Don’t have a lot of time to plan a trip to Paris? Use this “cheat sheet,” which includes a mix of shopping, museums, restaurants and bars.
It is not easy to pick ten things to eat, drink and see in my favorite city and as all cities do, Paris is constantly evolving. People ask me so often for my top picks, however, I decided to put together this easy-to-read list. If you’re able to make it to the following spots, your Paris vacation will include fabulous French food, fine art, natural wine, shopping and plenty of fresh air.
Alain Ducasse’s beautiful bistro in Saint-Germain-des-Prés will not disappoint if you want a traditional French bistro experience. Tables are still adorned with white tablecloths and waiters wear sharp black vests. The Challan duck with green olives for two is decadent and delicious.
41 rue Saint-Andre des Arts
+33 01 58 00 23 42
If you try one thing at this pretty bakery near Canal Saint-Martin make it the Pain des Amis, a signature loaf with a dark crust and nutty aroma. Everything from the escargot — a cross between a croissant and a palmier — to the pain au chocolate with banana is delicious. While I wouldn’t exactly classify them a health food, take comfort knowing almost all the loaves of bread and pastries are made with organic ingredients.
34 rue Yves Toudic
+33 01 42 40 44 52
Pancakes, baked beans and a crispy hashbrown are just a few of the things you’ll find at this lively breakfast spot in the 10th arrondissement. The interior is a French take on the American diner with leather booths, industrial fixtures and a distressed white brick wall. The hip, bilingual wait staff is extremely friendly.
5 rue Lucien Sampaix
It’s impossible to absorb the entirety of the Louvre on a single visit and you shouldn’t try. You must see the famous things like the Mona Lisa, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace (for an efficient itinerary check out my husband’s Great 2 Hour Tour of the Louvre, but try to make it to the Decorative Arts wing, the opulent Napoleon III apartments and the basement of the museum where you can see remnants of the medieval fortress that originally occupied the site.
+33 01 40 20 50 50
This beautifully manicured park is an oasis of green on the Left Bank. It’s a prime place to picnic, take a stroll or play tennis if you reserve one of the courts ahead of time. The park also has reasonably priced pony rides on weekends.
+33 01 42 34 23 62
This artsy department store in the Marais makes shopping fun. The entryway theme changes frequently. There are three excellent restaurants, and everything from the kitchen goods to the clothing seems to have been chosen because of its simple and timeless design aesthetic.
+33 01 42 77 00 33
King Louis IX built this jewel-box of a church in the 13th century to house the Crown of Thorns. It’s known for its stained glass, but it’s the vaulted ceiling decorated with golden stars that always captivates me. The fact that the delicate structure has survived multiple city sieges and world wars is a bit of a miracle.
8 Boulevard du Palais
+33 01 53 40 60 80
This former shoe cobbler shop is an absolute must if you’re waiting for a table at Clamato or want to have a pre-dinner drink before your dine at Septime. It’s also a worthy stop in its own right. The natural wines from cult favorite makers like L’Anglore and Bobinet are unique and tasty. The small plates on offer like house-made ricotta with anchovies are delicious!
3 rue Basfroi
+33 01 43 67 14 87
When you enter this restaurant on Rue Saint Honoré you instantly feel at ease thanks to the zen-aesthetic, tranquil inner courtyard and pale golden walls. Chef Adeline Grattard is extremely talented. Dishes include wok-fried langoustines with duck egg, lettuce cream and yellow tomatoes. The excellent wine pairings are especially enjoyable thanks to delicate wine glasses by Zalto Denmark. Reservations need to be made well in advance. If unable to get a table, or don’t want to bother with the hassle, know that Grattard has a casual spot nearby. At Boutique yam t’Cha (4 rue Sauval), you can sit down for tea or order Grattard’s delicious Chinese steamed buns to go. I love the one filled with Stilton (an English blue cheese) and cherries. Check the website for hours. Boutique yam t-Cha is only open Wednesday through Saturday.
121 rue St. Honoré
+33 01 40 26 08 07
It’s a bit of a trek to get to Vaux-le-Vicomte, a stunning 17th-century château outside of Paris, but it’s worth the effort. Build by Louis XIV’s Superintendent of Finances, Nicolas Fouquet, the king was reportedly so jealous after attending a party there, he commissioned the architect, painter, and landscaper to create Versailles: He also had Fouquet arrested and thrown in jail for embezzling money.
The highlight is strolling the one-and-a-half-mile-long garden designed by André le Nôtre, which reveals canals, grottos, and other hidden treasures as you meander through. Vaux-le-Vicomte is at its most magical on Saturdays from May to October when 2,000 candles illuminate the castle and the gardens and it stays open until midnight. Picnics are allowed on the grassy lawn at the back of the property. The Vaux-le-Vicomte website has the most up-to-date information on how to get there from Paris.
Need more Paris inspiration? Here’s how to have two perfect days in the city.