Paris is infinitely magical. I've now visited the City of Lights three times; first on my own, then with girlfriends, and most recently with Matthew. Each time I fell completely under its spell. Whether I'm getting lost along its cobblestone streets, sipping wine at a sidewalk cafe, staying up all night at a piano bar, or trekking from one tourist attraction to another, I can't help getting caught up in the romance and dreamy atmosphere of the city.
There are so many approaches to going on holiday. On my first visit, I barely slept and crammed as many experiences as I could into my three-night visit. The next time, we each decided on a couple of things we still wanted to tick off our Paris bucket lists and let chance decide the rest. But this most recent trip was utterly relaxed. We thought of a few things we might like to do and took the metro somewhere new each day, from there we just let our feet lead us, enjoying plenty of wine and cheese along the way.
We knew from the get-go that we wanted to spend our short stay exploring, eating great food, and generally soaking up the atmosphere. I think knowing from the outset what you want your holiday to feel like is a great place to start. You can decide exactly what you want to get out of it and plan your itinerary from there.
In case you're planning your own trip to Paris, here are a few of my suggestions for places to eat, shop, drink, and explore.
Where We Stayed
We stayed in a studio apartment in Montmartre. We loved being so close to the Sacre Couer and the neighbourhood's beautiful restaurants and shops. The area offers gorgeous views of the city and there are so many interesting things to look at, like the Moulin Rouge and a teeny tiny winery.
However, I have to describe the apartment as "grungy." It was perfectly adequate but even though we didn't spend a lot of time in it, next time I'd consider staying in this gorgeous loft that came recommended by the lovely Caz. For only £10 more per night, I think it would be worth it to more thoroughly enjoy our down time.
Where We Played & Shopped
We had planned to visit the Catacombs, a Parisian attraction neither of us had experienced. But when we arrived on Saturday afternoon, we were put off by the two-hour long queue and instead decided to walk over to Cimetière du Montparnasse. We visited my existentialist inspirations, Sartre and DeBeauvoir, and then strolled among the grounds for a while. The cemetery offers a beautiful combination of weathered old gravestones and elaborate modern statues, including a mirrored bird and a tiled cat.
Wandering around the Marais is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. There are many upscale boutiques and designer brands on offer, but it's the vintage shops that I prefer. You can choose to root through the "by the kilo" madness, or opt for the smaller, exquisitely curated collections of the smaller shops.
While wandering near the Sorbonne, we stumbled upon an outlet of Album Comics. This large shop is crammed with collector items, interesting gifts, graphic novels, and independent publications. We spent a good long while exploring the shelves and we both found a souvenir to bring home.
I've been lusting after the Les Nereides Paris designs since discovering them on Instagram about a year ago. With some birthday money from my grandma burning a whole in my pocket, I excitedly picked out a ring (you can see it in the photo below) as a gift for myself.
Perhaps my favourite adventure of the trip was visiting a jazz bar in an old wine cellar on the evening of my birthday. We shared a bottle of wine while listening to an amazing local band and even made friends with an older gentleman sat next to us. He's traveled the world listening and playing music and almost moved to America in his youth but came back to Paris for true love.
We also downloaded an app called "City Maps and Walks," which is loaded with themed, self-guided walking tours in cities around the world.
But mostly we led serendipity guide us, popping into Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, interesting shops, or charming cafes as we passed them.
Where We Ate & Drank
Matthew and I are both vegetarian, so not having to cater to anyone's desire for authentic French food (which is heavy on the red meat), we were free to check out a few plant-based eateries.
We ate at Au Grain de Folie and it's an admittedly strange place. Small and eccentrically decorated, the owner makes all of the food herself in a tiny kitchen at the back of the restaurant. The dishes hark back to a 70s interpretation of vegetarian food, heavy on cabbage and pulses. But everything was deliciously seasoned and it was nice to start our weekend of bread and cheese on a healthier note.
I discovered La Favorite with Jazz and Janice last time I was in Paris. We enjoyed a couple of delicious dinners there on that visit, so I was pleased that Matthew and I were able to stop in for a glass of wine and a cheese board one evening before supper.
HANK Burger is actually a chain from Brooklyn but they also serve up their veggie burgers in Paris and we popped into their location in the Marais for dinner. My burger was delicious and served with a side of beetroot chips, how could you go wrong?
We stumbled upon Little Red Door when we heard some fun, swingy music emanating form behind, you guessed it, a little red door. We popped inside to find a crowded cocktail bar with decor modeled on American speakeasies of the prohibition era. It's admittedly pricey but we found it the perfect place to stop for a final drink of the evening before heading back to our apartment for the night.
We picked up a selection of veggie goodies from the Un Monde de Vegan supermarket and the next day rounded out our feast with fresh bread and cheese from a market near Luxembourg Gardens, as well as sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and avocado. With faux-gras and mozzarissla it was a somewhat strange meal but it made for a delicious, picnic-style evening in.
We enjoyed a very special birthday dinner at Le Potager du Marais, an upscale vegan restaurant withextremely friendly staff. I enjoyed a beautifully presented, absolutely delicious seitan stew and I also really enjoyed the bite I tried of Matthew's lasagna.
Angelina's was recommended by the lovely Caz and with good reason! Coincidentally, Xandra was visiting friends in Paris at the same time as our trip, so we met up with her for the patisserie's signature hot chocolate (the thickest, loveliest hot chocolate ever!) and over-the-top desserts. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and I ended up bringing most of my dessert home on the train, but the beautiful decor, exquisite tableware, and delicious offerings made it the perfect Parisian indulgence.
What I'll Do Next Time
I love when you know you'll be back to a city again and again, so you can start to become familiar with her streets and settle into its energy and pace of life, rather than rushing from one thing to the next.
I found Messy Nessy Chic was a cornucopia of off-the-beaten path suggestions for exploring the "real" Paris. Next time I visit I hope to buy mushrooms from underground farmers, watch the sun set over Montmartre, take in a cabaret, ogle masterpieces at the Picasso Museum, explore the abandoned Rothschild Mansion, and stroll along the deserted inner city railway.
Have you been as charmed by Paris as I was? Have you discovered any hidden gems during your travels there?