In a city as well loved and heavily trodden as Paris, you’d think every little nook and cranny had been discovered and exploited already. To a large extent, this is unfortunately true – there are few truly “hidden gems” left in Paris. However, all is certainly not lost for the adventurous sybarite. Awaiting you is a plethora of fantastic views, unparalleled gastronomy, and evocative museums and galleries that only the savvy, bon-vivant parisien frequents. So here’s a few of my favourtie Paris destinations, delicacies, and other unequivocally delectable delights that the wonderful city has to offer.
Let’s start with my take on Paris’ Best Bars ‘n Bites. First up has to be one of the most picturesque summertime bars/restaurants in the city. Boasting a panoramic view over the Paris rooftops, “La Terrasse” Restaurant/Rooftop Bar at Galeries Lafayette is an elegant, contemporary, open-air rooftop restaurant that is perched atop the ever-popular, always-busy Galeries Lafayette. The cuisine comprises fresh and quality ingredients with a unique Japanese twist – a real ‘fine dining in the skies’ experience. While it isn’t exactly the cheapest place to eat in Paris, I must urge you to have a “pot en terrasse” there during the summer months, as the view is simply spectacular.
Next up, tucked away in the heart of Saint Germain des Pres, Huîtrerie Régis is snug shop-front table with a gleaming white façade and interior. Many seafood lovers have proclaimed it the best place in Paris for a fix of impeccably fresh oysters, which are delivered directly from France’s Marennes-Oléron region on the Atlantic coast. Depending upon availability, prawns, clams, and sea urchins can also be added to your extravagant plateau de fruits de mer. A nice selection of mostly Loire valley white wines complements the delicious menu, and a convivial atmosphere is created by the jovial oyster shuckers and many local regulars. If availability for indoor seating is low, the restaurant also offers a takeaway option – very worth doing as the food is THAT good!
Unfortunately, Paris is just one of those places where paying an arm and a leg for a meal comes around far too often. But that’s certainly not to say that there aren’t a number of affordable eateries that serve fantastic quality French food. Take Bistrot Victoires for example. This authentic Bistrot with vintage décor simply serves no-nonsense, quality French food at generous prices. The steak-frites are exemplary, featuring a slab of entrecôte topped with a smoking sprig of thyme. The plats du jour such as blanquette de veau (veal in cream sauce) are equally comforting and most certainly won’t break the bank. Another decadent delight with a more than reasonably priced menu which is charming, unpretentious, and refreshingly authentic is Les Galopins in Paris’ chic region of Bastille. A restaurant which is surprisingly unfrequented by tourists boasts beautifully prepared both classic and slightly quirkier French staples. With delightful staff, great service and a fantastic menu, this is a restaurant which simply doesn’t disappoint. The highly recommended dishes are the salmon ravioli and the courgette tarte tatin.
But, as we all know, it’s not just the food that we come to Paris for. Another main feature of this richly historic city is its numerous picturesque attractions. Take, for example, Sainte Chapelle. This royal chapel sharing Île de la Cité with Notre Dame has a history that is even more incredible than its stunning Gothic stained glass windows. It was originally built in the 1200s to house religious relics from Christ’s crucifixion, including the Crown of Thorns and pieces of the cross. The building was badly damaged in the revolution but rebuilt in the 19th century. Most of the original windows have survived. The chapel is split into two chambers: the ornately carved and painted downstairs for royal servants, and the kings’ chapel with its jaw-dropping elongated stained glass. Combining history, elegance, and unparalleled beauty, this is an absolute must-see when in Pairs.
Paris is also infamous for its many breath-taking public parks which are beautifully dotted around the city like oases of tranquility. Ranging from delightful greeneries to grand Royal Palatial Gardens, there are countless spots for you to choose from to spend a lazy afternoon. I’ve decided to select what I see as the most picturesque park in Paris. The Jardin du Luxembourg, situated in the 6th arrondissement and originally owned by the Duke of Luxemburg, boasts a whopping 55 acre coverage. At the center of the park is a beautifully constructed octagonal pond, known as the Grand Bassin, where children can rent small boats to play in on the pond. The park also features various incredibly detailed fountains and sculptures of Greek mythological figures, which are complemented by the scenic overhanging branches of nearby trees. In the north end of the Jardin is the striking Palais du Luxembourg which currently houses the French Senate, and which, during the French revolution, surprisingly also served as prison. Its masterful construction is immediately obvious and its powerful historic value continues to captivate each and every one of its visitors.
Think you’ve seen all of what Paris has to offer? Think again… Why not give yourself a dose of goose bumps at The Catacombs. This is easily Paris’ most bizarre tourist destination, but it has been attracting visitors for more than a century, and it’s an experience that you may find humorous, shocking or even frightening… Essentially, you are taken through a series of underground streets decorated on all sides by human bones that have been precisely stacked by workers with a somewhat macabre sense of ‘interior design’. Les Catacombes are a legacy of Paris cemeteries becoming so overcrowded by the 1700s that decaying human matter had started to leach through the soil and contaminate the city’s water supply. The solution was to create new cemeteries outside of the city for new burials, and to dig up the old bones and place them in the distant unused stone mines (what are now “Les Catacombes”).
If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, maybe you feel like getting a little more personal with Paris. There’s no better way to do this than a guided walking tour of Montmatre. A walking tour allows you to fully experience the incredible history of each location in an almost tangible manner. Your tour of Montmatre starts outside the Moulin Rouge, the most famous cabaret show in the world. From here, wander through the cobblestone streets as you slowly climb from this bohemian district to the summit of Montmartre. Your expert guide will bring the history of the area to life and at the summit you will discover some of the finest views in Paris, including the impressive Sacre-Coeur Basillica that dominates the Paris Skyline, and also visit Place du Tertre where you can buy paintings from some of the local artists. Your walking tour then moves to the picturesque North Slope, where you can see Van Gogh’s house. Other highlights include the Dali Museum, the famous windmills of Montmartre, and the renowned Montmartre Cemetery. If Montmatre isn’t your desired tour destination, choose from many others here.
So, those are some of my personal recommendations for keeping yourself busy and entertained in Paris.
Please know that these are only a slither of the attractive elements that this city of lights and romance has to offer. There are simply an unquantifiable amount of fantastic things to see, taste, and explore. So use this as a starting block, and find out what’s around every corner!!