From Emily in Paris to Midnight in Paris, we all have fantasies about The City of Light. However, when visiting a big city, we often end up googling “best hotels”, “best restaurants” and “best activities” and results are never guaranteed. As a former Parisian, I’m happy to share my preferred spots. Here's what to do in Paris:
Where to stay in Paris
On the right bank and a few meters from the Place de Vosges, Le Petit Beaumarchais is a boutique hotel with 37 cozy rooms and amazing views on the Parisian roofs. Included with your stay, you can enjoy 1 hour in their sea water pool just by yourself – a nice perk. When your feet hurt from all the walking, the bar welcomes you with tasty cocktails. Rooms prices start at 200 CHF.
On the left bank, Villa M welcomes with an impressive glass, vegetated building. Designed by Philippe Starck, the rooms are spacious and the views of the vegetation give a feeling of an oasis in the city. The restaurant with a garden offers you breakfast and generous cuisine. The bar comes alive three times a week with live music, and even better to enjoy cocktails.
Where to eat in Paris
I know that Top Chef is also quite popular in Switzerland and especially in the French part, so as we embark in our culinary escape, I added restaurants of some alumni of the culinary show:
Pierre Sang has several restaurants in Paris, almost all on the same street, rue Oberkampf. The particularity of the restaurant “On Gambey” is that you won’t choose what you are going to eat, and the game is to try and guess what’s in your meal. You will not be disappointed by this manner of savoring your meal: it helps to tickle the taste buds.
Another former top chef, Matthias Marc, opened his second restaurant with one of his comrades, Jarvis Scott. This restaurant, near Chatelet, is more like a modern tavern than a modern dance club as the name suggests. Here, both chefs offer you some very traditional ingredients with a special twist like eggs with the mayo Sriracha. It is the place to eat tasty tapas and cocktails.
Jean-Baptiste Ascione has opened two places, the first one is called Petit Gris and located in the 17th arrondissement behind the Champs Elysées. The idea is to use seasonal products to offer you the freshest dishes as the menu changes quite often. One of my favorites was the risotto of fregola with parmesan cheese and chorizo AND a desert made with mushrooms. Incroyable!
I could go on-and-on about Petit Gris, also opened by Top chef alumni, but there are a lot of other spots to try and one of them is La Daronne. Near les Halles, the menu is short, highlights seasonal products, and turns them into bistronomic dishes, all in a warm setting. If the cauliflower is on the menu when you visit, go for it, it is delightful.
On the left bank, there are some jewels but one of the last I tried before I left was Le Comptoir de Fables, near the Eiffel Tower. You will find raw tapas cooked, with meat or fish or veggie. You can make your own guacamole as well as eat some frog legs. The cocktails have a base of pisco, tequila or mezcal and are spectacularly tasty.
If you fancy some Italian cuisine, there are a lot of choices in Paris however, to ensure you are eating quality products directly from Italy, you should go to one of the Big Mamma restaurants. Each restaurant has their specialties, but you will always find antipasti, pasta, and pizza. Every restaurant has its own décor and leads to an enjoyable evening. Tip: the truffle pasta is divine.
Where to satiate your sweet tooth in Paris
If, like me, you fancy some pastries in the afternoon as a nice treat, you will be spoiled for choice. There are loads of tea time spots or pastries shops all over the city. Here are some of my favorites:
Teatime in Paris is an experience. In every Parisian luxury hotel, their pastry chef offers you teatime in their luxurious salons. The last one I enjoyed was Lutetia, on the left bank, just beside le Bon Marché.
Nicolas Guercio is the palace pastry chef and teatime includes a glass of champagne, tea, salty treats, scones with cream and several pastries. The menu changes by the season to use the best products and starts at 58€. The decor is splendid with the colored canopy designed by the artist Fabrice Hybe. To top it all off, the service makes you feel at home for as long as you wish to stay.
You can also enjoy teatime at le Meurice where the chef officiates since 2012. If you are short on time or want to take your tea in the park, you can also buy his pastries from two of his shops, the one in le Meurice or at Opéra. Cedric Grolet is one of the most famous and talented pastry chefs in the world.
At Opéra, the team bakes traditional croissants and pain au chocolat, but also pastry flowers. Pastries are designed as flowers and I have loved the Opéra flower or Fleur de Vanille.
Yann Couvreur modernized classic pastries and offers a wide range of treats from croissants and pain au chocolat to tasty pastries. Everything is natural, and seasonal without artificial colors. My favorites are Tonka bean éclairs or the Merveille praline. You can find his shops on le Marais, in Batignolles and in Les Galeries Lafayette.
Cinq Sens Paris is the new pastry shop of Nicolas Paciello, the former pastry chef of Le Fouquet’s and Le Prince de Galles. His shop is like a laboratory where you can experiment with each of the five senses through a wall displaying the raw product. You can touch, smell, and obviously taste. You will find a range of choux but also seasonal entremets and cakes. Their homemade praline is also delicious.
Activities to do in Paris
You will want to visit Paris outside the known museums and places. I have picked three activities off the beaten track:
If you are going with friends, visit Les Caves du Louvre, 800m2 of historic vaulted cellars on 3 levels in the heart of Paris. From this visit, you will learn how to taste wine through your five senses, discover some anecdotes on French wines while tasting three glasses. First tastings start at 35€.
Le Musée des Arts forains will transport you back into time, but to the most fun of times! With objects from cabinets of curiosities, carnivals, and carousels from Belle Epoque fairgrounds you will get to experience the fairground arts of the 19th and 20th centuries. The idea is to immerse the visitor into the world of show. You have to book your ticket, starting at 12€ for kids and 18 for adults.
Located in the 5th arrondissement, on the left bank, the Grande Mosquée de Paris, with its Hispano-Moorish architecture inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, has a beautiful garden to visit. It seems as though time slows in this quiet and luxurious place. To finish the visit on a sweet note, their restaurant offers mint tea and oriental pastries. Visit costs 3€.