Wednesday, 25 January 2017

My Ultimate Guide to Paris


If you follow me in Instagram or Twitter, you’ll know that I snuck across the channel to Paris for a long weekend. It’s a cliché but I absolutely adore Paris, it’s one of my favourite European cities and a place I fondly think of as a second home. I’m fortunate to have visited Paris about a dozen times, so each trip tends to be a mixture of revisiting old haunts while discovering new favourites and just a touch of sightseeing in between. I always get asked about my favourite spots in Paris so it’s about time I stopped keeping them to myself and shared them with you! I’d love to hear your favourites too so share your best in the comments section. 

Shopping

As one of the big four fashion capitals, many flock to Paris to shop til they drop. The Champs Elysees is lined with beautiful designer boutiques, both home-grown French brands and international superbrands alike. But…there’s not much in Paris that I can’t find back in Bond Street or Selfridges. Plus, it’s not much cheaper now due to the Brexit effect. Instead, I invest my money in the following stores and bring back things I can’t find at home. 

Sephora 
This beauty mecca needs no introduction. Home to over 300 brands as well as its own line, Sephora is practically on every corner and no trip to Paris is complete without a mini-spree. I really like their own-label skincare and I picked up yuzu face wipes, a rose eye mask and an intriguing foam mask on my last visit. 

French PharmaciesFrench pharmacies are the stuff of legends and thankfully there are about 3 on each street. Forget dour British pharmacists who grumpily hand over your antibiotics prescription, their French counterparts are part skincare expert and part scientist. If you can speak French, tell them what skincare issues you’re facing and they’ll provide the perfect remedy from brands like Bioderma, Vichy, Klorane et al. I *always* stock up on Bioderma miceller water and Klorane dry shampoo, they’re both the best in the business and cult items. 

Vintage shopping This is where Paris really excels. I started and stopped vintage shopping in London within a week, everything was just crammed together and I couldn’t find anything decent for a reasonable price. This is not the case in Paris, vintage stores tend to be merchandised much better and most of the pieces I’ve picked up have been between €5-10 and in pristine condition. Marais has at least a dozen vintage stores but there are 3 that I absolutely adore. I make a beeline for Vintage Desir/Coiffeur (32 rue de rosiers) first as it’s my favourite and I have never left it emptyhanded. I also like Come On Eileen/Les Beautiful Vintage (40 rue de rivoli). It’s like a treasure trove and you’re likely to find vintage Gucci and Issey Miyake alongside Levis cut offs. My last ‘must visit’ is Free ‘p’ Star (20 rue de rivoli) which is a mishmash of curated vintage


Eating and drinking

The Paris restaurant scene is very similar to London, booming. You can pretty much find whatever cuisine tickles your fancy at any budget and there are always new places to check out. I have a few tried-and-tested favourites below but also a list of places I want to check out next time including Kong, Septime and Artisan. 

Hotel Costes
Located a hop, skip and a jump away from Jardin de Tuileries, Hotel Costes in a Paris institution. I’m yet to eat here but I can vouch for the opulent bar, which is a firm favourite of the fash pack. Decadent chandeliers glitter in the candle light while the great and the good of Paris cosy up on red velvet sofas. Drinks are expensive, even by London standards, but they do a great Bloody Mary and it’s the best spot for people watching. 

Hotel Amour
Full disclosure, Hotel Amour is set in a former brothel and is on the fringe of Montmatre’s red light district so you’ll find a few  *ahem* cheeky details in the hotel and reception. Part-owned by one half of the duo behind Hotel Costes, this is another must-visit spot in Paris. I love this quirky hotel and their beautiful plant-filled,glass-roofed courtyard is a cosy spot for brunch or dinner. I popped over to a brunch of boiled eggs and soldiers washed down with Sencha tea over the weekend but next time I’ll be coming for dinner. 


Buvette
Buvette is a short stroll from Hotel Amour in Paris’ gritty but trendy South Pigalle, or SoPi, area. The Paris offshoot of a New York favourite, this neighbourhood hangout brings some Greenwich Village cool to Paris with its cosy atmosphere and exposed brickwork. The menu is full of comfort food served in small plate form, I popped in for a brunch of scrambled eggs with chevre but I wish I’d had room for the avo toast and Nutella waffles too!  

Candelaria
This little spot is my current favourite. It’s a tiny taqueria  with an open kitchen, the décor is a little pared back but the food is to die for. I love the cactus and mushroom tacos and veggie tostadas and there are also plenty of meat options. The highlight is the hidden bar, just push past an unmarked door and you go from a bare little taqueria to a clandestine drinking den lit by candles. The cocktails are as good as the food, but be sure to arrive early as Candelaria doesn’t take reservations.


Rose Bakery
Paris’ Rose Bakery is so iconic there’s even an import in London’s Dover Street Market. Nonetheless, I still have to visit one while in Paris. Rose Bakery is known for its ingredients, which are mainly organic and from small producers. I used to go to the one in Marais until it inexplicably closed so I was super happy to discover there was one in SoPi. I normally hit up Rose Bakery for a hearty breakfast, usually eggs followed by pancakes, but this time I just stopped in for a delicious matcha cake and an Earl Grey. 

Angelina
Angelina is one of the most famous tea houses in Paris and its beautiful interior hark back 1903. There are a couple in the city now but the original is across the street from the Jardin des Tuilleries. The setting is grand and decadent; high ceilings, huge paintings and a soothing colour scheme. Le chocolat chaud a l’ancienne l’Africain is the reason for the queues out of the front door, a hot chocolate so thick and creamy it’s practically a dessert. It’s served in a jug accompanied by freshly whipped cream. Pro tip: Avoid the queues and grab a chocolat chaud to go and head across the street to the beautiful gardens. 


Little Red Door
Warning: Do not open the little red door. It’s purely for decorative purposes! Instead, head through the door to the left when you’re ushered in by the lovely bouncer. Inside, you’ll find a softly lit, bohemian drinking den with cosy couches and tons of candles. The menu is unique; you pick a drink based on a picture an artist created when they tasted it. I picked one with absinthe but it was as delicious as my companion’s rum-based cocktail. The bar tenders and staff are super helpful and attentive in this quirky little bar. Make the most of it now, before you have to queue to get a table. 

Glass
Glass is located in the heart of SoPi. A dimly lit dive bar, this place wouldn’t be out of place in New York. By the same group behind Candelaria, the bar serves hotdogs and homemade pickles along with speciality beers, cocktails on tap and boilermakers. Parisian it aint, but it’s good fun, open til the wee hours and has a little bit of a rebellious spirit. 

L’As du Fallafel 
This is one of my guilty pleasure eateries and handily located next door to Vintage Desir/Coiffeur. Don’t worry too much about hunting down the door number, just head down rue des rosiers and look for the queue, there’s always a queue. The falafel here is legendary – fresh, light and crisp. The falafel special is a mere €8 and consists of the famous falafel along with salad, cabbage, roasted aubergine, lashings of tahini and a dollop of chilli sauce. If the queue looks unbearable, head to the handy take out window for a shorter wait. 


Accommodation

If you’re expecting some dope hotel recommendations, I’m sorry to disappoint. There are some beautiful hotels in town like Le Bristol, but I tend to stay in a cute little Air Bnb apartment. It just feels much more homely that way and Paris has heaps of stunning apartments filled with gorgeous antique furniture and bathed in Paris’s golden sunlight. 

C’est tout, that’s a concise little list of my favourite spots in Paris. Let me know your faves, I’ll be heading back to Paris again next month. 

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