Paris is one of my most favourite cities. I absolutely love the architecture, the chic Parisian style, and general beauty and ambience when I stroll around the city. I can even overlook the huffy waiters because the food is, without a doubt, sublime.
I made my 3rd trip to Paris this year for my birthday in April (yes, this post is several months late, however it has taken hours to compile!) and I packed an itinerary full of indulgent activities with a little sightseeing thrown in as well.
If you are planning a visit to this dreamy citadel then check out my list of must-do/see/eat which made my trip unforgettable.
This place is well worth a visit. De’Royalle is an eclectic taxidermy museum showcasing stuffed animals from beetles to bears. It really is breathtaking to be able to stand millimetres from nature, albeit dead nature. Some of their prizes are over 100 years old as well.
You complete your tour in the bug room where they have thousands, probably millions of preserved insects in glass and wooden cases. If a 10,000 euro stuffed lion is a little out of your prices range then why not buy some insect taxidermy. As a birthday treat I created my own inset taxidermy art which now hangs on my bedroom wall. I choose a Madagascan butterfly, 2 beetles whose shiny chrome armour caught my eye and two little brown bugs to complete the tableau.
My favourite district for shopping in Paris is Le Marais. It’s teeming with French clothing boutiques, some well know european brands and an assortment of vintage stores.
Sometimes eating out 3 times a day on holiday can be overkill so if the weather and location is right do a picnic! Luckily in Paris you are never short of tasty Boulangeries and Patisseries where you can pick up a delectable selection of treats for your picnic. It was a beautiful sunny day and we lunched on a pair of chairs right next to the floral lawns. We had quite a feast: pate, french baguette, olives, empanadas and the most divine two cakes ever. The chocolate torte-style cake was basically and over sized Ferrero Rocher and the strawberry one was crumbly and creamy all at the same time. Heaven.
If you are confident on a scooter then I can recommend no better way of getting around Paris than on the back of a Vespa! Why stick to the underground and expensive taxis when this enables you to zip to and from destinations whilst taking in all the sites. Such Fun!
We used a company called Left Bank Scooters run by a friendly Australian man named Adam. I cannot recommend the service enough. He even let us keep the Vespa and extra day for a reduced rate because it wasn’t booked out. We arranged everything by Whats App as well.
Side note: DON’T drive a Vespa unless you are fully competent in driving a scooter. I had a quick go down a quiet side street and ended up driving the scooter into a shop window, I kid you not. But that story’s for another time…
3 times I have visited the Eiffel tower and 3 times I have refused to join the endless throngs of tourists waiting hours to ascend to the top. Instead I have a composed an haughty saunter around the tower’s base (ala Kim Kardashian) then walk up to the Trocadero (10 min walk) for the best view of the iron monster.
Biking to the Arc de Triomphe
Like London’s Boris Bikes Paris has a great rent-a-bike system. They also have dedicated cycle lanes which are so much wider/safer than the ones in London. Follow the cycle track down the river Seine and take in all the sites.
One thing we did do on bikes was cycle all the way up Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. A triumph indeed, although something I wouldn’t recommend as I inhaled copious amounts of exhaust fumes and spent the majority of the ride dodging holidaymaker coaches. Oh, how we celebrated when we reached the top – straight into the nearest bar for cocktails!
Paris is chock full of flea markets so we couldn’t cover all of them. Marché d’Aligre was my favourite and although about a 20 minute Vespa ride away, there were two streets lined with vintage clothing, jewels and furniture, records…everything. I saw a gorgeous retro, formica, kitchen table in pristine condition that I wanted but would not have been able to get back on the Eurostar. There was also a lady, a cigarette permanently dangling from her lips, selling vintage Gucci, Alaia and Chanel. I touched everything, probably to her annoyance. It wasn’t until we were leaving did I spot a shearling aviator jacket I had to have. Remember to haggle!
We stayed at a delightful boutique hotel called Hotel Gabriel. This hotel is situated in what they describe as “Haute Marais” which is a pretty way of saying the edge of Marais. The value for money is great. I really loved our room which was all white and minimal with a walk-in rainfall shower and small eating area. The Hotel Gabriel has designed it rooms around a light show. To my boyfriends annoyance I insisted we turned it on every night and fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the ocean. I love a gadget!
Another cool tourist-y thing to do is visit Paris’ famous graveyards which is the final resting place of: Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde to name few. I was most keen to see Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf’s graves and we spent a leisurely hour hunting for them, looking at all the intricately masoned tombs. When you are close enough popular graves are easy to spot as the gravestones always have a buzzy little crowd circulating.
When we reached Edif Piafs graveyard a tour guide had just started playing her most famous tune “Je Ne Regrette Rien” on a scratchy little tape player which made the visit all the more momentous and memorable .
Notre Dame at night
One of the restaurants we were recommended was Le Petit Châtelet which is situated just to the left of the formidable Notre Dame. We chose to eat outside so we could watch the sunset and the Norte Dame light up at night.
Places I ate and rate
Obviously a huge part of any trip for me is the local cuisine and of course Parisian fare did not disappoint. I compiled a list of eateries Grace Dent would have been proud of. I have listed out the places I enjoyed most below.
Slightly off the beaten track this was my number 1 choice for my birthday dinner and boy was it mouth-wateringly delicious. Definitely my most favourite place we ate at. Not only was Bistrotters warm and friendly (a rarity for parisian restaurants) but such value for money.
To start I had, hands down, the best chicken liver pate (top left) followed by the slow cooked, pork belly with seasonal vegetables in the most lip-smacking gravy ever (too right). The manager, who was very animated and attentive during our visit, ran off the flavours and herbs in the sauce (well over 17). The meat was meltingly tender, the best I’d ever tried and adorned with just the right amount of crackling.
A birthday dessert cannot be ignored. I choose the Brioche French toast with Salted caramel sauce and dark chocolate shards (bottom right). This is the sort of dessert you write home about.
To read up more on my Birthday outfit and makeup look go here.
Although situated in a rather tourist-y spot right next to the Shakespeare Book Company and opposite the Norte Dame this quaint restaurant is the perfect place for people watching. The dining experience was a traditional French affair from the authentic cuisine to the downright huffy and rude waiters.
I ate the Artichoke Pate (bottom left) followed by the Sea Bass (top right). We slugged down a fine and juicy French red and wandered home, hand in hand, along the Seine.
This is already a favourite restaurant of mine in London so I didn’t want to miss the chance to visit the original one in Paris. This was our final supper before boarding the Eurostar home and Le Relais de Venice never disappoints.
Everything from the sweet, French waitress outfits to the crammed in tables and old school dining room makes this a fun place to eat. You won’t dilly dally over your menu choices here – the waitresses ask you how you want your steak done (medium for me) and that’s it! The classic set menu is the only option and that is because it is a perfectly executed 2.5 courses!
You start with a delicious salad. The simplicity of this salad astounds me; a selection of buttery salad leaves dressed in a tart mustard vinaigrette and a sprinkling of walnuts. I mop the plate clean with my baguette EVERYTIME.
Main course comes twice. Yes, I did say TWICE. Your first delivery of le entrecote steak is served up with a steaming pile of salty french fries and the famous green steak sauce whose recipe is a closely guarded secret. Once you have devorured this they bring this exact same dish, again. Hells yes!
Welcome to hipsterville, the Rose Bakery would not be out of place in Shoreditch. Everything from its achingly cool waiters to the reclaimed scaffolding tables and mismatched vintage chairs screams ‘cool’. The food is decent and they have an awesome selection of preserves and cakes to take away. Be warned though you pay a price to eat in such an “on trend” establishment. Brunch, 2 x pot of homemade marmalade and 2x cakes was 75 euros.
L’As du Fallafel
A family favourite of mine, nothing beats a lazy afternoon shopping in the Marais district followed by a legendary falafel lunch at this traditional Jewish street food joint. You can pick up your lunch from a hole in the wall or sit inside.
I ate the chicken schnitzel doused in healthy glob of garlicky sauce. The crunchy cabbage, salad and pickles were all crammed into the pitta bread. My partner ate the falafel with a side of fries. We drank the house larger.
Another hip little joint on the edge of Le Marais, we decided on a whim to visit La Flamingo on the night I hadn’t preselected a resataurant. The interior is mostly pink, obvs. They sell pizza all of which are named after legends and leaders. I was torn between the Obama (a maple bacon and pineapple chutney pizza) and the Che (pulled-pork pizza). Ya’ll know I’m a sucker for pulled pork but I opted for the Obama in the end Mr President did not disappoint!
We drank the house white which was awfully sweet and not to my taste, but the pizza was legend-ARY.
I hope you enjoyed me sharing our trip with you.
Let me know if you have been to any of the places listed above. Do you have any of your own unmissable Parisian recommendations? If so, please leave them below!