Paris: the city of love, croissants, and great wine. It’s almost a rite of passage to be packed off to Paris on the school coach trip as a spotty teenager, where you’re marched between every cultural building in the city, whether you want to be or not. So what do you do when you return as an adult, with a new energy for the city and a greater desire to experience it and add to your memories of all things French?
I visited London’s chic, baguette-loving sister city to stay with my friend Harriet in the place she calls home. Over a long weekend (her birthday weekend!), she took me to all her favourite hangouts. Here’s what we got up to, and some ideas if you’re planning a repeat visit to Paris…
1. Add a splash of culture to your Instagram
If you have clear memories of your school trip to Paris, walking two by two along the banks of the Seine, possibly wearing your school colours and not really knowing which museum or gallery you were being led to next, your second trip doesn’t need to be an education overload. Harriet and I embraced being part of the ‘selfie generation’ by taking as many pics as possible! When my iPhone lit up to announce ‘Storage almost full’, I knew I’d done a good job.
Take as many photos as you can; actually entering the Louvre, Sacré-Cœur, or taking a step up the Eiffel Tower is not necessary.
2. Let the day melt away at a bar or café
So if you’ve climbed the Eiffel Tower, witnessed the Mona Lisa, and jostled with the crowds outside the Notre Dame; the only thing you need now is a nice sit down, a cold glass of wine, and to watch the world go by.
Unlike London, Paris isn’t known for it’s chain restaurants. Find a café or bar (preferably in the sun and on a crowded road), and drink the hours away people watching. Harriet and I went to Rue de Buci at least once a day for a long breakfast/ lunch/ drink.
Situated in the heart of the Latin Quarter, Rue de Buci is a haven for café and bars, and is open day and night.
Sit yourself down and relax. Rushing is not allowed!
3. Visit the Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter (or Le Marais) is a great spot for shopping, wandering, and general mooching around. It is home to more pre-revolutionary buildings and streets left intact than any other area in Paris.
Do what we did, and get lost in the labyrinth of streets and find yourself a cute Salon de thé for lunch. The Jewish Quarter is also home to one of the best falafel bars in Paris, and countless cute boutiques.
After, take a stroll down towards the Notre Dame, and across the bridge to Île de la Cité – one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine within Paris. Here, there are street buskers, more attractive cafés, and picturesque views across the Seine.
4. Party like a celeb
Harriet had reserved a table at Bar Manko, a Peruvian restaurant, cabaret bar, and celeb favourite. If it’s good enough for Bruno Mars and Niki Minaj to visit, then it’s good enough for us!
We were met with a selection of pisco sours, which I had no idea were from Peru! The food here was delicious.
The Peruvian cuisine turned out to be a mixture of spicy meats and fish, ceviche, and our favourite, a big sharing bowl made up of layers of rice, omelette, bacon, beef, and onions, which when left to sizzle would caramelise across the top of the dish.
At midnight, the doors opened to a hidden cabaret bar at the back of the restaurant, where we enjoyed cabaret performances, interspersed with DJ and dancing breaks.
The cabaret started off quite tame, and got more and more risqué, nude and experimental as the night went on! By the end, we were confronted with a fully naked transgender woman and didn’t know where to look!
It was a great night, and was worth paying the extra euros for a special experience. The Peruvian food and cabaret washed down with Dom Perignon was a night to remember! Happy Birthday Harriet!
6 Cafe Society
Along with its pastries and croissants, macarons are up there with some of the best things to sample while in Paris. They are said to have been invented by Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée in the early 20th century – so what better place to try and buy some than in the café of his namesake.
Ladurée is located on the Champs- Élysées, and you can eat in, or choose a selection of macarons to take away with you. These were really delicious, and also worked well as a present to take home.
If you’re after a cute café in Paris, then look no further than Café de Flore. Café de Flore is one of the oldest and well known coffeehouses in Paris.
Go there for a coffee, glass of champagne or a long lunch, and keep an eye out for any celebrity visitors.
From Café de Flore, you can walk east towards Odéon, and search for a cute passage called ‘Cour du Commerce-Saint-André’, or ‘Diagon Alley’ as Harriet calls it! It’s cobbled stones and photo-worthy cafes are well worth a visit.
Hello from Paris!