The First-Timer's Guide to Paris
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
Growing up in Quebec, Canada, I always felt this draw to Europe. I studied European history in college, and the first time I went to Paris, I felt this deep connection. Paris became my second home; I’ve spent more than 20 summers there. Each time I visit, I discover new restaurants, boutiques and hidden gems. In Paris, you can just get lost and lose yourself in the magic of the city (and without worry, because you're never more than five minutes away from the metro).
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Where to stay in Paris
Saint Germain favorite in a 1920s townhouse — request one of the handful of rooms with Eiffel Tower views.
A Left Bank newcomer full of personality, eclectic art and antiques, and the brand’s signature home-away-from-home intimacy.
One of the best-known hotels on the Left Bank, Hôtel Lutetia is an architectural gem and luxurious Parisian sanctuary.
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Things to do in Paris
Get to know Paris
Borrow a bike from your hotel or get one of the “Velib” bikes stationed all over the city. If you opt for a Velib bike, they’re a nominal cost if you stay under the 30 minute time allotted. Pick destinations that are less than 30 minutes away and lock your bike back into a “bike rack” before being charged. You can pick up a new bike when you’re ready to head off to your second destination. Cruising around on two wheels is a great way to familiarize yourself with the different neighborhoods in Paris.
Visit the museums
Museums are a must on any visit to Paris. I always try to visit at least two each time I’m in the city. I prefer the smaller, more intimate museums, where you can spend about 30 minutes browsing. One of my favorites is the Musée Rodin because it’s a small museum with a beautiful outdoor garden with artwork that you can stroll through.
Other favorites include The Picasso Museum, a gem that’s located in the 3rd arrondissement on the east side of Paris and well worth a visit, as well as L’Orangerie in the 1st arrondissement. L’Orangerie is where you can see Les Nymphéas (Monet’s water lilies) and a collection of fabulous impressionist art by the likes of Renoir, Cézanne, Monet, Rousseau and Soutine.
Hit the markets
Marché Raspail is a bountiful weekend outdoor market known as the largest organic market in France! You can walk through the stands and collect some delicious goodies for a DIY picnic in the Jardin de Luxembourg. You’ll find stands of amazing cheeses, charcuteries, fruit, pastries and more.
On your way to the Luxembourg Gardens, pick up a freshly made baguette from Boulangerie Poilâne, one of the best bread shops in Paris.
Bon Marché Market is an upscale indoor market that feels like a combination of Whole Foods and Neiman Marcus. There’s a large food market downstairs with everything from prepared foods to cheeses. Upstairs, there’s some great shopping for mostly designer clothes and shoes.
There’s nothing quite like shopping in Paris, and I always love carving out some time to peruse the boutiques – whether for souvenirs or just to window shop. Arty Dandy is a great place to get a fun Parisian souvenir. Aurelie Bidermann sells magnificent jewelry.
Evening boat cruise on the Seine
Take the Vedettes du Pont Neuf cruise at the tip of Notre Dame Island right by Pont Neuf. On the evening cruise, you'll see why Paris is called the City of Lights. Once you finish the cruise, you can go to Ile Saint Louis, the little island that connects to the Ile de la Cité.
Places to eat & drink in Paris
Coutume: My favorite place for real French coffee! Order café au lait, pour-over or an espresso from a real espresso machine.
Freddy’s Wine Bar: A great place to have a café au lait or glass of wine.
Les Deux Magots: This brasserie opened in 1885. Grab a seat outside for the best “people-watching” in Paris.
Café Flore: World-famous cafe with loads of history. Be prepared to order when the server comes.
L’Ami Louis: Old school French bistro that’s quite expensive, but worth the try. Waiters are grumpy and the place is always packed, so make a reservation.
Cinq-Mars: Understated and simple and well-prepared food.
La Fontaine de Mars: A true classic French bistro. Order steak et frites or coq au vin and you can’t go wrong!
Les Cocottes: Many of the dishes here are cooked in French dutch ovens.
Berthillon: Famous ice cream vendor with delicious flavors.
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