Few cities evoke the same level of sentiment as the City of Light, the City of Love, Gay Paree. The iconography runs deep: baguettes; paint palettes; breton shirts and berets; supercilious waiters in white aprons. Most of Paris’s charms are so obvious that it hardly requires a guide to find them; the problem is how to create an itinerary in the face of its array of museums, dining spots, historical sites and independent boutiques.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. First impressions: Whether you’re asking for a croissant or directions, don’t just launch straight into your request: it’s considered wildly impolite.
  2. Banking on it: Paris’s Left and Right banks are not simply demarcated by geography: they represent different lifestyles. The Left is all art galleries and upscale cafés, the Right is more varied.
  3. In vino veritas: Wine is the tipple of choice in Paris – in many bars and restaurants it’s cheaper than a soft drink. French people are partial to meeting for an apéro (a drink and a bite to eat) between 18.00 and 20.00.
  4. Do your homework: Always look online or call ahead to check that the venue you want to visit is open. Most Parisian restaurants open five or six days a week but figuring out which do when is the rub.
  5. Pick of the bunch: Paris’s pickpockets are predatory with tourists. Be particularly wary of young children bearing clipboards: it’s a distraction technique.

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Hospitality at its finest

  1. Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris, Champs-Élysées (8e)

    High-end luxury

    Under the stewardship of François Dupré from 1928 to 1968, the hotel built up an impressive collection of 18th-century furniture and artwork that is now a hallmark of the establishment.

  2. Hotel Grand Amour, Gare du Nord (10e)

    Arty lodgings with spice

    This hip 42-room guesthouse combines the charm of a b&b with grand-hotel luxury and has interiors styled by graffiti artist Saraiva. Keep an eye out for his custom-designed genitalia-patterned carpet.

  3. Hotel Providence, Republique (10e)

    Boutique charisma

    There are numerous theatres nearby so actors come to this eccentric and charming hotel for post-show drinks, making for a colourful crowd.


Local lingo

  1. A ta sante?: To your health (cheers)
  2. Balle: Quid/buck
  3. Bises/bisous: Kisses
  4. Fumer une clope: Have a smoke
  5. L’addition: The bill
  6. Salut: Hi or bye

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. Le Clown Bar, Oberkampf (11e)

    Playfully inventive cuisine

    The belle époque-era interior with its painted circus figures somersaulting across the mirrored walls is a fitting backdrop for the culinary whirls and turns that chef Atsumi Sota takes with his creative, modern French à la carte menu.

  2. Le Chateaubriand, Canal Saint-Martin (11e)

    Bistronomie at its finest

    The charm and aesthetic of this restaurant is that of an old-style neighbourhood bistro but its reputation is world-renowned. Le Chateaubriand hasn’t seen an empty table since its founding in 2006 (bookings must be made at least 21 days in advance).

  3. Le Cave à Michel, Belleville (10e)

    Lively tapas hotspot

    In the evening this petite wine shop transforms into a standing-room-only space offering seasonal small plates heaped with grilled octopus, artichokes and Galician beef.

  4. Barthélemey, Saint-Germain-des-Prés (7e)

    Cheese-lover heaven

    No fridges, branding or use-by dates can be found in Fromagerie Barthélemy, only wall-to- wall cheese. More than 200 varieties, mostly made from raw milk, are stored and released only when ready.

  5. Claus, Louvre (1e)

    Boutique brunch

    A little different to the typical Parisian breakfast of coffee and croissant eaten standing at a café bar, here diners can choose from a number of three-course breakfast menus.


Shop talk

  1. Merci, Le Marais (3e)

    Thematic exploration

    This former wallpaper factory now gathers quality clothing, design furniture and home essentials. The ground floor is regularly given over to exhibitions built around ambitious themes and also houses a restaurant that faces a pretty garden on the lower level.

  2. French Trotters, Le Marais (3e)

    Modern staples

    Founded in 2005 by husband and wife Clarent and Carole Dehlouz, French Trotters began as a multibrand shop featuring ready-to-wear and lifestyle labels. It later expanded into men’s and womenswear with its own line specialising in simple, well-crafted and functional pieces.

  3. Maison Kitsuné, Le Marais (11e)

    Effortless style

    Maison Kitsuné’s fourth Parisian shop is its most impressive. Upstairs you’ll find a refined range of men’s and womenswear that includes trench coats, printed shirts and wool sweaters. Café Kitsuné provides a welcome pit-stop.

  4. Shakespeare and Company, Latin Quarter (5e)

    Your bard

    “Everyone who comes here should feel they inherited a bookshop on the Seine,” says owner Sylvia Beach Whitman. The first shop became strongly associated with the writers of the Lost Generation and this reincarnation hosted the authors of the Beat Generation.

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