Paris in the Autumn is nothing short of sublime. Hop aboard an early Eurostar on Saturday morning and step out at Gare du Nord just two hours later. Here’s how to spend a weekend in the city of lights:
BOOK A HOTEL
For the chicest of kips in the centre of town opt for Les Grands Boulevard – a sumptuous 50-room boutique hotel by designer Dorothée Meilichzon, or the nearby Hoxton, occupying another 18th Century hotel particuliere. Their ‘shoebox’ rooms may be small even for Paris standards, but the cosy communal spaces more than make up for it. For location, the Hôtel Jeanne d’Arc in the Marais is near on perfect, with elegant, reasonably priced rooms.For self-sufficiency look no further than the exquisitely furnished apartments from Anran, available through airbnb.
LET’S START WITH BREAKFAST
Sister restaurant to the beloved Cafe Obercampf, Cafe Mericourt is the latest go-to for breakfast – especially for melt-in-the-mouth shakshuka. Judy on Rue de Fleurus is haven for locally-sourced, organic produce, whilst Holybelly 5 is the one for the classic brunch ambiance. The boutiques along Rue du Chateau d’Eau and covered Marche Saint Martin can be taken in after.
OR JUST A PASTRY
Still ruling the roost is Du Pain et des Idées: if you must choose, opt for their pistachio & chocolate roule, melty fresh apple chausson, or after midday, array of savoury breads including mini prune-bacons rolls. Elsewhere, Boulangerie Utopie for black sesame pastries, Le Pain Au Naturel for organic breads or Sébastien Gaudard, for sheer unrivalled patisserie class.
TO A MUSEUM
First thing Saturday is the best time for a museum trip, and book ahead. There’s masses to see this autumn. We recommend Picasso. Blue and Rose at the Musee D’Orsay, an exceptional showcase of painting by the young artist during the intensely productive, emotionally wrought and career-defining period of 1900-06. Mucha at Musee Luxembourg is a spellbinding insight into the art nouveau world of the Parisian designer and draughtsman with exquisite drawings and prints in his unmistakable hand. And don’t miss Southern Geometries, from Mexico to Patagonia at the Foundation Cartier – a celebration of geometric art of Latin America, including a spectacular ‘Ballroom’ intervention by Bolivian architect Freddy Mamani, a sheer joy.
THE LUNCH SPOT
Miznon, off Rue de Roisiers. Boisterous, rambunctious Israeli joint serving out-of-this-world filled pittas, heroic grilled vegetables, and help-yourself fresh accompaniments.
WALKING UP AN APPETITE FOR DINNER
Fewer cities are better catered for an afternoon stroll. But there are hidden spots beyond the Tuileries, the Jardin du Luxembourg, and the cobbled banks of the Seine. Parc des Buttes Chaumont boasts spectacular views, meandering paths and hidden grottos. Across the river, Jardin du Plantes is equally lovely – detour for the beautiful wood-paneled interior of the National History Museum, or the leafy central courtyard of the Grand Mosque – with tea at the delightful mosaiced cafe.
SHOPS, HERE THERE AND EVERYWHERE
From vintage posters to book shops dedicated to mountaineering literature, Paris fulfills every niche shopping need. Not forgetting the designer avenues, a handful of highlights include O/HP/E and Empreintes for concept stores, the quaint Saint Paul quartier for antiques, La Hune for coffee table books and Sennelier for art supplies. À la Mère de Famille for chocolate, Barthélémy for cheese and Causses for all other epicerie desires. A no visit to Paris is complete without stopping in at Merci.
For unadaletered French fanfare, Bouillon Pigalle is a true crowd-pleaser. Or Clown Bar, serving French food with a Japanese twist under its famous muralled ceiling. Biglove Caffè is stylish Italian, deli-style, also serving gluten free pizza and their signature Bicerin Gianduja – espresso with a dollop of gianduja chocolate. As an alternative approach, head to Rue Sainte-Anne, the ramen hot-spot of Europe.
There’s no need to fuss – just that grab that seat under the heater! Our favourites include Septime La Cave, the pocket-sized sister to the sought-after eponymous restaurant, or the striking round bar at Le Mary Celeste – where it’s oyster happy hour from 5-7pm. Chez Prune in Saint Martin, an old favourite, still towing the line between trendy and not-too-trendy. For cocktails, Little Red Door is an award-winning yet laid back spot on Rue Charlot.
SUNDAY IS MARKET DAY
The throng and thrill of Bastille market is like no other, with a hundred or so stalls along Boulevard Richard Lenoir. A quieter alternative is Marché Monge, handily close to the famous epicerie and shoe shops of Rue Mouffetart, complete with music and dancing in the church square. Another favourite is Marché d’Aligre, a high-end covered food market as well as outdoor flea and groceries most mornings. Amble from here along the Coulée Verte René-Dumont, a leafy raised footpath – Paris’s answer to New York’s highline.
COFFEE & A SPOT MORE CULTURE
Gone are the days of frightful knock-back espressos – good coffee is now in full swing in Paris. The perfect take-out can be found at Boot Cafe, a stone’s throw from the Picasso Museum, whilst around the corner the beautiful oasis that is the Rodin Museum: Coutume. The Pompidou’s immediate surrounds may leave a little be to desired, so head up to Louistic for retro chic, or lunch at Bob’s Kitchen for unpretentious fare. For the ultimate cafe en plein air wander down from the Musée du Luxembourg to Café de la Mairie, opposite Saint Sulpice church. The coffee itself isn’t world-class, but with its zinc bar and sun trap setting, the Parisian charm here is unbeatable.
ONE LAST JAUNT
A climb up to Sacre Coeur is it not only for the views. Amble up via the unbeatable epiceries of Rue de Martyrs, stop for a coffee at KB Cafeshop and from the church itself, wander north and west through the filmic winding lanes of Montmartre. Soul Kitchen is a cosy and wholesome lunch spot, whilst adorable Les Petits Mitrons is an essential stop on the way down for still-warm cookies.
DON’T GO HOME
Or at least not without some train sustenance from one of the bakeries on Rue des Rosiers. We recommend the apple strudel from Boulangerie Murciano: pure sunshine – it will send you off with a lasting glow.
Words and photographs by Louise Long.