As I’ve explained many times before, Paris is very dear to me. I’ve run through the Charles de Gaulle airport halls as a young child and again as a newly-married young woman returning home after exchanging vows in the French countryside.
When I moved to Paris at nineteen, I knew that something was about to shift. Big time. Paris was like an older sister, who left the door ajar in the evening, allowing me to sneak in and out. I’d take moments by the handful – just Paris and I – all the while trying to figure out my way through.
It can be difficult to pinpoint my favorite things to do in Paris, since at the heart of it, I love to wander. Strolling through side streets until I hit major boulevards, surprised at where I find myself. There’s something so beautiful about the art of getting lost. (I’ve learned that a lot of the magic happens when you go all-in, fear retreating.)
In any event, I have decided to collect some of my favorite things and places to see while in Paris, because after all, there are spots that I choose to return to each and every time I visit. I am headed back to this beautiful city for a few weeks (!) this summer and am already plotting adventure. I’d love to hear your favorite spots, too!
Eat and drink.
Berthillion - No matter what you hear, nothing compares with the sorbet and ice cream house, Berthillion. The Île St-Louis gem is a favorite of mine. I often get a scoop of pear or cantaloupe sorbet and meander over to my favorite bench, which happens to be on Île St-Louis looking back towards Hotel de Ville.
Pizza Positano - Crowded little tables, sitting within arms distance to the neighborhooing table, and the cutest Italian pizza-spinners are a few characteristics of Pizza Positano. Nestled between Saint-Sulpice and Saint-Germain-des-Pres, lies this Italian eatery. It may seem silly to eat Italian while in France, but the pizza here is delicious – and there’s nothing like being whisked off to Rome for an evening.
Latin Quarter - For all things delicious. From galettes (savory crepes) to falafel to moules frites, the Latin Quarter has a bit of everything. Although definitely on the tourist route, I love wandering down Rue Saint-Andre des Arts and stopping by one of the creperies for an afternoon treat.
Cafe Marly - I wouldn’t recommend going to Cafe Marly for dinner – it can be over-priced, in my opinion. But, this cafe sits right outside of the Louvre and is an amazing place to rest your legs and enjoy a coffee or hot cocoa. In the summer, they have an expansive patio that is great for people watching. The inside is really beautiful, too.
Picnic! - It goes without saying that much of the delicious food in Paris can be bought at a charcuterie or boulangerie. I love buying a few things (plus wine, of course!) and sitting on a bench or lawn. If you haven’t tried it, one of my favorite combinations is fresh baguette and really good chocolate. It’s like a homemade pain au chocolat! My favorite place to picnic is along the Seine behind Notre Dame. What’s better than a little picnic and watching the sun go down on your favorite city?
Le Pop-In - A bit more on the bohemian side, Le Pop-In is one of my long-time favorites. It’s a bit more gritty, but if you’re in that mood, well worth it.
Bar Dix - One of my favorites. When I lived in Paris, you could still smoke indoors. The bar is two floors and the best part is downstairs in the cave. I recall being happily dizzy from the cigarette smoke and sangria. Oh, what a few years difference makes. They still have some of the best sangria. Plus, I love Odeon as a neighborhood.
Le Caveau de la Huchette - Nothing quite goes with Paris like jazz does. Le Caveau de la Huchette is a bit on the touristy-side, but is a great time for dancing and listening.
La Grande Epicerie - This is my happy place. Perfect if you’re making food or want to grab something quick for a picnic.
As I’ve alluded to, Paris is a wonderful place to get lost. For one, you’ll have the opportunity to stumble upon a tiny cafe or shop that you won’t find in a tourist book. Secondly, the metro makes it ridiculously easy. If you wander too far, just look around for the closest metro and you can weave your way back to where you started from.
There are so many incredible quartiers and areas in Paris, but here are a few of my favorite things to do and areas to explore.
Jardin du Luxembourg – Without a doubt, one of my favorite places in Paris. As a child, my parents would give us a few euros for the bateaux. Grab a baguette, hunk of cheese, bottle of wine – and take a seat. I could spend hours just cozied up here. Also, there is a great little museum that often has special exhibits. The fall is actually my favorite time to be in Paris – and especially the Jardin du Luxembourg. Crunchy leaves underfoot, men lined up to play boule, and that chilly wind that simply embraces you with eagerness. Just go. You’ll love it.
L’Opera – The ninth arrondissement is a must-visit. The majestic buildings, the grand boulevards, and of course – les magasins! If you are in Paris over the holidays, the stores along Boulevard Haussman have incredible window displays. I remember visiting as a young girl and being mesmerized by the magic of it all. Galleries Lafayette has a great roof deck, where you can sneak a grand view of Paris for free. Also, if you want to experience the Paris Opera, you can often find last minute tickets.
Le Marais – In my opinion, Le Marais is one of the city’s best spots. From incredible shops (although sometimes my wallet doesn’t agree) to restaurants and parks, there’s a lot to see. I love Place des Vosges.
Marches aux Puces – Paris is well known for its amazing flea markets. The markets are not for the faint of heart – they can be massive and you often have to rifle through lots of junk to get to the good stuff. But, it’s well worth it. Especially if you have the time. There are also a number of guides that will take you around for a small amount. My favorite is of course Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, which is open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
Rue Mouffetard - I love this area of Paris. Great markets, delicious restaurants (and fondue!), adorable little streets.
Montmartre – In addition to climbing up the stairs to Sacre Coeur, I love the shops and restaurants in Montmartre. Great fondue! A favorite bar is Le Rendez-Vous des Amis.
Les Halles and BHV - It may seem random to spend time at BHV, a Home Depot meets Macys meets William Sonoma meets Paper Source, but believe me, you won’t leave empty handed. Be sure to wander in to the basement, especially if you know someone like my gadget-loving husband.
Rue du Rivoli – Timeless Paris. If you find yourself wandering Paris, especially at 3am, be sure to swing by Rue du Rivoli. When you feel like you have Paris all to yourself, this street is extra magical.
Outside of the city.
Bois de Vincennes - On the perimeter of Paris (technically in Vincennes), this park is an incredible way to see the “weekend Paris”. Canoes line the river, the smell of roasted nuts lure you in, and horse back riding is a favorite pastime. The metro line 1 will take you to the Bois de Vincennes, where many families spend the weekend. If you have extra time, be sure to swing by the Chateau Vincennes.
Giverny - Although Giverney, the home of Monet, is only a little distance from Paris, you feel a world away. You will feel whisked off into one of Monet’s paintings and will wish you could experience even more.
Bateaux Mouches - A boat ride is a great way to see the city. Definitely take a ride at night, when the city is all aglow.
Musee Rodin - This is one of my favorite museums in Paris. The huge garden is always a highlight. I also love Centre Pompidou, Musee D’Orsay, and L’Orangerie.
Institut du Monde Arabe - I love this place. When I lived in Paris, I took arabic, and so spent a decent amount of time here. It is an awesome museum, but most importantly, pop next door for mint tea and pastries.
I’m going to be updating this list as I think of favorites and find new spots to share. I’d love to hear your favorite places in Paris, too. I’m headed to France and Turkey for a month this summer, including some solo time, and am always interested in exploring new-to-me spots!
To see all of my posts on France, go here.