Between its magnificent architecture, grand boulevards, arresting art and cutting-edge fashion, you could spend a lifetime exploring Paris. But what do you do when you only have a day or an afternoon to experience one of the most adored places on the planet?
Do you people-watch, settled on the wicker chair of one of those Parisian café terraces that spill onto cobbled streets, or do you stroll around the Tuileries Garden or along the winding banks of the Seine?
The question isn’t what to do in Paris, but rather how to decide. And we know just what will make you feel like a true Parisian, from classic experiences to offbeat thrills. Let’s go, shall we?
Lunch at chic and discreet L’Oiseau Blanc
The Peninsula Paris on Avenue Kléber is everything you want in a Parisian grande dame, and the best excuse to come here is lunch at the rooftop L’Oiseau Blanc restaurant with its 360-degree views of the Paris skyline. Table 17, with the best views of the Eiffel Tower in all of Paris, is one of the most coveted in town, and Table 25 near the window is the most romantic for a tête-à-tête over duck foie gras and lamb confit.
Breathtaking visuals and delicious food aside, the restaurant also has an indoor/outdoor terrace that sets a sexy scene for cocktails, all to the theatrical installation of a replica of its namesake biplane.
Afternoon tea to the Flemish tapestries of La Galerie, Four Seasons Hotel George V
Afternoon tea may be a British tradition, but this Paris landmark has harnessed the city’s love of fine pastry to create a classic high tea experience in a spectacular setting. Think finger sandwiches, scones and an assortment of pastries served to the 19th-century paintings and Flemish tapestries of its La Galerie lounge. For an afternoon break spent in a wonderfully old-world way, there is no place quite like it.
The hotel’s prime location in the ever-so-chic eighth also adds to its grand air, as does the gilded entryway, the deferential staff and the dramatic flower installations by star florist Jeff Leatham everywhere you look.
Discover Le Marais and its boutiques, ateliers and galleries
The shops this side of Paris are like galleries with their walls painted white, sparse fittings and coats hung with the deliberation of a masterwork. Simple things are done beautifully here, and the streets with their stops for tea and cake are as quaint as they get in Paris.
While you’re here, a visit to Merci, on the edge of the district, is a must. The revamped 19th-century fabric factory, entered through a courtyard, and spread over a three-storey warehouse space, is one of Paris’s latest shopping sensations with a used book café that does the best scones in town.
Then, of course, the fashionable neighbourhood is also home to museums like the Musée Carnavalet, the Maison de Victor Hugo, and the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature. If you’re short on time, the Musée Picasso is hands down the one to prioritize.
Enjoy the canal-side cool of Belleville
This trendy neighborhood in Paris’s 20th arrondissement is all about its art scene, but it’s one that’s very far from the shininess of the gallery-choked Le Marais- in both distance and substance. There is a sense of community here, a place where you can experience Paris like a local with its urban culture of conceptual art, densely graffitied walls, cool cafés and the Parc de Belleville. Belleville was also the home of La Vie En Rose singer Edith Piaf. While you’re here, stop by her childhood apartment, and capture a part of her dramatic story.
Check into the Clarins spa of Le Royal Monceau
Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris, revamped by French designer Philippe Starck in the mid-2000s, is one of Paris’s most mischievous grande dames, and nowhere is this more obvious than at the My Blend by Clarins spa with its pure white decor amid the art-filled riot of color, pattern and texture of the other hotel spaces. The effect is that of an ethereal paradise in the heart of Paris, and one with the largest pool ever built in a Parisian hotel. Come here for an afternoon of downtime, or treatments that use custom-mixed products for tailored results.
For more city experiences from people on the inside track, stay tuned…