PARIS

 

Ah, Paris...

You either love it or you hate it.

 

Regardless of how you may feel

for the freezing cold winters

or the, shall we say, "emotional" locals,

we can all agree that this city has some of the finest

places to eat and things to see of anywhere in the world.

 

I'm happy to share some of them here with you...

 

(Find even more of our favorites by looking at our Paris hashtag, #parisknights )

 

 

EAT

 

BREAKFAST

DU PAIN ET DES IDEES: This famous boulangerie is located just off Canal St. Martin. Famous for it's "escargot" (aka pinwheel shaped pastries) with a small, but winning, choice of filling such as praline or chocolate-pistachio, you won't want to miss out. (If that scares you, their croissants and pain au chocolats are also extraordinary and worth the trip.) Since they don't serve anything buy baked goodness here, bring your own coffee or drinks. (Yes, there are Starbucks in Paris.) If you're lucky, you can grab a seat in the sunshine at the lone picnic bench outside. If it's crowded, just wander a block or two over to Canal St. Martin for a great place to eat your breakfast. Only open on the weekdays! Closed Saturday and Sundays.

CAFE ST REGIS: If you're looking for a great spot of Sunday brunch, this is your place. Not only is the setting on Ile Saint Louis easily accessible from all parts of the city, but it also gives you a great place to people watch with the backside of Notre Dame as the backdrop. If you go, don't miss the "Pain Perdu" (French Toast) to enjoy thick slices of fresh brioche drowned in custard with your choice of bananas or berries on top. Too good to miss! St. Regis also has great lunch/dinner options as well as a happy hour with great deals.

 

LUNCH

L'AS DU FALAFEL: An institution that is worth the long-line. Beware! It's not open on Friday nights or Saturdays due to the Sabbath... however, the neighboring King Falafel is open then & a close rival. (Both are located on Rue des Rosiers in Le Marais.)

CAFE DE LA PAIX: This historic (and posh!) restaurant sits cozily beside Le Palais Garnier. If a special lunch with pristine dining is on your list for Paris, I highly recommend booking a table here for a truly experience. You'll get the full French cuisine experience here, and the lunch/pre-theatre menu is a great way to do it without blowing your budget completely. Read my full review of our gorgeous lunch here. You can also opt to sit on the terrace for a less formal experience that offers many of the classic Parisian standards... but with a killer view and ambiance. 

LE PETIT MARCEL: If you're around the Centre Pompidou, this local spot is almost small enough to miss if you walk by. Snag one of the few seats outside or tuck into the charming interior to dine on their classic brasserie options or some of the great daily specials. There is a lunch menu that offers two courses for €14 that is a great deal. Expect a bustling interior, slightly slow (but happy) service and a classic Paris experience.

MUSEE QUAI BRANLEY: This museum's little cafe has great food and one of the best views of the Eiffel Tour. Opt for the patio for the stunning backdrop... and try their cafe viennoise for a creamy, naughty treat.

LE 7BIS MONCEAU: We stumbled upon this neighborhood gem with friends, and I stand by the fact, that it might be one of my favorite meals ever. The day were were there, they had a goats cheese salad that was remarkable. Menu changes daily, but I have a feeling that anything this tiny kitchen concocts, won't leave you disappointed. Bring your French dictionary as the waitstaff doesn't speak great English and the menu can be a bit tricky to navigate.

LE PROGRES: This Montmartre brasserie has all the standard cliches of a Parisian restaurant... but somehow, seems to do it better with a fresher appeal than other nearby establishments. The food is consistently good & the crowd, despite it's setting on Montmartre is a good mix of locals:  you can see anyone from hipsters to professionals, or cozy couples & young families. Lunch prices are decent for multi-course lunches, around €16 for two courses.

RUE CLER: This small, two-block street is a foodie's paradise. Each store front offers different stamps for your Epicurean passport. Fromagerie? Fresh Fruit? Shops devoted entirely to honey or wine? This is your place to shop for the perfect Parisian picnic... and with it's stone's throw proximity to Les Invalides & La Tour Eiffel, you'll be in luck to find a nice view to pair with your finds.

CAFÉ DES ARTS ET METIERS- If you're up near Arts & Metiers (just above the Pompidou) and are looking for a welcoming and solid place for lunch, this is the place. Named, conviently, after the area- this classic brasserie does things right. The decor is hip, the service is kind, the menu offers all the french classics you want in a way that refreshes them a bit... oh, and they're nice to kids! (High chairs and small portions out early!)

BOULLON CHARTIER: This restaurant began in 1896 and has been around every since. With a historic dining room and a goal to create affordable dining by serving French classics, it's a way to get a taste of French cuisine without a hefty price tag. Waiters will be dressed in black & white and the line may be long. It's a fun place to try!

LE PARADIS DU FRUIT: This is, oddly enough, a chain restaurant. With that said, it is a very hip chain that is full of Parisians. With cool white decor to set the scene, Le Paradis du Fruit offers a different menu than most of the brasseries you would walk into in Paris. If you're in the mood for healthy (but delicious!) food, head here. With salads, grilled skewers of meat, and sandwiches on their menu- you'll find something that hits the spot. Also, their smoothies are great: try one with yogurt, coconut and pineapple for a Pina Colada-esque treat. 

CAFE LE NEMOURS: You know that gorgeous cafe that Angelina Jolie is sitting at in the opening of The Tourist? This is that one. Just out the side of the Palais Royale and Louvre, Le Nemours is more than just a pretty facade. The simple menu is perfectly French with daily staples like homemade quiches served with a simple salad, baguettes filled with ham and butter, or croques of your preference. You'll pay a bit more for the location (and it has become quite popular!), but the proximity to the Louvre and killer photo ops make it a stop I'd recommend. Even if just for a coffee.

 

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LA PAUSE GOURMADE

GEORGES at the POMPIDOU: People are always saying you can't have great views with great food. Okay, I mostly agree, but when I stumbled upon the Pompidou's rooftop restaurant, I had to change my mind. The views of Paris are up close and personal. And the food ain't too shabby either, but while the burger was more than decent- it is overpriced. The sweet spot is to come for a coffee or drink between lunch & dinner. Sit with the City below you and drink deeply of all that loveliness underneath your feet. (If you're headed to the restaurant, take the giant hamster tube up from the left of the main entrance. It will take you straight to the top and won't require waiting in the long queues into the main entrance.)

POPELINI: As part of your pastry journey through Paris, don't miss Popelini. Fresh on the scene with small choux pastry filled with a variety of flavors and topped with adorable coordinating decorations- these make for a great gift to bring to a hostess's house, tea time treat or, you know, casual treat enjoyed in a sunny park on a bench by yourself. With classic eclair flavors like coffee, chocolate and salted caramel- don't shy away from some of the fresher fillings. The passion fruit is tangy and sweet- with just the right amour of pucker. See my full post about Popelini here.

LA GRANDE MOSQUEE DE PARIS If you like mint tea, baklava & something off the beaten path, head to the left bank to the Grand Mosque. Freshly made "the a la menthe" and baklava await you in a lush, arabic setting... complete with sparrows & greenery. This may well be one of the best kept secrets of Paris... especially if you indulge in the €63 package that gets you lunch, tea, hamman treatment & body scrub. {The entire menu is stocked full of arabic delights.}

CREPERIE SUZETTE: Located in Le Marais: This little creperie in Le Marais is a perfect place to tuck into in the middle of a day wondering through Paris. The standard fare is tasty, but the perfectly crafted crepes and savoury-stuffed galettes are what they do best. If you are up for something other than the standard nutella-filled crepe, try their honey & walnut crepe. 

CARETTE: While the location off Trocadero is the well-known version of La Carette, I much prefer the quieter spot at Place des Vosges. With the same menu (and never a wait!), you can hop into this quaint space and spend the afternoon lingering over their coffee and sweets. While they have all the pastries and macarons you could want, I find their La Dame Blanche sundae (vanilla ice cream, chocolate and roasted almonds covered in chantilly cream) to really take the proverbially cake. Plus, the view from the terrace of the park is gorgeous.

LA DROUGERIE: My favorite crepe stand in Paris. Hands down. On the other side of Rue De Rosiers from the Falafel madness. Try the nutella, coconut & almond.. and squeeze inside for a €1 cup of the mint tea. You might just see me there.

BERTHILLION ICE CREAM Scads of places sell this local brand of ice cream within this tiny island. If you see the logo, go ahead and get in line. In 5 short minutes, you'll be glad you did. The ice cream really is amazing. The peach (peche) is dreamy... but the combo of dark chocolate (chocolat noir) & coconut (noix de coco) makes my head spin.

LA MAISON DU CHOU: Consider this tiny shop the less-formal relative to the slick bakeries selling choux marvels (like L'eclair De Genie or Popelini). Walk into this small storefront on Ile St. Louis and pick from a handful of daily flavors. From there, the clerk will handful your chou, insuring that you have the freshest bite possible. Don't miss the "nature" flavor- which mixes cream and cream cheese for a crazy good taste.

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MERCI: This cult favorite destination isn't just for the fashionistas... it's for the hungry, too. With three great cafes on site, there are light bites and swanky treats for everyone. I'd probably leave the kids at home for this stop. It's more suitable for meeting up with a girlfriend or a lazy afternoon spent curled up to a cute guy... or journal.

L'ECLAIR DE GENIE: What Laduree did for the macaron, so L'Eclair de Genie does for the eclair. This tiny shop in the Marais lines up their assortment of eclairs up with the pomp of a designer shoe department. For  €5, you can have one of their delicious treats. They are a bit on the small side, but the flavor is amazing. My favorites are the Vanille + Pecan or the Millefieulle. Tyler loves the Chocolate Art Deco with hazelnut. Mmm.

ST. REGIS: This quaint spot sits just on the edge of Ile St. Louis, overlooking the tail-end of Ile de la Cite... and Notre Dame. Go for a drink during the last moments of the afternoon as the sun sinks down in the sky and the famous cathedral transforms into a staggering silhouette in the hued sky. (Also, the retro interior is pretty awesome.) To be honest, my favorite time to eat here is on Sundays for brunch. It's only served this day and after 10am- go for "le pain perdu" (French Toast), which arrives in a pool of custard and your choice of caramelized bananas or mixed berries. C'est incroyable.

 

DINNER

CAFE CONSTANT: It should come as no surprise that this small restaurant nestled near the Eiffel Tower owned by famed chef, Christian Constant, has been discovered by tourists. (Plus, it has the Rick Steve's stamp of approval.) The first thing to tell you is that if you want to go & enjoy it's offerings, you need to get there at 7pm when the doors open... or plan on waiting for 1.5-2 hours for a table. While it may seem overwhelming to head to a place that is so popular, fear not! The food is worth it & the line isn't too bad, if you arrive when the doors open. The shrimp tart to start is fantastic...  and the homemade profiteroles for dessert shouldn't be missed! Prices for a three course meal are approx €32 per person, and the waitstaff is American friendly. 

LE RELAIS DE L'ENTRECOTE: So this place is not fancy... but it is really really good, and with the female waitstaff scurrying around in black & white aproned uniforms, feels perfectly Parisian. There is no menu... just one basic question: "How would you like your steak cooked?" {medium= "a point"} You''ll start a simple (and good) salad, followed by the yummiest steak-frites in France. Their secret sauce covering the top of the steak is just... delicious. Don't skip the mustard though. It's an added bonus of flavor. Their profiteroles are the perfect way to finish the evening. €24.50 per person, no reservations taken, multiple locations- but I always go to the one on Boulevard Montparnasse.

CHEZ JULIEN: This gorgeous restaurant with it's pretty windows opening up to a tiny dining room dotted with red velvet seating and golden detailing had been on my "must!" list for years. As it sits just off the Seine, it was always on my walk home- taunting me to spend a meal over it's white crisp tables covered with delicate stems and china. When we finally made it, it lived up to all my hopes for it. All four of us at the table ordered the waiter-recommended chateaubriand... and it was fantastic. The first courses are easy to skip. Save you money for something of their artistic drink list or one of their pretty desserts. Definitely a great spot for a romantic night in Paris.

LE COUP CHOU: While many brasseries feel Parisian, this discretely-facaded restaurant feels decidedley French. Think cozy rooms, stone walls, pots of boeuf bourgignon. You can get a fabulous three course meal for €32. It's our favorite date night spot in Paris. Not kid-friendly per se, but the atmosphere is inviting. Reservations quite recommended.

LE POTAGER: This tiny place in Mont Martre is our "place" to go when we are in the area. The tiny space can't fit more than 15 people, and it's popular. Try your luck by walking by, but reservations are recommended. Not fancy food, but great tasting. It's a good date spot. 

 4 0 4 : On the street behind our apartment this spring, we found a place that was so different than our normal Paris spots. It's 404 and it's Moroccan. But Moroccan done in an exquistite way that pulls you in off the Marais of Paris and instantly transports you to a ornate riad. The food is great and you won't believe how enormous the portions are. The couscous could feed a family. Go for lunch and score with their set menu- offering meals + drinks for under £15.00 per person. (If you're familiar to London, you'll recognize that they are owned by the owners of the hip, sketch.) If you arrive early, stop by Andy Walhoo for the coolest speakeasy experience with crazy crafted drinks and a DJ playing to the very cool crowd. You'll definitely feel like you've come into some place special with these two. Perfect spot for a date. Reservations recommended.

LA CANDELARIA: Once you've grown weary of steak & onion soup, head to Candelaria for a fresh taste: tacos! With a very limited menu of tacos and tostadas, this tiny place is a fantastic splash in the traditional line-up of French fare. The steak tacos and guacamole are a big winner. Pass through the door at the end of the kitchen to enter the super-cool secret tequila lounge. 

LE PETIT CLER: This tiny spot sitting in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower has great style, great food, and nice service. The real win is the daily specials. For €12.50, you can get daily rotations of great dishes like veal stew and boeuf bourgignon. It's a price that is hard to beat.

AU PERE LOUIS: I don't always give advice- sometimes I'm desperate for it, too! This place was recommended to me via twitter, and was conveniently just around the corner from our apartment. We went, we loved it and it definitely makes the list as a good recommendation, cool interiors, fab bar scene up front & great menu stocked with classic French favorites. (I had the veal which came as a stew in a dutch over with green olives, celery and carrots. Holy moly. Delicious.) The onion soup is also exactly what you would want on a cold day. Reservations (or arriving before 8pm) recommended.

 

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DO

MUSEE DU LOUVRE: It goes without saying that you have to pay your respects to this famous institution when you visit Paris... and I've posted my advice here.

LES INVALIDES: If you are bringing a man with you to Paris, throw him a bone amidst your girlish indulgences of macarons & cafes by taking him to Les Invalides for a half-day of French military history and a visit to Napolean's grave underneath the famous golden dome. The audioguides offer themed tours (Napolean, WWII, etc) that guide you through various parts of the complex to give you a great picture of specific areas of interest... I would definitely recommend one for navigating your way through this gigantic facility.

MUSEE D'ORSAY: Why should you go to the Musee D'Orsay? Think of it like this: the Louvre has the old art,  the Pompidou has all the modern art, and the D'Orsay has all of the stuff in the middle that you'd actually recognize. Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Chagall... this is where it's at. And it's setting is magnificent.

L'ORANGERIE: On that same vein, the Orangery sits across the Seine from the D'Orsay in the Tuileries. I have to admit, I didn't know it existed until we moved there. It's got HUGE waterlilles by Monet that wrap the walls of two rooms, plus highlights from a handful of other impressionists. It's a must, in my opinion. (You can buy a combo ticket for both the D'Orsay & L'Orangerie at FNAC.)

VERSAILLES: If you have a day to devote to this trip, it's worth the simple trek out on the RER. A day trip is really easy to do... and you've never seen anything like it. I posted my advice here. Obligatory bike rental info included.

PALAIS GARNIER: Also known as the L'opera Garnier." Interesting to tour, but probably best viewed with a ballet ticket in hand. A seat below Marc Chagall's ceiling would be worth the hefty price tag! {Yes, "The Phantom of the Opera" opera house. No phantom sited when I was there!} You can book in advance here at FNAC.

MUSEE NATIONAL DU MOYEN AGE:  Also known as "Musee Cluny, " this probably isn't for the first-time visitor to Paris, but it doesn't mean it's not a great stop. The left-bank museum focuses on the Middle Ages and is housed in one of the last remaining buildings from the period.

LA CUISINE PARIS: This cooking school, sitting steps from Hotel De Ville & off the banks of the Seine, is the perfect souvenir for your trip to Paris. With friendly chefs guiding you through the skills to make French treats like macarons and eclairs, you'll come back with a lifeskill you won't soon forget. 

 

 

STAY

AIRBNB: I'm a big fan of Airbnb.com for short-term apartment rentals. Honestly, it's what I've used for the past several years when traveling to Paris and plan to do for any upcoming trips. Give it a try! Use the link above to save $25 off your first stay.

PARIS PERFECT: Another way to rent apartments, but this time through an agency (rather than directly with the owner like AirBnB). I've never used this group, but I've heard really nice things. 

VILLA PANTHEON: Villa Pantheon is a quiet place to stay on the Rive Gauche, right off the Rue Des Ecoles... 
A bit basic, but the staff is nice & the location is pleasant.

HOTEL GABRIEL PARIS MARAIS: This small boutique hotel offers the second-time visitor to Paris everything they could hope for... other than a large room. As it's a bit tucked out of the normal tourist route and back into the Marais, it may be difficult for first-time visitors to get fast access to all the sites they crave. Opt for the upgrade on rooms. The amazing bathtub and balconies make it well worth it. (Room 502 is a gem.) I book through Tablet for the best prices.

HOTEL VERNEUIL: Another left bank hotel recommendation for you- but this boutique on Saint Germain is tres chic. Plus, it's Latin Quarter address and proximity to the Musee D'Orsay and Cafe de Flore makes it hard to resist.

HOTEL FABRIC: This hotel's lobby is gorgeous and hip. I can't vouch for the rooms (as I've never made it up past the lobby), but the location is perfect for someone coming back to Paris for a second or third time. It sits in a great location in the 11th- right near endless boulangers and cafes. Easy access to Metro stops, too.

HOTEL REGINA: If you are splurging, the Hotel Regina has an amazing location... and is often the setting for movie plots & romantic weekends.

 

 

 

 

banner photo by: stacy reeves, l'amour de paris

page photos by: noah darnell