Paris: My chosen favourites
My time in Paris is nearly coming to an end after a jam-packed, unforgettable 3 months here. Naively I came here thinking I knew my way round Paris a fair bit after having been to Paris on a few school trips back in the day and weekend trips with my family en route to Disneyland. However I was sorely mistaken. Living and working in Paris is significantly different to visiting Paris as a tourist, as I have discovered.
Without a doubt the Paris Metro app has been an absolute Godsend for me, helping me navigate my way around the city, smoothly and successfully without ending up in the middle of nowhere. I really would have struggled without it!
In addition, weekend visits from friends and family have enabled me as well as my visitors to get to know the city better and to see and do new things that I probably would not have done on my own, from spending a small fortune on Ladurée Macaroons (worth every single penny) to cycling along the Seine to climbing up the Arc de Triomph and the Notre Dame (which until recently I was not aware you could do).
So in order to conclude my time in Paris I thought I’d write down some of my personal tried and tested recommendations from my short time here, which seems to have completely flown by.
Brunch in Paris
Brunch on Sunday is very popular in Paris and ranges from a selection of viennoiseries to scrambled eggs, bacon, omelettes and pancakes depending on how big your appetite is!
One of my favourite places to go for brunch and one of the first places I went to when I came to Paris is Merci (111 Boulevard Beaumarchais 75003). Not only is it a memorable place to eat and drink and enjoy the cosy atmosphere but away from the restaurant there is also a concept store selling expensive clothes and one-off accessories, which is worth having a look at even just for inspiration.
Perfect for breakfast a light snack or even just a slice of cake and a coffee Merci is the ideal place to come and relax at the weekend. Immerse yourself in one of the thousands of worldly books stacked around you and escape the craziness of Paris for an afternoon. Admittedly the prices are pretty steep (€8 for boiled eggs and soldiers) but the ambience in itself makes it worth the price. You could spend hours there one lazy Sunday afternoon engrossed in one of the many books surrounding you.
Eggs & Co. (11 Rue Bernard Palissy 75006) is another favourite and specialises (as the name suggest) in egg based dishes, however there is also a brunch menu offering fresh fruit and pancakes as well as omelettes. Nestled away in one of the streets of the trendy Saint Germain dès Près, Eggs & Co. prides itself on sourcing organic ingredients for its dishes. Obviously it’s all about free range eggs here. Pick and choose your own organic ingredients from a variety of options or simply go for their recommendations. When I went I had a mixture of Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine which was delicious but the omelettes also looked divine. Plus after eating a healthy, protein based brunch you feel sufficiently full for the rest of the day.
Sometimes you can’t beat walking into a classic French Boulangerie (I’m not talking about Paul!) and choosing a freshly baked croissant or Pain au chocolate to have on the go. The smell of freshly baked viennoiseries lingers every whereon the streets of Paris, tempting you wherever you go. Unsurprisingly Boulangeries are in abundance in Paris, so you’ll never go without breakfast!
I love all things sweet and Paris has only fuelled my love for it and provided me with temptation that I have to try my hardest to resist.
One of my favourite places to go when I have visitors is Angelina’s (226 Rue de Rivoli) an exquisite salon du thé renowned for its indulgent ‘l’African’ Hot Chocolate and its appetising pastries particularly the ‘Mont Blanc’. The hot chocolate is truly something out of this world and probably your entire daily calorie intake in one sitting! Rich, velvety chocolate in liquid form, it’s almost a desert in itself! Although expensive (€8) it is worth it for the exceptional quality. No watery, luke warm, milky hot chocolate served here: only the best.
It goes without saying when you are in Paris you have to visit Ladurée the renowned French patisserie company. I would definitely recommend heading to the shop on the Champs Elysées (their main one) even if you don’t buy anything, it’s worth just heading there just to peek in at the window to see the fabulous, enticing Patisseries on offer. You will be amazed at the selection of macaroons available, it’s not known as one of the best known macaroon makers in the world for nothing! I have to admit when I went there I had a very generous visitor who treated me to a box of 14, which cost a small fortune as you can imagine!
Proper food and drink
With regards to bars, Fantôme (36 rue de Paradis, Oberkampf) is a trendy, casual bar perfect for after-work drinks and ideal if you fancy something different. There are a handful of arcade games available to play as well as the option to sit down and enjoy one of their homemade Pizzas whilst sipping on one of their delicious cocktails.
Similarly Ave Maria (1 Rue Jacquard, 75011) is another favourite; it’s a really fun bar/restaurant with a really chilled out, unique vibe. Crazy, colourful, eclectic interior complement the exotic South American and Caribbean influenced dishes and cocktails.
Earth’s Kitchen (5 Rue Daunou, 75002) at Opéra is great place to head for their wide selection of cocktails and delicious tapas dishes and light bites. Plus there’s ‘happy hour’ from 18h-20h Monday to Friday - even more reason to go and sample one or several of their cocktails. (Their raspberry Mojito’s are delicious).
Le Perchoir Sky Bar (14 rue Crespin du Gast 75011 Paris) a trendy rooftop bar, which translates as ‘the roost’ is discretely hidden away from the bustling Paris side streets and not somewhere you would come across by accident. Enter a deserted looking warehouse and take the lift to the 7th floor and be amazed at the stunning panoramic views over Paris. Rooftop bars aren’t just for summer. Outdoor heaters as well as fleece blankets are provided for your comfort allowing you to relax on the cushion strewn seating areas whilst sipping a cocktail admiring the sunset over Paris. Admittedly the cocktails are expensive but the view and the whole ambience definitely makes it worthwhile.
The Experimental Cocktail Club (37 rue Saint-Sauveur 2e) a fashionable, sexy, sophisticated discrete bar nestled off one of Paris’s narrow, dimly lit side streets offering creative cocktails in a cosy, intimate atmosphere. N.B. it’s not the place to go if you just want your average Mojito or strawberry Daiquiri! In my opinion it’s one of those places to see and be seen. Admittedly the crowd is rather pretentious but it’s to be expected in a place like this.
However don’t let that put you off. If you fancy a sophisticated evening sipping a creatively mixed cocktail in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, head here.
In Paris there are so many restaurants offering a variety of international cuisine, you are sure to find something you fancy whether it be a juicy burger, traditional French cuisine, Italian, Mexican or Chinese – there is something for every taste. However eating out in Paris can be pretty expensive so it’s not something you would want to do all the time!
H.A.N.D (Have a nice day) (39 rue de Richelieu 75001) – An American influenced restaurant, serving some of the best (reasonably priced) burgers in town. Great if you’re craving some tasty American food. The desserts, displayed in the window (Pecan pie, Cheesecake and Oreo Cupcakes to name a few) are enough in themselves to tempt you in!
Le Dépanneur (27 Rue Pierre Fontaine, 75009) a Mexican influenced restaurant serving tacos, nachos and burgers, in a relaxed ambience but verging on being slightly overpriced (€17 for a burger). However it’s great to come for cocktails and a light bite to eat.
Pizza Pino a chain of Italian restaurants offering a wide selection of pizzas and pastas - Perfect if you want to stay on the safe side with your food choice. You can’t go wrong with one of their Margaritas!
Mme Shawn is ideal if you fancy something completely different from French Cuisine. It’s a cosy, intimate authentic Thai with an extensive menu, offering great food and very speedy service, with restaurants scattered around Paris.
Seeing the sights
It is virtually impossible to get bored in Paris – there is so much to see. When I have visitors for the weekend, I struggle to fit everything that I want to do in 2 days. It’s not long enough! From the right bank, to the left bank to Montmartre, there is so much to do and by Sunday evening I am absolutely shattered as I have squeezed so much in. I’ve written about some very obvious suggestions of things to do in Paris and yes they are very touristy so they are particularly aimed at first-timers in Paris.
If you haven’t done it already you have to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I know it’s very clichéd and very touristic but where else are you going to get a 360° view of Paris, it’s something you’ve got to do at least once.
Alternatively if you still want the views of Paris, but don’t fancy the Eiffel Tower, the Montparnasse Tower offers a great landscape with a different perspective as you can actually see the beloved Eiffel Tower, in some ways it is almost better than the view from the Eiffel Tower.
In addition if you climb up the Arc de Triomph (Citizens of the EU under 26 go free ) that also offers a good view particularly of the Champs Elysees and La Place d’Etoile - the famously hectic road junction in Paris where 12 avenues converge. Unsurprisingly if you happen to have an accident there you will not be insured.
A river boat ride along the seine is a great way of seeing the monuments of Paris without tiring yourself out. Done during the day or at night, either time it is equally beautiful.
Until recently I did not know you could go up Notre Dame. After walking around inside soaking up the religious atmosphere in this beautiful Cathedral I would definitely recommend taking the spiral steps that seem to go on for ever up to the top. Be prepared to climb is all I can say! Reward yourself with a Nutella crêpe after from one of the many crêpe stands around.
Strolling around town
Whilst visiting the Notre Dame you have to visit the Pont de l’Archeveché otherwise known as the Love Bridge. A bridge festooned with padlocks symbolising couples love for each other. Many have been engraved with initials and dates or written on in black marker. Even if you’re not in love it’s worth the visit, only in the City of Love can you find something like this. Being the old romantic I am I hope to return one day and do the same, I think it’s lovely and so special - a wonderfully Parisian way to express your love for each other.
Whilst visiting the left bank head to Shakespeare and Company (37 Rue de la Bûcherie) an adorable English bookshop full of character and history. Every Sunday 4-6 there is a ‘tea party’ and a reading. Cups of tea and biscuits are passed around the room whilst someone reads their own poems or stories and everyone is encouraged to talk about their own writing experiences and suggestions. It was so surreal, I genuinely felt like I was in another world almost as if I had stepped back in time - A genuine treasure nestled off the banks of the Latin Quarter.
There is no better way to discover Paris than on foot. I’d recommend doing the walk from the Arc de Triumph down the Champs Elyseés through the Tuillerie Gardens and ending up at the Louvre – The world’s most visited museum.
In addition head over to Montmartre and stroll along the picturesque, film-set like cobbled streets, dotted with crêperies, souvenir shops and authentic French cafes. Make your way up to the Sacré Coeur and admire the stunning views over Paris.
If you’re stuck for things to do on a Sunday as almost everything is shut, an afternoon amble in Le Marais and la Place de Vosges is perfect. Stroll along the picturesque lanes and wander amongst the upmarket boutiques. If you’re feeling peckish I’d recommend grabbing a delicious Falafel wrap from Chez Marianne (2 Rue des Hospitalières Saint-Gervais) the snack of choice in the area.
So there you have it, a summary of my personal favourites from my time in Paris. I’ve had the best of both worlds. I’ve lived as a local during the week and a typical tourist at the weekend. It’s been a memorable 3 months here and I’ve had an incredible time.
Paris - Je t’aime.