Every few weeks I get a message from somebody telling me they’re off to Paris, and asking for some advice on where to go. Just for context – I am half French and have family in Paris that I’ve been visiting regularly since I was born, and I also lived there for a year whilst I went to law school. So I know the place quite well! I’ve decided to put together a list of a few things that I absolutely adore about the city, places to visit, things to eat, and viewpoints. Some of these you could definitely do if you just had a weekend there, some you’d need a bit more time to do, but hopefully there will be something for everyone!
Whilst I’m a Parisian regular, I don’t know all there is to know so would love for people to comment below if you have any other advice for my readers ♥
- Visit the Place des Vosges
The Place des Vosges is a beautiful, historic part of Paris, situated in Le Marais. To get there, you can go to any one of the many metro stations nearby (although somehow I always end up going to Saint-Paul) then walk down the stunning cobbled streets to the gardens. The gardens, and the Marais itself, were historically home to the aristocracy, and whilst the rich fled the area after the Revolution, their homes remained intact. If you’re at all interested in architecture, this is certainly a place you won’t want to miss when visiting Paris. If you’re into theatre and the arts, Victor Hugo’s house (now a museum) is on the edge of the gardens themselves and open to visitors for a modest fee.
The arcades around the gardens contain many a typical Parisian café, including one of my all-time favourites, Carette. Get the hot chocolate and macaroons, and thank me later.
Tip: on your way out, go through the ‘secret door’ in the Hôtel de Sully garden!
2. Eat legendary falafel at L’As du Fallafel
Whilst you’re in Le Marais, you may as well take advantage of some of its serious culinary goodness. The area has gone through many phases over the centuries; originally home to the nobility, it became a commercial hotbed after the Revolution and the hardworking Jewish people set up shop there. Whilst it’s now known for its high-fashion boutiques, the Jewish culture (and people) has remained and people queue for hours for the world-famous falafel!
L’As du Fallafel is arguably the most famous falafel joint, closely followed by Miznon and Mi-Va-Mi. There is somewhat of a rivalry between the different outlets, who sell out of windows in the front of the shops; workers from each of the restaurants will sneakily run up and down the others’ queues trying to pull people away. Whichever one you end up at, I guarantee it will have been worth the wait.
PS – if chickpeas aren’t quite your thing, the vendors do also serve shawarma and other classic middle-eastern street foods.
Finally, I don’t want to make a third of these posts about Le Marais but L’Eclair de Génie is one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITE patisseries – please don’t leave without grabbing one (or three) of their mouth-watering eclairs to go!
3. Take in the best views of la Tour Eiffel from the Trocadero
This place seems to be simultaneously little-known and extremely popular. The Trocadéro itself is home to a number of museums, but the esplanade between the two wings of the building, along with the gardens below (pictured above) are the main tourist pull. The views of the Eiffel Tower are absolutely iconic – Kim Kardashian was famously pictured there on her bachelorette party, as was Rihanna back in 2013.
Over the other side of the (freaking enormous) roundabout are a number of beautifully typical Parisian cafés. FYI, the Trocadéro is in the 16th arrondissement, which is one of the more affluent parts of the city, so expect to see the front-facing seating outside the cafés full to the brim with old ladies adorned in fur, embracing young couples and of course, the lap dogs. All of them will be smoking. Well, maybe not the dogs.
4. Marvel at the Louis Vuitton Foundation
You’ve never seen anything quite like the Gehry-designed LV Foundation in the Bois de Boulogne, a little outside the Western outskirts of central Paris. Whatever you feel about its appearance, it’s hard to argue that the enormous, ship-like building is anything less than a dramatic, modern architectural feat. The interior is somewhat of a parallel universe, with visual trickeries placed around whitewashed, light-filled mezzanine layers. The building is actually an exhibition centre so what’s on show inside varies from season to season, but in any event, if you have a spare few hours it’s 100% worth visiting.
5. Get your princess on at the Château de Versailles
So Versailles is where I actually lived when I lived in Paris as that’s where my family are from. The Château is one of the most stunning castles in the world, and yes, I’m biased! The palace was home to the French royal family after Louis XIV moved them out of the Louvre; he also expanded the original building to the grand expanse it is now. The courtyard outside of the palace, along with the enormous gardens, lakes, labyrinths, grottoes and bosquets will take you an entire day to visit, which is why it’s not for everyone! And if you really want to make the most of the day, I’d recommend visiting the Trianons – Marie-Antoinette’s home – along with the royal stables, which are now home to l’Académie Equestre Nationale. At the latter, you can watch splendid dressage displays curated by Bartabas, one of the great horse masters of our time.
6. Get brunch (if you can) at the Canal Saint-Martin
The Canal Saint-Martin is officially Paris’ hipster zone, and is therefore the Place Where the Brunch Is. Holybelly is the crown jewel; due to my insatiable impatience when it comes to food, I’ve never actually been myself but friends have said that the queues are some two hours long. BUT – it’s worth it. If eggs and avo aren’t quite your thing, try somewhere like Pancake Sisters for some Insta-worthy goodness.
7. Shop at Les Galeries Lafayette
The Boulevard Haussman is one of Paris’ main shopping districts, and along with Le Printemps, the Galeries Lafayette offer a magical department-store experience. This is mainly due to the art nouveau architecture, with a beautiful glass dome perched over a sort of atrium. Each of the floors in the Galeries are circular, with circular balconies offering a view over the ground floor. Christmas is a super-special time in the Galeries as the ground floor houses an enormous Christmas tree; also, the window dressings become more and more spectacular each year, with a different designer lending their creativity to the visuals each time.
8. Eat the best crêpes outside of Brittany
Bretagne is where I spent most of my childhood holidays, as it’s where my great-grandparents lived and where we still have a couple of homes. So needless to say when it comes to crêpes, which are a Breton staple, I’m somewhat patriotic about the matter. But I’m pleased to say that you won’t quite need to go to the West Coast for a galette complète; the Montparnasse area is, for reasons I can’t quite figure out, home to a handful of amazing crêperies that rival Brittany. It’s easy to get there, as la Gare Montparnasse is one of the biggest train/metro stations in the city centre; once you’re at the station, head to Rue d’Odessa or Rue du Montparnasse and take your pick.
Most people aren’t aware, but the true way to eat crêpes is to have a galette first; a savoury pancake made with a darker flour, giving a crispier, saltier finish. The galette complète is the most popular – ham, egg and cheese. You’ll want your egg “miroir” – a fried egg – crack the yolk over the rest of the crêpe and enjoy. For your sweet crèpe, there are no rules, but my personal favourite is stewed apples with caramel beurre salé (salted butter caramel). Wash the meal down with a cidre doux – a softer-tasting cidre that is served in bowls, as per the tradition.
As a side note, I generally find that food in Paris is a) overpriced and b) not actually that nice. Yep, I said it! My nan’s house is most definitely my favourite place to eat, and I only venture out to restaurants I’ve tried and tested. But you can’t really go wrong with crêpes, which are usually not too pricey and always taste heavenly (as long as you go to the right places).
If you’re dead set on eating some real French cuisine, I’d recommend finding a Perigord restaurant (there are a few in the Latin Quarter). Expect rich, traditional French food like onion soup, confit duck, and boeuf bourguignon.
9. Take in the night time lights
Paris is never quite as stunning to me as it is at nighttime, and one of my favourite places to visit is the Louvre. The glass pyramid is beautiful when lit up; if you’ve ever watched the Da Vinci Code you’ll know it from the final scene! You can also see the Eiffel Tower from here, which lights up and sparkles (it’s a lot more impressive than I’m making it sound) every hour.
If you’re up for it, can then walk straight down the Tuileries Gardens (I don’t think they’re closed at night) and up the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe.
That’s it from me for now! I might update this periodically as and when I visit and adventure a little more.
all picture credit to their respective owners (save for where the owner is clearly me!)