The Arc de Triomphe is the iconic centrepiece of traffic-heavy place de l'Etoile (the meeting point of twelve, elegant, Haussmannian avenues including the Champs Elysées) and a must-see for first-time visitors. But that doesn't mean you have to sightsee like a fresher. The area is both a heaving business and residential district, frequented by well-healed Parisians who love nothing more than avoiding the tourist crowds. Follow in their footsteps with our list of the best places to shop, eat, drink and sightsee around the Arc de Triomphe.
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Around the Arc de Triomphe...
Long terrace steps and a pair of stone lions usher visitors into this grand 19th-century mansion, home to a collection of objets d'art and fine paintings. The collection was assembled by Edouard André and his artist wife Nélie Jacquemart, using money inherited from his rich banking family. The mansion was built to order to house their art hoard, which includes Rembrandts, Tiepolo frescoes and various paintings by Italian masters Uccello, Mantegna and Carpaccio.The adjacent tearoom, with its fabulous tottering cakes, is a favourite with the smart, Champs Elysées lunch set.
From the Arc de Triomphe, head down avenue de Wagram to Ternes, then take boulevard de Courcelles to the beautiful, neo-classical Parc Monceau. On it's east side lies one of the city's best kept secrets, the Musée Cernuschi: Since the banker Henri Cernuschi built a hôtel particulier by the Parc Monceau for the treasures he found in the Far East in 1871, this collection of Chinese art has grown steadily. The fabulous displays range from legions of Han and Wei dynasty funeral statues to refined Tang celadon wares and Sung porcelain.
La Fermette Marbeuf 1900 restaurant in Paris just a few steps from the Avenue George V and the Champs-Elysees is also the shortest route into Belle Epoque Paris of a century ago. This jewel of a restaurant, dating from 1898, was rediscovered in the course of renovation thirty years ago and it must have been like opening King Tut’s tomb. There are wonderful things here: Art Nouveau mosaic and stained glass sunflowers, peacocks, dragonflies, beautiful women, cast iron pillars, and a soaring glass ceiling. Chef Gilbert Isaac mainly sticks to French classic dishes, like chicken liver pate with onion marmalade, whole grilled seabass flamed in anise, and rhum babas. This is a hotspot for celebrity France to see and be seen.
If you're looking for a decently-priced, semi-gastronomic meal just off the Champs Elysées follow the suits and high-heels to Philippe et Jean Pierre, a beautiful art deco restaurant with a very local clientele. Orchestrated by Philippe Garon, the service is elegant and attentive, while Jean Pierre Brault creates generous plates of sunny, Mediterranean food in the kitchen - think roast langoustine ravioli, fresh anchovy tart with parmesan ‘lacing’, and oysters salted with Avruga caviar in raspberry vinegar. Heavenly!
Sir Winston is one of the oldest English pubs in Paris, ensconced just around the corner from the Arc de Triomphe. Though the Champs Elysees professionals who pack this chicly eccentric bar are too young to recall the place's namesake, they clearly appreciate the delicious colonial-style refit: deep leather Chesterfields in the Indian smoke lounge, cigar smoke in the red-walled smoking room, and a leopard skin rug in the darkwood bar. Sir Winston’s faux-fur covered basement booths are the kind of place James Bond would take a date at 3am for martinis and seduction to the sound of chill-out tunes. There are outside pavement café tables to sip hot chocolate and look cool at, too. And the fine food is Indian-based.
Not a reference to Charlie Parker, but to Winston Churchill’s parrot. A stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, this enormous pub is a cross between a New York loft and a colonial gentleman’s club, attracting many a tourist and ex-pat. There’s a regular programme of jazz, blues, folk and funk gigs with reasonable prices for the area, and it has the distinct advantage of staying open until 5am daily. For live concerts, or to follow football and rugby matches on giant screens, you hang out on comfortable Chesterfield sofas. On the menu, the unmatched burger is always good value – huge, impossibly tender and served with fantastic chips – but it’s best to give the fajitas and tapas a miss. For drinks, try something from the huge cocktail menu, preferably during happy hour – 4pm to 8pm Monday to Friday – though if you’re in a hurry come back another time, as the service can be slow.Charlie Birdy is famous for its enormous if unrefined Gospel & Soul brunch at €19. With the menu ‘à l'américaine’, you’ll get a hot drink, fruit juice, pastries, bread, butter and jam, followed by a main course: hash browns, boiled eggs and bacon, a salmon and cream cheese bagel or a Caesar salad. Then a sterling dessert menu: cheesecake, pancake, chocolate cake or – more original – a fresh fruit minestrone.There are two other branches of this bar in Paris: Charlie Birdy Montparnasse and Charlie Birdy Commerce, which only stays open until 5 on the weekends.
If you're a fan of walk-off-your plate cheese do not miss Alléosse (10-minutes from the Arc de Triomphe on foot), where varieties from almost every French region are represented. People cross town for these cheeses - wonderful farmhouse camemberts, delicate st-marcellins, a choice of chèvres and several rarities. Alléosse is also in a handy spot for exploring the covered market near Ternes (head up rue Bayen).
A place to go piggy in: Spanish hams here have the Bellota-Bellota label, meaning that the pigs have been allowed to feast on acorns. Manager Philippe Poulachon compares his cured hams (€98 a kilo) to the delicacy of truffles. Restaurant Bellota-Bellota (18 rue Jean-Nicot, 7th, 01.53.59.96.96) also sells the hams at its adjoining épicerie.