A Wander Guide: Paris
Paris owns my heart. It’s the one city that keeps dragging me back time & time again. This was my sixth visit to Paris, and still it amazes me that a city so smooth & polished can at the same time be so rough & rugged around the edges. It seems to contradict itself, and it is this contradiction that keeps me going back for more. To me, it is the ideal of beauty. I could never tire of walking the grand boulevards, or exploring the winding little streets of the Marais to catch a peek of an older Paris.
This was Boyfriend’s first time visiting Paris, and I wanted it to be absolutely perfect. The first few times I visited the city I didn’t quite understand what all the fuss was about. Having since then become a near-Francophile, it was important to me that Boyfriend love the city as much as I now do. So, I meticulously planned our trip. I read countless guide books, travel guides, blogs, everything. I cornered colleagues & friends who had any inside knowledge on the city. Thankfully, it all paid off.
Below is a detailed list of recommendations for food, drink, accommodation, and that little bit of culture. Enjoy!
where to stay
Le Marais // definitely our favourite neighbourhood in the city. Spread across the 3rd & 4th arrondissements, the Marais is all cafes, shops, restaurants, etc. Think: cobblestones, hidden courtyards, & winding streets lined with picture perfect facades. Basically, the ideal neighbourhood for wandering around in. We fell entirely for the quirky-yet-casual feel of the area, and honestly can’t see ourselves staying elsewhere. We opted for an AirBnB, but there are plenty of reasonably priced hotels in the area too! Hotel Americain was our home for one night due to flight cancellations & it was perfect! 3-stars, no fuss, clean rooms, & a good location next to a killer patisserie!
what to do
Louvre // would any visit to Paris be complete without hitting up the Louvre? Debatable. After visiting several times previously, I decided this would be the Parisian adventure in which I didn’t visit the Louvre. Boyfriend, however, put his foot down & told me that he couldn’t leave Paris without seeing the Mona Lisa. It is kind of a rite of passage, so I caved. My favourite piece in the museum will forever be Caravaggio’s ‘Death of a Virgin’, it has all the beauty of the Mona Lisa & none of the crowds. Pro tip: head to one of the arches either side of the pyramid to get that quintessential photo!
Atelier Brancusi // this is one of the most underrated museums in Paris & also one of my favourites. Literally right in front of the Centre Pompidou, Brancusi’s atelier gives a little peek inside the mind of the artist. You get to see some of his works, the materials he used, his tools, & his living quarters. A fascinating insight into an interesting man. Bonus: despite being a stone’s throw away from the Centre Pompidou, there are nowhere near as many tourists!
Shakespeare & Co. // stepping in the door at Shakespeare & Co. is almost like stepping into an alternate world. The place is so topsy-turny that it’s nearly comical. There are books crammed into every nook & cranny, except for the few nooks that house seats for reading in. Inspirational quotes adorn mirrors hidden all over the place. There’s even a piano squished in amidst the chaos that begs to be played by passersby. It’s one of the most whimsical places I’ve ever visited & should definitely be on your Paris hit-list. Keep an eye out for the resident cat!
Place des Vosges // the oldest planned square in the city, and arguably the most beautiful. Any visit to the Marais would be incomplete without a wander through the garden & the surrounding arches. We chose a nice bench in the shade, treated ourselves to some delicate pastries, & sat for a while to watch the world go by.
Galerie Vivienne // just one example of the many beautiful covered archways to stroll through all over Paris. From Galerie Vivienne you can connect to several other passages, making for an extremely enjoyable Sunday walk.
where to eat
breakfast / brunch
Holybelly // Holybelly kept popping up everywhere I looked – Instagram, Paris guides, blog posts, etc. The hype is well deserved -we ended up going twice! We loved everything about the place – food, coffee, decor, staff. Pro tip: always always always get the sausage patty & the hash brown. If you go against this advice, please do so in favour of their famous pancake stack: pancakes, fried eggs, bacon, & maple syrup. So insanely good. Pro tip #2: coffee drinkers, opt for the filter, not the Americano – much better value!
Fragments Cafe // I have Instagram solely to thank for bringing us to this wonderful little cafe not far from our apartment. Boyfriend was skeptical. He thought it would be another one of those hipster places where they serve expensive coffee & their best menu option is avocado toast. Oh wait, it is one of those places! The difference between Fragments & every other hipster cafe is that Fragments can actually deliver. The avocado toast (with optional poached egg) was one of the most surprising highlights of our trip, we loved it.
where to eat
Burger Joint // Boyfriend has decided that we have to find a good burger place in every city we go to, & Burger Joint was that place in Paris. The burger was perfectly medium-rare, it had pickles & cheese, & the bun was fab. It was close to our apartment, so we opted for a takeaway to have that perfect speedy burger experience. Next time we hope to hit up Le Camion Qui Fume, which is supposed to be even better.
Du Pain des Idees // worth the queue. Undoubtedly the best pastries in Paris. We were in line for 20-25 minutes & we’d definitely do it again. We nabbed a few different pastries, including the green-as-can-be pistachio escargot, which is definitely a must.
Angelina // Boyfriend had heard whispers of Angelina’s legendary hot chocolate before we planned our trip, so of course we had to check it out. Seated in one of the most beautiful – and certainly the smallest – tea rooms I’ve ever seen, we shared the luscious molten chocolate drink & a beautifully flaky pain au chocolate. The drink was rich enough for us to share one, & thank goodness for that because our jaws dropped when we saw the price list. Definitely worth ambling into once, but there are better places I’d rather visit twice.
where to eat
Frenchie Bar a Vin // before we even booked our flights to Paris, I was absolutely certain I wanted to visit Frenchie! It’s an informal, communal table, bar stools, no reservation, small dishes & sharing plates, can-only-hold-30-or-so-people kind of place. Ultimately, the place my dreams are made of. Not exactly up Boyfriend’s alley, but he seems to love me enough to let himself be dragged to such places. Thankfully, the food convinced him that I was right! We shared a brioche + braised beef oxtail dish, a lamb ragu with pappardelle, & a smoked pork loin with beans & chorizo. Everything was impeccable.
Ellsworth // I had a hard job convincing Boyfriend that this was the place for us – until he read rave reviews online about their buttermilk fried chicken. The whole menu was so inventive with flavour combinations, paring things that I literally never would have thought could work together. The buttermilk chicken was undoubtedly the best part of our meal – we ended up having two portions. Dare I say it? It might even hold the title for the best fried chicken we’ve ever had! The other highlight of our meal was an amazingly imaginative oxtail dish that had some sort of magical cheesy espuma and crunchy potato chips on top. For dessert, we went for the ricotta donuts that were served with sage & a blackberry sorbet. Basically, we died & went to food heaven.
a close second favourite
Robert et Louise // after a quick glance at the menu, we booked dinner here asap. The whole experience was amazing. We walked into this bustling, loud restaurant & gave our names to the owner. He sits just inside the door with a big messy book covered in scribbles, and he gave us an option of two seats – we chose the communal table. It was right beside the open fire where they cook the meat, and everything was so good! We shared the most incredible blood sausage for starters. It was so silky it could convert the strongest black pudding hater. We shared a cote de boeuf for mains, which came with a crispy potato side dish. We sat there grinning like fools the whole time! Somehow, we managed to eat every last bite. A definite must.
a really good back-up
Au Bourguignon du Marais // Boyfriend & I love beef bourguignon. Obviously, we ordered one bourguignon each. No starters or anything of the like, nothing that could fill us up (except for the bread served while we were waiting, which we devoured within seconds). They served the bourguignon in little individual cast-iron dishes – Staub, no less – and we loved every single bite. When in Paris, right?
where to get coffee
Boot Cafe // again, we have Instagram to thank for getting us out wandering the streets looking for this cafe. Everyone on Instagram snaps a photo of the adorable blue storefront, & I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Fine, I also wanted to take that photo. The coffee was the best we had in the city, and we ended up coming back a couple of times. A particular highlight was how smooth their cortado was.
where to drink
Les Etages // the word ‘unassuming’ would be almost too bold a word to describe Les Etages. It’s so unassuming that we actually thought it was an abandoned building. By chance we happened to see a couple going in & decided to chance our arm. Inside is a warm little bar full of character. Think peeling plaster & exposed brick walls, cozy armchairs, mismatching glasses, quirky lampshades, & hipster-chic bartenders. We were so enamored with the place that we ended up staying for a 3 Aperol spritz’!
Au Petit fer a Cheval // I must confess that Boyfriend had to drag me in here. I was skeptical. I went with it because any which way you look at it – this is a kind of a Marais institution. A little horseshoe-shaped bar where one squeezes in amongst the locals for a refreshing beer. Despite the claustrophobia, it’s an enjoyable experience. We passed it countless times during our trip & every time it was overflowing with people. Thank you, Boyfriend.
Lizard Lounge // while wandering around looking for a good beer, we stumbled across Lizard Lounge. Two stools at the bar were calling out our names. It was exactly the kind of place we didn’t know we were looking for. Chilled out, great selection, friendly staff with that hipster-chic kind of attitude. It’s great value and it’s smack bang in the centre of the Marais, with a killer ‘Old Fashioned’. Needless to say, we returned more than once.
Clown Bar // walking in the door to Clown Bar is kind of like stepping back in time. The bar dates back to 1902, & has been largely unchanged in the years since. It still boasts the original zinc bar, exposed lights, ceramic tiles behind the bar depicting clowns. We got there just after the lunch rush so we could enjoy a drink in relative peace & quiet.