I recently had several friends ask me for a short list of must-see, interesting places in Paris — I thought I’d put it down on paper for all of us to daydream a bit together…or maybe you are one of the lucky ones with a trip planned there too?! The dollar is so strong & tourism is down in Paris now, so it is a great time to take advantage of lower rates and enjoy it all.
1. First, where to stay: St. Germain des Pres neighborhood. I’ve stayed in various neighborhoods (arrondissements) in Paris, for work trips and for pleasure, & the one I finally ended up adopting as my home away from home is St. Germain des Pres. Its cobblestone streets are nestled around the Abbey of St. Germain (below), with the famous cafes of Les Deux Magots (6 place Saint-Germain-des-Pres), one of Picasso’s favorite spots, and Brasserie Lipp (151 Boulevard Saint-Germain), where Ernest Hemingway wrote A Moveable Feast, within a stone’s throw.
You will find huge array of small hotels in the neighborhood — I’ve stayed at the very low-end ones as an art student and much more comfortable ones as I got older! Here are two I recommend — & the current prices are lower than I’ve seen in past 10 years!
* HOTEL DES SAINTS PERES (65 Rue des Saints-Peres): I saw a rate as low as $140 night (cheaper than many of the sketchy places my daughter & I are staying on our epic college road trip!).
Why I like this hotel — location is quaint and very accessible to great area boutiques and museums…..the concierges speak perfect English – when I brought my 80-year old dad over (no French), he was able to get detailed touring info from them with no problem at all….it’s historic (late 1600’s!) but has modern amenities.
The courtyard cafe actually looks just like this photo from their website – very tranquil.
Rooms are tiny (or mine were) but comfy and stylish. This is the hotel for you if you like places with character.
2. HOTEL BEL AMI (7-11 Rue Saint-Benoit): A bigger, more modern hotel (great Wifi, which my daughter loved) with….wait for it….air conditioning! (surprisingly rare in older parts of Paris), Hotel Bel Ami is a great choice if you want more open common spaces and up to date details. I saw rate for $240, which is much less than I paid 5 years ago.
2. WHERE TO SHOP: Of course this could be a VERY long post if I wrote down every single place, but my favorite thing to do is to walk all around St. Germain des Pres and cover the small boutiques (vs. bigger, more famous department stores). Unlike in the U.S., you don’t have to go to some non-descript, trade-only “Design Center” to see fabrics and furniture from top brands. If you go to Place de Furstenberg, lovely cul de sac below — you’ll find places like Manuel Canovas, Pierre Frey, etc. dotted throughout the area. Anyone can walk in & order!
Don’t miss Flamant! This large furniture/accessories – all things home – is absolutely beautiful. And since most Parisians are going to be away for all of August, you’ll probably find some great sales going on too.
Others I love:
- Simrane – 23 rue bonaparte. Incredible original Provence-style linens. The owner actually went to college in the U.S. (Cornell) and has been sourcing textiles and homegoods from France and India for decades.
- Sabbia Rosa – 73, rue des Saints-Peres: lingerie store!
- Aurelie Bidermann – 55, Rue des Saints Peres — adore.
- Inez de la Fressange Paris – 24 Rue de Grenelle – former Chanel model, very chic, home & some clothes/accessories.
- It sounds crazy i know, but the Ralph Lauren store there (173 Blvd St Germaine) is to die for, in a Beaux Art bldg — and the courtyard garden is lovely spot. Sonia Rykiel store is right next to it & also great.
3. Where to eat: I am not a foodie so I”ll leave that reportage for others, but there are 3 food-related destinations I’d recommend.
- E. Dehillerin 20 Rue Coquillière, 75001 — Hop in cab & head to E. Dehillerin for a real adventure. This is the historic French chef’s store where Julia Child used to shop for cookware and where Ina Garten does today. I took my youngest daughter there when she was 13 & we had great time looking at the HUGE industrial-size ladles (as tall as she was) or the teeny tiny pastry piping tools. Its main audience is professional Parisian restaurant chefs but you’ll find something there for your home to be sure.
- Poilane — what is Paris without a perfect baguette to savor?! There are many Poilane shops throughout Paris & of course they’re all superb. I’m not the biggest fan of their website (currently says they are “looking forward to Spring”:( ) but if you can bear with the clunkiness of the site, you CAN order Poilane bread fresh from Paris for when you get home! I’ve done this for myself and as gifts and it’s been fun — they Fedex the fresh bread out in the AM straight to you. Look under the “Shop” tab.
- Last but not least, check out Cookn’ with Class (6 Rue Baudelique, 75018) towards Montmartre. We took a macaroon-making class that was incredible! All classes taught in English (our teacher was actually from Australia) but use specific French cooking methods. Our classmates were from all over the world — and the resulting macarons were at least as good as Laduree! (Our Parisian friends whom we shared the macaroons with that evening said “perhaps even better” than Laduree). High praise from a Frenchman!
We booked our class online via the link on TripAdvisor. Worked out great.
Anyone who goes HAS to report back to all of us with sales or tips we can all use, ok?!! Paris is so great any time but on sale, even sweeter.