Paris was my first love. I moved there at 18 to live the poor starving writer life, albeit with a hefty dose of French grammar. I keep returning, each time finding a new cool ‘hood, revisiting my old haunts, constantly enchanted by it all. Here’s a roundup of my favorites.
Zip up the metal asparagus and take in Paris’ splendid expanse
Locals hated the Eiffel Tower when it was first built in 1889 and labeled the monstrosity the metal asparagus, but now it’s the city’s most beloved icon. Vintage elevators whisk you up through the curved metal, pillars flickering against the city view as you rise. At the top, the panoramic view is euphoric: the Seine River snakes through town, the white curves of Sacre Coeur Basilica sit high on Montmartre hill, the Arc de Triomphe’s massive roundabout stands proud, and a spider web of boulevards cut through the regal Haussmannian buildings that define Paris architecture.
Champ des Mars
+33 (0) 892 70 12 39
Dine and drink where local chefs feast and party
Perennially popular and filled with chefs late-night, the no phone, no reservations and no waiters La Pointe du Grouin is a favorite for drinks or food, and even boasts its own currency (you can exchange Euros at a machine) and a baby grand piano for any patron to try (unless the DJ’s spinning). Choose your big biodynamic wine bottle (only magnums are on offer) from the cellar yourself, and enjoy options like the terrine and Andouille de Guémené smoked sausage platter, the house-smoked salmon, raw cream and piment d’Espelette or briny, shucked-to-order Brittany oysters served with warm house-baked bread.
La Pointe du Grouin
8 Rue de Belzunce
Grab a selfie with Mona, then move on to other masterpieces
The over 60,000 sqm Louvre overwhelms, but the first time you see Mona Lisa’s smile in person, you’ll fight your way through the human huddle beneath her and get your own pic. After, view other classics like the Venus de Milo sculpture or head to one of the Louvre’s far calmer other wings to see the statue of Isis suckling her son in the Egyptian and Greek section, or ponder the 9th century Islamic Samarra door leaf from the Dar al-Khalifa palace. As you navigate, peer out the windows and take in the palatial grounds.
99 rue de Rivoli
+33 (0)1 40 20 53 17
Understand why the Parisian bistro never goes out of style
Small, with modest prices, comfort food and casual surrounds—bistros are timeless. Le Petit Vendôme, with rustic fare from the Auvergne region and classics both grazing the menu in the bustling, popular spot, is the bistro of choice. Enjoy steak frites in red banquette and mirror-lined surrounds, or go for their traditional bread and cheese encrusted onion soup. Don’t have time to sit down? They’re also known for their takeaway sandwiches, like the crusty baguette filled with fresh goat cheese, country ham, and Baux-de-Provence Valley olive oil.
Le Petit Vendôme
8 rue des Capucines
+33 (0)1 42 61 05 88
Sit and drink on a terrace and join the mantra #JeSuisEnTerrasse
Sitting, chatting and people-watching at the outdoor tables –the terrace–of restaurants and cafes is a Parisian institution-even in winter (local do it bundled up). After the November 2016 terror attacks, the hashtag #JeSuisEnTerrasse went gone viral, demonstrating that Parisians are not afraid to get back to life and enjoy the convivial, al fresco buzz with a drink and conversation, as they always have done. Join them, and tweet your support on any terrace, there’s one on most corners.
Chill in the green chairs and ponder toy sailboats at Luxembourg Gardens. Green metal chairs pepper the manicured Luxembourg Gardens–you can move them around, use a second to prop up your feet, and breathe in the greenery and park activity. Grab one and recline for a while, then wander to the sailboat pond where diminutive, non-motorized wooden sailboats glide across the pond, with Luxembourg Palace and exquisite flowers looming beyond. Each boat has a flag representing a country, and while kids are generally the ones navigating them, all ages giggle as they billow in the wind.
Rue de Médicis & Rue de Vaugirard
Tool around town on a Vélib bike
The Vélib, Paris’ bike-share program, boasts over 1200 bicycle stations to rent who wheels and oodles of bike lanes wind their way through Paris. Aim to rent one near the Seine river–it sits beneath the main roads and the car-free quays hug the water and sit beneath the busy roads, and pedal along with Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower looming above. Do download the app which tells you which stations have bikes, spaces to park the bike after you’re done.
Stroll along the floating gardens of the redeveloped Seine quays
In 2013, Paris unveiled a redeveloped pedestrian-only stretch of the Seine River beneath a slew of gorgeous bridges (look out for the ornate beaux-arts Pont Alexandre) boasting al fresco bars, a climbing wall, an athletics track, children’s’ playgrounds and oodles of green patches, all set up stylishly in a modernist design with a Scandinavian vibe. Seek out the floating gardens, an urban archipelago of five wooden interconnected islands with thick jungles of plants, deck chairs and a huge dose of calm.
Seine River pedestrian paths
between Pont Royal and Pont d’Alma bridges
Wander around the Canal St Martin neighborhood, Paris’ trend HQ
The city’s most fashionable neighborhood haunt of anyone remotely hip is anchored by the Canal Saint Martin, a curved waterway notable for its decorative arched green footbridges arching over the numerous locks. On sunny days, Parisians chill at the water’s edge with beer and picnics (in summer go local and order pizza delivered to you canal side from Pink Flamingo), trendy cafes pack its shores and the tranquil spider web of streets extending beyond.
Canal Saint Martin
extends along Quai de Valmy & Quai de Jemmappes between Rue la Fayette & Rue Leon Jouhaux
+33 1 42 02 31 70
Bargain your way through the flea market at Port de Vanves
Score that never-to-be-replicated vintage scarf or an unbreakable 50-year-old Le Creuset ramekin at Puce Vanves flea market. Unlike the oodles of others flea markets in Paris, this one is a manageable size, friendly and affordable, especially if you brush up on your haggling skills. Go early and dive in with the true treasure hunters, and soak up the atmosphere of aromatic sizzling crepes and probably some ancient dude belting out classics French tunes on an accordion, whisking you back to the same era as that antique candlestick you’re holding.
Ave Marc Sangnier & Ave Georges Lafenstre