Grand Haussmannian avenues, first-rate culinary experiences and an overall zest for life are hallmarks of the Parisian lore. The city may resemble a living museum but at its core, it is a stunning cultural hash of old and new - glam and grit - that continues to be the pleasure-ground for international dreamers. Varied in form, inspiration is everywhere here; all you have to do is open your eyes.
Paris has no shortage of placid parks and gardens, but perhaps the most charming is at Palais Royal, the birthplace of the restaurant (if you’re feeling flush, book a table at Le Grand Véfour, one of the city’s oldest and longest running restaurants). Today, its illustrious arcades frame art galleries, designer shops and terraced restaurants. At the heart of it all is a beautiful garden oasis, with manicured lawns, rows of lime trees, marble statues, a flowing fountain and benches for lingering.
The city’s gilded past looms large in the Left Bank, particularly on and around the Pont Alexandre III, an ornate bridge built by in the late 19th century in honour of Tsar Alexandre III following the Franco-Russian Alliance. Look out onto the river from the centre of the bridge when soft, golden light suffuses the city late afternoon and you’ll understand why it has provided the backdrop to countless films, including Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Quai d’Orsay, 75008
EAT & DRINK
Colorful pastry shops line nearly every Parisian street but few do double duty as a cosy salon de thé like COLOROVA, a design-forward pâtisserie in the 6th. The dining room marries contemporary touches like graphic wallpaper, colourful Tunisian fabrics and industrial lighting with modern interpretations of time-tested classics like the Saint-Honoré, Millefeuille and lemon tart. Heady scents of fresh pastry greet as you step through the door and will leave you wanting to sample one of everything. Give in to temptation but only once you’ve experienced their market-fresh lunch menu. 47 rue de l’Abbé-Grégoire, 75006
Among the spots that have popped up across town in the swiftly evolving gourmet coffee movement, few are as congenial and welcoming as LOUSTIC. That’s largely thanks to its founder-head barista Channa Galhenage who left no detail unconsidered when he opened this 3rd arrondissement coffee shop. The coffee is brewed perfectly, the sweet and savoury bites are expertly sourced from local small businesses and the conversation is free-flowing. Ensconce yourself on the couch in the back room with a good book and a V60 pour-over and you’ll be at one with the regulars. 40 rue Chapon, 75003
Top Chef finalist PIERRE SANG was officially ushered into the canons of contemporary bistro cooking when he opened his namesake restaurant on the rue Oberkampf, a market street in the 11th arrondissement last year. The South Korea-born chef presides over a sleek open kitchen – both a way for him to offer counter-diners a unique experience and interact with them throughout the meal - and concocts modern French dishes inflected with Asian flavours, all from local purveyors. Though reservations aren’t accepted (no phone!), Pierre’s cooking is well worth an early arrival. 55 rue Oberkampf, 75011
Just up the street is A BOIRE ET A MANGER, a smart new gourmet grocer that takes its name very seriously. From juice and wine to eggplant caviar and other aperitif staples (many of which were sourced from the south of France), each of the artisanal products here is well-suited for discerning food lovers. Cheeses, meats and a handful of savoury tarts make the perfect picnic fare. Snag a spot at the counter in the back and enjoy a mixed cheese or charcuterie plate and a glass of wine as a pre-dinner aperitif – it’s the perfect opportunity to chat with the young owner. 61 rue Oberkampf, 75011
Since 2007, MEDECINE DOUCE, a Canal Saint-Martin jewellery shop, has been the paragon of affordable Parisian chic: discreet, minimalist and ultra-feminine. The collections are updated each season but always feature a stunning selection of basics and statement pieces with subtle splashes of colour. Guaranteed to turn heads back home. 10 rue de Marseille, 75010
It’s nearly impossible to talk about shopping in Paris these days without mentioning the Right Bank’s design hub, MERCI. Dedicated to fashion and homewares, this Marais concept store sees throngs of design-hungry shoppers pass the threshold each day – and it’s something they can feel good about since 100% of profits are donated to charity. After scouring each floor for that hot ticket item, be sure to grab a bite in one of their three on-site cafés. 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003