Even when the heavens have opened or it’s a little chilly out, Paris has so many great options of things to do. I must admit that I loved some of the places I have included in this post so much more than the standard tourist attractions that we visited… on reflection perhaps it’s because they feature more shopping & food. But let’s pretend that’s not the reason why.
1. Musee du Louvre (Musee du Louvre, 75001):
The Louvre is a truly amazing museum, so it’s hardly surprising that it is also the world’s most visited. Aside from its unusual glass pyramid entrance, which provides ample photo fun (as you can see from my snapshots in Awesome Places to See when the Sun is Shining), it also exhibits a whole spectrum of outstanding art to keep everyone entertained.
It’s home to beautiful, humungous paintings;
incredible sculptures made from a large array of materials;
and the most insane rooms displaying a combination of all of the above;
which are my personal favourite of all the wonderful things that there are to see. And, of course, let’s not be forgetting it’s where THE Mona Lisa lives.
As the opposite of a museum buff, I can assure you that the Louvre is a pretty exceptional place to while away an afternoon. Plus, cultural self-indulgence must always be rewarded, for which Le Café Marly provides the ideal spot, as you can see in Bottomless Glasses of Champagne & People Watching.
2. Palais Garnier (8 Rue Scribe, 75009):
This royal opera house is a real thing of beauty. Both its exterior and interior are wildly impressive, featuring an unbelievable amount of intricate detail.
The entrance opens up into a huge cavernous space, with a central staircase that winds its way up allowing you to appreciate every angle of the room from different balcony levels.
The lighting is very dramatic and eerie and definitely complements the tone of the décor, effectively making a real, lasting impression.
Palais Garnier also very much still holds performances, which I can only imagine how magical must be in such a beautiful setting – I’m definitely signed up on my next trip to Paris!
3. Galeries Lafayette (40 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009):
Galleries Lafayette is an upmarket department store located just around the corner from Palais Garnier, making them both super easy to tick off the list together. It is Paris’ equivalent to Selfridges or Harvey Nicks, offering the entire price spectrum of men’s & women’s fashion, as well as beauty, homeware and some nice eateries for a mid-shop rest.
As well as picking up a well-deserved new wardrobe item, however, the real reason I think you must visit Galeries Lafayette is to marvel at the stunning glass dome. I decided to dig a little deeper as to why this amazing roof featured on a ‘mere department store’ and found out that the owner of Galeries Lafayette had dreamt of creating a luxury bazaar, “where the sheer abundance and luxury of the merchandise on offer would wow the crowds!”.
It seems to me that he accomplished his aims as the glass dome, which allows natural golden light to flood every level of the store, brings a real luxurious warmth to the whole building, whilst the dome itself with its multitude of stained glass windows is a piece of art in its own right.
When peering over the balconies that provide prime viewing up towards the beautiful dome you are also momentarily transported elsewhere, and it reminded me very much of being in the beautiful Palais Garnier.
4. Le Lafayette Gourmet (40 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009):
Let’s be honest, shopping is exhausting. Every woman knows all that walking, pulling clothes on & off, queueing and credit card crushing leaves you yearning for an indulgent treat (of the edible kind). Luckily for us, the man who built Galeries Lafayette foresaw our conundrum and built a masterpiece just across the road, ‘Le Lafayette Gourmet’, to be precise, to answer all our prayers.
A food hall of epic proportions, if you love food even a fraction as much as me, it’ll blow your socks off! There is an entire floor dedicated to only the finest chocolatier’s and pâtissier’s, that sell the most beautiful edible creations; chocolates, macaroons & pastries that look as if they belong in an art gallery rather than your eager stomach. I could spend days on this floor alone…
For the savoury lovers of you out there, don’t you worry; Le Lafayette Gourmet sells the highest quality of every food imaginable. We’re talking smoked salmon and cured meats galore;
handmade dim sum and sushi;
loaves of bread the size of your upper body and cheeses that would make people (not myself) swoon. Lots of these gourmet outposts also provide a small seating area, so that you can sit & sample their goodies as fresh as they come.
The lower ground is essentially just Whole Foods (my love) on steroids. Seriously, ambling around a high-end supermarket is high on my ‘Fun List’. I have no shame in admitting it. The fresh produce is out of this world, plus there is every kind of decent branded product available, from all over the world.
Just LOOK at these spices:
Oh, and did I mention… there are FREEBIES???? As if I needed any more reason to love this place, samplings of both the sweet & savoury variety are to be found every few steps! And it’s the really, really (really!) good stuff.
As a result of the generous tastings on offer I became an impulsive shopper and splurged €18 on a chocolate fondant. Although, at first, one might think this is a little steep, and I would not on the face of it disagree, it was the best damn fondant of my life and served up 4 portions of dessert (so €4.50 a pudding), which makes it actually blooming great value in comparison to most restaurants. Please God, promise me that if you go to Le Lafayette Gourmet that you will take the escalator downstairs, and you will hunt for the fondant that has ruined my life as I will now never enjoy my favourite dessert in the same way again.
5. Merci (111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003):
Merci is a ‘concept store’ in Paris. If you’re anything like me then you will have no idea what this is, but having done a little digging I can tell you that it’s a place that “brings together the best in fashion, design, household goods, and friendly eating options”. I guess you could liken it to a small department store, but one where you will quickly learn that much thought has gone into the collection of items sold. The iconic cute red car outside the front entrance of the store is the first sign that you are in for more of an ‘experience’ than your average shopping trip to John Lewis.
Merci is a lovely place to walk around as it is a loft-like space that is made to feel very open & airy due to the huge glass ceiling which floods the whole store with gorgeous natural light.
It’s a really quirky and fun place to spend an hour or two, particularly when rain showers are disturbing your lovely Parisian stroll through the wonderful Marais area.
The ‘concept’ is to bring together products that wouldn’t usually be sold alongside one another, but that work together, like vintage furniture and contemporary art, etc. There is something for everyone in terms of taste, budget and needs with an eclectic selection of items on offer including fashion for both men & women, featuring designer wear, vintage clothing from the likes of Chanel and Isabel Marant, well-known brands as well as some that you will never have heard of; homeware & décor; garden plants & furniture, fashion & home accessories; beauty products; candles & perfumes; books & stationery, and much, much more.
The ‘garden floor’ sells kitchen products and has an organic restaurant that provides a prime view of its own vegetable patch. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
There is even the ‘Used Book Café’, which serves up delicious, simple food whilst you sit amongst shelves & shelves of used books, inviting you to relax and disengage from the world whilst you sip on a cup of coffee or enjoy a meal.
If reading is not your thing then the selection of stuff sold at Merci lends itself to attracting all kinds of individuals, making it a people watching goldmine.
Essentially, it’s an awesome place for a shop, a snoop, an afternoon pick-me-up or meal. The icing on the cake for me was learning that Merci donates 100% of its profits to a charitable cause. Could you love this place anymore?