The Paris Guides
Written by: the Editors of goop
Updated on: June 18, 2015
At long last. We walked hundreds of miles, and tried a few too many goose-fat fried potatoes in putting together these guides to Paris (there’s a huge—and free!—city guide app that goes with it). But we can’t really complain: There’s only one Paris. You’ll find about 300 of the city’s best spots, from the classic Bar Hemingway, to the newest Michelin starred arrivals.
Starting at the Louvre, Paris’s twenty arrondissements swirl outward, like the shell of a snail. It’s civic planning in its most romantic form. And here at goop, we’ve been enamored with every last arrondissement since our first croque monsieur. But in a city this dynamic, this spectacular, and this exciting, by the time we make it to the 20th, there are new restaurants, hotels, and shops we need to investigate back in the 1st. We’d never pretend to know every corner of the French capital—but that won’t stop us from trying. And of course, stumbling upon new quartiers is part of the beauty of this city. These are our newest discoveries in Paris—and they’re every bit as potent an elixir as an evening at Le Bistrot Paul Bert, Le Grand Véfour, Bar Hemingway, or any of the other old friends we’ve grown close to over the years. In the new Paris, the world-famous bistros and museums and hotels now stand cheek by jowl with a new wave of places, like Mokonuts, Clamato, and C.A.M, that are shaking up the idea that dinner in Paris is incomplete without pot de feu, duck confit, and tarte Tatin. So enjoy the guide to Paris’s newcomers—plus a bunch of our greatest hits we couldn’t bear to omit—and if you get lost somewhere in the 6th and stumble into an undiscovered brasserie, bonne soirée.
The 5th, 6th, and 7th arrondissements are an introduction to storybook Paris—the one we read about in romantic epics, saw in Renoir masterpieces, or more recently watched in Nancy Meyers movies. The narrow alleyways and grand boulevards of Saint-Germain were the original stomping grounds of great twentieth-century thinkers, artists, and writers, like Picasso, Hemingway, and Matisse. Many of Europe’s most-celebrated creatives—Simone de Beauvoir, Edgar Degas, even Thomas Aquinas—were graduates of the nearby Sorbonne. And today, Parisians jostle through the Marché Raspail piling bunches of radishes and punnets of raspberries into baskets, before stopping off at Poilâne for the best bread in the world. They lounge on the terrasse of Café de Flore and enjoy a glass of Pinot Noir at Les Deux Magots. To maximize your time in this neighborhood, start at the Sorbonne and walk up the Latin Quarter continuing through Saint-Germain—pausing for a café au lait at Freddy’s or maybe a coupe de champagne at Hotel Lutetia. Then end your stroll at the Eiffel Tower. If you time it right, you’ll arrive at dusk when the lights start to twinkle.
The heart of Paris—the 1st, 2nd, and 8th—is where they keep the crown jewels. This is where you’ll find the city’s gems: the famed galleries of the Louvre, the thick-as-syrup hot chocolates at Angelina’s, the corner booth at Bar Hemingway, the unabashed splendor of the Hôtel de Berri. This is also where you’ll find the legendary landmarks that are the postcards, the bedrocks of these interior arrondissements. And they belong to everyone—the misty, early morning jogs, the afternoon picnics in the Tuileries Garden, the coffee you have in the shadow of Napoleon’s Vendôme Column, those several stately avenues that always seem to lead to the Arc de Triomphe. Residents are few and far between in these neighborhoods, and the tourists commandeer the sidewalks, but don’t let them dissuade you. Getting to know the manicured avenues of the Right Bank is part of a proper Parisian education.
Le Marais is the West Village of Paris. The 3rd and 4th arrondissements include a panoply of incredible food—whether it’s the tacos at Candelaria of the best falafel of your life at Miznon or the buckwheat crepes at Breizh. And then there’s the fashion. The tangle of streets starting at Place des Vosges and moving north are the holy grail for French-girl style. Stop by Merci to peruse Isabel Marant, spritz some Annick Goutal on your wrists, or drink a green juice at the très chic canteen. Grab a coffee at Fragments and a few stripy Breton tees at Maison Labiche (monogramming is optional, but we vote yes). Then head further north to the nontouristy 10th. Canal Saint-Martin’s waterways are bordered by banks teeming with resolutely French restaurants serving biodynamic wines by the glass and mounds of tartare to the bright young things crowding every table. This eastern corner of Paris is quirky, is distinctly local, and oozes charm.
It’s once you venture north, high above the city, that you can appreciate the beauty and scope of Paris. This is where you’ll discover Pigalle and Montmartre, home to the colossal Sacré-Cœur Basilica, the still-going Moulin Rouge, and the world-class Clignancourt market. These neighborhoods used to have reputations for being sketchy (and to be fair, the 17th and 18th still have pockets you’ll want to avoid), but now they’re home to the new bohemians—those artists, writers, and thinkers who flock to libertarian Paris. And the restaurants, hotels, and cafés that have sprung up in recent years reflect that taste: NYC transplant Buvette, the outrageously cool Grand Pigalle Hotel, and Maison Kitsune—for all your French-girl-style needs—fit the new mold. Paris is not a homogenous city. Each arrondissement is so distinct, linked only by proximity, and nowhere is this diversity more pronounced than at the capital’s peak. Download Citymapper, hop on the Métro, and start walking.
As in many European capitals, in Paris the most intriguing scenes are on the fringes. The 20th dances along the city’s edge with streets and avenues peppered with small shops, tiny fruit markets, Parisians on motorbikes, and some of the most exciting dining in the city. Newer spots, like Clamato and Septime, make every must-eat-here register for good reason. The wine lists are extraordinary—often celebrating small growers and labels you’ve never heard of; dishes are strictly seasonal and delicious; the crowd is always electric. So come to the 11th to feast, the 13th to admire remnants of Paris’s industrial past, and the 20th—arguably the city’s greenest arrondissement—to spend a day wandering Père Lachaise cemetery. Walking past the headstones of Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde has a calming, inspiring effect, like finding your own secret garden.
Paris gets quiet in August, when—in a stroke of brilliance—France gives itself the month off. While many restaurants and boutiques shut down for vacances, some for the entire months, others for a week or so to give their staff a break, there’s something nice about visiting during this quiet spell. And, best of all, some of our favorite places do stay open. Rule of thumb: Bars and restaurants belonging to hotels are always a safe bet this time of year.
While Paris might not come to mind as the most kid-friendly place, it’s actually kind of one giant playground, with some pretty incredible and accessible parks. That, plus the ease of being able to grab a crepe from one of the million stands dotted across the city make it kid nirvana.
Oh the many culinary delights of Paris, from sole meuniere to the simple pleasures of an almond croissant. It seems like there’s a Michelin starred joint on every corner, and an equally wonderful cheese shop or bakery to back it up. Here, our favorites of Paris’ gastro treasures. Image courtesy of @parisinfourmonths