, we’re never blasé about planning what we do. Every meal and every activity is researched and planned to maximise our enjoyment of the city and not waste a single moment… whether that moment is spent at a Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit, trying a new coffee place, seeing friends, or re-visiting my favourite restaurant in the world for the zillionth time. I’ll add to this post a few times a year and keep it updated with new finds. I’m making it intentionally broad… if you’ve never been to Paris, there will be things you absolutely must go see. If you go to Paris frequently, just skip over things like the Colette recommendation, because you’ve probably been there 10 times already, but understand that it is a must for any fashion enthusiast who has never been to Paris before! This is not an exhaustive list; I’m leaving out huge musts like the Musée D’Orsay, the Rodin Museum, and the Picasso Museum for example, but you don’t need me to recommend those, any guidebook will. I’m going to tell you where I go, what I love, and what I recommend to the many friends who ask me to make lists like this for them.
Renovation at La Samaritaine
Merci (111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris) Merci is another ‘concept store’ but nowhere near as flashy as Colette. The clothes here fall into that boho, I’m-spending-a-lot-of-moeny-to-look-like-I’m-not-trying-very-hard category. There are unfinished edges and frayed hems everywhere, the colour palette ranges somewhere between grouchy and sludgy, the coats all feel scratchy, and the summer collection is full of items that look like you accidentally washed your lights with your darks. However, it is still a must-visit because the warehouse-space store itself and everything (aside from the clothes) is beautiful. I could walk out with pretty much every item of furniture (lots of mid century) and anything from the two floors of kitchen and home decor. I’ve bought lots of unusual gifts here over the years; one in particular, an oversized set of beautiful wood-handled porcelain salad servers, has always been a hit. My favourite gift to myself was a kitchen-sink-sized round white ceramic salad bowl that is perfect for big dinner parties. There is a chandelier-strewn Used Book Cafe (where you’ll find me on a rainy day) and a great relaxed restaurant as well.
Merci’s Used Book Cafe (image via Conde Nast)
La Tresorerie (11 Rue du Château d’Eau, 75010 Paris) This modern general store is full of stylish, low-key, eco-friendly basics for the kitchen and home. They proudly state that at least 90% of their stock is made in Europe, and everything in the supply chain is transparent and easy on the environment. The organic Scandi cafe, Café Smorgas, serves simple but excellent breakfasts and lunches. I love supporting businesses like this, and the cozy atmosphere makes it easy to do so.
L’Eclaireur (location list) L’Eclaireur is a temple of uber cool, with an emphasis on niche brands in fashion and design. They have several stores in Paris, each so different you’d not even know they were related if it weren’t for the name. The Marais location is closest to me, so I know this store best. You walk through its main entrance filled with sunglasses, jewellery, candles and perfumes from obscure brands, straight to the back where on the left is an almost ‘secret’ door. Go through this and you enter a cave-like space with most of the clothes hidden behind large doors that look like art installations. It sounds quite intimidating, but the staff is gracious and friendly. I’ve been here many times, dressed up and dressed way down (even with a toddler!), and I’ve never been treated any differently. The selection is brilliantly curated, with hand-picked pieces from small and large designers in a fairly wide range of styles, with heavy dose of black.
Le Bon Marche (24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris) I’m not a fan of big department stores, but I’m including this one because it is historic and beautiful (there is a magnificent glass domed interior)… and because La Grande Epicerie (discussed lower down under Cooking) is next door and well worth a trip. Also, if you are visiting Paris and have a day of bad weather, sometimes a department store is a good place to shelter from the weather and still explore French brands.
Avenue Montaigne (75008 Paris) This grand avenue is home to nearly every luxury store you can think of: Louis Vuitton, Dior, Loro Piana, Chanel, Celine, Valentino, etc. If window shopping makes you thirsty from all the drooling over shoes and licking windows, stop at the Plaza Athenée (25 Avenue Montaigne) for a drink in their exquisite courtyard, La Cour Jardin. The bar in this hotel makes fabulous cocktails (a rarity in Paris). On your way in, peek in the Alain Ducasse restaurant to see my favourite chandelier. Words cannot describe it, so here is a photo on their website. It’s worth having a meal at the restaurant (only vegetables, fish, and grains on the menu) just to stare at the chandelier and crystal-dropped ceiling for an entire evening.
Rue du faubourg Sainte-Honoré (75008 Paris) In addition to the Hermes flagship store, there are places like Christian Louboutin, Etro, Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Lanvin, Gucci, Cartier, and Prada nestled on this elegant street. Nearby are Hotel Costes and Ladurée if you need to sit down and recover from the sheer avalanche of luxury.
Silvia Toledano (26 Rue Danielle Casanova, 75002 Paris) A jeweller with bold, strong and colourful style, I love her work. If you love colourful statement jewellery, stop in here. She uses stones like turquoise, lapis, quartz, and carnelian. Many of her pieces look like they could be archaeological treasures.
Delphine Pariente (101 Rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris) I’m not a fan of the delicate dainty jewellery that is currently in fashion; it just doesn’t suit me. However, I can appreciate this particularly French designer’s take on that trend. I have two pairs of star ‘ear crawlers’ from here, and I always get asked about them when I wear them. She also does beautiful personalised jewellery (have it inscribed with whatever is meaningful to you). The price point and quality are great, so it makes an excellent gift.
Tiany Chambard (32 Rue Jacob, 75006 Paris) A niche store specialising in vintage earrings and brooches, there are some AMAZING finds here, but the stock may be more picked over now that British Vogue recently mentioned the shop. If you are a statement earrings gal (raises hand) or if you love vintage Bakelite (a la Iris Apfel) this store has impressive stock.
G. Detou storefront
E. Dehillerin (18-20 Rue Coquillière, 75001 Paris) The best (and most overwhelming!) cooking store in Paris where every chef goes for his tools. If you are a serious cook, or need a gift for one, look no further. They’ve been in business since 1820, so they’re doing it right. They have everything in every size and every material.
G. Detou (58 Rue Tiquetonne, 75002 Paris) Another great cooking store, but for ingredients. The best quality and most economical vanilla pods (we buy in bulk in glass tubes), beautiful pistachio paste for cakes and cookies, delicious and well-priced smoked salmon, artisinal mustards, wax-encased bottarga, a staggering range of chocolate… whatever you might fancy, they have it. It is a paradise for cooks, especially bakers. Its name is a play on the French phrase ‘J’ai de tout’ (‘I have everything’) and indeed they do.
La Grande Epicerie (38 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris) This is without a doubt my favourite gourmet grocery store in Paris. It is over 30,000 square feet of deliciousness. Why am I telling you about it? You know when you have been travelling for a week or two, and you just want to stay in your room one morning and have a yogurt and granola instead of facing another restaurant or hotel breakfast? Well, this is for you. There are more varieties of yogurt here than you will ever see in one place in your life (sort of like the cereal aisle in an American supermarket). There are also more varieties of pink Himalayan sea salt than you’ll see elsewhere. Or olives. Or cheeses. Or jams/confiture. And everything in here is superb quality. They describe themselves perfectly as ‘a purveyor of basic, traditional, rare and ultra-sophisticated items in their thousands.’
Sea bream, turnip, and radish carpaccio at L’Arpege
L’Arpege (84 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris) Without equal, my favourite restaurant in the world since I first came in 2008. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been, but every time I go, my love grows deeper. Where to start… Well, it has three Michelin stars. Chef Alain Passard is a perfectionist genius, and believes that proper cooking starts in the garden, so he has his own organic gardens outside of Paris to supply the restaurant daily. He is in the kitchen every night, rather than just lending his name to a string of international restaurants like Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse or Gordon Ramsay. He comes to your table to discuss the food with you. I’ve never had food anywhere like this. I always tell my husband, if we lived in Paris, I’d genuinely live in a smaller property so I could afford to eat here weekly. The restaurant is mostly vegetarian, but there are some chicken, fish, and shellfish dishes. It is extraordinarily unusual for a restaurant to have three Michelin stars without foie gras and expensive cuts of meat on the menu, which tells you how magnificent the food is. I can’t recommend this place highly enough. Booking is essential, business attire or date night attire, very expensive, closed Saturdays and Sundays. Top tip: come for lunch when it is more affordable and the menu is nearly the same.
Breizh Cafe (109 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003) Thankfully, this place is just around the corner from our apartment so we go all the time… sometimes daily for lunch (not ashamed at all!). The ingredients are organic, the butter used is Bordier (the best) and the fillings in each crepe are top quality. My favourite savoury galette (made with buckwheat flour) is the either the scallop and leek, or the cheese, egg, and cider-cooked onion one. For a dessert, definitely the plain crepe with homemade caramel sauce. I’ve never had better crepes anywhere. They serve organic hard ciders which are not remotely sweet (forget what you know about American or English ciders); I especially love the Cyril Zangs one. Booking is essential, very casual, inexpensive, closed Mondays.
Au Passage (1bis Passage Saint-Sébastien, 75011) This isn’t a glamorous restaurant. None of the tables and chairs or lights match, but it still has a cheerful and charming atmosphere. It is down a safe but unattractive alley, and there is always a queue of hopeful people standing outside who haven’t booked. The FOOD though! The menu is different every time I’ve been because they serve whatever is seasonally good at the market. All the plates are small and are meant for sharing. There is plenty to keep you happy if you are a vegetarian, the fish dishes are fantastic, and there are meat dishes as well which I’m told are great. The extensive wine list, full of natural wines, never disappoints. The staff is completely hipster and welcoming. I’ve taken my mother and several of my friends here; all of them say this is one of their favourite restaurants in Paris, despite the gritty vibe. Booking is essential, very casual, inexpensive, closed Mondays.
Abri (92 rue du Faubourg-Poissonnerière, 75010, Paris) Part of me thinks I shouldn’t even include this on the list, but it is so amazing, I had to. This tiny unassuming restaurant completely blew my mind. It is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to get in. You will have to phone and put yourself on a waiting list (Top tip- call between 10:30 and 12:30 when they answer the phone) a month in advance. You may hate me for complicating your life with waiting lists for Paris restaurants, but if you get in, you will understand why. There is no menu. The chef looks at you and in a fortune-teller kind of way, decides what he thinks you might like to eat; every table gets a (surprisingly) different tasting menu. Of course you can say if you don’t eat certain things, and they will gladly accommodate. They keep notes of what you were served so that if you are lucky enough to get a second reservation, you won’t be served the same dishes as your previous visit. The chef, Katsuaki Okiyama is known in restaurant circles to be a serious genius. He doesn’t want to be a celebrity. He doesn’t want to expand (despite a lot of pressure). He simply wants to make beautiful modern perfect food. Even the brilliant wine list has hardly any markup. He’s not in it for the money, he’s in it for the passion. It is a privilege to have him cook for you. I will be on the phone begging for a spot on the waiting list before my next trip. Booking is essential, casual, inexpensive, closed Sunday.
Saturne (17 rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, 75002, Paris) You go here as much for the natural wine list as you do for the food; both are absolutely exquisite. Ingredients are seasonal and each small dish of the single tasting menu is modern and highly inventive. The pleasantly austere and zen-like atmosphere focuses all attention on the one-Michelin-starred cuisine. It has had ups and downs over the 10 or so years it has been open, but right now Sven Chartier’s cooking is at the top of its game. Booking is essential, business attire, moderately expensive, closed Saturday and Sunday.
Bistrot Paul Bert (18 rue Paul Bert, 75011, Paris) Paul Bert is crowded, noisy, and uber-popular for good reason – it is the best bistrot-style food in Paris and has a fantastic wine list, strong on natural wines. There are some bad reviews on the internet about this place, and they are all undeserved. Its success has made it popular with tourists who don’t understand what a bistro is and they have unreasonable expectations. A bistrot is by definition modest, traditional, French home cooking in a small space; the frantic waiter doesn’t have 10 minutes to explain every item on the extensive menu to you like in a Michelin starred restaurant. The tables are close, the room is packed and noisy, but the food is magnificent. Every guest I’ve ever taken to Paul Bert has raved about the experience. It is quite a meaty menu, but there are some fish and vegetable options. My French husband’s favourites are the filet of beef with a cream, butter, cognac and sarawak pepper sauce and the Paris Brest for dessert. I have the egg and truffles, and skip dessert so I can drink more wine. Booking is essential, casual, inexpensive, closed Sundays and Mondays
Miznon (22 rue des Ecouffes, 75004, Paris) I read on Wendy Lyn’s (more on her below) Facebook page that a lamb sandwich from Miznon was the best thing she ate one that whole year. I made a beeline for the restaurant the next time I was in Paris, and I go back once every trip now. I don’t eat lamb, but their Israeli vegetable ratatouille is the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten in any year. Miznon is busy, crowded, and convivial. I try to go right when they open for lunch or dinner to avoid the massive queues (or just get it takeaway). The whole roasted cauliflower is surprisingly yummy. The queues move quickly and the food is worth any wait. No reservations, very casual, inexpensive, closed Saturday.
Madeleines from Blé Sucré
Blé Sucré (7 Rue Antoine Vollon, 75012 Paris) I can’t say enough good things about this unassuming neighbourhood patisserie, other than that they have won the award for the best croissant in Paris (no easy feat) and the best madeleine (my favourite thing) for the past few years. Fabrice Le Bourdat, who runs it with his wife, was a former pastry chef at a three-Michelin-starred restaurant. Every single item sitting on the shelf in his patisserie/boulangerie is made from scratch THAT DAY. Some of the desserts are fancy and complicated and some (my favourites) are simple. His award-winning glazed madeleines are so worth the trip. Blé Sucré has a ruined me for eating croissants and madeleines from anywhere else; they aren’t worth the calories unless they are from here. We have 10 boulangeries in walking distance of our apartment, but we take the Metro three stops to go here in the morning; it is that good. Oh! His kouign-amann (a flaky buttery caramel pastry from Brittany) is to die for. I dare you to stop at one dessert.
Jacques Genin (133 Rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris) Jacques Genin is the maestro of patisserie. He is most famous for his eclairs, artful chocolates and unusually flavoured sea-salted caramels… so much so that if you go at the wrong time of day, you can face a long queue if you want a table. Otherwise, just go to the counter and take away, or check the graph on Google which shows you the least busy times before you go. Staff can be impatient and unfriendly; I don’t care. They’re allowed to kick me if they like, as long as I get one of those signature eclairs, a tarte citron, or a perfect wedge of flan.
Berthillon (31 rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile, 75004, Paris) The best ice cream in Paris and maybe the world. It is almost a religious experience; the flavours are pure and deep, the ingredients are fresh, and they don’t overwhelm the taste with too much sugar. There are more than 70 flavours; the Chocolat Noir takes me places chocolate has never taken me before.
Wendy Lyn Wendy is the reigning queen of the Paris food scene, and is the nicest lady as well (after all, she’s from Louisiana y’all). If you are an American President, Kimye, or just a regular shmuck, you can book one of her Paris food or wine tours here. There is nothing she doesn’t know about the wine and food business in Paris; she’s on a first name basis with any chef worth his/her salt.
The coffee in Paris is disgusting. They get everything else right, but coffee is dismal. Here are the places you won’t go wrong.
Coutume Cafe (47 Rue de Babylone, 75007, Paris) In one of Paris’ best neighbourhoods, you can naturally find the best cup of coffee. They roast their own beans on the premises from single origin estates. It is absolute perfection in a cup.
Fragments (76 Rue des Tournelles, 75003, Paris) Delicious coffee from various Parisian roasters (like Coutume and Belleville). They know exactly what they are doing here. You could almost think you are in Brooklyn from the decor.
Boot Café (19 rue du Pont aux Choux, 75003, Paris) This place is TINY! It seats four people, five at a push. In an ex shoe-repair shop (almost a literal hole in the wall) is this charming coffee shop where they turn out amazing coffees. Get yours in a cup to go if all of the seats are taken, or soak up the ambience inside if you are lucky enough to score a seat.
Ob-La-Di Café (54 rue de Saintonge, 75003, Paris) Unlike most of the coffee shops I’ve recommended which are solely about the coffee, this one has exquisite food as well. If you are a vegetarian, vegan, or require gluten-free food, you’ll love this. The coffee and the food are superb… if you can stop people-watching long enough to eat and drink.
Fondation Louis Vuitton
Fondation Louis Vuitton (Bois de Boulogne, 8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, 75116 Paris) Frank Gehry designed contemporary art space with an array of exhibits on at any time.
Hermes’ flagship store (24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris) Walk in and breeeeeeathe the luxury.
Place des Vosges (Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris) This splendid square just off the Rue de Turenne is one of the most beautiful parts of Paris in my opinion. I like to walk around the square early in the morning, before it gets too busy. Morning quiet combined with the symmetry of the square makes for a serene start to the day.
Marché aux Puces (Rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint Ouen) An enormous flea market without a single bargain in sight! It is still a wonderful way to spend a day, looking at beautifully presented stalls of antiques.
Deyrolle (46 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris) I can never decide if I love or hate this taxidermy shop with its most incredible collection. There are lions, polar bears, a giraffe, exotic birds, tigers, every colour butterfly imaginable, and enormous glittering beetles. I think there were polar bears and cubs in a rowboat once, but I might have dreamed it… hard to say. I wondered aloud in the store why there were no battle scars on the lions and why every animal seems in such pristine condition. I was told that every animal in there comes from zoos or died of natural causes, which makes it less creepy than it would be otherwise, and also explains the lack of scratches. Each animal looks like it might come to life at any moment.
The Louvre (Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris) If you’ve never been to the Louvre before, it can be overwhelming. Even if you’ve been many times, it is overwhelming! You can only scratch the surface of the staggering collection of art here. Book a tour in English. You’ll learn about the history of the Louvre as a palace, you’ll get historical information about the artwork, and the guide will steer you straight through all of the crowds so you can see all of the most important pieces in one trip (especially useful if you have disinterested teenagers or impatient family members). Guided tours are available every day at 11:00 and 2:00, except Tuesdays. I’ve done this three times with friends or family, and I always learn new things from each guide.
The interiors are as beautiful as the fossils at the Muséum National D’Histoire Naturelle
Jardin des Plantes (57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris) Lovely big gardens, lots of space for running around, a small zoo, and a Dinosaur Museum, otherwise known as the Muséum National D’Histoire Naturelle. This a a great place for families to spend a sunny day, and is my four year old son’s favourite place in Paris.
L’ Aquarium de Paris (5 Avenue Albert de Mun, 75016 Paris) A fantastic aquarium right near the Eiffel Tower, it has an enormous tank with several varieties of sharks, the most hypnotic room of jellyfish, an octopus, exotic fish, eels and anemones from all over the world, and a hands-on pool where children can touch and feed greedy koi fish.
Square de Temple (64 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris) In my opinion, one of Paris’ loveliest neighbourhood parks. Beautiful landscaping, surrounded by grand buildings, and with a duck pond in the centre, this park has an enormous sandpit and a big climbing area for children to get their energy out.
Always check websites for opening times when you’re planning your activities in Paris. Things change frequently. Also, August is when everyone is away on holiday, so even the stated hours may be different. Paris can be maddening if you come from somewhere where everything is open seven days a week, so always check to avoid frustration. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a trip to a specific store only to be greeted with a sign that says they’re closed that particular day.
If there is anything specific you’d like me to cover on Paris, shoot me an email, Tweet me, or leave me a comment below.
Receive my freshly baked weekly blog posts directly to your Inbox by subscribing below!
Linking to: honestmum