We know, we know. We write about France a lot. But that's for good reason! Today, we wanted to share some easy tips for those of you who may be traveling to Paris this summer. Oh Paris in the summer! What a time to see the City of Lights! What will you need first? A place to stay!
There is no shortage of unique, charismatic, and even inexpensive accommodations in Paris. Here are just a few; the list goes on!
Looking for a highly-rated hotel in the Left Bank? The Hotel Lenox Montparnasse may be what you're looking for. The exquisite setting in a beautiful and historic building is a short walk or bus ride from anything in the 14th arrondissement. Several notable artists and celebrities have stayed here ;)
Hotel Saint-André des Arts is a remarkable hotel also on the Left Bank featuring unique architectural features in a colorful part of town. Considered by many to be a bargain, this is a great option if you plan to spend more time exploring the city than hanging out in your room! And, if you are lucky, you will be serenaded by music at night.
A short walk from the Notre Dame Cathedral, you'll find the Relais Hotel du Vieux Paris. With some of the zaniest wallpaper we've ever seen, it is one of the highest-rated hotels in Paris and also one of the oldest hotels to stay in the city.
We're sure you've heard of the worldly cuisine to be found in Paris. Close your eyes and picture in your mind the quintessential Parisian sidewalk bistro. Is there a decorative awning? A chalkboard telling you the plat du jour? Are there throngs of pedestrians making their way along the boulevard? Well then you've just imagined the Little Café! Have a meal here and discover what all the fuss is about!
Les Fous de l'Ile is a sometimes wacky brasserie on the island of St. Louis. People come here as much for the atmosphere and the staff as they do for the award-winning cuisine. Highly-recognized by many publications, you can add Les Fous to your short list ;)
La Comptoire Voltaire is a cozy café near the Place de la Nation that has some of the best escargot that we have found in the city. The owner travels to the French countryside himself to pick the snails (he prefers big ones!). And they follow a proprietary recipe in-house handed down from his grandfather. If you are in this part of town, this is definitely a great place to stop in for a meal or just snails.
If you have a sweet tooth, an absolute must-visit spot is Chocolat Debauve & Gallais. Founded in 1800 by the official chocolatier of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette, the confectionary offerings are decadent and thoughtful. And even if you are not a fan of chocolate, perhaps you can still appreciate the historic storefront, classified as an historic monument. The half-moon countertop alone is worth a visit!
Finally, we recommend the delicious fare at the beautiful café Camille in the heart of Le Marais in Paris. With a traditional menu that never disappoints, Camille is a great choice. We suggest you make a reservation though. Bon chance!
If you are so inclined to try your hand at making your own French pastries, you can enjoy taking a pastry class in Paris taught in English by a French chef! At Pâtisserie à la carte, you can learn some secrets to the best desserts in the world. Hot off the press: they will soon be expanding their operations to our own Austin, Texas!
One cannot visit Paris without sampling French wine; it's practically unthinkable! One of our favorite spots is a family-owned wine bar called Au Sauvignon. Now in its third generation, the family of Henri and Alice Vergne have been serving the best since 1954. Stop by and meet the family!
Another spot not to be missed is a hip bar near Bastille that serves 80 (yes 80!) brands of pastis for your enjoyment. Chez Janou is always a party and for those a little more adventurous, an impressive assortment of absinthe is available as well. It has become a popular spot for visitors, so expect a wait, and be patient! The thousands of patrons who brave the delay all consider it well worth it ;)
Did you think we forgot about the museums? You've all heard of the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay, but what about the Fondation Louis Vuitton? A stunning collection of modern and contemporary art housed in an astounding architectural creation by the incomparable Frank Gehry is second to none. Visit this unique building on a sunny day and spend as much time exploring the gorgeous gardens as you do enjoying the collection inside.
Are you a fan of sculpture? Visit the Musée Zadkine to see a remarkable collection of sculptures by Russian artist Ossip Zadkine as well as an assortment of other works.
Or perhaps photography is more your thing. Ever heard of a guy named Cartier-Bresson??? Rapidly becoming one of the most prestigious institutions in Paris, the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson showcases two influential documentary photographers: Cartier-Bresson and Martine Franck. The two married in 1970 and the Fondation houses their unmatched collection of art and photographs, including many of the most famous black-and-white photos ever made.
A visit to the oldest pastel manufacturer in the world may bring a little more color to your Paris adventure. La Maison du Pastel has been around since 1720, and their pastels are among the finest in the world. When they were in Paris, Chad and Amanda made a special trip to procure a collection of metallic pastels for an artist here in Texas. But be careful when planning your visit to this tiny, hidden shop, because their hours are quite limited. You'll only find yourself in this quaint boutique on Thursday afternoons :P
Fancy a new haircut while in Paris? Make an appointment at Christophe-Nicolas Biot if you want to pamper your noggin. Their skilled coiffeurs are only one draw to this notable salon; the location in a seventeenth-century corner building make this place a must.
Whenever Cathy is in Paris, she always stops at her favorite legwear shop to see the latest collection of Japanese socks and tights. Tabio has two locations in Paris, so you're sure to find what you're looking for!
If you enjoy searching ancient tomes and studying antique maps, a trip to Au Vieux Document may be on your radar. This bookstore has been around since 1859 and is right around the corner from some of the tourist sites surely already on your list. Immerse yourself in history and see the world like Robert Langdon does!
Just north and up the Seine from Paris, the bustling town of Saint-Ouen sports a impressive mix of attractions. Long the headquarters of such major brands as Citroën, Sony, and L'Oréal, the town also boasts one of the largest flea markets in the world. Over seven acres of dealers from around the world play host to over five million visitors each year shopping for antiques, collectibles, clothing, and art. The market itself is a protected urban heritage site, and although it is open on Mondays, the best time to go is on the weekend. Depending on which station you depart from Paris, the RER train will have you there in either fifteen or thirty minutes!
Speaking of the train, Paris has one of the best metro systems in the world. In fact, it has been regularly rated number 1 in the world by several independent agencies. But there is still a learning curve! We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the map (zoom in and around here http://metromap.fr/en) ahead of your trip, and give yourself a leisurely first day in the city to learn the stations and lines that you are most likely to use. Be observant and you'll rarely get lost. And if you do get lost? You'll be lost somewhere beautiful, so just roll with it!
Writing about Paris has made us all want to return ASAP, so we wish you a fantastic journey and a wonderful time in la Ville Lumière!