Proof that Paris is always a good idea…
As summer wanes, autumn transforms the trees lining river Seine into a radiant procession of glowing, amber foliage. La vie en rose clouds the senses, and you begin to see the world through rose-tinted lenses.
Yes, there is something magically enchanting about Paris. Whether drawn to period architecture, café-lined boulevards, cobblestone passageways, or en plein air painting—this romantically ethereal city takes your breath away.
With the reopening of Bar Hemingway, restoration of the Ritz Paris, commencement of private, candlelit journeys to Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, booming urban culture and nouveau cuisine, there has never been a better time to say au revoir to America and bon voyage to Paris.
If travel time is limited, don’t fret; a return visit will tug at your heartstrings. Plus, this assemblage of lavish to-dos—drinks, eats, shops, and sites—assures you’ll savor every moment, in proclamation: Paris, je t’aime.
The Ritz Paris (ritzparis.com) rolled out the red carpet for its highly acclaimed reopening this past June. A splendid fixture at Place Vendôme, est. 1898, the Ritz Paris, reimagined, is more regal than ever. Nestled amongst Palais Garnier and the Louvre, the Ritz signifies the epitome of five-star lodgings in one of France’s finest quartiers. Elegantly refreshed, the Ritz’s splendid décor, posh salons and 17th-century framework beckon rediscovery of the historic enclave. The Ritz’s unmatched savoir faire steps up via haute cuisine: per chef Nicolas Sale, custom cocktails and the premiere of an exclusive wellness partnership with Chanel called CHANEL au Ritz Paris: a state-of-the-art skin care and beauty remedy.
Utmost respect for the Ritz’s restoration surfaces throughout the renowned retreat. Escoffier cuisine, ballroom, to grand staircase, cherish every inch of Thierry W. Despont’s revived interior designs inside the crème de la crème of classy Parisian accommodations. A handsome library, manicured gardens and prestigious suites (César Ritz, et al.)—indeed, cultivating a choosy palate is what the Ritz does best. As the legend continues, join the legion of esteemed guests comprising the Ritz Paris registry. After all, Coco Chanel claimed: “Le Ritz est ma maison.” (She lived there for 37 years.)
Set in the affluent 16th arrondissement, near Palais de Tokyo and Place Trocadéro, rests another luxurious lodging touting five stars: Shangri-La Hotel Paris (shangri-la.com/paris). Inside the former residence of Napoléon Bonaparte’s grandnephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte, it’s difficult not to feel like French royalty resting your head on these posh, feathered pillows. Magnificent views of river Seine, the Eiffel Tower and detailed interior craftsmanship, sophisticated dame Shangri-La is a seductive space.
Another highbrow hotelier, perched near Champs-Elysées and Arc de Triomphe, is Four Seasons Hotel George V (fourseasons.com/paris). Fusing French finesse into a blue-blooded family of landmark retreats, The Four Seasons Paris lives up to its name: fine dining, superior art collection, 244 guest rooms and five stars. Established 1928, this Art Déco hideout redefines luxury: private terraces, restored, 18th-century tapestries and glamour. Also home to a Michelin-starred institution, Le Cinq, and well-fitted suites, Four Seasons is distinct.
Wine aficionados particularly appreciate the cellar. Hailed the hotel’s hidden treasure, Four Seasons’ assembled a superior collection of fine wines and spirits. Approaching the height of WWII, the proprietors constructed a secret, stone quarry cellar, 45 feet below, to safeguard the valuable bottles. The cellar remained intact through the war, and now, Eric Beaumard—silver medalist of the 1998 World’s Best Sommelier Championship—is proud to protect and pour a prized collection of crus. Paired with gourmet chef Christian Le Squer and fueling epicurean clientele, Four Seasons is one of Paris’ most prestigious lairs: architecturally and gastronomically.
It doesn’t take Hemingway to tell you that Paris is a moveable feast. Michelin institutions, hearty brasseries, hole-in-the-wall eateries— food is one of France’s finest attractions. For those who have never traveled to France, note that many restaurants require reservations, and dinner service commences around 7 or 8 at night. Expect to eat late, leisurely and enjoy every bite. The speed of service is different than in America, so relish in not having to rush through your plate to turn tables, and do as the French do: Order the menu du jour (usually a special appetizer, main and dessert, prepared fresh daily) to fully experience French fare and the fluid, ritualistic pace of a European meal.
A quintessential brasserie and edible ode to literature’s leading names, socialize inside the former hangouts of Hemingway himself. Les Deux Magots (lesdeuxmagots.fr) in the 6th arrondissement is cozied up to Place Saint-Germain. A pinnacle of the period’s artistic and literary life, don’t leave without sipping its hailed hot chocolate. This high-class, Left Bank neighborhood is home to luxurious shops and eateries, including fresh-flower-adorned Café de Flore (cafedeflore.fr)—also famous for its clientele, including Picasso, Prévert and Verlaine. Dine on the terrace, and people-watch to pass the afternoon like a Parisian. If you’re in the neighborhood on a Sunday, grab brunch, and head to Marché Biologique Raspail, on Boulevard Raspail, an all-organic, street market that pops up between métro Rennes.
In the 9th, spirited gastronomy is helmed at Le Café de la Paix (cafedelapaix.fr). Internationally celebrated, here, fresh seafood, fashion pastries, brunch and night views of Palais Garnier reign. Sip on bubbly paired with fresh seafood platters—beautifully arranged with the finest ocean fare: expected and exotic—during terrace dinner at twilight. Famous patrons include Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Lawrence Durrell.
For wine-loving crowds seeking the best bottles, cheese and charcuterie in Paris, several institutions redefine vino shop cuisine.
Rue de Richelieu hosts a superior selection of wine bistros, making the street a must-sip. Juveniles (juvenileswinebar.com), a hole-in-the-wall jewel, serves English-French fusion and a carefully curated collection of hand-picked wines. This cozy eatery is a diamond in the rough run by a couple with flair—and you’ll feel like a member of the family. A blackboard menu of appetizers, mains and desserts, rotates nightly, while seasonal small and large plates tantalize taste buds. This place is truly special: bottles are artfully arranged along the wall, and the owners’ dog often makes a lunch-time appearance. Book a table in advance; the intimate space has very limited seating.
For a superior, three-star Michelin chef experience, discover Le 114 Faubourg (lebristolparis.com) housed within the well-heeled Le Bristol, where chef Eric Frechon is praised. Sample Frechon’s Épicure, a three-star Michelin, for a formal setting, and Le 114 Faubourg, a one-star Michelin, for gourmet brasserie comforts.
Called the fashion capital of the world, leave luggage space for Paris’ top trades: clothing and luxury goods. Avenue Montaigne, Champs-Elysées and Rue de Rivoli are dotted with designers and haute couture households—from Louis Vuitton and Hermés, to Dior and Saint Laurent. For high jewelry, Cartier, Place Vendôme is a gold mine.
Colette, a French concept store, is a fun, whimsical find carrying multiple designers. For beauty buffs, Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Parfums de Nicolaï are fine fragrance artisans. Opéra to Haussmann is an amiable browse with Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. Both embody ultimate shopping experiences, where superior architecture and luxurious environs are as encapsulating as the product stock. Plus, Champagne, coffee bars and topfloor eateries entice long stays. Particularly impressive, Galeries Lafayette occupies three, large buildings on the same street. One building is devoted to women; the other, to men; and the third, to home goods, gourmet food and wine—all connected by skywalk. Printemps is another polished, multi-level flagship with superior selections. Macarons, multiple specialty shops and service augment these august amusement parks of shopping.
For a concept institution frequented by fashion bloggers, industry elite and Elle France editors, visit Merci in the northern Marais, where featured vendors rotate regularly. If you spot a colorful car out front, you’ve found the spot with a beloved, Soho-like urban vibe that screams bobo chic. Visit Merci’s eclectic Used Book Café for retail crowd refreshments.
In the 6th, Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche conceptualized the department store we know today. Ideal for food and fashion, the posh flagship houses La Grande Épicerie: Paris’ illustrious culinary mothership. Th e multi-storied interior displays kitchen and household essentials alongside in-house eateries and specialty areas for everything from produce to freshly poached salmon, escargot and smoky charcuterie.
Paris is best experienced by foot, so indulge in pastel-colored pastries without a hint of guilt. Café Pouchkine, by Place des Vosges, sculpts high fashion pastries into extravagant art. And while Maison Ladurée is credited for kick-starting macaron mania, its Le Marquis de Ladurée branch fabricates fine chocolate, while the flagship bakes buttery delights, and boasts Ladurée Champagne, beauty and home goods labels. With multiple locations around Paris, the main salon on Champs-Elysées serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and high tea. Th e cuisine is fittingly exquisite, and beautifully presented. Order a plate of mini macarons to savor seasonal flavors—rose, Marie Antoinette, et al. The feminine treats complement brut and rosé and a lengthy list of exclusive tea infusions.
Pierre Hermé is also renowned for a rose petal-adorned Isaphan, but more so for inventive combinations—i.e., vanilla foie gras; olive oil and pistachio. Pierre’s tasty locales roll out two-toned, ombré and sparkle-infused macarons.
Paris’ ice cream parlors defy confectionary craftsmanship, and Berthillon signifies the best. The gourmet creamery has multiple locations, but perhaps the most famous is Île Saint-Louis, the small island in the middle of the Seine that neighbors Notre Dame, where colorful scoops of creamed
goodness cause crowds to line around the block for a lick of lavender glace.
Angelina (angelina-paris.fr) is a historically lavish locale for highbrow clientele: Coco Chanel and Marcel Proust sipped alongside the most respected names in fashion at Angelina. Don’t leave without a hot chocolate or chocolate-laced Mont Blanc. This bewitching chocolatey ball of goodness pairs exquisitely with celebrated infusions: Thé Mont-Blanc, no 226 Cacao and Mélange Angelina.
Defining French tea’s superiority since 1854, meet Mariage Frères (mariagefreres.fr). Order a gold- or silver-flecked pastry and piping-hot Marco Polo in one of the brothers’ intimate tearooms—such as the Marais salon, which houses a whimsical museum.
Yes, visit the Ritz Paris’ Bar Hemingway for top-shelf toddies and piano music at one of the world’s-best watering holes, but also explore Guerlain’s marble-and-gold-decked cabinet of curiosities, Le 68 (le68guymartin.com). This well-concealed venue on Champs-Elysées is the dream work of Guerlain’s “nose” and Michelin-starred chef Guy Martin … and a foodie-and-fragrance-lover’s ultimate fantasy. Impeccable victuals complement fragrances, household teas, and Ruinart Champagne brunches.
For oenophiles, check out Ô Chateau’s (o-chateau.com) Grand Cru topflight tasting. The venue touts several dégustations, but this is the most lavish. The booking includes two hours of wine education, six tastings, hearty snack plates—meats, cheese, foie gras—and spreads. Cheers.
While dining, drinking and strolling the Seine, make time to visit Paris’ grand attractions and picturesque gardens. While there are “signature” activities, the following sites and excursions illuminate your rosy experience:
Musée d’Orsay (musee-orsay.fr): The former Gare d’Orsay railway station now houses an expansive collection of largely French paintings, sculptures, and collectibles. The building’s Beaux-Arts aesthetics augment the impressive interior architecture, museum collection and world-premiere art exhibitions. Impressionist works—including Monet, Van Gough, Renoir, Degas and Henri Toulouse Lautrec—are a highlight.
Père Lachaise: The largest cemetery in Paris, Père Lachaise was the world’s first garden cemetery. An astonishingly beautiful final resting place for the likes of Oscar Wilde and Chopin, Père Lachaise, while a seemingly morbid excursion, makes for an enjoyable memorial to the legacy of the incredible lives who rest there.
Jardin des Tuileries: A vast 17th-century sculpture garden of re~ ection ponds and formal landscaping dotted with refreshment stands and restaurants, both ends of Tuileries open to supreme sites: Louvre and Place de la Concorde (the Grand Wheel attraction remains until Sept. 23, 2016). The Fête des Tuileries festival runs through August. Lovers of rides, thrills and cotton candy are welcome.
Bateaux Mouches (bateaux-mouches.fr): An evening or sunset river cruise along the Seine is a must-do with Bateaux Mouches—Paris’ premiere Seine cruise company. Voyages, including Champagne dinner or lunch cruises, depart from Pont de l’Alma near the Eiffel Tower.
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte (vaux-le-vicomte.com): Before 2015, a lack of direct train and shuttle access to this baroque French château left Vaux-le-Vicomte’s secluded haven virtually unknown … even though it was the architectural inspiration for Château Versailles. ? e mysterious retreat, now accessible to Paris travelers, is the former residence of Nicolas Fouquet (the château’s creator), and the perfect late-summer hideaway for romantic, candlelit dinners on the lawn. Vaux-le-Vicomte’s architecture draws from classical antiquity:
A 25-meter-high dome provides 360-degree views of the French garden-accented estate. Conventional gardens complement unconventional statues and fountains, making this remarkable castle stand apart from the others.
Insider tips for Anglophone travelers: Lost in Cheeseland (lostincheeseland.com), Making Magique (makingmagique.com), and David Lebovitz (davidlebovitz.com). Check out their sites for what to do, see, eat and drink.