Over the years I’ve developed my own guide to Paris, and I figured it’s only fair that I share it with you. In addition to my favorite restaurants, hotels, points of interest and shops, I’ll try to keep this updated with any historically relevant places mentioned in the podcast!
Generator Hostel. It’s not inconveniently located, it’s swanky as hell, it has a rooftop sky bar, the downstairs cafe makes a terrific burger and did I mention the rooftop sky bar?
Address: 9-11 Place du Colonel Fabien, Paris, 75010
Nearest transport: Colonel Fabien (2)
Telephone: 01 70 98 84 00
Hotel Le Walt. Romantic, tourist-friendly location while remaining far from any tourist traps, right next to the best planned duck fat experience you can have, and if you get the right room you can see the Eiffel Tower from your window. Hermès shampoo bottles! Without being outrageously priced, it’s sleek and modern and lovely, with a super comfortable bed and a gigantic recreation of a piece from the Louvre over the bed.
Address: 37 Avenue de la Motte-Picquet, Paris, 75007
Nearest transport: École Militaire (8)
Telephone: 01 45 51 55 83
Don’t get me wrong: the Louvre is fabulous. If you go to Paris and you don’t go to the Louvre, you messed up and you need to do it again. But I do want to try to share smaller places that are less likely to be in your guidebook. With that said, sometimes you need to know which places live up to the hype! Here are the tourist sites which are just as good as the guidebooks say:
Awesome As Promised:
- Musée d’Orsay: a.k.a. my favorite place in Paris. If it’s wintertime, grab some freshly roasted chestnuts from the vendors outside while you wait in line.
- Musée du Louvre: Seriously, if you don’t go to the Louvre, why are you here? Skip: The Mona Lisa. Don’t Miss: Winged Victory at Samothrace, touring the medieval foundations in the basement.
- Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral: It’s not worth waiting in line forever, but the tour is really lovely and memorable if you can catch the line at a good time. Make sure to spend time in the lovely, peaceful gardens behind Notre Dame, pretending you’re Julia Child. The view from the top is neat, but unless you’ve spent a lot of time with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and need to document the occasion, you’ll get a better vista elsewhere in the city.
- Sacré-Cœur Basilica: Yes, it’s a steep hike, but you know exactly how many croissants you just ate for breakfast. Do it and take in the view.
- Versailles Palace: It’s tremendous, and it’s a great excuse to get outside the city limits.
Great With Reservations:
- Eiffel Tower: Personally, I think it’s not worth the wait to travel up to the top – burn off some crêpes by climbing Sacré-Cœur instead. Visit it, lounge around in the Champ de Mars, take That One Picture where you pretend to hold the tower between your pointer finger and your thumb, then move on with your day and enjoy the rest of the city.
- Montmartre: Still as adorable as you’d hoped, but stay away from the Belleville/Moulin Rouge tourist traps. It’s wonderful to walk around, but beware of basically anything that’s really popular in this area – chances are, it’s not popular with locals, and there’s a reason. Wander down tiny alleyways and eat somewhere that doesn’t offer an English language menu out front.
- Arc de Triomphe: I have sentimental memories of the Arc, as it was the first legendary landmark I saw when I first visited Paris, even before I saw the Eiffel Tower! With that said, don’t overblow it: it IS just an arch at the end of a big street.
- Champs-Élysées: Okay, I may be spoiled because I live in San Francisco and all the boutiques are here, too. But you have the Internet! Buy a Louis Vuitton purse at home if you need one. It’s just a shopping mall. However, if it’s Christmas time it IS worth a stroll through the winter market on the outskirts of the Tuileries gardens for some hot wine!
- Bastille: Haha, I went to school a few hundred yards away, and I was so EXCITED to visit the legendary spot for the first time! Behold my disappointment when I realized it’s a glorified roundabout with a pillar in the middle that you’ll never reach without playing French Frogger. The Bastille neighborhood is awesome, and you should definitely visit to grab some food and shop at the markets, but the memorial isn’t anything special.
- Disneyland Paris: Mon dieu, non.
Best Planned Duck Fat Experience:
It is impossible to overstate how much I wanted cassoulet in March 2016. I spent weeks researching the best possible restaurant. I had 24 hours in Paris, one meal to get it right, and Josephine Chez Dumonet was closed. I didn’t want anything inventive, or fresh, or exciting: I wanted the most comforting comfort food ever invented, and I wanted it served to me by old men who knew more about food than I could ever hope to learn, and I was willing to pay any price. In the end, L’Auberge D’chez Eux won out, thanks to the heavyweight clientele of world leaders over the years. The meal was perfection: checkered red tablecloths, adorably irascible old servers carting picnic baskets of saucissons around, and of course the most gorgeous bubbling cassoulet I could have imagined. Was it expensive? Yes. Would I do it again? Literally the next morning if I’d had the time (and the room in my stomach).
Address: 2 avenue de Lowendal, 75007
Nearest transport: École Militaire (8)
Hours: Open every day 12-2:30 pm and 7-10:45 pm
Telephone: 01 47 05 52 55
Best Boeuf Bourguignon:
Ugh, I’m still searching and I would LOVE recommendations.
Best Cliché French Café Experience:
Café des Philosophes: I’ll kick myself for letting the secret out about this place when I can’t get a table on my next trip. It’s perfection: sidewalk seating on a busy street perfect for people-watching, cheap wine, even a winding Harry Potter staircase inside. I’ve tried all the famous chocolats chaud in Paris, but theirs is my favorite – so reasonably priced, so filling, so perfect. I don’t recommend their boeuf bourguignon, but I definitely recommend their onion soup, their patés, and their house salad with goat cheese – and a hefty amount of their house red. If you want one, perfect clichéd Parisian café experience, sitting around eating bread and drinking wine and brushing away cigarette smoke while you people-watch and pretend to have strong feelings about Camus, do it here.
Address: 28 Rue Vielle du Temple, 75004
Nearest transport: Saint-Paul (1)
Hours: Open every day 9 AM – 2 PM
Telephone: 01 48 87 49 64
Best Cheap Eats:
L’As du Falafel: It’s Lenny Kravitz’s favorite falafel house, according to their every brochure, every ad, every guidebook listing and the signs on the front of their building. You know what? Lenny Kravitz is right.
Best Place to Waste Time Waiting For An Inconvenient Ryanair Flight:
Au Pied du Cochon: An old-fashioned, 24-hour brasserie for when you’re hungry between the hours of 11 PM and 6 AM. Since Ryanair flights like to leave at the convenient hour of, oh, let’s say 3:17 AM, I spent many nights here with a good book, slowly making my way through a 4 course meal. I tried my first fried pig’s ear here, and it was great. This is also the first place I ever had a proper steak, cooked by someone who wasn’t my dad (from the Cook It ‘Til It’s Cremated school – love you, Dad). The ice cream sundae with rose flavored syrup is great.
Ooh, this is impossible. I think Ladurée is overrated and way too sweet, though they did make a great birthday substitute for me when I turned 20. This probably goes to Pierre Hermé, because I love weird flavor combinations and they always pull off seasonal combos that surprise and delight me. It’s also a pleasure to walk down the streets of extraordinarily expensive luxury goods and actually be able to purchase something. I may not be able to wear designer labels, but Rihanna and I can eat the same macarons, by golly. That said, I wasn’t able to make it to Sadaharu Aoki last time I was in town and it’s at the top of my to-do list.
Best Serendipitous Duck Fat Experience:
My best serendipitous dinner in Paris took place in autumn 2015. I’d changed hostels unexpectedly and needed to find a terrific restaurant somewhere near the Canal-St-Martin. There are so many restaurants, and I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted, so I figured I’d just take a stroll until a menu seized my attention. Once I saw the menu for Le Robinet d’Or there was no competition: duck fat on duck fat on duck fat. I started with escargots and foie gras, ate the unbelievable duck breast in foie gras sauce (🙌) and finished off with a molten chocolate cake. I walked in on a whim, and it was one of the best meals I’ve eaten in my life.
While many shops naturally overlap the two, a pâtisserie is different from a boulangerie. In France, a pâtissier (pastry chef) trains especially for the art of making pastries and sweets, as opposed to specializing in the production of bread. However, it should come as no surprise that anyone who has mastered the art of making a mille-feuille can probably handle a croissant. At the end of the day, this really comes down to your taste in pastries, your taste in décor, and your patience for standing in line. (Looking at you, La Pâtisserie des
Boulangerie BO: When I first lived in Paris, this perfect bakery was just around the corner. Proof that good things come in small packages, Boulangerie BO is quite small inside, but decorated beautifully and filled with baguettes to make you cry. I visited again in autumn 2015 and had the best croissant of my entire trip, and by croissant I mean two croissants. 🙏 Honorable mention: Poilane is famous for a reason. I once came across a loaf in San Francisco which must have been airlifted straight from the ovens. It cost about $25 for the loaf, but I’ve never felt so glad to live in the age of globalization.
Address: 85 bis rue de Charenton, 75012
Nearest transport: Ledru-Rollin (8)
Hours: Open every day
Telephone: 01 43 07 75 21
Barthélémy: Their cheese is good enough for Catherine Deneuve, it’s damn sure good enough for you. Someday when I no longer care what my listeners want, I’ll devote 20 minutes to an exploration of French yogurt. Why is it so good? How many flavors are out there? Is there a limit to one human’s capacity to consume it? If you’d like to explore these questions for yourself, Barthélémy is dairy heaven and lactose hell. Barthélémy is a Palace of Cheese. Go here for cheese, milk, yogurt (blessed, blessed yogurt) and any other creamy treat. Watch a video tour here from CheeseChannelTV, a YouTube content provider I didn’t know I needed in my life.
Address: 51 rue de Grenelle, 75007
Nearest transport: rue du Bac (12)
Hours: Closed Sunday and Monday
Telephone: 01 42 22 82 24