Paris, je t’aime! I’m back after a long-weekend away in the City of Lights (and boy, did it make me want to move back!) Having lived in Paris for 18 months during my undergrad, I took the opportunity to return to as many of my favourite places during my 3-day return trip last weekend. My best friend Ella and I didn’t get to see all of them, but it did make me realise it’s about time I shared an ex-Parisian’s guide to the city! Read on to discover some of my local favourites and sustainable hangouts in France’s capital city…
How To Make The Most Of Paris
For anyone visiting Paris for the first time, I usually recommend spending time dedicated to the three following areas: Montmartre, Louvre to Arc de Triomphe, and Le Marais & Saint Michel. Each area will give you a different view of the city, both geographically and culturally. If you’re there for a long weekend, I recommend choosing a place for each day, visiting the main sights, and doing some exploring for yourself…
In Montmartre, you’ll get to see the Sacré Coeur in all its glory, as well as great view of the Paris skyline. Then there’s the lovely cafés in Abbesses (and the café where Amelie was filmed), the artists in Place du Tertre, the Moulin Rouge in Pigalle, and hidden gems like the Dali Museum. In the evening, try Seb’on or Cafe de Luce for modern takes on traditional French food.
2. Louvre to Arc de Triomphe
This is an essential walk during your time in Paris. Alongfrom the Louvre to Arc de Triomphe, you get a glimpse at Paris from the eyes of Napoleon, with one long impressive road leading straight to the Arc de Triomphe. Stroll through Jardins des Tuileries, take a selfie at Place de la Concorde (or wave the President hello), and then decide if you want to walk up the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe, or across to Avenue Montaigne for some designer window shopping, or further left for Pont Alexandre III to see the most beautifully decorated bridge in the city. If you do head to Arc de Triomphe, make the most of its viewing platforms. I’d argue it’s the best vantage point in the city.
3. Le Marais & Saint Michel
Then finally, Le Marais & Saint Michel. For these two areas on either side of the Seine, you’ll find lots of little places to stop, shop, and enjoy. You can start on either side, or even extend your time and start in Saint Germain de Pres or Jardin du Luxembourg, or do what we did and head to Du Pain et Des Idées for breakfast before making your way south. In the Marais, you’ll find authentic Parisian cafés and restaurants, as well as thrift shops, delis, bars, and more. Between these two districts lies the Notre Dame on Ile de la Cité, and east of that, Ile Saint Louis, one of the most decadent places to live in Paris. Then Saint Michel – it’s something of a tourist hotspot, so head here for Shakespeare & Company and more sightseeing, but don’t bother for food (with the exception of the Maoz felafel shops or Creperie Genia, which used to cater to my student budget with their 3 euro meal deals). If you’ve got time, then head over to the Musée d’Orsay, my favourite museum in Paris!
The Best Places In Paris (In My Opinion)
Ok, now onto a quick run-down of my favourite places in the city, by category. This list is in no way exhaustive, and in all honesty Paris is one of those cities where almost every café, restaurant, and shop has something incredible to discover. But, from my experience, these will guarantee a good visit…
Best Bakery In Paris
Du Pain et Des Idées
34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010, Paris, France
Start your day right with a fresh, crisp, buttery croissant from Du Pain et Des Idées. While you’re there, treat yourself to a pain au chocolat or two. And then, the bread. Oh Paris, you make me eat far too many carbs…
Other bakeries I love… Eric Kayser at Duroc, Pierre Hermé for macarons, and Bio c’ Bon for organic produce.
Best Museum In Paris
1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France
The Musée d’Orsay might not be as well known as the Louvre, but it’s arguably better. At a size that’s do-able in a few hours, it’s host to incredible pieces like Bouguereau’s The Birth of Venus, as well as world-class exhibits. Currently on is Yves Saint Laurent and Vincent Van Gogh, where I spent most of my time. You can also get some beautiful views of the city from the top floor.
Other museums I love… Dali Museum, Louvre (but go for a full day, and go alone!), and the Picasso Museum.
Best Green Space In Paris
1 Coulée Verte René-Dumont, 75012 Paris, France
Hidden away in the east is my favourite green space in the city, the Coulée Verte. This walk makes the most of a disused railway line, with long stretches of greenery and a park at the end with sparkling water fountains. In the summer, you’ll find Parisians lounging around and tanning, unlike many of the more central parks.
Other green spaces I love… Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, Parc des Buttes Chaumont.
Best Thrift Shop In Paris
69-71 Rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris, France
I have to admit, my knowledge on second-hand shopping in Paris is potentially outdated now, but while I was there, Kilo Shop was my favourite. Here I could purchase scarves, belts, jeans, and more at a relatively low cost, and then wonder into the rest of the Marais for other items. I’m looking for new recommendations, so please do let me know in the comments if you know any others!
Other thrift shops I love… Free’p’star, and Porte de Clignancourt flea market.
Best Jazz Bar In Paris
Caveau des Oubliettes
52 Rue Galande, 75005 Paris, France
I was first introduced to live jazz when in Paris during my student days, and I’ve been a fan ever since. On our return back this year, we booked in at the Caveau des Oubliettes for a jazz and funk night. It was a hoot! If you plan on going, give the bands a listen ahead of booking, and be sure to get comfy in the underground caveau and order from your table.
Other jazz bars I love… Caveau de la Huchette, and Duc des Lombards.
Best Bar In Paris
Little Red Door
60 Rue Charlot, 75003 Paris, France
Little Red Door was a new find on our weekend away, and I love it there. An intimate, chilled bar, their seasonal drinks menu features specific ingredients sourced from local producers, with interesting combinations… tomatoes, red kiwi, barley, and more. And whether alcoholic or not, they’ll cater to you with a warm smile and delicious selection. LDR doesn’t take reservations, so just roll up, and wait for your turn to duck inside…
And you’ll note…
…that I didn’t dare put ‘Best Restaurant in Paris’, because there’s just so so many. If you’re looking for a taste of traditional French food, try Cafe de Flores, Les Marmottes, Seb’on, or Robert et Louise. But in all honesty, my best advice is to discover restaurants while there. Let the city guide you! Bon voyage, and bon appetit, in equal measure!