From the top of Montmartre to the tip of the Eiffel Tower, in the Louvre or on the Left Bank, Paris is stylish to its bones: not merely cool and chic, but seriously creative. Between its Gothic cathedrals and grand avenues are flashes of futuristic bravura: the Pompidou Centre and L’Institut du Monde Arabe, proving the revolutionary spirit is alive and relevant. It’s the layers of old and new, privilege and punk, that give Paris its ageless verve – the 8ème and 16ème arrondissements are tops for couture-clad swanking; diehard romantics will always have Montmartre (trendier than ever, these days); and Montorgueil is the up-and-coming area to watch.
Musée Carnavalet on Rue de Sévigné, 3ème, for an engaging history of the 1789 revolution… Tea at Mariage Frères, 13 rue des Grands Augustins, 6ème +33 (0)1 40 51 82 50… To enjoy the naff-but-fun, safely air-brushed end of Parisian sleaze, try Le Crazy Horse on Avenue George V, 8ème. It’s a cabaret performance in a small theatre where drinks are brought to your seat, meaning you never have to tear your gaze from the semi-naked burlesque dancing girls!
It’s good to know that Taxis can be hailed in the street if you’re more than 100 metres from a rank (these are all over Paris and have phones if no taxi is waiting). Tipping culture in bars… leave small change amounting to about 10 per cent. Restaurants usually state service compris, but it is polite to leave change always! Siesta and fiesta… Parisians hit the cafés around 7am for breakfast; shops usually open 10am–7pm. Restaurants get busy around 9pm, and clubs can stay open until dawn.
Skip the Kindle / iPad and get books … Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire; A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway; Paris: Capital of the World by P L R Higonnet; Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell; Perfume by Patrick Süskind. Three to Kill by Jean-Patrick Manchette; The Shoe Queen by Anna Davis.
If you only do one thing in Paris, let it be sipping a crème or a pastis at a boulevard bistro: whatever your want (still walking / mooing steak, croque monsieur, rillettes, warm chèvre salad or tarte tatin *turn vegetarian now), it will taste immeasurably better eaten at a round alfresco table on a cane chair. Paris is also renowned for its dainty tea houses and French fancies – by which we mean mouthwatering millefeuilles, melting macaroons and buttery pastries. Ladurée is beloved of fashionistas for its pretty pastel macaroons; Mariage Frères is one of the finest tea rooms; and you’ll often see a scrum queuing outside haute pâtissier Pierre Hermé on Rue Bonaparte in chic St Germain (+33 1 43 54 47 77). Love his praline-packed 2,000 Feuilles! Oh and drink Pouilly-Fuisse all day and all night long *yes people are still laughing at you when you order it but so what!
Do go/don’t go Paris shuts down (and relaxes) in August, a national holiday month. If you ask me … go in spring, when the blossom’s out, or autumn, not least for Nuit Blanche, an all-night culturefest. But August is fabulous if you want to skip the Parisians entirely!
Crowded but irresistible, the Eiffel Tower is open 9.30am–11pm (midnight in high season). If all that steel doesn’t take your fancy, visit L’Institut du Monde Arabe on Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard in the 5ème. As well as the amazing Jean Nouvel façade and Islamic art exhibitions, it has a top-floor terrace with great views across the Seine to Notre Dame and Ile de la Cité.
The Louvre houses some of the world’s most famous art (open late Mondays and Wednesdays; closed Tuesdays and some holidays). The Musée National d’Art Moderne is on level four of the Pompidou Centre; Richard Rogers’ radical architecture is another draw. Musée National Picasso Paris occupies an old house in the Marais, and is full of the artworks Pablo couldn’t bear to part with; the venue is as alluring as the art itself, also the case for Musée d’Orsay, a converted train station packed with arty treats.
Follow in the footsteps of Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Amélie Poulain, wandering through Montmartre and up to the Sacré-Coeur for classic Parisian panoramas. Or visit Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust at one of the city’s smartest addresses, the Cimitière du Père-Lachaise in the 20ème.
For a serious fashion spree, the thoroughfares to scour in the 8ème are Avenue Montaigne and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. In the 1er, head to the Jardins du Palais-Royal for Marc, Stella, Acne and hip boutique Kitsuné. In the Haut-Marais, an amazing constellation of independent boutiques, explore Rue de Charlot, Rue du Poitou and Rue de Saintonge. Go to Porte de Clignancourt to browse the famous fleamarket for clothes and antiques, open Saturday to Monday until 6pm. Or have a selection of Parisian retro pieces brought to you by Ooh La La! Vintage (ring +33 (0)6 84 76 58 65 to arrange in advance of your trip). If you’re a sucker for department stores, head to Le Bon Marché on Rue de Sèvres. Splurge with a healthy conscience at Merci (+33 (0)1 42 77 00 33) on Boulevard Beaumarchais; this hip luxury emporium donates profits from its Annick Goutal scents, Baccarat crystal vases, Stella McCartney and Yves Saint Laurent clothing and hip homewares to a children’s charity in Madagascar.
Live out your Louis XV/Madame de Pompadour/Marie-Antoinette/Sun King fantasies at the incomparable Château de Versailles, just outside Paris. Dream photo shoot!
Make an excursion to the beach without leaving the city, thanks to the palm-tree-lined white sand of Paris Plage, a summertime addition to the right bank of the Seine (near the Pont Neuf and Hotel de Ville). Or grab a bottle of bubbly from the minibar, and some pastries, smoked-salmon baguettes or tarts from Gérard Mulot at 76 rue de Seine, 6ème (+33 (0)1 43 26 85 77), and enjoy them in the Jardins de Luxembourg on the Left Bank.
Chic St Germain is an edifying place to stroll around, with plenty of shops, cafés and culture to keep you occupied; thanks to its university heritage (yay science-po!), the area has historically been the haunt of artists, poets and intellectuals, and there are still plenty of great bookshops and galleries to help kick-start your grey matter.
La Charlotte de l’Isle is a magical tearoom on Ile Saint-Louis, with witches on the ceiling and incredible chocolate creations in the window (+33 (0)1 43 54 25 83).
The open-top Bateaux-Mouches riverboats are a popular way to see the sights. Most depart from Pont de l’Alma. Ramp things up a notch with dinner for two on a sleek Yachts de Paris launch (www.yachtsdeparis.fr). US-run Fat Tire Bike Tours will show you around on Schwinn bikes, Segways or your own two feet – the night-time tours are fun (www.fattirebiketoursparis.com). For short trips, use a Vélib, one of the city’s big, grey communal bicycles. The scheme has evolved quite an etiquette; ask a local about how to put down a deposit, etc.
Marvel at Paris’ unique layout from atop the 200-year-old Arc de Triomphe, one of France’s most iconic monuments and the epicentre of bravura city-planner Baron Haussmann’s star of boulevards; it’s worth clambering up its many internal stairs to peer down the Champs Elysées and enjoy photogenic views down to Place de la Concorde and up to La Défense. Open daily, 10am–10.30pm (11pm in summer), excluding 1 January, 1 May and 25 December. Tickets cost €8 and must be bought 30 minutes before closing.
May Saint-Germain Jazz Festival gets the Rive Gauche swinging and tapping its toes (www.festivaljazzsaintgermainparis.com). May–June The French Open tennis championship brings grand-slam excitement to the City of Lights (www.fft.fr/rolandgarros). June La Fête de la Musique celebrates the start of summer and sees the streets lined with stages for live bands (www.fetedelamusique.culture.fr). June–July Paris Jazz Festival means free weekend concerts in Parc Floral (www.parcfloraldeparis.com). July Bastille Day, a public holiday with a huge parade down the Champs-Elysées on the 14th, is followed a week later by the opening of Paris Plages, the city’s temporary urban beaches. August–September There’s an open-air Classical Music Festival in Parc Floral (www.parcfloraldeparis.com). October The city stays up all night for the nocturnal arts party known as Nuit Blanche.
Benoit +33 (0)1 42 72 25 76 20 rue St Martin, 75004 Paris
Open since 1912, and now part of the Ducasse group, this traditional brasserie-style restaurant is arguably the best of its kind in Paris. It’s great for lunch – the food is fantastic and so is the company! Ask for a window seat and watch out for famous passers-by.
Il Carpaccio 37 Avenue Hoche, Paris, 75008 +33 (0)1 42 99 98 90
This conservatory-set Italian restaurant attached to Le Royal Monceau hotel is where to head for Pierre Hermé-made puddings. The resident pastry chef has classic Italian desserts re-imagined. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Kong (+33 (0)1 40 39 09 00) 1 rue du Pont-Neuf, 75001 Paris
Another great Philippe Starck effort with a flower-filled Perspex bar and jaunty Japanese pop vibe, this relaxed and hip restaurant and bar over the Kenzo store overlooking Pont-Neuf; request a table on the upper floor by the glass roof.
La Cantine du Faubourg (+33 (0)1 42 56 22 22) 105 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris, France
This restaurant is a favourite with celebs, serving Asian and French fusion in a stylish lounge; it’s also ideal for a pre-prandial drink.
La Cristal Room Baccarat (+33 (0)1 40 22 11 10) 11 Place des États-Unis, 75116 Paris
Philippe Starck-designed bar and restaurant, in a crystal gallery-cum-shop (extravagant chandeliers, grand revamped interiors); seasonal French fare. Book ahead.
La Société (+33 (0)1 53 63 60 60) 4 place Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris
This glamorous yet relaxed brasserie in Saint-Germain des Prés is open all day. Come to admire the understated arty surroundings – opulent pictures, Peter Lindbergh photography, a marble bar and several sculptures. There’s even jazz for your ears.
Le Chiberta (+33 (0)1 53 53 42 00) 3 rue Arsène Houssaye, 75008 Paris
This Guy Savoy restaurant moments from the Champs Elysées serves up beautifully prepared classic French cuisine. The setting is slightly formal, and it’s a ‘dress for dinner’ place, but the atmosphere is relaxed. Sip fine wine at the bar before taking your table and sampling dishes from frog’s legs to grapefruit terrine, via roast venison.
Le Cinq (+33 01 49 52 70 00) Avenue George V, Paris
Enjoy French fine-dining at twice-starred Le Cinq, a stately grey and gold restaurant overlooking the courtyard of the Four Seasons.
Le Comptoir (+33 (0)1 40 26 26 66) 37 rue Berger, 75001 Paris
A cosy, relaxed Moroccan bar and restaurant with low-level seating, a fun atmosphere and flattering candlelight. If North African tagines and curries are not your thing, there are other international and French dishes to choose from. It’s always busy, but try to make sure you get a table away from the kitchens (noisy) and the main entrance (draughty).
Le Fumoir (+33 (0)1 42 92 00 24) 6 rue de l’Amiral de Coligny, 75001 Paris, France
This classic restaurant and bar behind the Louvre is much-loved and packed by night; come for a relaxed champagne brunch instead. Avoid tables by the door if possible.
Le Grand Véfour + 33 (0)1 42 96 56 27 17 rue de Beaujolais, 75001 Paris
The edible artistry served up at this opulently decorated restaurant has stimulated the appetite of lovers both past and present; if it’s good enough for Napoleon and Josephine, it’s good enough for you? Famous dishes include the Breton lobster with green apple jus, grilled turbot and artichokes with pineapple-sage infused oil, and cabbage sorbet with dark chocolate sauce. Don’t be scared to experiment, every dish has earned its place on this dazzle-dust strewn menu. Parisian food at its most swoon-worthy.
Le Matignon +33 (0)1 42 89 64 72 3 avenue Matignon
For a meal with wow-factor, dine here. Jacques Garcia designed the opulent interior and the ‘restaurant and playground’ (as it markets itself) is owned by two Parisian superpowers, Cyril Péret and Gilbert Costes.
Le Petit Prince (+33 (0)1 43 54 77 26) 12 rue Lanneau, Paris 75005
This charming Saint-Germain eaterie is slightly out of the way, but more than worth the effort for classic French cuisine, cheery service and great desserts.
Les Papilles (+33 (0)1 43 25 20 79) 30 rue Gay-Lussac, 75005 Paris
This wonderful space is part wine shop and épicerie, and part restaurant serving excellent bistro dishes. Pop in for a verre du vin and great-value prix-fixe menu beneath shelves of tinned foie gras, jars of mustard and flasks of olive oil.
Maison Blanche (+33 (0)1 47 23 55 99) 15 Avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris
This popular place on Avenue Montaigne is a sleek all-white eatery with views over the city, and of the Eiffel Tower from some tables. Book in advance.
Market (+33 (0)1 56 43 40 90) 15 Avenue Matignon, 75008 Paris
A French and Asian (not fusion) menu in a very relaxed, modern and artful setting designed by Christian Liaigre. It’s buzzy at lunchtime and in the evenings, so you’ll need a reservation. Ask for a window seat.
Restaurant Georges (+33 (0)1 44 78 47 99) Centre Pompidou, Place Georges Pompidou, 75191 Paris
For incredible cityscape views, try this stylish postmodern restaurant serving international cuisine at the top of the Richard Rogers’ Centre Pompidou, open till 1am. Reservations essential.
Senderens (+33 (0)1 42 65 22 90) 9 Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris
Alain Senderens had three Michelin stars, but, having made his mark and wanting to do his own thing, he gave them all back, closed his restaurant and opened this modern brasserie-style restaurant instead. Needless to say, the food is amazing, and the setting blends trad French with deco-tinged futuristic – the venue was designed by Noé Duchaufour Lawrance, the creative talent behind Sketch in London. Get a table for two in the side room off to the left.
Le Bar du Plaza Athénée (+33 (0)1 53 67 66 65) 25 Avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris
In the chicest of cities, the chicest people of head to this sleek rendez-vous at the grande dame Hôtel Plaza Athénée to gossip over cocktails. Interiors by Patrick Jouin and drinks by Paris’ most capable bartenders make it a popular venue with Paris’ power players, so you’ll have to dress to impress to secure entry.
Panoramic Bar (+33 (0)1 40 68 50 68) 3 Place du Général Koenig, 75017 Paris
On the 33rd floor of the Concorde La Fayette hotel, this bar has splendid views of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.
VIP Room (+33 (0)1 56 69 16 66) 78 Avenue Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris
Formerly a cinema foyer, this club underwent a hugely expensive refurb to become Paris’ most popular style bar. The interiors are glossy, dramatic and as futuristic as a sci-fi film set.
Brasserie Lipp (+33 (0)1 45 48 53 91) 151 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris
Café-culture hunters will want to stop for a quick crème, cognac or sole meunière at Lipp, the third of Saint-Germain’s ‘big three’ cafés and a left-bank icon.
Café de Flore (+33 (0)1 45 48 55 26) 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris
One of the most famous cafés in Paris, Flore was the favoured hangout of some of France’s most important artists, writers and philosophers, including Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Pop in for a lunchtime omelette or cheese plate and watch the world go by.
Hédiard (+33 (0)1 43 12 88 88) 21 Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris
The epicerie and traiteur par excellence, this deli sells mouthwatering treats in signature red packaging. Chocolates, fruits, wine, cheeses, hams and freshly-ground coffees all create a
considerable problem for the indecisive shopper. There are several branches in Paris, but at Place de la Madeleine there is also an informal restaurant upstairs, in which to sample the fine French fare.
Ladurée Royale (+33 (0)1 42 60 21 79) 16 rue Royale, 75008 Paris
Beloved of fashionistas for its melt-in-the-mouth macaroons in pretty pastel colours, this is original outpost of Ladurée, the chocolatier and tea shop. Founded in 1862, it was the first Parisian café to welcome women through its doors. The 19th-century frescos, inspired by the Sistine Chapel, have been beautifully restored, and provide a grand setting for fancy-sandwich brunches or sugar-coated high teas. There are also branches on the Champs Elysées and on the rue Bonaparte in Saint-Germain.
Les Deux Magots (+33 (0)1 45 48 55 25) 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris
Another Saint-Germain institution, this literary café takes its name not from an unwelcome salad addition but from a popular 19th-century play. As well as French literary giants, this is the place where Paul Eluard first introduced Picasso to Dora Maar. Get acquainted with your muse over a glass of wine and the plat du jour.
Maison de la Truffe (+33 (0)1 42 65 53 22) 19 Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris
This small deli cum café sells truffles in every size, shape and style, as well as other gourmet treats. The café menu is chock-full of truffle-inspired dishes – a lunch-time must for fans of the delicious walnutty delicacy.