Let’s be honest. 48 hours in the French capital will never be enough, but if you’ve only got a couple of days in this magical European city, these are our tried and tested top picks. Our favourite area to stay is the Latin Quarter in St. Germaine, followed by Le Marais. The French avenues are steeped in history, typical Parisian architecture and most importantly, fabulous boutiques and restaurants.
WHERE TO STAY:
Le Pavillon de la Reine, Hotel & Spa Paris Marais, In a 17th-century building, tucked away from the galleries and shops of the Place des Vosges, which was built in 1612 by King Henry IV of France. The hotel’s name is a nod to the building’s history, in honour of Queen Anne of Austria who once stayed in one of the wings. While the Place des Vosges was once the centre of high society in Paris, today, Le Marais shines as one of Paris’ most exciting quartiers – with Pavillon de la Reine at its heart. Privately owned and family-run (we love!), it offers the understated sophistication of a private home with all the service, charm and elegance of a grand palace.
Oscar Wilde quipped his final lines at L'Hôtel (he never paid his final bill, now displayed in Room 16), a house of old-world opulence on Paris’s Left Bank that is as much a destination stay as ever. Its glamourous rooms are swagged – under the direction of Jacques Garcia – in rich red velvets and dusky pinks (some have wonderfully sizeable terraces); the bar has plump sofas to repose on and original paintings and etchings; and there's a surprisingly peaceful outdoor space beyond the restaurant, where the city noise fades to trickle of a decorative fountain.
The Hotel Les Dames du Panthéon wears its name well. Not only is it located on Pantheon Square, but it was completely renovated in 2013 with an original theme: Woman – the decoration emphasizes femininity, a choice that can be found at every corner of the hotel. From courtesans to romantics, from intellectuals to independents, from literary to chansonnieres… the destinies of famous women of their various epochs are brought to life, such as Edith Piaf, George Sand, Juliette Greco and Marguerite Dumas.
The hotel is located in the very heart of the Latin Quarter, where the prestigious Sorbonne University stands. In the cafés and restaurants of the district, tourists, students and Parisians come together in a friendly atmosphere.
WHERE TO EAT:
Breakfast in Paris must be had at Angelina’s. Indulge in the Angelina Breakfast option with hot chocolate.. You will not regret it!
Crêperie Brocéliande in Montmartre. They have both savoury and sweet crêpes, but we highly recommend their homemade caramel and chantilly cream crêpe!
We have a sweet theme going for breakfast, so may as well continue it! We recommend Carl Marletti patisserie in the Latin Quarter in Saint Germain. Monsieur Marletti is often regarded as the best pastry chef in Paris and uses only the best ingredients for his pastries.
Looking for superb Italian food in the French capital? Head to Il Carpaccio, the only Michelin-starred Italian restaurant in Paris. Near the Champs Elysee and helmed by Pompeii-born chef Roberto Rispoli, it’s a spectacular space with equally impressive food. Il Carpaccio’s mouth-watering and sophisticated dishes are concocted from the freshest seasonal products according to tasty and traditional regional recipes from all around Italy. We suggest lunch so you can admire the space, but dinner is equally delightful.
Staying local, Café-Restaurant Louis Philippe is in Le Marais and just across the Seine from Notre Dame. It is on a busy corner of the Marais, just at the end of Pont Louis Philippe, is what is possibly the most adorable cafe in all of Paris. Try to get an outdoor table for the people-watching.
Not quite lunch, but definitely a day-time snack, Berthillon is on Ile Saint Louis (the island near Notre Dame) and has the most delicious ice-cream. Grab a cone and walk around this picturesque and village-like island.
One of our favourite things to do is to visit the local markets, pick up a croque monsieur or baguette and sit alongside the Seine or in Luxembourg Gardens to watch the world go by.
L’Ange 20 is a typical French bistro located in the heart of the Marais, just a few steps from the Place des Vosges and the Saint-Paul Saint-Louis Church. From its small, intimate and cozy dining room, you can see everything that happens in the kitchen. The dishes are simple and tasty, all are made from fresh products with that home-cooked feel. The wine list offers a wide selection of French wines, selected with care.
Café de Flore is not only popular for its food offering; it’s entwined with Paris’s literary history, too. The venue has been associated with The Prix de Flore since 1994, a prestigious French literary prize that entitles its winners to enjoy a glass of Pouilly-Fumé at the café every day for a year.
La Rôtisserie, which serves top-quality food in a quaint, mosaic-decorated setting, is a high-end Parisian bistro with a relaxed atmosphere. From the lampshades to the checkered tablecloths, there’s everything you’d expect to find in a typical French bistro, but the top quality range of dishes makes this locale a standout option. The restaurant offers a delicious selection of oysters and lobsters, and their poached eggs are particularly popular.
Danico is the bar attached to restaurant and hotspot Darocco, a large and chic 180 seat Italian eatery all housed in Jean Paul Gaultier’s former flagship location. Don’t hesitate to head straight through the busy trattoria to this bar hidden at the back or slip in via the Passage Vivienne side entrance. The menu itself is handy with an indication of glassware, method and flavour profile for each drink. It’s not surprising that the cocktails are well made and they focus on homemade syrups, etc. What makes Danico more of a stand out are some of the more unusual ingredients successfully incorporated such as Pandan syrup, soy sauce, and Japanese seaweed bitters.
THINGS TO DO
There are the usual sights: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Champs Elysee, but here are a few of our favourites.
With massive, famous museums like the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay almost next door, the smaller and more discreet Musée de l’Orangerie risks being overlooked. What it lacks in size, however, the 19th-century former greenhouse makes up for in concentrated artistic power.
Embark on a culturally and historically immersive journey west of Paris in the Palace of Versailles. Choose to take a VIP Tour with Private Viewing of the Royal Quarters in a group of less than 16. Bypass the long queue with your priority access ticket and begin your visit by seeing two of the 17 rooms of the State Apartments – the Council Study and the King's Chamber. Next, visit the extravagant Hall of Mirrors lined with 357 mirrors on one wall and windows on the other. After these highlights, follow your guide beyond the velvet ropes to the Royal Quarters (which are usually off-limits!) to see the rooms of Louis XV and Louis XVI. The town of Versaille is about 45 minutes outside of Paris, so you will need to book a car, bus transfer or catch the train there. If you have time, be sure to walk in the magnificent gardens. We are ashamed to admit we have visited Versailles four times, and are still yet to make it to Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon.
If you can’t make it out to Versailles, Palais Garnier is the next best thing. The 1,979-seat opera house was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was the primary home of the Paris Opera and its associated Paris Opera Ballet until 1989, when the Opéra Bastille opened at the Place de la Bastille, but is now uses mainly for ballet. Discover the treasures of the Palais Garnier, the Grand Staircase, its famous Chagall ceiling with a guided tour, or better yet, book a ticket to a performance while you’re visiting Paris.
WHERE TO SHOP
French department store Galeries Lafayette is a must, even if it’s just to see their beautiful stained glass windows.
Saint-Germain is the essence of Parisian shopping. For a shopping spree in the heart of Paris, not-to-be-missed streets are Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Sèvres-Babylone and rue de Rennes. Haute couture and ready-to-wear: everything is there!Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, nearby the official home of the French President - Élysée Palace - is home to every luxury designer. Commes de Garcons, Hermes, and of course, Chanel are along this gorgeous street.