Let's get this out of the way first: Maybe you shouldn't use a guide for Paris. It's just that, well, there aren't many better cities in which to wander around and get lost in and few better places to allow yourself the freedom of being actually, well, free. Which, I know, sounds horribly romantic and maybe even kind of annoying, but is also true. (Also, horribly romantic and kind of annoying is not an inapt way of describing Paris itself, to be honest.) So if you really want my advice on how to enjoy Paris, it would consist of me telling you to rid yourself of any preconceptions of what you must do, and just find a way to do something—anything. The thing is, it's kind of impossible to go wrong by spending your days—and nights—strolling around (Paris is the home of the flâneur, after all) and making your own discoveries along the way.
But, of course, not everyone is equipped to travel this way; some of us are the type of people who need plans and checklists and a general idea of what the hell we absolutely need to do to get the most out of a travel destination. Which, when I put it that way, actually makes a whole lot of sense. Maybe a guide would be helpful. Especially one that's been put together by the sort of person who is generally unguided. Here, then, are some of our favorite spots in Paris to eat, shop, see, and stay in; many places are good for those on a budget, while others are perfect for those who don't even know what a budget is. Bonne chance!
Where to Shop
Cuisse de Grenouille: This chill little shop in Le Marais neighborhood is known for its "Surf in Paris" sweatshirts (there are also ones with "Surf in Gstaad," "Surf in Charlotte," "Surf in..."—you get the picture), but it's also home to lots of other great menswear, and is the perfect place to get someone a souvenir. Specifically, one of those "Surf in Paris" sweatshirts. They're really nice.
5, rue Froissart 75003
Merci: This store has something for everyone—and something at every price point. I could genuinely spend a full day just walking around, scoping out, and being inspired by its many beautiful things. It's also a perfect place to find gifts for loved ones left behind in the States, but don't forget to treat yourself—perhaps to some of the gorgeous housewares, like the impeccable linens? Perhaps!
111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003
Shakespeare and Co.: This iconic bookstore comes in two parts, the English language shop which isn't so distant from what an indie bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, looks like, but still totally worth checking out and making a purchase at; they mark the inside of your new books with a special Shakespeare and Co. Paris stamp. Don't forget to stop by the used and rare bookstore next door. It's full of real treasures (and most are in English for those who don't speak anything else). A recent visit kept me occupied for hours looking through old copies of books by Sade and Sagan. A few years ago, I purchased the first edition of Colette's Gigi and the Cat. It's one of my most treasured possessions to this day.
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005
Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen de Clignancourt: You'll pass this massive flea market as you drive into the city from Charles de Gaulle, and make sure to make a mental note to come back for a visit during your time in Paris. (Also make a mental note that it's only open on weekends, with some select hours available for buyers on Friday and Monday mornings.) Many people will say that Clignancourt is over and that there are no deals to be found there anymore. Those people are wrong and depressing. Sure, it might not be what it once was 20 years ago, when I read in Vogue that it was Kate Moss' favorite place to shop in Paris, but what is? It's still totally worth the trip and the subsequent hours of winding your way through stalls and haggling over the price of a gorgeous poster from a Chagall exhibit in 1969.
The Broken Arm: Paris is home to an abundance of cute concept shops (the grandmère of them all being Colette, which we kind of recommend, but more as a museum than as a shopping destination), and The Broken Arm—which, like Merci, also doubles as a cafe—is a lovely, if expensive, one. Full of super-hip brands like Vetements and Kenzo, there's plenty to be inspired by, if not to actually buy, because, what are you, a millionaire? (If so, buy away.)
12 Rue Perrée, 75003
Princesse Tam Tam: While you can find Princesse Tam Tam lingerie online in the States, there's nothing quite like going to an actual store. And we are huge fans of this line of insouciant, hyper-wearable yet ultra-sexy lingerie. It's maybe a little on the expensive side, but you get what you pay for: The quality is excellent, the designs are lively and sexy, and you'll feel like a hyper-cool French girl from the inside out.
29 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75004
Food Markets: You don't only need to shop for clothes and housewares while in Paris. Make sure to spend some time in the many abundant food markets, where you will see vibrant produce, the freshest cheeses, fragrant honeys, delectable breads and pastries, and so, so, much more. Here are a few of my favorites. Eat up!
Marché de Raspail: 119 Boulevard Raspail, 75006
Marché des Enfants Rouges: 39 Rue de Bretagne, 75003
Marché Bastille: 73 Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, 75011
Where to Eat and Drink
L'As du Fallafel: Weirdly enough, this beloved falafel spot in Le Marais is perhaps best known for being "recommended by Lenny Kravitz" (no, seriously, check out its Instagram bio and the first review on Yelp), but I guess this just means that Kravitz really knows his falafel, because the version here stands out amidst Le Marais' admitted falafel glut. Sure, there's frequently a line, but it moves relatively quickly, and it's totally worth waiting on to indulge in the perfectly crispy fried falafel nuggets stuffed inside warm, soft pita alongside generous helpings of crisp, crunchy vegetables and savory sauces. If you like spice, definitely order it with hot sauce, and don't forget to add on some of the melt-in-your-mouth eggplant.
34 Rue des Rosiers 75004
Miznon: Get. The. Cauliflower. Like, if you eat no other thing while in Paris (which, why would you doooo that??), eat the cauliflower at Miznon. It's justifiably famous (Haaretz called it the recipe that "took over the world") and well-worth whatever line you have to wait on to eat it. Plus, the rest of the food at this 4th Arrondissement hot spot is just as good. But, yeah, get the cauliflower. You'll be happy you did.
22 Rue des Ecouffes, 75004
Derrière: This sexy little spot is tucked away behind a courtyard, but once you find your way inside, you'll feel like you're in the Paris that previously existed only in your dreams. The mood is darkly romantic and the decor is just the right amount of irreverent. The food's solid, though it's somewhat beside the point. You're here to feel that specific type of French je ne saisquoi, which can sometimes be harder to find in Paris than you might think.
69 Rue des Gravilliers, 75003
Breizh Cafe: Home to what I think are the best crepes in Paris, Breizh Cafe is an excellent spot for a quick midday meal. Crepes come in both sweet and savory varieties, but I'm partial to the buckwheat version with ham, egg, cider-braised onions, and gooey gruyère. C'est parfait!109 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003
L'Avant Comptoir: Tapas in Paris? Sure! Why not? And not just any tapas—the small dishes at L'Avant Comptoir are among the best cuisine the city has to offer. Try the artichoke, the carpaccio, and the blood sausage macaron. No, really. It's a must eat.
3 carrefour de l'Odéon, 75006
Ten Belles: It might not seem like a hard thing to get good coffee in Paris, but... it can be a hard thing to get good coffee in Paris. Luckily, Ten Belles doesn't just offer good coffee, it offers great coffee, as well as excellent pastry options.
10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010
Hotel Bars: Okay, so, the thing about Paris is you can really be drinking anywhere. Bring your wine with you to the movies! You're in France. There just isn't the same kind of cocktail culture in France as there is in the U.S. since drinking is more a way of life than some clandestine activity. (And, I know, I know, cocktail culture has been on the rise in Paris as of late, but, still, this is a city where a hot nightspot is unironically called Cafe Chic. So, yeah, it's not the same.) All of which is to say, forget trying to find a super-cool bar and go check out some of the city's gorgeous hotel bars. Yes, they'll be a little pricey, but you will also be soaking up a very specific type of refined Parisian culture, and the people-watching at these spots is beyond compare. Below are a few of our favorites, all of them beautifully appointed, guaranteed to provide you with immaculate service, and sure to make you feel like you are one of Paris' haute bourgeoisie if that's your thing.
Le Fouquet's: 99 Av. des Champs-Elysées, 75008
Hotel Costes: 239-241 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001
The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Paris: 15 Place Vendôme, 75001
What to Do
École Ritz Escoffier: Sure, there are plenty of places in Paris in which to stuff your face full of delicious food, but what if you got to make all that delicious food yourself? And then stuff your face? You'd find yourself in pure heaven. Such is the case with the Escoffier cooking school at the Ritz Paris, where you can sign up to learn how to make everything from éclairs to foie gras in a gorgeous cooking space in the nether lands of the storied hotel. I recently took a cream puffs class, in which I made such gorgeous éclairs (see above photo), that when I sent my friends photos of what I'd made, they didn't even believe me! (They are bad friends.) The instruction was super-easy to follow, the class was really fun to participate in, and the best part was leaving with a box of tasty chouquettes and éclairs upon which I gorged myself for the rest of the day. Also: For the gluten-free among us, the cooking school will be offering gluten-free classes come November.
The Hammam at the Grande Mosquée de Paris: Enjoy the Spa Castle of Paris, only, rather than being a Korean sauna haven, the Grande Mosquée is a bathhouse in the tradition of Turkish hammams. Sip mint tea and enjoy the gorgeous mosaic-tiled fountains and arches as you get thoroughly scrubbed down and massaged with body oils. Don't miss the steam rooms or the wonderful savon noir, which will get you cleaner than Ivory soap can ever hope to.
39 Rue Sainte-Hilaire, 75005
Hotel Spas: These spas are sort of the opposite experience of a hammam, but if you want something really luxe and truly pampering, definitely try to experience a hotel spa while in Paris. Often hidden in the depths of the hotels, some of these spas and their attendant swimming pools feel like hidden grottoes, and entering them feels vaguely religious. Others, however, are so brightly lighted and borderline futuristic that you feel enlivened in a truly unique way. Here are a couple of our favorites.
Spa My Blend at Le Royal Monceau: 37 avenue Hoche, 75008
Spa Valmont pour Le Meurice:228 rue de Rivoli, 75001
U Spa Barrière Shiseido: 99 Av. des Champs-Elysées, 75008
What to See
The Louvre: Look, I get it, this is obvious. You already know you should go to the Louvre. You've known this since the first time you ever heard about Paris. But, I'm actually not saying you should necessarily brave the lines to go inside. (Although, if you do, go close to the end of the day and run through it like Anna Karina in Bande à part.) Rather, walk around outside, enjoy the hum of all the people, marvel in the building's glorious architectures, and take your time strolling through the Tuileries, and then head over to musées Rodin or Picasso, and get your fill of art that way.
Palais de Tokyo: Or, you know, catch some modern art at this glorious institution and sniff haughtily when people talk about the incredibly long lines and crowds with selfie sticks they endured all in order to maybe catch a fleeting glance of the Mona Lisa. Philistines.
13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116
Parc des Buttes Chaumont: Located on the northeastern edge of Paris, this park might not be so well known as others, but it is one of the most beautiful verdant escapes in the city. Highly worth a trip and the perfect place to feel closer to nature.
1 Rue Botzaris, 75019
Deyrolle: Yes, you can shop here, but even if you're not planning on bringing home any taxidermy, that's fine. Treat this place like a museum in and of itself; it's certainly filled with untold wonders and walking through it feels not unlike stepping into a diorama at the American Museum of Natural History. Or a Wes Anderson movie. Or both.
46 Rue du Bac, 75007
The Abercrombie Store on the Champs-Elysées: Don't go inside or shop or anything, but do check out how wildly fancy the entryway is and then laugh at the absurdity of it all.
23 Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 75008
Where to Stay
Oops! Hostel: Easily one of the most stylish hostels on, well, the planet, Oops! also has the benefit of offering free wi-fi, ultra-clean quarters, a great location on the outskirts of the Latin Quarter, and a super-cute name. Oh, and the prices are really—obviously—competitive. And did we mention the free breakfast? There's free breakfast.
50 Avenue des Gobelins, 75013
Generator Hostel: NYLON has recommended this spot before as being great for the traveler on a budget, and we stand by that completely. The rooms are stylish and clean (and you can spring extra for single rooms if sharing isn't your thing). Plus, there's a rooftop bar. That's a really nice touch.
11 Place du Colonel Fabien, 75010
Le Royal Monceau: Okay, so now that we've got your hostel needs covered, may we recommend that you consider splurging on a night or two (or a year?) at Le Royal Monceau? This hotel sets a high mark when it comes to design (it was completely redone a few years ago by Philippe Starck, who is responsible for everything from the tiled floors to the chandeliers), and it's incredibly luxurious in all the best possible ways, which is to be expected as its one of the Leading Hotels of the World, an acclaimed and coveted designation, signifying excellence. (Other Leading Hotels in Paris include Hôtel Barrière Le Fouquet's, Hôtel Ritz Paris, and Le Bristol Paris; the true crème de la crème of the City of Lights.) For example, the bathrooms are entirely walled with mirrors, which sounds crazy, but is also the best thing in the world. Reader, I would live in that bathtub if I could—not least because the products all come from the hotel's Clarins Spa, which is also home to an insane infinity pool that would be our second choice for a residence, after the bathtub. You're definitely treating yourself if you stay at Le Royal Monceau (further treat yourself to dinner at Matsuhisa or Il Carpaccio, which boasts a Michelin star), but don't you deserve it? As much as anyone deserves anything? Sure. You're in Paris after all. Treat yourself.
37 avenue Hoche, 75008