I get asked all the time where my favorite places to go to are or what to do in Paris. If you don't know, I spent almost 5 years of my life there in design school and working. I could spend days talking about Paris and all the wonderful things there are to do. It was about time that I collected all my favorites in one place as an easy reference for those of you who are traveling. This guide is broken down into areas (arrondissements) I would enjoy during my time in Paris. Some things are fancy, some are not, but they are all things I love and make Paris feel like home whenever I am there.
This was originally intended as one post, but for your mental health and to keep your scrolling thumb from exhaustion, I've made it into 3 parts. Part 2 will be fashion related and Part 3 will be about easy day trips.
Maison Sauvage | 5 rue de Buci 75006 (photo David Peck)
My best advice is to spend as much time walking/biking through the city as possible. It’s really not that large and you miss so much when you take the metro everywhere. If you do need to go a distance but aren’t pressed for time, the bus system is easy and a great way to see more of the city if you don’t want to Uber.
If it’s your first time in Paris or you haven’t seen much of the city, I would recommend a bike tour. One of my good friends (Paul) co-owns Bike About Tours. They have several tours that take you to different parts of the city during the day and evening, but what I love is that they show you the “real” Paris. It’s history and modern life all wrapped up with a bike ride. They also have fantastic tours of Versailles and Champagne if you have time for a day trip.
Shopping at Le Creuset in the Marias on Rue des Rosiers (photo David Peck)
You will definitely want to wander through the Marais. There are a ton of great shops and cafes that you will stumble upon naturally, but I recommend that you stop for falafel on Rue des Rosiers. The French way is to get it to go from the window and then take it to a park or even the river to eat.
Le Peloton Café | 17, Rue du Pont Louis Philippe 75004 (photo David Peck)
The owners of Bike About Tours have a lovely little coffee shop in the Marais called Le Peloton that has been written up everywhere, including the Washington Post (very good if you want a real coffee and not just a shot of espresso with some delicious waffles).
Les Halles shopping mall was just renovated and it’s spectacular (though it's nowhere near the charming heart of Paris that was torn down in the 70s). It used to be a horrible mess, but now it’s a fantastic place for one-stop shopping in the center of the city. You can also see a film if you need to get off your feet for a bit.
Le Centre Pompidou | Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 (photo David Peck)
A must if you have an interest in modern and contemporary art. The outside of the museum is just as significant, so be sure to walk by even if you don’t have time to visit. The best thing to do is to head to the very top and have a drink at Brasserie George. You'll have panoramic views of the city while resting your body for more walking! You don't have to purchase entrance to the museum to go to the restaurant.
(photo David Peck)
Musée national Picasso-Paris | 5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003
This one is tucked away a bit, but it’s a great size to explore if you have limited time. It’s fully dedicated to Picasso and gives a wonderful insight into the totality of his work.
Refuge des Fondues | 17 rue des Trois Frères 75018
If you are in Montmartre, I recommend having fondue at Refuge des Fondues. It’s reasonable, fun, quirky (they serve you wine out of baby bottles), and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. You actually have to step over the table to be seated.
If you are into shows, the Moulin Rouge is the most famous and Le Lapin Agile is for those who want a traditional Parisian cabaret—no mics and in a quaint space where Picasso used to frequent. Here’s a great blog post about different types of Parisian cabaret if you are interested.
The 5th (Latin Quarter)
Le Bonbon au Palais | 19 Rue Monge, 75005 (photo David Peck)
The title says it all. This little shop is really a palace of candy from every region in France. It's all so beautiful that you might not want to eat it, but you will.
Arènes de Lutèce | 49 Rue Monge, 75005 (photo David Peck)
Paris was known in antiquity as Lutetia, hence the name of one of the most important reminders of Roman civilization left in the city. Since you'll be in the neighborhood for candy, walk down the street with your bag of goodies to see this ancient Roman Arena that is still in use today. I was shown this place by my first landlady in Paris the 2nd week I was there. She and her son had just discovered its existence, so I feel like I'm passing something authentic down to you. Enjoy!
The 6th & 7th
L’Arpège | 84 Rue de Varenne, 75007
If you want to REALLY splurge for a meal, I would recommend L’Arpège. It’s definitely pricey but absolutely wonderful. It’s 3 Michelin-star farm to table cuisine where even a vegetarian can find bliss. The tasting menu is your best best for staying on a “budget.”
Pierre Herme | 72 rue Bonaparte 75006
For the best macarons, you must go.
Deyrolle | 46, rue du Bac - 75007 (photo David Peck)
I’m not always one for taxidermy because it usually is a byproduct of some big game hunter trying to prove something, but Deyrolle is different. Almost every single item in this shop, which has been around since 1831, is an animal that dies of old age/illness in a zoo or park. Started as an educational company, they still provide pedagogical charts to academic institutions, Deyrolle is the animal kingdom in French Boutique form. It truly is a cabinet of curiosities that is a work of art. (Fun Fact, Michelle’s old apartment was just behind the shop!)
Musée Rodin | 77 rue de Varenne 75007
This museum set in a 1720's mansion a stone's throw from Les Invalides (also worth a visit) is Paris at it's finest. There are over 7 acres of grounds to explore recently finished a $16 million renovation in 2015. The perfect outdoor sculpture garden. You really can’t get a sense of the true power of Rodin’s sculptures until you see them in person.
Musée d’Orsay | 1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007
Perhaps my favorite museum in Paris. It was originally constructed as a train station for the 1900 World Fair. I love the blend of Beaux-Art and new architecture. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist art in the world by the likes of Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin, and Van Gough.
Beaupassage | 53-57 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 (photo David Peck)
This new passageway of gourmet restaurants, shops, and artisans is perfect for a break if you are wandering around the neighborhood. We loved Arabica, a cute coffee kiosk tucked into the back.
Saint Sulpice | 2 Rue Palatine, 75006 (photo David Peck)
Fans of the Da Vinci Code will be familiar with this second largest church in Paris, though (SPOILER ALERT) it's origins as a pagan temple in the book are completely fabricated. It's within easy walking distance from just about everything in St. Germain. It doesn't take very long to pop by and have a look at this Baroque marvel full of art, incuding the largest fresco ever painted by Delacroix – Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
Ile de la Cite
Ile de la Cité (photo David Peck)
I’m sure you’ll be on the island to see Notre Dame, but you must see Sainte Chapelle. It’s the most beautiful jewel box of stained glass. While you are on Ille de la Cite, you should head to the end of the island near Pont Neuf and watch the sunset. We often would pack a picnic and sit at the end of the quay. Afterward, you can walk to Berthillon on Ile St. Louis for ice cream (it’s SOOOO good).
The 1st & 8th
Musée de l’Orangerie | Tuilleries Gardens
Nearest the end of the garden by Place de la Concord, it’s the permanent home of 8 of Monet’s “Water Lilies” paintings. Occasionally, you might come across a dance or piano performance there.
Take time to wander around the Tuilleries gardens Depending on the time of year, you may find a small carnival with rides that take you up to see a different view of the city. Michelle and I used to meet at the fair and jump on trampolines after work several times a day.
Le Pain Quotidien | 18 Place du Marché Saint-Honoré, 75001 (photo David Peck)
Le Pain Quotidien is all over the world now, but I have a special place in my hear for this location. You could find us having brunch there most Sundays with a group of friends. We relived the tradition when were last there and with was just as good. If only Houston could get in on the fun... You can find plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu as well.
Angelina | 226 de la rue de Rivoli
Just go get the hot chocolate with cream. You'll thank me later.
Palais de Tokyo | 13 avenue du Président-Wilson 75016
Dedicated to modern and contemporary art, you are almost always sure to find a cutting edge exhibition on view. It’s also open from noon until midnight every day except Tuesday. There are a beautiful restaurant and bookstore as well.
Bon | 25 Rue de la Pompe, 75116
The 16th used to be known as the place where affluent French families lived in spacious apartments. Recent years have seen its popularity grow among the younger generation because of the space you can get for the money compared to other parts of Paris.
In the center of the 16th, Bon is Panasian cuisine housed in the stylish design world of Phillipe Stark. I had one of my first "nice" meals here in Paris, though this one is significantly more affordable than L'Argpege (like $100s of euros less per person...). There are several rooms with different vibes. I'm partial to the library.
A spectacular Frank Ghery designed addition to Paris' contemporary architecture scene, the Loui Vuitton Foundation is dedicated to international arts and culture. You'll find modern and contemporary art in multiple genres on display in permanent and temporary exhibitions that place the work within a historical context. No matter what's on display, you'll want to go just to see the building. Be sure to book tickets online to skip the line and get free use of the shuttle bus.
Jardin d’Acclimation | Carrefour des Sablons, Bois de Boulogne
When you're through at the Foundation, you can head to the Jardin d’Acclimation in the Bois de Boulogne to unleash your inner child (or actually children if you have them with you).