The more time I spend in Paris, the more I dream of packing everything up and moving. But I don't think I could actually ever live there - I don't want the magic to fade. I don't want the reality of Paris to creep in any more than it has. Give me the cafe culture, the shaded parks, the jaw-droppingly beautiful buildings, the hours of wandering in the city, the culture, the museums, the food, the restaurants.
Paris is divided into the Right and Left Banks by the River Seine. The grandest hotels are on the right bank (like the lovely Le Bristol or gorgeous Mandarin Oriental). But I also love staying on the Left Bank, in the 6th arr., for the winding streets, shops to get lost in, and generally dreamy state of being. Come to Paris to eat, drink, and celebrate life. It is absolute perfection. Paris, Je T'aime.
6th arrondissement/SAINT GERMAIN DES PRÉS
Cherche-Midi: One of my favorite neighborhood restaurants and it happens to be Italian. It's been open for over 35 years and is an absolutely Parisian crowd. You will only hear French being spoken. It's a tiny sliver of a place and they are kind and funny (and speak enough English to get by). Get the burrata!
Café de Flore: It's well-known but a great mix of locals and tourists. There is nothing better than a glass of wine here at 11 p.m. (172 Blvd Saint-Germain)
La Société: Around the corner from Café de Flore - gorgeous outdoor setting for lunch and a super sophisticated, power-lunch vibe inside. Feels like the center of some kind of social scene - not inexpensive. (Don't expect much from their website.)
La Palette: Another wonderful cafe to while away a few hours with great eggs and coffee. Frequented by Picasso & Hemingway.
Pierre Hermé: Famous in Paris for good reason. Their jewel-box of a store is beautiful and they have insane pain au chocolat along with the macarons they are known for.
Poilane: Paris' most famous bread. I love their little raisin rolls. But my favorite way to enjoy Poilane bread is next door at Comptoir Poilane (used to be Cuisine de Bar), a favorite spot for lunch, where they have tartines (open-faced sandwiches) on Poilane bread and fresh juices.
Gérard Mulot Pastry: A gorgeous shop for cakes, pastries, and sandwiches to eat in Luxembourg Gardens. Try their little bite-sized quiches and savory treats. (76 Rue de Seine)
Boulevard Raspail Market - Also open on Tuesdays & Fridays, but visit on a Sunday for Paris' most glorious all-organic market.
Gab & Jo: LOVE this French concept store - meaning, everything in it is made in or from France. The owner is so nice and he named it after his kids, Gabriel and Josephine. I found cool jewelry and my new wallet here.
Le Derniere Goutte - The most perfect corner wine shop. Photos here.
Stay: The Hotel du Danube is a cozy, three-star, family-owned property with an ideal location - I have stayed here many times and loved it. I also loved this gorgeous apartment I stayed in (rented through Paris Perfect) for a week.
Le Bon Marché: My favorite department store in the world. It's an absolutely beautiful, serene place to shop and the interior was designed by Gustav Eiffel. La Grand Epicerie Food Hall: Right next to Le Bon Marché. Massive, gorgeous gourmet food hall.
Cafe de Mars: Though it's close to the Eiffel Tower, its location on a quiet side street means this place is locals-only. Casual and delicious.
Chez L'Ami Jean: The chef, Stéphane, is so FRENCH - totally boisterous and wonderful. It's loud, known for really big rustic French food and don't miss the rice pudding (riz au lait) for dessert.
Cafe Varenne: A postcard-perfect Parisian cafe, near the Rodin Museum. Love their omelets & cappuccinos. A favorite Instagram photo here.
Barthelemy - Tiny, incredible cheese shop that stocks hundreds of varieties. The exterior looks like a movie set. They don't speak much English but will help guide your purchase as best they can!
Le Bistrot de Paris - Old-school Parisian restaurant on a lovely street that is great for lunch before or after visiting the Musee d'Orsay.
Quintessence: I picked up two of my favorite candles from this small, beautiful shop that creates the scents for many well-known fashion and hotel brands (38 rue de L’Universite - can't find website)
Au Bain Marie: Gorgeous shop for drooling over expensive kitchenware and objet d'art (56 Rue de L’Universite).
Olivier de Sercey: Beautiful stationery store on one of my favorite shopping streets in Paris, Rue du Bac (96 Rue du Bac).
Deyrolle: Walk in, and you won't know what awaits you when you climb to the second floor - the most famous taxidermy shop in the world and rooms filled with stuffed creatures from birds to tigers (46 Rue du Bac). A must-visit - only in Paris!
More Paris Tips....
Context Travel has the BEST walking tours and I have taken several in Paris, including the Louvre Crash Course, City Invented (focusing on how Baron Haussmann tore down much of medieval Paris to build the grand boulevards we know today) and the day trip excursion to Normandy (Alexander Wilson was a phenomenal guide whose father landed at Normandy on June 7, 1944).
I cannot recommend Wendy Lyn of The Paris Kitchen enough - her food tours are the BEST in the city. She also knows every chef, every restaurant owner, and every great place to eat - she is the key to Paris' food scene. Along with David Lebovitz, her food blog has the best insider info.
Six Reasons To Visit Paris Now - I wrote this piece for National Geographic in November 2014.
Le Saint Regis: The perfect cafe near Notre Dame - touristy but locals love it, too. Get the French toast if you're there on a Sunday.
Berthillon: You'll see the "Berthillon" sign all over Paris but line up at the original Berthillon for a classic Parisian experience - the ice cream really is so good.
3rd arrondissement (the marais)
Musée Carnavalet: If you love the dreamy world of Belle Epoque (the "Golden Age" or "Beautiful Age") Paris, this museum is for you. I wanted to jump into the paintings of 19th-century Paris, where parties, lunches, glasses of wine, and horse-drawn carriages ruled the social scene. You will find something to love here, including the interior (two beautiful former mansions).
L'as du Fallafel: I guess you have to eat here once if you come to Paris? Honestly, Taim in New York is better. The line is long and I likely wouldn't waste another Paris meal here.
La Droguerie: Truly delicious crepes - sweet and savory! Squeeze into the tiny seating area, or take yours to go.
Place des Vosges: One of Paris' oldest squares, and a dreamy, beautiful place to sit, people watch, or read. A Paris must.
Chez Janou: A great lunch spot in the Marais for mussels & white wine. Finish it off with the chocolate mousse, which comes in a bowl twice the size of your head. They'll spoon out a big blob for you.
Rose Bakery: This cute spot feels more like London - great for a quick coffee or snack.
Gourmanyat and Son Royaume - A wonderful spice store that has been around forever! Don't miss the bottom level for wine and the top level for teas and more spices.
Frenchie & Frenchie To Go: I had a great dinner here and it all felt very Brooklyn - try Frenchie To Go for lunch or dinner (and the lobster roll) if you don't want to deal with reservations.
G. Detou: Specialty store that is heaven for bakers and chefs - and for the rest of us, still fun to browse!
Du Pain et des Idées: Famous pastry shop and bakery that is totally worth the slightly off-the-beaten-track visit. Closed on the weekends!
1st arrondissement (Louvre area)
The Louvre: I always recommend Context Travel walking tours and really loved their three-hour Louvre Crash Course tour.
LouLou: If you love gorgeous museum restaurants, LouLou will be a favorite. On a beautiful Paris day, there is nothing like sitting outside drinking wine with a view of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs as your backdrop. The inside of LouLou is also beautiful, but it's best sitting al fresco on a beautiful day. I ate alone, surrounded by an older French couple on one side and two male friends on the other - both enjoying multi-course lunches and wine. My (French) heroes.
Galignani (bookstore): You'll probably already stop at Shakespeare & Co across from Notre Dame, but I love this beautiful, famous bookshop right next to hot chocolate mecca Angelina, too. A large English selection.
Le Fumoir: Since it's so close to the Louvre, you'd expect this cafe to be a tourist trap. It's not. It's amazing people-watching and strikes the perfect Art Deco, British lounge-y feeling. Perfect for coffee or a meal. Total Paris favorite.
Tuileries Gardens: Right next to the Louvre - the loveliest park to walk around, read, and inhale baguettes and cheese.
Le Meurice: Hotel bar of my dreams! You pay rent for the bar space and for the drink. Oh, the people-watching...
Le Grand Vefour: If you have one blow-out meal in Paris, make it Le Grand Vefour for total old-world French elegance (it's been around since 1784) and innovative but delicious cuisine. I came for lunch, which is a relative bargain compared to dinner. Either way, it is one of Paris' greatest and you can sit where Napoleon sat.
E. Dehillerin: Julia Child's favorite shop for copper pots - a fun stop.
Four Seasons Hotel George V: You have to stop in here at least to see the flower arrangements! Designed by Jeff Leatham, they are always breathtaking. The bar and lobby area is fantastic. I am in a very happy place at the George V.
Le Bistrot Paul Bert: I won't visit Paris without eating at this classic bistro and eating the sarawak filet, or the best steak-frites of your life - if you don't see it on the menu, ask. They always have it! As Wendy Lyn told me, "It actually does not have the words steak-frites any where on the menu but everyone tells you to go there for it. The dish they are talking about is actually quite specific – a filet of beef rolled in crushed sarawak peppercorns and deglazed with Cognac, butter & cream. It doesn’t get much better than that. Owner Bertrand Auboyneau is a hero in my eyes and to us food industry folk & locals in terms of providing that now rare place where every one feels like family, it “looks” like a period Parisian bistro, the food is fresh, seasonal and changes every day. Who doesn’t love the BPB? Doesn’t exist anywhere else in Paris." Call ahead for a reservation!
Ober Mamma: My dear Parisian friend took me here and I loved it. It has almost a Venice Beach kind of vibe - large and airy - with fantastic Italian at a great value. It's always packed. The restaurant group has several "Mamma" locations around the city.
Blé Sucré: As someone who thought madeleines were kind of meh, this neighborhood bakery changed my mind with soft little cakes drizzled in a light citrusy glaze. Also has insanely good pain au chocolat and croissants. Definitely worth the ten-minute walk from the Bastille metro stop - the main street you'll walk on is not exactly charming but soon you'll arrive at this lovely bakery and neighborhood square.
Pierre Sang on Gambey: Top Chef finalist Pierre Sang has two restaurants on the same street and I recently enjoyed a memorable "free-style" tasting menu at his newest one, Pierre Sang on Gambey. Pierre himself is one of the kindest, most welcoming chefs I've met anywhere, let alone in Paris. Say hi and enjoy one of the best meals in Paris! See Wendy Lyn's review here.