A while back, I wrote a blog post in which I disclosed my favorites for where to eat, shop, stay and play in Paris. I had intentions of updating it regularly and then…well…And Then. But since I continually get asked for suggestions on how to spend a few days in this city—be it for first-timers or seasoned Francophiles—I thought I’d make an addendum to that original post, much of which is still relevant so be sure to check it out.
For first-timers who want to learn and see a lot of stuff:
I’ve actually started giving “Welcome to Paris” general info tours for Context Travel, but if you want to dive deeper, they’ve got a ton more specific walks that cater to all interests—from food and fashion to art, history and architecture. They’re intimate (no more than 6 in a group) and the guides are super knowledgable.
Fat Tire Paris is mostly known for their bike experiences, but they also offer “Skip the Line” tours for those who want to head up the Eiffel Tower or visit Versailles. It saves time and is not that much more than the entry tickets themselves. Otherwise, I advise you book Eiffel Tower tickets in advance because they sell out and you will be relegated to waiting. And waiting. (Or, staring at it from underneath or across the river at Trocadero, which quite frankly, can be just as lovely.)
Notre Dame is FREE to enter, and the line that often snakes around out front actually does move fast, so if you’re interested in going inside (Crown of Thorns!) don’t be deterred. Also, the famous (and amazing) English bookstore Shakespeare & Co. is just across the river. It’s an old, rickety place with several floors and amazing nooks and crannies. They recently opened a café, which makes for a nice rest stop for tea, coffee or a snack. Plus, there’s seating outside where, come early spring, a giant cherry blossom tree is in full bloom.
One of my favorite museums is the Musée de Montmartre and it was Renoir’s former home. The permanent collection tells the history of Montmartre and all the artists who used to live and work up there, including information on the Moulin Rouge, the Can Can and the history of drinking absinthe in the area. They sometimes have temporary exhibitions, too. In the back of the museum, there’s a garden and vineyard. (A real one that produces wine!) It’s wild. If you’re up in that area (to see Sacre Coeur, perhaps) it’s a hidden, oft-overlooked gem.
Soul Kitchen and Hardware Societe are only open for coffee/lunch and no reservations are necessary, BUT with the former, lunch is served from 12-2:30 and it often gets busy. Plus, they only make three dishes a day so get there early because when they run out, that’s it. It’s more café-type food (quiches, soups, etc.) but all homemade and delicious. Hardware Societe is a little more “trendy” and pricey, but very hip and it’s a beautiful room. It took me far too long to eat at Il Brigante, a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint near my old apartment, but once I did I was hooked. I’d even say it’s worth the trek up to Montmartre just for the pie with nduja sausage. Le Grand 8 is where you’ll get some typical, well-prepared French food. Try to book ahead for dinner, but if you go on the early side you should be OK without a reservation.
Spots to feel Parisian, while eating and drinking well:
La Fontaine de Belleville is where to go around 4 or 5p.m. when you’ve had enough walking and want to start with a coffee and work your way into wine on a terrace. Sure, there are tons of places in Paris that’ll provide you the exact same thing and may not be as far north on a random corner in the 10th arrondissement, but do they all serve coffee from Belleville Brulerie? And, do any of them have live funky jazz on Saturday afternoons? Nope. I love it because it feels both Old School Paris and New School Paris at the same time.
Not every bistro is created equal, so if steak frites or escargot or whole chicken is what you’re after, the following may be worth checking out:
As far as food trends, it’s all about sharing plates these days. Those who know me know I’m a regular at Martin, which I wrote about in the last post, but I’d also recommend Pas de Loup nearby, L’Entree des Artisties in Pigalle, Freddy’s on Rive Gauche and the recently opened Carbon in the Marais.
What’s that you say? You’re tired of baguette and jam for breakfast and want to try a Frenchified American brunch? Waiting on line at Holybelly is now (mostly) a thing of the past as they’ve opened up a bigger space, but I also suggest Bespoke on Oberkampf, Dersou (Sunday only) in the 12th, Muscovado over by boulevard Richard Lenoir and Café Mericourt, whose shakshouka has become Insta-famous. At each of these, you’ll find a surprising mix of Franglais deliciousness like egg on a pulled pork sandwich, the requisite avocado toast, strawberry pancakes and more.
While we’re on the subject of food, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my new local fave for incredible lunch, to-die-for cookies, hibiscus tea and the like: Mokonuts. Run by Moko and Omar, a couple from New York whose Japanese and Lebanese backgrounds inform their delicious sweet and savory dishes, this weekday only café near the Marche d’Aligre is packed during lunch time so be sure to reserve in advance.
Oh, oh, oh! I can’t forget Miznon. I’ll recommend this Israeli spot until the end of time. It’s cheap. It’s quick. It’s delicious. And it’s NOT L’As du Fallafel. In fact, you can get everything BUT falafel at this joint in the Marais including my favorite, “Chou Farcis,” which is essentially stuffed cabbage in a pita. Runner up favorites are the “Poisson Epicée” and the lamb meatballs with mint. Oh, and you can’t eat there without ordering the whole head of cauliflower. AMEN.
Places to work off all those calories:
It’s not quite acceptable yet to walk around town in your Lululemon, but working out in general is far more widespread than it’s ever been. For runners, there’s Parc Monceau over on the west side of Paris, but in my new neighborhood I love Bois de Vincennes and the Coulée Verte, which is Highline-esque in that it’s an elevated walkway saturated with flowers and plants.
When it comes to yoga, despite its location over by Champs Elysées I love Paris Yoga Shala. The studio gets natural light from a huge skylight and there’s always free fresh tea to enjoy before or after class. Plus, all my favorite teachers are there including Benoit, Klara, Amanda, Yun and more. Yoga Village is also nice and central, with a large window that looks out over Boulevard de Capucines. (Take Dasha’s class!) Omm, near Place de Vosges, is a modern haven in a quiet courtyard, while Caelo by Sentier has a cavernous feel with stone walls. They offer a ton of Jivamukti classes and host incredible workshops with visiting teachers from all over the world.
Where to sip more than just wine:
There are too many new cocktail joints in this town to list them all. Plus, it really depends on your taste, location and budget. That said, I’ll refer to you a piece I wrote for Travel & Leisure about bars that have “two faces” (i.e., grilled cheese cafe in the front, rum-drinks in the back) and the local website 52 Martinis, a treasure trove of boozy goodness. Download the new app that allows you to search for worthwhile bars based on your location. It also provides info like whether the spot is good for groups, allows smoking, has a terrace or offers food.
Now, after all that, who’s coming when?
P.S. For those who don’t subscribe to my newsletter Overthinking It, a weekly digest on clickable articles and videos, plus suggestions on spots to eat and travel, sign up HERE!