As Audrey Hepburn famously put it: “Paris is always a good idea.” It is one of those cities that is on everyone’s bucket list and even for the jet set crowd, for whom the whole world is their playground, it is a spot to return to again and again.
No matter how many times you have been, its feats of architectural genius, legendary breads, pastries, macaroons and of course the countless museums never get boring. And while its impeccible art collection is a big draw for global tastemakers and the international fashion crowd, the best museum in Paris truly is Paris itself.
Around every corner of this historic and enchanting city, you’ll discover hidden architectural gems, towering cathedrals and endless inimitable nuances that make Paris one of the most beautiful- not to mention walk-able- cities in the world. There truly is nowhere like it.
If you’ve never been before or are in need of a refresh, here’s our insider tips on why you should go, what you should do when you there, the best places to stay and- don’t forget- the best time to visit…
WHY GO TO PARIS
It’s the world’s most romantic city
Whether it’s taking garden walks in early spring (like Christian Louboutin, who says he finds inspiration in the morning light of Jardin des Tuileries), or strolling along the river after a long rain, Paris is, hands down, the most romantic city in the world. From iconic love stories, to legendary Vogue photo shoots, literary charm or historic art- the city has played backdrop to world-shaping fashion and culture like no other and offers magical architectural beauty in almost every corner. It is, above all else, a city to fall in love in- be it with a person, a brasserie or a Chanel bag.
The History and Culture
Across its enchanted streets, through its iconic museums, dreamy gallery exhibits, world-famous architectural feats- few destinations with as much history and culture as Paris. This city exudes art, culture and architecture with every step you take. From Notre Dame, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, to the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur, and La Conciergerie (the famous prison where Marie-Antoinette and several Revolutionary-Era prisoners were held). Truly, the offerings are endless. Loose yourself in the royal decadence in Versailles, or celebrate like Camile Miceli (Louis Vuitton’s style muse in 1950’s) at Crazy Horse cabaret, drink where Hemingway mixed the writers and artists Le Dôme (109 Boulevard du Montparnasse) in a fantasy 1920’s world of Tiffany lamps, potted palms, oysters served on on crushed ice; Paris is a capital city of culture, history and true style.
French Cuisine and Wine
Chocolate aside, there’s nothing quite like French cuisine – from the trail-blazing sexy-young chefs of Paris to the old-world breads, duck and, of course, the wine. There’s so much to enjoy in this city of delicious opportunities, but it’s always a wise choice to find food away from the tourist landmarks. There’s nothing more authentic than opting for traditional comfort food and genuine decor that is barely translatable and nonexportable.
Brasserie Lipp on boulevard Saint-Germain is the quintessence of nineteenth-century Alsacian brasseries- and has hosted the who’s who of Paris’s fashion, politician and general power-crowd. Or Bistrot Victoires on Place des Victoires in the first arrondissement, a quaint and quintessentially Parisian café-bar-restaurant has more cheese, wine and food than you’ll know what to do with. Best yet, you can buy a Confit de Canard for an unheard-of €10.90 – simply pair that with a carafe of Côtes du Rhône and you’re all set.
It’s heaven for shoppers
The shopping in Paris is, hands down, the best in the world. With massive department stores including Le Bon Marché, Printemps and the more youth-driven Galeries Lafayette, not to mention the luxury mono-brand boutiques along the ultra-glam Rue Saint-Honoré, this city is a fashionable dream come true. But if you’re looking for designer clothing at a fraction of the cost, visit during “Les Soldes” (or “the sales”). From early January to mid-February, and from late June to early August, stores around the city offer remarkable discounts – sometimes at up to 70 percent off.
WHAT TO DO
La Tour Eiffel
Old-world but always elegant, the Eiffel Tower is a must-do. Even for the fashionable locals, there’ll never be a more classic moment than unwinding in front of this Parisian beauty, picnicking on the Champ de Mars with a baguette in one hand and a tray of cheeses in the other. And don’t forget the wine, s’il vous plaît. If you want to see the view from a gorgeous and romantic terrace, visit the Shangri-La (formerly Roland Bonaparte’s, Napoleon III’s nephews private mansion) or grab a drink and a small plate at the top of the sleek Georges Restaurant at the top of the Pompidou Center, famous for its panoramic views.
The Parks & Recreations
Not far from the Panthéon is Luxembourg Gardens, where in the spring and summer there’ll be a wide variety of sports (including tennis courts and chess tables) and relaxing fountains ready to be enjoyed, or Instagrammed. Pull up a seat against one of the ponds, like a true local, and enjoy time with friends or a good book – of a bag of chocolates from the charming Debauve et Gallais that once provided chocolates to Marie-Antoinette.
The Bohemian Montmartre
Ask any stylish Parisian or high-powered fashion publicist where to spend one day in Paris and they’ll romantically sigh “Montmartre.” Once the a bohemian playground of poets, painters and anyone holding a true artistic spirit, it now boasts excellent restaurants and street artists around every bend – and, of course, the stunning Sacré Coeur Basilica. With one of the best views of the city, the steps to the Sacré Coeur are as stunningly beautiful as they are exhausting to walk up – and at 270 steps, that’s saying something.
The River Seine
Whenever you find yourself exhausted from wandering the cobblestone streets of Le Marais, or climbing the steps of Montmartre, the River Seine might be just the R&R moment you needed. Browse its bookshop-lined banks, dangle your legs across the edge and drink a demi-bottle of rose or take to the waters in a boat tour of the city. With tours such as Bateaux-Mouches, they offer a different perspective to the usual sites – Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Musée d’Orsay and more. Sit back, relax and enjoy picturesque Paris, which can be especially romantic for night-time cruises.
Paris’s Night Life
If night-time boat cruises aren’t quite your thing, fear not, because Paris at night offers an interesting mix of seedy, classy and trendy hotspots. While it’s not known as a city for all-night adventures, it does have a wide variety of clubs, bars and delightfully old-world jazz joints. Le Montana (26 rue Saint-Benoit) is where Kate Moss heads when in town or plunge yourself six-floors deep underground to Silencio (142 rue Montmatre) which was decorated by David Lynch and has hosted Hermes and Gareth Pugh events. That said, the French have perfected their café-and-chill culture to the finest. Find yourself at any late-night street-side café with a bottle of wine and prepare yourself to see the city as its best – as a luminescent masterpiece at night.
Like all good things, Paris has its darker side. The Catacombs, an underground ossuary spanning 174 miles beneath the city, contains the remains of some six million people. Its countless caverns and tunnels are a daunting concoction of skulls and bones, and were once used by the French Resistance during the Second World War. They are now open to anyone searching for the macabre. There’s also a nearby sewer museum.
When in Paris, you don’t need to leave but sometimes a trip into the countryside is a much-deserved reprieve from city life. Only an hour by train, the Château de Versailles and the Château de Chantilly are, by far, the top contenders for a countryside day trip. At Versailles, the history of France comes to life in true luxury, while at the more comfortably sized Chantilly you’ll find the original hamlet that inspired Marie-Antoinette’s small farm at the palace. Chantilly is also far less crowded than Versailles, and if you visit in the spring or summer, you’re likely to taste the most delicious Chantilly cream with strawberries in their garden café.
WHERE TO STAY
With its prime location in the First Arrondissement, on the Rue de Rivoli, Le Meurice stands out as one of Paris’s best, most luxurious hotels and is hands down the magnet for the international fashion crowd. It’s just a few short minutes away from the Louvre Museum, across the street from the Tuileries Garden and a decent walk from countless memorable sights – the National Opera House, Place de la Concorde, and Grand Palais. Famous guests have included surrealist artist Salvador Dali, fashion designers Viktor & Rolf, Vogue editors from all over the world and Russian billionaires – so you’ll be in great company.
Located in the Eighth Arrondissement, on the most fashionable street in Paris, Rue Saint-Honoré, is Le Bristol a grande-dame palace owned by the Oetkers (one of Europe’s richest families). This long-established and highly distinguished landmark hotel offers a great experience (a spa and an indoor rooftop pool) and arguably the best night’s sleep in the city. Insider’s tip? Stay at Easter when they traditionally celebrate with real bunnies in the garden, a treasure hunt and goodie bags.
A boutique hotel with only 20 rooms, Maison Souquet falls on the smaller, quainter side of luxury. Complete with Jacque Garcia décor, this Pigalle-located historic building combines Parisian elegance with a flair for romance – perfect for a couple’s getaway.
Once known as Hôtel d’Alsace, today it’s simply referred to as L’Hotel, this historical hotel is where Oscar Wilde died in room 16 in 1900. L’Hotel makes the second boutique luxury hotel on this list, with each of its 20 rooms decorated by Jacques Garcia (he’s a favorite of ours). Parisian and literary charm aside, there’s a lot to love about this hotel, especially the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Restaurant.
BONUS TIP: WHEN TO VISIT
The summers in Paris are never too hot for long – a week or two at tops. Because of that, June and July are usually the best times to visit, when the weather is just about parfait (or perfect), and when the average temp is mid-70s and the days are long. Unfortunately, that’s when all the other tourists will be coming into town, so be prepared for the crowds.
If a crowd isn’t your thing, then August definitely is. Because this is when most locals depart on summer vacation and Paris becomes an enchanting maze of empty streets, but you’re also more likely to find closed restaurants and bakeries. This is a great time to visit if you’re looking for a chance to relax.
Les Soldes – For the Shoppers
Visit the gardens of Paris in early spring or fall, if you’re in the mood for a colorful change of seasons; however, seasons aren’t only changing in the gardens. From early January to mid-February, or late June to early August, you’ll find major “soldes” (or sales) going on across the city, and it’s the perfect time to buy designer clothing. Don’t be surprised if you find some of last season’s Dries Van Noten for up to 70% off at Les Bon Marché.