The best hotels, restaurants and things to do in Paris – as recommend by us.
A weekend in Paris would be magical even if you spent the majority of your trip inside a McDonalds ordering le Big Mac, (as Carrie Bradshaw would say), such is charisma of the city. But assuming that you don’t want to do that, we think if you’re taking a weekend break to the city of lights you’ll want to take heed of these insider tips on what to do, where to stay and the best restaurants and bars to enjoy that famous French cuisine at.
Countless attempts have been made to try and capture the full colour of the city’s charm, but there really is no better way to experience Paris than by going there and living it for yourself… preferably as a local.
Of course, if you haven’t been to Paris before (or even if you have), it’s difficult to imitate the effortless elegance of true Parisians, let alone track down the chicest bars, hidden treasures and tricky-to-find venues.
Thankfully, we are here to help you explore the French capital in true Parisian style. Here, we’ve pulled together an edit of the best places to stay, eat, drink and explore in Paris.
Best places to stay in Paris
There are plenty of gorgeous boutique boudoirs to choose from, but here’s a small selection of the best and most luxurious hotels in Paris…
Pavillon des Lettres
One of the most beautiful boutique hotels we’ve ever stayed in, Pavillon des Lettres is set deep within Paris’ 8th arrondissement. Designed by Didier Benderli, the interiors take inspiration from literature, painting and sculpture to create something truly special – and every one of the hotel’s 26 rooms is named after an iconic poet, virtuoso, artist or genius. Perfect for those who are visiting the city in search of inspiration.
Foodies will be fans of the freshly-cooked food on offer, not to mention the complimentary tapas laid out for guests each evening. Explorers will definitely want to take advantage of the hotel’s complimentary bicycle rental scheme: cycling alongside the Reine is an experience everyone should enjoy at least once, after all. And those who want a quiet nightcap before bed would be best advised to visit the honesty bar – although you may just meet someone so interesting you end up talking all night long.
The best thing about Pavillon des Lettres, though, is that – despite its convenient location – it feels so quiet and out of the way. This makes taking breakfast in your room all the more special, especially if you choose to sit out on the balcony as you do so. Sip your coffee, tuck into an array of fresh pastries, cured meats, fruits and cheeses, and take a moment to watch the world go by. Très Bien!
Hotel des Grands Boulevards
The Experimental Group is already responsible for some of the coolest haunts in London (think Henrietta Hotel and Experimental Cocktail Club), so it makes sense that French brand’s Parisian offerings would be something truly special. Grands Boulevards Hotel is an interiors magpie’s dream with a fusion of clashing pastel tones and gorgeous attention to detail. There are 50 rooms to chose from as well as a chic restaurant, copper bar themed on seashells (yes, really) and a roof terrace.
You’ll adore features like the pink bathrooms, original period features and nods towards 18th century France, while being captivated by the mischievous flair that runs through the venue. As for the location, it couldn’t be better. Situated in the 2nd Arrondissement, you’re in the heart of the city but not the hustle and bustle with attractions like Opéra and Strasbourg Saint-Denis nearby.
Paris is known for not doing things by halves, and if you’re looking for a hotel that will deliver an experience that truly lives up to expectation, Hotel Lutetia ticks all of the luxury boxes.
A Parisian institute since 1910, the hotel was originally created to serve the high-end clientele of the world’s first (and chicest) department store, Le Bon Marché. Over the last 100 years the hotel has been been an epicenter of the arts, housing some of the most influential minds of 20th century from Ernest Hemmingway, Samuel Becket and James Joyce (who wrote Ulysses at the hotel), to Picasso, Matisse and Josephine Baker, who could be found welcoming to revolution of jazz in the hotel bar in the 1950s.
A sprawling vision of creamy-coloured stone spreading all the way down Boulevard Raspail, it’s clear from the off that the hotel is ginormous. The huge foyer area is decorated with glass boxes containing special pieces of fashion or jewelry from the surrounding Saint-Germain-des-Prés, nodding to the hotel’s glamorous history, which is continued into the ceiling with ornate pastel-coloured paintings of old Paris.
But among the pillars and golden hues that simper at every turn, there’s plenty of modern influences. The spa, for example, is spectacular. The six treatment rooms offer a huge array of the most sophisticated treatments and massages, as well as a sauna, steam room, a pool, a jacuzzi and large fitness room with state-of-the-art equipment.
This finesse is carried into the bedrooms, which ooze five star charm. But whether you choose a room or suite, make sure your choice includes a balcony so you can gaze out to the whimsical views of the Left Bank, maybe even in the eye line of the Eiffel Tower. From hidden television screens in the bathroom mirror to the best coffee machine on the market, your accommodation will provide the most up-to-date luxuries without scrimping on elegance.
Le Narcisse Blanc
Stroll down the charming Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg on Paris’s sophisticated left bank, and despite being moments from the Seine and looking across to the Eiffel Tower (and the hordes of tourists that surround it), you’ll find a surprisingly peaceful street.
A pocket of real Paris, this historic area is filled with chic-looking Parisians shopping at florists, bakeries and beautiful boutiques, casually and quietly, going about their everyday business.
This is also where you’ll find Le Narcisse Blanc Hotel & Spa, a luxury five star hotel, thats refined elegance is a reflection of the area it’s nestled in.
The plush, creamy décor interspersed with tasteful monochrome furniture and blush pink touches creates a feeling of sumptuous luxury without being showy, for which the in-house restaurant is a perfect example.
Tucked at the back of the building to give guests ultimate privacy, it’s an intimate space that favours small groups and date nights. Although the hotel feels timeless, the head chef is part of the hipster French food scene, offering a creative menu with an edge that you might expect from a fancy bistro in Canal Saint Martin.
You see, all although the hotel’s design was inspired by Cléo de Mérode, the French dancer, actress and artist who became muse to some of the greatest minds of her time, the hotel has only been open for two years and has nailed the art of combining the historic with the new.
If you’re looking for somewhere that feels low-key enough to be relaxing and homely, but gives you that shot of Parisian romance and glamour, Le Narcisse Blanc won’t let you down.
Top tip: Where better to enjoy a Christmas shopping trip with your friends but Paris? If the pennies are tight before Christmas but you’d love to indulge in a winter getaway the hotel has a deal that might interest you. Thanks to new government rule which allows all of Paris’s shopping districts to stay open on a Sunday, you can now come out of peak time and stay at the hotel for 10% less.
Hotel Monte Cristo
Interior fiends, we think we’ve found your mecca. Inspired by the adventures of 19th century explorers, everything in this hotel has been designed to evoke a sense eccentricity, with a story behind every trinket. From the moment you step through the door, greeted by a beautiful floor mosaic, to your bedroom decorated with exotic plants and antique objects, you’ll feel like you’re staying in a life size treasure trove.
The hotel is not overly large, so the bedrooms and restaurant are relatively small, but have a sumptuous boutique feel to them - and if you’re lucky you’ll even end up with your own Parisian style balcony which looks out across the rooftops, just like in the films.
Although there’s the whole of Paris waiting for you, we do recommend trying out a cocktail in the hotel’s Rum Bar. Not only will the decor once again win you over, but the bar specialises in drinks made with this warming spirit and makes for a nice place to have a pre-dinner tipple.
Being a four star hotel you’ll also find a luxurious spa area in the belly of Hotel Monte Cristo, with an indoor swimming pool, sauna and massage service to help you truly relax while you’re away. The area has been decorated with exotic plants and offers a plunge into the midst of an Asian-inspired, lush verdure, to give it an extra-special feel.
Pavillon de la Reine
Hidden in a secret garden, deep in the heart of Le Marais, this 17th century hotel is perfect for those looking for something a little special.
Pavillon de la Reine is just moments away from the galleries and shops of the Place des Vosges – often referred to as the most beautiful square in the world. However, while the streets outside are lined with gelaterias, chocolateries, patisseries and bustling restaurants, you’d never know it: the hotel courtyard, surrounded by stone castle walls, is an oasis of calm – and the perfect place to sit back and relax with a glass of something delicious.
Inside, the rooms are cosily compact, but every bit as luxe as you’d imagine – especially if you book one overlooking the courtyard. From the impossibly fluffy pillows to the deep-set bath (ideal for sinking into after a long day exploring the city), this truly feels like a home away from home – albeit a home which was built in 1612 by King Henry IV of France. If you really want to ramp up the R&R, visit the in-hotel spa (open daily from 7am-9pm) or book yourself a treatment: we recommend the Balinese massage.
While you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to eat (as mentioned, the neighbourhood is brimming with delicious eateries), do make sure you stay for breakfast. If the weather is glorious, you can sit outside in the courtyard. If it’s not, tuck yourself away in one of the bar’s many alcoves. Then, help yourself to the buffet: whether you prefer fruit and pastries, or a plate brimming with eggs and bacon, there will be something there to tickle your tastebuds. And, if not, the ever-attentive staff will be able to help: all you need do is ask.
Best restaurants in Paris
From a light pastry petit déjeuner to the best supper in Paris, try these restaurants out for size.
Hipster hotel The Hoxton is on its way to conquering Europe, having now established itself not only in London and Amsterdam, but Paris as well. With every new site its decor, atmosphere and facilities seem to just get better and better - with Paris being the optimum example.
Much bigger than its British counterpart, the Parisian branch is made up of multiple buildings which orbit a central courtyard (as shown above), where you can sit outside and enjoy the heartiest of brunches, with a mixture of English and French dishes like avocado and eggs, the Hox Monsieur and fish and chips.
But that’s not where fun stops, in fact here there’s a venue for pretty much every time of day. Mid-morning, stop in the effortlessly cool lobby, designed to be a casual place for coffee (or cocktails) with comfy chairs and a laid-back aesthetic. Come evening time and the Rivié restaurant is a great place to try French-inspired dishes made with local ingredients, along with some Hoxton comfort food classics — like mac and cheese and truffle fries.
Although not strictly part of the restaurant, we also suggest you try something stronger in either Jacques bar, for the real cocktail connoisseur, or Planche, for wine enthusiasts.
Restaurant du Palais Royal
There are many reasons people take a trip to Paris, but one of the most popular has to be to celebrate a special occasion. From birthdays to anniversaries, the magic of Paris makes it the perfect place to treat yourself and someone else. And for such times, there is Restaurant du Palais Royal.
Its location is second to none, located beneath the arcades of the historic Palais Royal and looking just across from the Louvre, you really are in the heart of Paris.
By day, if the weather is nice diners can sit outside and marvel at the surrounding architecture, while in the evening the sumptuous decor in velvety tones lends itself to a cosy dinner for two. The quality of the restaurant is apparent from the moment you arrive. From the attentive waiters who take your coat at the door, to the attention to detail clearly considered in every aspect of the music, lighting and table settings, it’s a lovely place to forget the rest of the world exists for an evening.
Although the menu is ever changing, we recommend opting in for the taster option as we can guarantee you’ll want to try as many tasty morsels as possible. Oh, and ask the waiters for their opinion, they really do know best.
If the moniker of this pretty cafe doesn’t draw you in, the on-point decor and story behind its owner certainly will. Clémentine Lévy – once a model and DJ, now a barista and florisr – founded Peonies herself, and is has made a name for herself as a seriously impressive businesswoman after learning every aspect of her business to create her dream venture. If you spot her, be sure to say ‘bonjour’: she’s every bit as likely to be found behind the counter as she is behind her laptop.
This bien brunch spot offers up a mix of pastries, healthy granola and fruit combinations, alongside pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches. Bon appetit!
Travel magazine Holiday isn’t just a very fancy publication: it has a chic Parisian cafe under its belt, too. The classic outdoor terrace is the perfect place to people watch – especially on a sunny day, with one of the cafe’s simple, yet flavour-packed, dishes placed in front of you.
The cafe prides itself on curating a menu that focuses on good food, that hasn’t been messed around too much. It invites customers to taste “an eclectic assemblage of necessary luxuries: simple dishes of the highest quality” – délicieux!
If you like your chosen venue to have a bit of history, you’ll love the kooky story behind Clown Bar. As the name suggests, this bar and restaurant has a strong link to the circus, and used to serve as an eatery for the clowns that once performed in the Cirque d’Hiver next door.
The colourful tiles which show off the place’s history have been preserved by the new owners, while the rest of the restaurant has been given a contemporary twist, including the seasonal menu.
Pink Mamma more than lives up to its moniker, being housed in an entirely millennial-pink tiled building, with kitsch, pastel touches scattered throughout its restaurant space.
Spreading out over four floors, this is a fabulous place to go to soak up the varying atmospheres and admire the changing decor throughout. Each floor houses a different restaurant, with the top level serving as a botanical haven. Although leafy touches are rife throughout the restaurant, we love the overhanging canopy of greenery and bamboo-style furniture that floor 4 provides.
Once you’ve spent a solid 15 minutes Instagramming to your heart’s content, get stuck into the menu, which was created for those with an appetite. On the three meters long barbecue, the chef’s grill whopping 1kg T-Bone steaks alongside delicious pizza and pasta options, all with a strong Tuscan influence.
The cocktails also go down a treat, we recommend going for the signature Big Mamma, which is made with vodka, lemon and ginger ale and fresh fruit.
Best bars in Paris
Stuck for somewhere to sip cocktails? Try some of these Parisian cocktail bars out for size.
Experimental Cocktail Club
We challenge you to try and bag a seat in this heaving, right-bank bar, which when you find out who the owners are, is unsurprisingly the place to be. The Experimental Group, who are responsible for the Experimental Cocktail Club in China Town and the Henrietta Hotel in Covent Garden, know what’s up when it comes to atmosphere, style and good fare so it would be criminal not to visit their original bar.
The unassuming facade alludes to an ‘if-you-know-you-know’ vibe, which explodes into a bustling party as soon as the door is cracked open. The space is small, so people tend to drape themselves across the bar, the selection of stools that surround it and vie for room on the floor, all of which creates an electric energy.
This is what they call a ‘proper cocktail bar’, so if you’re enthusiastic about tipple you’ll find something you love on the menu, or from the imagination of the bartender for sure.
La Passerelle is the perfect place to enjoy the summer sun’s rays and relax in a bohemian setting. Sitting on the River Seine, this bar and restaurant gives you views of Paris’s most iconic landmark, The Eiffel Tower, as well as boats and canoes floating along the water next to you.
Le Très Particulier
Le Très Particulier is an eclectic (and, at times, secretive) bar concealed within Hotel Particulier Montmartre. Mixing open, bright leafy spaces like the above with darkened corners, hidden doors and unlikely passages into other parts of the venue, the bar’s designers aim to keep you on your toes. And it works.
If you get peckish, try the tasty tapas menu while nursing experimental cocktails and basking in the humming atmosphere.
Le Comptoir Général
Located out of view, just off the Canal Saint-Martin, Le Comptoir Général is a bar and dance space that manages to create a feeling of ramshackle elegance with its mismatch of vintage furniture and plant-y touches.
The central bar serves up a mix of tropical cocktails that will slip down ever-so-smoothly, and while you sip them we recommend grabbing a seat in one of the many nooks: they are perfectly placed for observing the interesting mix of people that flock to this cult hang-out. As the evening gets later, the music gets louder, with a mix of well-known RnB beats pumping through the speakers. We recommend you bring your dancing shoes…
Best things to do in Paris
There are so many things to do in Paris, from tourist spots to unknown walkways. Here are just a handful of our favourites.
Wander the streets of Paris on a literary walking tour
Paris has acted as muse for some of the greatest literary minds the world has ever known. From Ernest Hemingway to Simone de Beauvoir, the charming streets and stylish architecture of the City of Lights have influenced the work of many writers we still admire today.
So, if you consider yourself a budding writer or serious bookworm you simply have to treat yourself to a tour of this beautiful city, set to the stories of these great authors.
Spend three hours striding around Paris while your guide explains the special significance of certain places and spots where your idols have walked, after stopping off at a legendary Parisian cafe Cafe de Flore for a drink and some Instagram-worthy snaps. You’ll get chance to visit the famous Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, too, which still has queues outside most days, to pick a momentum of a book to remember your day.
Go along on your own and meet like-minded people, or take a friend and enjoy it together!
La Promenade Plantée
This beautiful walkway sits three storeys high, atop of a disused railway line, giving you unique views of Paris from the sky. La Promenade Plantée is three miles long and looks across to some of the city’s most archetypal architecture, putting you at perfect peering height next to grand balconies and rooftop terraces.
Winding through some of Paris’ quieter neighborhoods, it’s a pocket of calm in this cosmopolitan setting. And yet, despite being surrounded by botanics, you never feel far from the urbanism which is still going on in the streets beneath you.
Read more about it here.
Take a river cruise
Day or night, The Seine is a spectacularly beautiful way to see Paris. There’s a selection of river cruises that operate, most of them cost around €15 for an hour’s trip that will probably depart from the Eiffel Tower.
If you’ve got your learning cap on, you can ask for a free audio guide and listen to the history of the buildings you’re passing. Otherwise, you can simply sit back and watch the world go by. In the evening we recommend taking a few drinks with you and waving to revelers sitting on the banks.
Find more information here.
Walk the streets of Canal Saint-Martin
This canal, which runs through the east side of Paris, has become a known hipster hang-out, positively surrounded by quaint coffee shops and cool concept stores. Located in the 10th arrondissement, it’s slightly off the beaten track of tourist spots and monuments, and offers a chance to experience the city as a real Parisian.
Walking the full length of the canal will give you views of pretty, pastel coloured shops and plenty of people watching but mark down a few places to visit as you go to anchor your route. We suggest tying in a visit to the previously mentioned Ten Belles coffee shop and the Babel Concept store.
Images: Ludo Martin / Instagram / Courtesy of venues