This post highlights what are, so far, mine & Michael’s favourite areas of Paris for a stroll, and a few idyllic spots and nifty tips & tricks that we stumbled across along the way.
1. Le Marais:
The Marais area was my favourite of all. It is literally exploding with the most amazing, unique boutique cafes, bakeries and shops offering everything from antiques to jewellery, clothes and homeware. It is a super stylish and vibrant area, the backstreets of which never failed to impress me and where I could happily spend days getting lost. Even though it has a certain gloss to it, it is still full of character & charisma.
There are so many awesome shops, restaurants, art galleries, fashion houses and nooks & crannies to be explored offering all sorts of intriguing fare that I actually feel a little deprived that we didn’t get to spend more time there. Everything is beautiful. I can’t liken it to anywhere in London because every time I tried there was a caveat, but here’s probably the best description that I can come up with – ‘a hybrid of Covent Garden and Notting Hill, minus all the tourists, with the sheen of Bond Street, mixed with a tinge of the edginess of Shoreditch’ – pretty great, right? Essentially, it is classy & trendy & unique & cool &…
Every single street we walked down had beautiful architecture & colour. Obviously a must, must, must. It is also home to the exquisite & historic Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris. Read more about this attraction and other places we enjoyed in the sunshine in Awesome Places to See when the Sun is Shining.
Le Marais also features both the Jewish & Gay Quarter, which somehow work wonderfully side-by-side.
In the Jewish Quarter you can find interesting Jewish bookshops and authentic kosher restaurants, as well as no less than 4 absolutely amazing falafel shops located within 50 metres of each other – you can read more about these in Some Life Changing Foodie Musts. Since I had been told of these in advance, and one in particular had been recommended, L’As du Fallafel,
I had planned on us going there for lunch, but for whatever reason it is apparently shut on Saturday’s so we had to ‘make do’ with joining the extravagant line that had formed in front of the falafel shop opposite; Mi Va Mi, which served up a bloody great lunch if you ask me – L’As du Fallafel has a lot to live up to on our return! My point being that I highly doubt there is much in it between these various restaurants; all will serve up a good-value, large, fresh falafel, which is something I really recommend you put on your Paris To Do List.
Plus, once there you can easily sway into Rue Montmartre, which is the area where Michael and I stayed and is absolutely AWESOME – see my post Bottomless Glasses of Bubbly & People Watching for more details. It is an extension of the Le Marais vibe and super buzzy and fun at all times of the day.
2. Saint Germain-des-Prés:
Back in the day, this area was home to the existentialist movement. Proof of its previous individualistic inhabitants can still be found with quaint & authentic art galleries and book stores dotted around. It also boasts some of the best restaurants in the city, with Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore being two of the most famous.
Having said that, the area is becoming renowned for being overrun by tourists and seems to be losing some of its authentic Parisian charm. Michael and I happened to be passing through the area at lunchtime and checked out the aforementioned bistros (located a stone’s throw away from one another) and, although they were incredibly busy, I have to say that I would be surprised if more than a handful of the diners were actually French, which is a bit of a shame. The food also didn’t look particularly exciting, hence when we turned the corner and saw the beautiful, polished, outdoor seating area of La Societe shimmering in the sunshine, I couldn’t resist maxing out the credit card.
If you want to read more about our lunch, Come Dine With Us. As usual, I digress to food, but Saint-Germain is definitely still worth a wander, particularly as it is so close to so many of the main tourist sights. I would however recommend strolling through the backstreets instead of along the main roads, which appeared to us to still be rather local-focused.
I also read somewhere that there are 15 of the best chocolatiers located within 1 square mile in Saint-Germain, so if you are up to the challenge a ‘chocolate crawl’ is the best possible reason I could ever think of to visit somewhere.
3. Rue Saint-Honoré & the Champs-Elysees:
Rue Saint-Honoré is lined with high-end boutiques and exclusive chains. Whether or not you have the money to spend, peering through the shop windows is an appreciation of art in itself. I have been scraping the pennies together for some time and was able to treat myself to the bag of my dreams, but usually I am no more than a distant admirer!
The scrubbed shop fronts that look as if they were given a fresh lick of paint yesterday permanently gleam & sparkle, and I love watching the elite strut around in their super glamorous outfits; quite simply, it’s just a lovely surrounding to be in. You can also stop off for a mid-afternoon tourist-lagging pick-me-up at either Angelina or L’Avenue, depending on whether you need a chocolate or alcohol fix. You can read more about both of these top spots in Some Life Changing Foodie Musts and Bottomless Glasses of Bubbly & People Watching, but both are a serious MUST (and there is absolutely nothing stopping one from leading into the other ladies!).
The Rue Saint-Honoré also leads into the Champs-Élysées, so is the perfect shopping stretch. Obviously everyone knows this avenue so I won’t bore you with witter but all the usual tourist favourites can be found along it, including Ladurée, Häagen-Dazs and the Hard Rock Café. It’s not exactly the most authentic street and it becomes rammed with tourists the moment the sun shines, but you can’t go to Paris and not walk along the Champs-Élysées, so just appreciate it for what it is and take comfort in the fact that you will come face-to-face with the stunning Arc de Triomphe once you’ve elbowed your way to the end of it.
4. Jardin du Palais-Royal (8 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris):
This is a lovely and seemingly underrated park right in front of the Musee du Louvre. It has astonishingly well-groomed gardens, impressive statues and beautiful water fountains located within it.
It’s a great piece of greenery right in the heart of the hustle & bustle of Paris and a lovely place to take a time-out from being crushed by people and revel in a little peace & quiet. From what we could gather the Royal Palace Gardens appear to be a bit of a local’s well-kept secret, as it was comparatively very quiet to Paris’ other renowned parks, with just a few people to be seen reading a book, going for a jog, and taking a reflective stroll. During our wander we also saw a small group performing tai chi, which is actually incredibly peaceful and enjoyable to watch when you take the time to do so. All in all, definitely a must. You can read more about the Royal Palace in my post on Awesome Places to See when the Sun is Shining.
5. Jardin du Luxembourg (6e Arrondissement, 75006 Paris):
Another stunning Parisian park, and perhaps the most famous. It is much larger than the Royal Palace Gardens and is beautiful in a different way, since it naturally feels much more open and has a very different layout. The park is known for particular stunning features, including the grand Luxembourg Palace, which one could marvel at all day;
as well as the huge water basin that lies in front of it, on which gleeful children sailed model boats, whilst Parisians and tourists alike reclined in the surrounding deck chairs and drank in the serenely calming effects. And, although I am 100% one of these people I must admit that I find it amusing how quickly humans take to basking like terrapins with their eyes shut and faces turned upwards the moment a ray of sunshine appears.
The Luxembourg Gardens also consists of well-trimmed, plush green lawns, multiple attractive tree-lined promenades, and beautiful flowerbeds.
What is there not to love? Another must see, in our opinion.
6. Along the River Seine:
A bit of a given really, but it is really worth making sure that you walk a decent stretch of the river so that you can appreciate the openness, suck in some fresh air and be blown away by the grand buildings on either side, joined together by beautiful bridges, including the infamous Pont des Arts, otherwise known as the ‘lover’s bridge’ (featured in my Awesome Places to See when the Sun is Shining).
You’ll also stumble across plenty of stalls selling really rather impressive artwork at more than reasonable prices, artists drawing caricatures, vendors selling roasted chestnuts & honeyed cashews, and lots more souvenir-style gimmicks worth a second glance.