Paris is instantly recognisable – the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, crimson pergaloniums bobbing on Haussmann balconies. Yet past these icons lies a city brimming with diverse experiences; we spoke to our Paris experts Judy and Stephanie, who hand-pick the finest hotels in the city, to give us an inside glance at what makes the City of Lights so enthralling…
Experience artistic Paris
“It’s when I’m in Montmartre, that I feel most ‘Parisian’…” says our Paris expert Stephanie Tan.
Don’t be put off by Montmartre’s touristy side; Instead, dodge through the crowds of selfie sticks and embrace the breathtaking views from the steps of the Sacré-Cœur. Dive into the narrow streets of this hilltop ‘artist’s quarter’ and make like a movie star (Amelie Poulain was filmed in the Café des deux Moulins here); “You can find all these typical French bistros where locals go to enjoy a meal or a coffee, listening to the accordion. It may seem a little clichéd, but it’s authentic; and incredibly charming!”
But there are alternative artistic adventures to be had too. If the long queue shuffling past the Louvre’s Mona Lisa isn’t for you, why not seek out the the l’Atelier des Lumieres? Located in an old foundry in the 11th arrondissement, this is Paris’ first digital art centre, hosting immersive exhibitions across 2,000 square metres – and not a selfie stick in sight…
Nibble on Paris’ best bits
“For a romantic weekend, you can find all these divine restaurants, such as La Tour d’Argent, popular for the Philippe Labbé cuisine…” The city is famous for fine dining, but if you want to indulge in a little haute cuisine at high-end places like L’Abeille or Septime remember to book well ahead. For authentic French food without breaking the bank, try a bistro option. Every neighbourhood has its own treasures, but Bistrot Paul Bert in the 11th is a Parisian classic and Café Constant in the 7th also comes highly recommended (and doesn’t take bookings).
For a different type of foodie experience, our expert Judy Garber recommends getting lost in Parisian markets; “As an unconditional food lover, I would always go to the ‘Marché des Enfants Rouges’ during the weekend: this place is the ultimate spot to try delicacies from across the globe. The ‘Rue des Sentiers’ and its area are also a must: I recommend you try the Jewish patisseries in the Florence Kahn bakery.” Alternatively, visit the Marche Belleville-Menilmontant (get there early) and savour both local produce and North African specialities. Great food spills out along the Boulevard de Belleville, with patisseries and cafés perfectly situated for a spot of market respite.
Paris by water
“Take a stroll along the Canal St Martin and fall in love with all the artist’s galleries…”
A classic Seine river cruise on a Bateaux-Mouches offers a unique perspective of Paris’ elegant architecture. But for something a little more intimate, “…opt for the Marins d’Eau douce experience on the Canal St Martin or on the Ourcq Canal, where you’ll feel like a born and bred Parisian.” Explore the area’s cluster of galleries, eateries and boutiques – Le Point Ephemere being a popular local meeting point.
Paris beyond the centre
“Recently, I have been spending time in the 18th and 20th arrondissements, known as ‘La Villette – Belleville – Menilmontant Triangle’. This is an up-and-coming area, with a cosmopolitan feel – To me this is where the heart of Paris beats the loudest.”
Central Paris has much to offer but if it you are prepared to travel out a little, the lanes of Belleville will reward you. La Bellevilloise is a great venue for food, drinks, dancing and exhibitions – perfect for brunch (with live jazz on Sundays). La Fleche d’Or and Le Cabaret Sauvage also offer music, but if that sounds too noisy, the Père Lachaise cemetery combines tranquility and the chance to commune with Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. Whatever you do, drop into the fashionable bars lining Rue De Ménilmontant for a cocktail.