Whether you're here for a week or a weekend, choosing how to spend time in Paris can seem overwhelming. But fear not, a browse through our Paris bible should fill you with inspiration. From Instagrammable viewpoints to quirky watering holes, by day or by night, from haute couture to fine cuisine, we've condensed the City of Light into 101 things to do.
Classic, cool, romantic (or all three) - Paris has many faces and 101 barely even covers it. If you want to explore the city with a zoom lens, check out Paris by area and download one of the best apps for making your way around the capital. And to really get you in the mood for la vie Parisienne, feast your ears on these musical tributes. Enjoy!
A behemoth of a museum, the Louvre has galleries and wings so vast you could easily spend a day feasting your eyes on treasures like the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Egyptian mummies – not to mention on the building itself, which sports sumptuous architecture erected and remodelled over the centuries by the rulers of France. When cultural overload sets in, take a breather in the Café Mollien at the top of the grand Mollien staircase.
The most famous edifice in the world, the Eiffel Tower, was originally erected as a temporary exhibit for a World Fair. It provides heart-stopping views over Paris and is visible from most vantage points across the city. Apart from the new glass floor installed in 2014, there’s also a panoramic champagne bar on the third floor, a brasserie, and the Michelin-starred Jules Verne restaurant. At night, the Eiffel’s girders sparkle like fairy lights on a Christmas tree (every hour, on the hour).
Père-Lachaise is the celebrity cemetery – it has almost anyone French, talented and dead that you care to mention. Not even French, for that matter. Creed and nationality have never prevented entry: you just had to have lived or died in Paris or have an allotted space in a family tomb. From Balzac to Chopin to Oscar Wilde (the tomb worn away by the kisses of visiting admirers), the talent-spotting is endless.
The old Belle Époque Orsay train station was converted into the Musée D’Orsay in 1986 to house one of the world’s largest collections of Impressionist and Post-impressionist art. Aside from works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, you'll find a dapper collection of decorative arts from the Art Nouveau era and a wide range of 19th-century sculpture. Digest it over coffee in the café behind the museum’s giant transparent clock.
Behind its allure as a fairytale castle, the turreted Conciergerie hides a bloody past: during the Revolution it served as a prison for those condemned to the guillotine, including Queen Marie-Antoinette. Remnants of its revolutionary history are still visible in mock prison cells, but the Conciergerie’s main draw nowadays is its stunning medieval architecture. After visiting, head up the road to the 13th-century Sainte-Chapelle, which contains some of the finest stained glass windows in the world.
Give your legs a workout and climb the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The views sweep in geometric splendour between the arc of La Defense and the Louvre. It’s also a plum spot for observing Parisian driving techniques: the unmarked traffic island creates speedy anarchy – in fact, have an accident here and it’s automatically 50/50 on the insurance claim, no matter whose fault it is. Back on solid ground, spare a thought for the Unknown Soldier whose grave sits solemnly in the centre of the arch.
Centuries of makeovers have made Versailles the most sumptuously clad château in the world – a brilliant, unmissable cocktail of extravagance. Architect Louis Le Vau first embellished the original building – a hunting lodge built during Louis XIII's reign – after Louis XIV saw Vaux-Le-Vicomte, the impressive residence of his finance minister Nicolas Fouquet. André Le Nôtre turned the boggy marshland into terraces, parterres, lush groves and a spectacular series of fountains.
Experience an all-encompassing theme at the legendary Roger la Grenouille on the rue des Grands Augustins (once a favourite of Picasso and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). There are frogs in the window, on the walls and of course, on the menu. From the classics – frog fritters with bordelaise sauce, or ‘frogs a la persillade’ to the ‘frog burger’: buns filled with pan-fried minced frog meat, plus salad and a creamy tartar sauce. It sounds strange, but it all works like a charm. Their three-course €19 set lunch menu is excellent value for money, especially considering the area.
Canoodling opportunities abound in the gardens of the Musée Rodin, without doubt one of Paris’ most romantic green bits, strewn with Rodin’s greatest statues, including The Thinker, The Gates of Hell and Balzac. Inside the Hôtel Biron, where Rodin worked until the end of his life, you’ll find oodles of his works, including The Kiss, but also a touching selection by his tortured lover, Camille Claudel. On a sunny day, grab an ice cream in the garden and eat it on your way to the marble gallery, where Rodin’s most fragile, exquisite statues are displayed behind glass.
Au Pied de Cochon is a Parisian institution, whose neon lights haven’t been switched off since 1947: it serves every part of the pig you can think of, around the clock. Favourite haunt of hungry late-night drinkers, there's something fortifying in the old-style brasserie décor as well as the hearty dishes. Here, you push a gilt pig’s foot to get to the toilets, and dunk a pink meringue piglet in your coffee – and eat stuffed trotters, head cassoulet, smoked belly, tail, ear and brawn... hardly a light supper, but a genuine thrill for fans of eating 'nose to tail'.
A change of artistic direction and limelight brought in by Dita Von Teese (who performed here for a while) has breathed welcome new life into the Crazy Horse. Yes, it’s erotic, and yes, you watch pert-breasted girls slink across stage dressed in nothing but light, but there is nothing remotely seedy about the experience. In fact, it’s all rather avant-garde. One note of caution – unlike Paris’s other cabarets, the Crazy Horse doesn’t have a restaurant.
These famously flaky pastries have been fuelling Paris for hundreds of years – long enough to know that there is nothing like a pale, soggy croissant to dampen a day of sightseeing. We’ve scoured pâtisseries far and wide for the crème-de-la-crème of the capital’s croissants au beurre. Ranked on appearance (golden all over and brown on the bottom), pastry quality and taste, these buttery beauties are well worth crossing Paris for. Why not plan each day out with our top choices as a starting point? Remember: a croissant a day keeps the doctor away.
An institution among bon-vivants since 1952, don’t expect to get out of Chez Georges without splashes of wine on your shirt. Hidden in the heart of the snooty neighbourhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, evenings in this vaulted stone wine cellar mix hip students with the hoi polloi in a glorious jumble. Everyone dances up close, getting up on the tables when there’s no room on the floor, drinking, clinking glasses, and singing at the top of their voices. When evening comes, don’t be discouraged by the crowds – you’re bound to make a new friend as your wait on the stairwell.
This 25-hectare park is a stylish retreat from the buzz of the Left Bank, a literary pilgrimage for Hemingway fans (the park features regularly in 'A Moveable Feast'), and a prized family attraction. Kids come from across the city for its pony rides, ice-cream stands, puppet shows, pedal karts, sandpits, metal swingboats and merry-go-round (the attractions have entrance fees). Horticulturalists will enjoy the ambitious greenery (including fruit and veg) and the lively resident beehives.
Hop on board the Bustronome, the fine dining experience on a double decker bus, with dishes created by former Topchef contestants (the French version of Masterchef) and a route covering the city’s finest historic monuments. The bus never goes faster than 10km/h and the table is set with magnetic placemats and small holder for your glass of wine if things get a bit rocky. Between courses, there are discussions and historic explanations, all accompanied by hits from Francoise Hardy and Charles Aznavour. Being a tourist has never tasted so good.
The Grand and Petit Palais are photogenic throwbacks to Paris’ 1900 World Fair. The big one houses world-class temporary arts exhibitions and a science museum; meanwhile the little one charms with fine arts that span the period from antiquity to 1918. Ease yourself in gently with the Petit Palais; have lunch at Mini-Palais (the Grand Palais’ restaurant managed by Le Bristol’s acclaimed chef Eric Fréchon); then see which chef d’oeuvres the Grand Palais has on show beneath its iconic glass roof.
Famous across the city for its Beaufort, four-year-old Comté and goat’s cheese, Fromagerie Quatrehomme is where Paris’ A-listers come to buy their fromage. Follow your nose to one of two boutiques – one in the 7th and the other in the 18th. The branch on rue du Poteau is off the tourist trail, on a particularly charming, café-filled street on the northern side of the Butte de Montmartre. Meanwhile, Fromagerie Quatrehomme’s Left Bank branch is a 10-minute walk from Jardin de Luxembourg, should you fancy munching your cheese, rustic style, on a park bench.
More than just olde-worlde shopping malls, Les Passages Couverts around the Grand Boulevards are atmospheric old covered passages that date from the 18th and 19th centuries. Glass-roofed and utterly charming, their second-hand bookshops, tea-rooms and gift boutiques make fun alternatives to stores elsewhere in Paris – especially the Gallerie Vivienne and the Passage Jouffroy, which houses the Musée Grévin, Paris’s answer to Madame Tussauds.
The 'wedding cake', as the Palais Garnier is nicknamed, wows a highbrow crowd with some of the world’s best ballet and the occasional opera. The building is an ode to opulence, dripping in marble and gold leaf. It’s also rather fascinating, with the underground lake that inspired Gaston Leroux to write Phantom of the Opera (now used by the fire-service for diving training), and beehives on the roof which produce the honey on sale in the Boutique de l’Opéra.
For an all out gastronomique treat in a dining institution that has fed the likes of Salvador Dali and Romy Schneider, head to Lasserre. It's set in a bistro built for the 1937 World Fair opposite the Grand Palais, and entering feels like you’re stepping into a very posh private home, with lush drapes, thick carpet and shining silverware throughout. Things can get a tad cheesy when the pianist starts to play, but all is forgotten when Lasserre’s nifty roof opens up, giving the impression that you’re eating al fresco.
Founded in 1896, Bouillon Chartier (housed in a former railway station) expresses all the charm of Belle Epoque Paris. If you can last through the queue, it’s the perfect mood-booster: uniformed waiters scurry around, your neighbour will probably try to engage you in conversation, and American couples loudly discuss the merits of their saucission ardéchois. A vast menu covers everything you could ever want from a Parisian brasserie: snails, oeuf mayonnaise, andouillette with mustard, several types of steak frites and bargain wine. The wallet-friendly prices and jolly art deco brouhaha has well and truly won our hearts.
Peruse the former haunts of Hemingway, Stein, Picasso, Giacometti, Camus, Prévert and, bien sûr, the Bonnie and Clyde of French philosophy, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Check out the hotspot of the post-World War II Paris jazz boom and the heart of the Paris book trade. This is where the cliché of café terrace intellectualising was coined, but nowadays most of the local patrons of the Flore and the Deux Magots are in the fashion business, and couturiers have largely replaced publishers. Never mind: it's a smart and attractive part of the city.
If you want your wine with a side of history, head to Les Caves Augé. Open since 1850, Proust used to stock up his cellar with their bottles and the décor, awash with mouldings and panelling, has changed little since then. You can choose between thousands of bottles, the savvy cavistes (wine-sellers) will give you titbits about any grape variety or château you see, and there’s an ever-increasing accent on ‘natural’ wines. If you fancy a dégustation, Les Caves Augé offer a tasting day one Saturday each month.
Frédéric Vaucamps may have perfected his recipe for merveilleux in Lille, but these mini-meringues coated in chocolate whipped cream and chocolate shavings are the go-to choice for Parisians. Freshly made in the window of the seven shops every day, pâtissiers smooth whipped cream onto each individual meringue with a spatula before rolling or patting them with chocolate flakes. Prepare to be mesmerised; it’s like a live cooking show – where you get to eat the finished product. Bliss.
Tucked away at the back of the world-famous Hotel Ritz, is a richly wood-panelled watering hole which doubles up as a shrine to the American author – walls are adorned with his photos, boxes of fly-tying paraphernalia and a framed pack of his Lucky Strike cigarettes. From the Picasso Martini to the French 75, the cocktails are as old-school as it gets. If money is no object, while away an evening in this luxe leathery snug. Or treat yourself to just one and stumble back out onto Place Vendome, smug in the knowledge you’ve just quaffed a glass of literary history.
A gathering place, source of inspiration and often a bed for beat generation bohemians, writers, travellers and readers for over 60 years, Shakespeare & Company has hosted thousands of ‘tumbleweeds’ – volunteer helpers who sleep in the shop – and featured in numerous films, books and memoirs. The sprawling site includes a large used and antiquarian section, while the main store is a heavenly labyrinth of book-lined passages, alcoves and reading rooms full of secret corners, an unmissable destination for bibliophiles the world over.
Marvel at the eight, tapestry-sized Nymphéas (water lilies) paintings housed in two plain oval rooms at the Musée de l'Orangerie. They provide a simple backdrop for the astonishing, ethereal romanticism of Monet's works, painted late in his life. Depicting Monet's 'jardin d'eau' at his house in Giverny, the tableaux have an intense, dreamy quality - reflecting the artist's absorption in the private world of his garden. Expect to feel deeply calmed by them, despite the crowds.
Dress in your finest every first Saturday of the month and head to Le Bristol for an afternoon tea with a difference. Taking advantage of its prize location on Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, the palace hotel invites its haute-couture neighbours (think Céline, Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy) to strut their designer collections in the hotel bar, while you tuck into the Bristol’s delectable tea and cakes (the whole affair costs €70 per person). The pastry chef Laurent Jeannin even concocts a special gâteau for the occasion, inspired by the designer on show.
Didier Ludot’s vintage couture boutique is a beautiful but pricey sanctuary of days-gone-by design. Every piece is stunning, from the Audrey Hepburn-style dresses to Jacky Kennedy-esque jackets and tailored Cary Grant-style men’s suits. Typical brands include Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix, Chanel and Hermès. There are also displays dedicated to those who Didier Ludot thinks will be the designers of tomorrow.
In a former workshop, at the back of a courtyard, off a busy street near Bastille – lies multi-Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse's chocolate factory. Tantalising scents fill the air; roasting cocoa beans from top producers around the world. Everything about the chocolaterie returns to the roots of chocolate manufacture, employing ancient techniques and salvaged machinery rather than modern industrial methods. The result is exceptional: pralines, ganaches, truffles and more with exceptional flavours, different from any mass-produced chocolate.
On the edge of the Seine, by the Eiffel Tower, Musée du Quai Branly is an urban jungle; an earth-toned, neo-cubist structure signed Jean Nouvel and shrouded in vegetation, including a botanical wall. Inside you’ll find a fascinating collection of primitive art treasures from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, all displayed along dimly-lit winding paths. If you fancy a gourmet pause, the Quai Branly’s rooftop restaurant, Les Ombres, serves fusion cuisine with views onto the Eiffel Tower.
Picture this: sweet crunchy layers of caramelised pastry, sandwiched with unctuous blobs of mascarpone, flavoured with Pierre Hermé’s magic concoction of vanilla from Madagascar, Tahiti and Mexico. This heavenly pud – without doubt the best vanilla slice in Paris – is but one of the delights awaiting your taste buds at the cake chef’s boutiques. Pierre Hermé’s macarons (which come in flavours like caramel butter, rose, pistachio and liquorice), may well make it into your book of ‘best ever’ treats too, along with his fruit jellies and nougat.
Most people visit the Musée de Cluny to see the extraordinary Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. But inside this chocolate-box gothic mansion you’ll also find hundreds of intriguing medieval objects, including the epitaph of 15th-century Parisian alchemist Nicolas Flamel, who supposedly made the philosopher’s stone (if Harry Potter is to be believed). The Cluny’s other draws are an extraordinary collection of ancient stained glass fragments and a Gallo-Roman section, which leads you down below street level to former Roman baths, including a frigadarium (cold bath).
As cutting-edge as ever, the ‘extra-skeletal’ Centre Pompidou is home to modern art treasures by (among others) Braque, Dubuffet, Matisse and Ernst, plus ever-changing temporary art exhibitions that ensure no two visits are the same. Get there early when the queues are bearable, or arrive at 6pm and stay until closing time at 9pm, after which Georges, the Pompidou’s trendy rooftop bar-cum-restaurant, serves moreish cocktails in a futuristic setting with panoramic views over the city.
Finally, after many years of building works, the Musée Picasso re-opened its doors in October 2014 – once again, the people of Paris can enjoy masterpieces such as La Celestina, The Suppliant or Portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter. Set in the great 17th century Hôtel Salé in the heart of the historic Marais area, Picasso’s masterpieces hang on the walls of bright, spacious exhibition rooms. First opened 29 years ago, the Musée Picasso is one of the city’s most precious and prestigious institutions – now that it's finally re-opened, it feels like the Parisian art scene is back on track.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton modern art gallery opened in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris’s second largest public park, in October 2014. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the impressive new space plays host to Louis Vuitton Group CEO Bernard Arnault’s art collection. Visually stunning, the FLV is shell-shaped and made up of twelve glass sails that soar above the park's greenery. Inside is a huge auditorium and 3,850m2 of exhibition space divided into eleven galleries.
Descend, if you dare, into the entrails of the city. The Catacombs are without doubt the spookiest attraction Paris has to offer, with kilometres of tunnels lined with the femurs and skulls of deceased Parisians. Created 18 metres underground in the late 18th-century to stop disease from spreading from overrun inner-city cemeteries, they now make for a chilling stroll. Just don’t feel tempted to nick any bones: Yorrick might look good on your mantelpiece but the guards check your bags on the way out.
Football- and rugby-crazy kids (and grown-ups) will absolutely love the behind-the-scenes tours of France's handsome national sports stadium. After a quick scan of the museum (photos, football shirts, electric guitars from the rock stars who also play here), the tour begins by sitting in the stands and ends with a runout through the tunnel to the sound of applause. On the way, you can visit the changing and shower rooms and learn about the on-site hospital and prison cells. Tickets are best bought online beforehand, and tours are not available on match or concert days.
South of Rue de Tolbiac the shop signs suddenly turn Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian, spices fill the air and even McDonald's is decked out à la chinoise. Welcome to the city’s main Chinatown (Quartier Chinois): set amid 1960s tower blocks, you’ll find exotic groceries, Vietnamese Pho noodle bars, hairdressers and Chinese patisseries, along with the huge Tang Frères supermarket (48 ave d’Ivry, 13th), selling everything from dim sum and fresh spices to ready-made sauces and rice-cooking machines.
The Musée Gustave Moreau makes you feel like you’re stepping onto the set of a 19th-century period film: gorgeous knick-knacks fill rooms that look just as they did when the symbolist artist lived here and around 1,300 paintings cover the walls over three storeys. Best of all is the light-filled workshop where Moreau used to paint. Climb the swirly iron staircase to feast your eyes on works like the two metre tall Jupiter and Semele – a hypnotic feast of blues, green and golds, in which Moreau spins his own interpretation of the Classical myth.
When it opened in 2002, many thought the Palais' stripped-back interior was a design statement. In fact, it was a response to tight finances. The 1937 building has now come into its own as an open-plan space with a skylit central hall, hosting exhibitions and performances. Extended hours and a funky café have drawn a younger audience, and the roll-call of artists is impressive (Michel Houellebecq, Tino Seghal and others). And because contemporary art is sure to build up an appetite, check out Marché President-Wilson, held on Wednesdays and Sundays directly in front of the gallery.
The initial buzz created by the opening of Mama Shelter (an audacious design hotel designed by Philippe Starck) has died down, but Mama still draws an über-cool crowd to its bar and restaurants. It's set in a grungy spot north of Père-Lachaise in the 20th, and there is something deliciously surreal about watching its clientele slink around in clothes that wouldn’t look amiss in a Vogue shoot. Come for the show, or be part of it; and check out Mama Shelter’s pizzeria – a great option for a quick bite before a concert at the Flêche d’Or opposite.
A clever blend of high-tech and Arab influences, this Seine-side 'grand projet' was constructed between 1980 and 1987 to a design by Jean Nouvel. Shuttered windows, inspired by the screens of Moorish palaces, act as camera apertures, contracting or expanding according to the amount of sunlight. A museum covering the history and archaeology of the Islamic Arab world occupies the upper floors: start on the seventh with Classical-era finds and work down via early Islamic dynasties to the present day.
A tranquil boozy and literary escape from the frenetically trendy streets of the Marais, La Belle Hortense's walls are lined with bottles and books, including new releases, rare volumes, independent poetry and classic collections. The wine list is enormous – quite pricey by the glass but much better value by the bottle or carafe. The excellent menu is provided by the kitchen over the road at La Chaise au Plafond (the owner, Xavier Denamur, is the same; he also has L’Etoile Manquante, Au Petit Fer à Cheval and Les Philosophes).
The 19th-century Canal de l’Ourcq was originally created by Napoleon to provide Paris with drinking water, but was largely used for freight haulage before its edges were bestowed with some of the worst 60s and 70s housing in Paris. Nowadays, like the Canal-St-Martin further downstream, the Canal de l’Ourcq draws a trendy crowd, from students to thirty somethings with young families, who come to play boules on the sandy stretches, picnic on the water’s edge, and even play ping-pong in the playground areas.
Covering seven hectares, the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen is thought to be the biggest flea market in the world. What started in 1885 as a rag-and-bone shantytown outside the city limits has been organised into enclosed villages, some covered and others with open-air streets and antiques boutiques. Once you get under its skin, the Puces offers an intoxicating blend of the sublime and the ridiculous. Repeat visits pay off and the more you banter with the sellers, the more bargains you will unearth.
You can spot the lengthy L’As du Fallafel queue as soon as you hit Rue des Rosiers, with its army of staff running up and down scribbling orders. Their slogan is 'often imitated, never equalled', and few connoisseurs can argue with that. Eating in the dining room is a less casual experience than munching this messy sandwich on the street, but it’s worth paying a little extra for the unique atmosphere. Ignore the shawarma and head straight for the falafel special: an explosion of crisp red cabbage, creamy tahini, roasted aubergine, and light, herby falafel, crammed into a pillowy pitta pocket. Trust us, it’s worth the wait (and getting your trousers dry-cleaned).
In 2007, the mayor launched a municipal bike hire scheme – Vélib. There are now over 20,000 bicycles available 24 hours a day, at nearly 1,500 ‘bornes’ across the city. They feel sturdy, have a handy basket for transporting your groceries, and best of all, are available every 300 metres, so even if a stand is empty, you should find a bike at the next one. The Vélib scheme is complemented by the 400km (250 miles) of bike lanes snaking their way around Paris.
Making waves on the electro circuit is Le Batofar, a converted fireman’s boat, docked below the BNF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) and decked out with art expos. This is where up-for-it Parisians come to hear DJs and VJs (both home-grown and international), see live bands and generally party well into the wee small hours. When you've worked up an appetite, head to the Batofar’s restaurant deck for pick-me-ups like duck with potato gratin (served until 11pm).
Founded in 1860, this amusement park and garden has animals, a Normandy-style farm and an aviary, as well as boat rides, a funfair with mini rollercoasters, flying chairs, the Enchanted House for children aged two to four and two playgrounds. There's also a place to steer radio-controlled boats and mini golf. Many of the attractions cost €2.90 a go; others are free. A miniature train runs from Porte Maillot through the Bois de Boulogne to the park entrance, and has space for pushchairs.
19th-century composer Jacques Offenbach isn’t usually associated with cutting-edge digital art, but after a 10-year revamp, Offenbach’s former Belle Époque Gaïté Lyrique theatre has been turned into Paris’s first ever digital cultural centre – a seven-floor, multidisciplinary concert hall-cum-gallery that thrusts visitors deep into the realms of digital art, music, graphics, film, fashion, design and video games.
This historical market takes its name from the 16th-century orphanage that used to occupy the site; the red of the children’s clothes indicated that they had been donated by Christian charities. Although the orphanage closed before the revolution, the imposing wooden edifice remained, and was reopened as a deluxe food market in 2000 after extensive campaigning from locals. Now something of a touristic hotspot, the market is equipped to fill the emptiest of stomachs with its impressive range of Italian, Lebanese, African, Japanese and other stalls.
Merci is the original – and some would still say the best – of Paris's flourishing range of concept stores, but there's plenty of inventiveness and amazing products to be found at these other up-and-comers. Clothing, homeware and random bits of highly designed and highly priced knick-knackery are all available at these temples to style, with many of them also sporting cafés, event spaces and ethical or environmental projects.
Come with stamina and dig into Guerrisol’s never-ending racks of second-hand clothes. A lot of it is tat, but every so often (and often enough for Guerrisol to be the most popular shop of its kind in Paris) you find a gem. It’s particularly good for blokes in need of a suit with all sorts of styles and colours. And the ladies’ shoe section often has a wide selection. Just wash before you wear: As your nostrils will tell you on the way in, Guerrisol smells like Eau de Charity Shop.
Friday nights in Paris don’t have to be about sinking your liver in red wine and steak-frites, and inhaling ciggie smoke on some café terrace. You could be healthy and join hundreds of rollerblade fanatics on a three hour ride around Paris ny night. Pari-Roller is open to all, as long as you’ve got the stamina for three hours, know how to break and change direction. Just arrive with your blades at 10pm in front of the Tour Montparnasse, and the city – or at least a 27km-long trail of it – is all yours for the evening.
At the top of Menilmontant’s hill, La Maroquinerie is a hip multidisciplinary centre. Start your night in the Halle des Oliviers restaurant in the ground floor then head upstairs to the Forum bar for live acoustic sound and cocktails. The bar leads to a lovely terrace with views over Paris’ rooftops. After dark, you can either peruse the art expos in the top floor gallery, or head to the Bellevilloise’s basement club for a night of cheesy '80s music.
Established at 46 rue du Bac since 1888, the remarkable Maison Deyrolle is part taxidermy shop, part natural history museum. Expect to brush shoulders with the exotic (a giraffe, pink flamingo, zebra or even a white unicorn), the domestic (a fox, chicken, pig, peacock and a small white rabbit) and plenty of perflectly preserved creepy-crawlies. Its echanting mélange has made it a firm favourite among the greatest artists of its time, from the Dubuffet painters to Salvador Dali; Woody Allen even filmed a few scenes here for ‘Midnight in Paris’. A paradise for enthusiasts and collectors, this is also an unmissable stop-off for animal lovers.
Go out to stay in, and discover Paris's food scene in unique ways – supper clubs are all the rage. Private locations, surprise menus and home-cooked food at these clubs attract gatherings of perfect strangers, who nonetheless know they have some important things in common – love of food, discovery and making friends. À table!
Paris’s Philharmonie opened its doors in January 2015 – when the city’s culture vultures had been waiting for this moment for close to four decades. Situated in a working-class corner of north-east Paris by Porte de Pantin, the extravagant venue aims to democratise classical music, drawing in newbies as well as concert hall veterans. Tickets are priced competitively, undercutting the costly Salle Pleyel. At a time when cultural activities are getting ever pricier, the Philharmonie hopes to counter the trend much as the Opéra Bastille did for opera.
When it opened in 2012, the Docks transformed an industrial wasteland into a futuristic vision of culture and entertainment as imagined by architects Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane. From now on, its future is assured. A grassy terrace runs down to the water, there’s a club (Nüba) and restaurant (Moon Roof) on the roof and a bar/club (Wanderlust, by the team behind Silencio) on the first floor, plus a programme of open air screenings and exhibitions. Behind the imposing façade of glass and metal, the Docks are finally teeming with life.
When the Marché d’Aligre packs up for the day, well-stocked wine bar Baron Rouge is where folks go for a post-shopping tipple and an aperitif of saucisson or oysters. Arrive early and you might just get one of the few tables by the zinc bar: alternatively, follow the crowds and stand at one of the Baron Rouge’s quirky counters, made from old crates and barrels, outside on the narrow pavement.
Merci, Paris's concept shopping sensation, is housed in an elaborately reconfigured 19th-century fabric factory. Inside, three loft-like floors heave with furniture, jewellery, stationery, fashion, household products, childrenswear and a haberdashery. Tha adjoining canteen is excellent, but we love the literary café – the second hand books on the shelves are all for sale, with all profits going to charity. The perfect place for a quality refuel and a spot of people-watching.
Charmingly cheeky cheesemongers Christian and Jean-Daniel are the most unconventional pair of shopkeepers you’re ever likely to meet. They set up their cheese shop to be able to listen to music of their choice all day while selling rounds to customers. The end result is a unique and intriguing business – and it’s doing well. Fromages et Ramage offers cheese in all shapes, sizes and intensities, plus rock music, books and more.
For spectacular flat racing in the Bois de Boulogne, check out the schedule of races at the Hippodrome du Longchamp. As well as the regular fixtures, this course hosts the racing season's most fashionable social event, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, currently sponsored by the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club. The stakes for seeing and being seen are high – women in wild hats get in for free, and there are even prizes for the best-dresed couples – 2014's winners were awarded two Citroen DS3 cars.
The collection in this grand 19th-century mansion 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, and was fabulously renovated for 2015 in consultation with Christian Lacroix. The adjacent tearoom, with its fabulous tottering cakes, is a favourite with the smart lunch set.
The coffee here is the result of experience and training, tasting and smelling, investment in hardware and in relationships with producers. The three young entrepreneurs who set up the Brûlerie have travelled the world for the expertise to create a sophisticated Parisian coffee brand, banishing Paris's association with industrial coffee providers who demand a 20-year contract with their outlets. On Saturdays, you can book ahead online for an hour-long €20 coffee 'dégustation', which includes a bag of beans to take away.
Gone are the days when Montmartre was a tranquil village packed with vines and windmills, although two 'moulins' (windmills) and a small patch of vines do still exist. Today, perched high on the 'Butte' (Paris's highest and most northerly hill), the area is tightly packed with houses, spiralling round the mound below the sugary-white dome of the Sacré-Coeur. Despite the thronging tourists (chiefly around Place du Tertre) it remains the most unabashedly romantic part of Paris.
Quasimodo certainly had good taste: the views from Notre-Dame cathedral’s towers are nothing short of stupendous, especially on a cloudy day, when the skies spin a moody hue across the River Seine and on towards the Eiffel Tower. From the top you also get the best view of the cathedral’s famous gargoyles – cheeky little chimeras whose ugly mugs watch over the city below. Unbeknown to most, they’re not originals; architect Viollet-le-Duc added them in the mid 19th-century.
The concept of these mysterious yet glamorous hidden bars – normally accessed through weathered shop fronts, seemingly pedestrian pizzerias or run-down launderettes – has blossomed in Paris. Thanks largely to word of mouth, speakeasies have proven immensely popular with both in-the-know bobos and intrepid visitors craving a decent cocktail away from the tourist trail. Expect glitzy dress codes, virtuosic jazz musicians and dazzling décors. Plus, of course, expertly made concoctions. Santé!
There are plenty of opportunities to indulge in a bit of park life in Paris, from the pathways of the Jardin des Tuileries to the ponds of the Jardin du Luxembourg. But if you're looking for something a little less formal, one patch of greenery definitely worth a stroll is the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Set high up in Belleville and often missed by weekenders keen not to stray too far from the tourist loop, this 19th arrondissement gem is one of the city's most magical spots.
The spectacular, ten-acre jardin alone makes a visit to the Albert Kahn Musée & Jardins in Boulogne-Billancourt worthwhile: each section is modelled on a garden from around the world – rocky Vosgienne forest, Japanese village gardens, contemporary Japanese gardens and English and French gardens – and makes for a wonderful, lazy afternoon away from the hubbub of central Paris. If you get the right day, you can even take part in a Japanese tea ceremony, led by a tea master from Kyoto’s Urasenke school.
American team Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian started out in Paris running a well-regarded supper club, ‘Hidden Kitchen’, so it's little surprise that Verjus – opened in 2012 after rave reviews paved the way for a full-blown restaurant – hasn’t quite lost its word-of-mouth feel. A discreet corner in an achingly sophisticated neighbourhood, Verjus is much frequented by Brits and Americans, and the light, inventive, precise cooking has achieved recognition across Paris.
Paris's botanical garden - containing more than 10,000 species, a tropical greenhouses and rose, winter and Alpine gardens - is an enchanting spot. Begun by Louis XIII's doctor as the royal medicinal garden in 1626, it opened to the public in 1640 and runs between two dead-straight avenues of trees parallel to rue Buffon, like something out of Alice in Wonderland. There's also the Ménagerie (a small zoo) and the terrific Grande Galerie de l'Evolution.
Angelina is home to Paris's most lip-smackingly scrumptious desserts - all served in the faded grandeur of a belle époque salon just steps from the Louvre. The hot chocolate is pure decadence; order the 'African', a velvety potion so thick that you need a spoon to consume it. And since you've lasted through the queue, it would be rude not to sample one of their desserts too: try the Mont Blanc, a ball of meringue covered in whipped cream and sweet chestnut. Pure saccharine heaven.
What the Opéra Bastille lacks in aesthetics, it gains with the quality and variety of its opera and ballet performances. Here you can enjoy cutting-edge renditions of 20th-century works like ‘Lulu’ by Alban Berg, or opt for 19th-century French classics like Charles Gounod’s ‘Faust’ and Jules Massenet’s ‘Manon’. Christmas is always a fine time to go, when Opéra Bastille joins forces with the Palais Garnier to showcase international opera favourites by composers like Verdi.
While Britain was living it up with the Beatles, France was developing its text-led Chanson genre. And in Paris, the launchpad for budding Brassens and Gainsbourgs (both of whom sang here) was Les Trois Baudets. It remains committed to Chanson and is the top place to go to hear France’s new talent. Most concerts start at 8pm and the Trois Baudets Italian bar-restaurant is open from 6.30pm, so you can fill up on antipasti and pasta before the show.
Paris's first planned square was commissioned in 1605 by Henri IV and inaugurated by his son Louis XIII in 1612. With harmonious red-brick and stone arcaded façades and steeply pitched slate roofs, it differs from the later pomp of the Bourbons. Laid out symmetrically with carriageways through Pavillon de la Reine on the north side and Pavillon du Roi on the south, the other lots were sold off as concessions to officials and nobles (some façades are imitation brick). It was called place Royale prior to the Napoleonic Wars, when the Vosges was the first region to pay its war taxes.
Set up by a Frenchman who studied chemical engineering at Georgia Tech, Le Foodist is one of the more charming and personable of Paris's many culinary schools. Learn how to make perfectly coloured macaron shells, prepare ganache and buttercream fillings and pipe like professional. After making twenty of these beauties, it'll practically be second nature. Even better – you get to taste them with tea in Le Foodist's cosy kitchen (and box the rest up for later).
Built in 1974 on the site of the old station, this 209m (686ft) steel-and-glass monolith is actually shorter than the Eiffel Tower, but better placed for fabulous views of the city - including, of course, the Eiffel Tower itself. A lift to the 56th floor whisks you up in 38 seconds, where you'll find stunning scenes of the streets below, an upgraded café-lounge, a souvenir shop - and lots and lots of sky. Take another lift all the way up to the roof and marvel at a Paris unlike you've ever seen it before - on a clear day you can see up to 40km (25 miles).
It would be no exaggeration to say that Paris has wine running through its veins. Trendy speakeasies may be popping up everywhere but for a real taste of Parisian bacchanalia, a wine bar is the way forward. From independent caves to chichi bistros, you can't get better date night fodder than an evening in a cosy wine bar. And don't panic, you really don't have to be an oenophile to enjoy the experience - just make sure you're ready for the waiter to hang around until you've taken a sip and confirmed the bottle isn't corked.
The stalls on Rue and Place d’Aligre are renowned for selling the cheapest fruit and veg in Paris. Buy your apples and your pears then head inside the covered Marché Beauvau to the cheese and meat counters, where you can stock up on delicious picnic favourites like paté, saucission and Camembert. If you fancy wine with your collection, Caves d’Aligre (3 place d’Aligre, 12th) has a wide selection; and you can buy plastic cups at Franprix (13 place d’Aligre, 12th). Voilà – pique-nique.
Between the Louvre and place de la Concorde, the gravelled alleyways of the Jardin des Tuileries have been a chic promenade ever since they opened to the public in the 16th century. It's so grand you can practically still hear the string orchestra and thanks to an immense team of gardeners, it is spectular all year round. Grab two seats (some are upright, while others are reclining) and admire the mix of modern and Renaissance sculpture. Or simply watch the world go by.
The most exciting global names in jazz regularly come to play in Paris. Check out the sound at New Morning, a low-key club that frequently programmes ‘experimental’ jazz musicians, or tap your toes to USA biggies at Sunside/Sunset in Châtelet. At the bottom of the same street, Au Duc des Lombards also brings in a stream of international jazz stars.
The most colourful of the capital's many parks, Montsouris was laid out for Baron Haussmann by Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand. It includes a series of sweeping, gently sloping lawns, an artificial lake and cascades. On the opening day in 1878 the lake inexplicably emptied, and the engineer responsible committed suicide.
Some distance removed from the Arabic-speaking inner-city enclaves of Barbès and Belleville, this vast Hispano-Moorish construct is nevertheless the spiritual heart of France's Algerian-dominated Muslim population. La Mosquée café is delightful – a modest courtyard with blue-and-white mosaic-topped tables shaded beneath green foliage and scented with the sweet smell of shisha smoke . Charming waiters distribute thé à la menthe, along with syrupy, nutty North African pastries, sorbets and fruit salads.
After exploring the charming Musée de Montmartre, take a pause in the Renoir gardens, a calm haven overlooking Montmartre’s vineyards and the only remaining fin de siècle cabaret, Au Lapin Agile. The gardens inspired many of the impressionist painters who once called the place their home, such as Valadon, Utrillo and of course, Renoir. If you’re lucky, you’ll even meet Salis, the friendly museum cat named after the founder of the Au Chat Noir cabaret.
Possibly the most famous store ceiling in the world, the Galeries Lafayette is also a department store shopping experience to be reckoned with. The men’s fashion space on the third floor, Lafayette Homme, has natty designer corners and a ‘Club’ area with internet access. On the first floor, Lafayette Gourmet has exotic foods galore, plus a vast wine cellar including its own Bordeauxthèque from 2010. Now that’s how to shop in style.
Recently opened to the public, Les Caves du Louvre (where King Louis XV's sommelier used to store his barrels) hosts two-hour winemaking classes in English. Create your own wine, bottle it and label it with your own design – all under the watchful eye of expert oenologist, Aurélien. You will also learn the basics of winetasting and taste five varieties, so this is the perfect blend of boozing and artistry. Plus, you leave the proud owner of a personalised bottle. The perfect way to up your dinner party credentials, we think.
Head to the immense Royal Monceau hotel and descend into the haven of peace that is Spa My Blend by Clarins. Built by Philippe Starck, this ivory paradise is a mix of mirrors, endless corridors, immaculate curtains and the pièce de résistance: an azure 23-metre swimming pool, heated at 29°C. Book in for the ‘The Art of Touch,’ a 90-minute session which includes a massage to hit all your sore spots. Choose everything from the scent of the room to the needs of your body, but products are of course, all Clarins. Suffice to say that this is the perfect way to relax after hardcore sightseeing.
In the heart of the 'golden triangle', Montaigne Market is a temple to luxury fashion, with a stream of designers – both old and new – under one roof. Flit between Givenchy jackets, Valentino dresses and tailored t-shirts, as well as checking out the latest cuts and fabrics. If you’re feeling daring, you could even try a few on. It’s unlikely you’ll find anything under €150 and most items rise into the thousands, but for fashionistas in need of inspiration Montaigne Market is like walking through the pages of Vogue.
It would be easy to walk straight past the latest venture from the team behind Candelaria and Le Glass – with its nondescript door and simple neon sign, the Mary Céleste looks like a neighbourhood pizzeria, rather than the hippest destination in the Marais. Grab a seat at the central bar during oyster happy hour (5-7pm) and feast on Marennes-Oléron, Bouzigue and Belon varieties at €1 a pop. We love its lack of pretension, and the big bay windows that steam up throughout winter promise great things for pavement apéros in summer. Try a fantastic glass of white wine (starting from €5), and you have yourself an afternoon well spent.
Opened in 1921 and once a temple of silent cinema, the Egyptian art deco Louxor fell on hard times after WW2 and became a drug den, ’80s club and gay disco before being left abandoned for 25 years. It re-opened triumphantly as a cinema in April 2013, with a new brief to promote cultural, artistic and educational projects.The venue's hedonistic past may be behind it, but its nightlife hasn't died completely – you can still enjoy a glass of red from the more sanitised surroundings of its upstairs bar.
There’s no denying that the River Seine’s a good-looker: Her bridge-freckled curves are punctuated with some of the world’s most beautiful monuments, and her tree-lines quays sit like ready-made postcards on the water’s edge. By far the best way to drink it all in is from the panoramic deck of one of a Paris’s iconic Bateaux-Mouches riverboats. Yes, they’re touristy (to the point where most Parisians shun them irrevocably), but sometimes it’s worth grinning and baring the multi-language commentary and the bum-bagged clans to get an eyeful of something wholly beautiful.
Théâtre du Châtelet has revolutionised Paris's musicals scene and has set about producing classics like West Side Story and The Sound of Music. Turn up for productions in English, often with a live orchestra – a rarity even by West End standards. Musical legend Stephen Sondheim reportedly said of the Théâtre du Châtelet’s version of his opera 'Sweeney Todd' that they’d cast the best Mrs Lovett he’d ever seen: classical music and dance performances the rest of the year are well worth it too.
David Lynch’s Silencio (named after the fetish joint in the director's film Mullholland Drive) is Paris’s most coveted private club, giving membership only to those with satisfactory artistic and financial credentials. That doesn’t mean you won’t get in, though. After midnight, the Silencio opens to the public, so you can see which A-listers are there, and above all check out the décor which Lynch designed himself – right down to the furniture and gold leaf walls.
It's no secret that painter Claude Monet was a gardener extraordinaire. The luxurious gardens surrounding the artist's pink house in Giverny (where he lived for 40 years) are an ode to the painter's green fingers, with lines of rose bushes, willow trees hanging over Japanese bridges, and lily pads floating on the ponds as if waiting for the father of Impressionism to return home.
After a several days of sightseeing, there's nothing better than a lie-in and a long, indulgent brunch. These Paris brunches have everything – location, atmosphere and often menus that require two days of advance starvation. You might some military planning to score a table, but trust us – it'll be worth it. Be it crumbly, moreish pastries to go with the best coffee in town or a syrup-soaked eggs-and-bacon extravaganza, we've got you covered.
In 1969, the steam engines on Avenue Daumesnil’s viaduct whistled their last and the train-line between Bastille and Vincennes closed forever. The viaduct was converted into glass-fronted workshops and boutiques for local artisans and the old lines became a 5km long trail (also known as the Promenade Plantée), made up of elevated gardens, the Jardin de Reuilly and tree-lined cycling paths. Start at the Bastille end and climb up one of the staircases on avenue Daumesnil to the elevated gardens to get a new perspective of the city.
Housed in a former warehouse for art deco construction materials, Point Ephémère capitilises on its position next to the waters of the Canal Saint-Martin with a great outdoor area. In 2004 it was an artist’s squat of some 1,400 metres squared, which quickly became hugely popular and near permanent – to the chagrin of Paris’s City Council. Today, this breeding ground of all things artistic organises exhibitions, concerts and evenings of independent music specialising mostly in cutting edge pop, rock, electro and hip-hop, all of which are within reach of youthful budgets.