Paris, je t’aime. I lived in France’s capital city for a year while I was studying French at university, so the city of lights has and always will hold a special place in my heart.
Not only is it a mere stone’s throw away from the UK, with flights taking around two hours and the Eurostar from London and Kent making a day trip possible, Paris is steeped in history, beauty, culture, and possibly most importantly, wine.
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Whether you choose to wrap up for a romantic winter getaway or spend a summer’s eve sat outside one of its many, many cafes – there’s never bad time to visit.
I spoke to Houssine Bouchama, editor of Time Out Paris, who shared a handful of the best things to do in the city; I’ve also included a few suggestions of my own to make your visit memorable.
1. Drink classy cocktails at Cravan bar
“An Art Nouveau gem classified as a historical monument, which serves no wines or beers, just cocktails – and good ones,” says Bouchama. “Named after Arthur Cravan, the boxer and nephew of Oscar Wilde, this ode to old Paris is the only bar in the city specialising in inter-war period cocktails, with founder Franck Audoux an expert on the subject. Snack on small plates to a background of jazz music.”
Cravan, 17 Rue Jean de la Fontaine, Paris, 75016
2. Feast on tapas and natural wine at Les Enfants du Marché
This restaurant, delicatessen, and natural wine cellar has no menu, explains Bouchama. “Grab a seat at the counter of this restaurant tucked away in the Marché des Enfants Rouges food market and let gifted Japanese chef Masahide Ikuta take you through the small, delectable plates on offer,” says Bouchama.
Les Enfants du Marché, 39 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris, France
3. Stroll along the Promenade Plantée
For something a little different, take a stroll along the Promenade Plantée. A former 19th century viaduct, it was reborn as the world’s first elevated park walkway in the nineties. The three-mile route is lined with all sorts of gorgeous greenery and runs from the Bastille along the 12th arrondissement to the Bois de Vincennes in the east of Paris, starting off elevated a few metres above street level before descending again.
Promenade Plantée, 1 Coulée verte René-Dumont, 75012 Paris, France
4. Be a digital culture vulture at L’Atelier des Lumières
Bouchama says: “This brand-new studio is the first centre in Paris dedicated entirely to digital arts. With state-of-the-art speakers, lasers and projectors, works are given the attention they deserve, being projected across the ten-metre high walls of this former smelting plant.”
L’Atelier des Lumières, 38 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011 Paris, France
5. Head for the hills at Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
“This park is one of the city’s most magical spots, and off the tourist trail,” explains Bouchama. “Featuring meandering paths, waterfalls, temples and vertical cliffs, you can also take refuge in the empty cave of Buttes-Chaumont before taking in an aperitif and the views at Pavillon Puebla.”
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, 1 Rue Botzaris, 75019 Paris, France
6. Shop, shop, shop at Merci concept store
Forget the Champs Elysées with its heaving crowds and superstores, instead head Merci.
This is Paris’ best-looking concept store, explains Bouchama. “Packed full of designers from Isabel Marant to Stella McCartney, you can pick up stylish clothes, luxury stationery, interiors and accessories for every taste. Ease your spending guilt safe in the knowledge that the store donates a share of its profits to charity each year.”
7. People watch at Les Philosophes
A culinary institution, find this bustling restaurant in the heart of the Marais. Despite its popularity, if you’re prepared to sit outside (they have heaters) you won’t wait too long for a table. Try the French onion soup – the steak tartare is really good, too.
Les Philosophes, 28 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75004 Paris, France
8. Sit alongside Canal St Martin
My favourite place to spend a summer’s eve in Paris; organise a picnic and pick yourself up a bottle of wine, and then sit alongside Canal St Martin. It can get pretty busy in the nearby supermarkets, so consider stopping off to pick up some supplies en route, rather than waiting until you get there. If roadside isn’t your thing, there are plenty of restaurants and bars lining the canal, including the glorious Hotel Du Nord, which does great cocktails.
Canal St Martin, Quai de Valmy, 75010 Paris, France
9. Visit Le Louvre
No trip to Paris would be complete without visiting Le Louvre, home of masterpieces such as Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Or if classical art isn’t your thing, it’s where Beyonce and Jay-Z shot the music video Ape Shit. If you can’t afford the €17 price tag to go inside, the building is still worth a visit. Marvel at the sheer size of this royal-palace-turned-art-museum and a stroll around the beautiful Tuileries gardens is free (there are lots of statues there, too).
Le Louvre, Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France