It was inevitable that I’d grow up to be a Francophile, raised as I was on croque monsieurs in a home where Burgundian wines reigned supreme and antique French wine posters hung higgledy-piggledy on every wall. Yet it’s only in the last several years that the City of Light — named for its refinement during the age of Enlightenment — has become my sanctuary. To my way of thinking, it’s the most stunning and sophisticated metropolis that, unlike my hometown of New York City, is not afraid to slow down.
In fact, I fell in love with Paris not long before it fell victim to the terrorist attacks in November of 2015, and my allegiance to the city has only deepened as I’ve witnessed the tenacity and tenderness of its inhabitants, their commitment to pressing on and refusal to fall prey to the same political pitfalls as Americans. Restaurateurs persevered through abysmally slow seasons as tourists elected to visit elsewhere, but French esprit persisted, and with the shifting tides of European politics — Brexit, a new, youthful French president who, if nothing else, has shaken up the status quo — Paris remains a brave creative and cultural hub, a city that celebrates introspection and beauty unlike any other.
This week, as the style elite storm the city for Paris Fashion Week, I'm offering up some of my favorite haunts — restaurants, hotels, and shops — that are must-visits for me on each of my sojourns there. Everyone says the food in France is better, but the truth is, you have to know where to look. (Point in case: Café de Flore is fine for sipping a café crème or a glass of wine, or spying on Grace Coddington at the next table, but not exactly suitable for an actual meal.)
As important as it is to find the perfect croissant (it’s waiting for you in jewel box boulangerie Du Pain et des Idées* in the 10th arrondissement), it’s also essential to know where you’ll have your apéro, the convivial cocktail hour mini-meal that Parisians gather for before dinner. A word to the wise: Always be sure to check hours of operation and to make a reservation, and save the non-committal dreamy meandering from museums to vintage shops for in between your meals or shows.
(2) Bistrot Paul Bert – Book a table at this traditional bistro with classic French fare in the 11th arrondissement, which never disappoints its longtime clientele of locals, visitors, and in-the-know editors. Prix fixe lunches (19€) feature your choice of an entrée, plat, et dessert ou fromage, with seasonal highlights such as sautéed morels with fried eggs, asparagus with langoustines and spring peas, tête de veau with sauce gribiche, calf’s liver, and pigeon. It’s just so good. Prix fixe dinner is 34€. Closed Sunday and Monday. Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch (12 - 2 p.m.) and dinner (6:30 - 11.p.m. ). 18 rue Paul Bert, 75011. T: 01 43 72 24 01.
(3) Le Comptoir du Relais — There’s always a wait at chef Yves Camdeborde’s petite but perfect sixth arrondissement bistro, but the people-watching from your eventual table, not to mention the food, will be worth it. You’re in France, so remember the French paradox (eat foie, drink wine, stay thin) and indulge in the salty butter, which is as dense, rich, and textured as cheese. It’s one of the only places in Paris to get a decent salad, but don’t skip out on decadent dishes, such as terrine or boudin. Camdeborde’s adoration of the finest ingredients is evident in every bite. Brasserie menu €30-50 (lunch), menu €60 (dinner). Open every day, 12 - 11 p.m. 9 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006. T: 01 44 27 07 50.
(4) Septime – One of Paris’ most beloved neo-bistros, Septime epitomizes what’s best about Parisian dining now: light and sensual, with an equally thoughtful wine list of European selections. The ever-changing seasonal prix fixe makes for the most romantic dinner or lovely lunch with a pal. Oh, and it’s got a Michelin star. Open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, 12:15 - 2 p.m.; open for dinner Monday through Friday: 7:30 - 10 p.m. 80 Rue de Charonne, 75011. T: 01 43 67 38 29.
(5) Café de Flore – Fashion trends come and go, but the row of sidewalk seats at Flore remains the place to see and be seen for a drink. Over the decades, it’s where everyone from Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre to Mario Testino and Kate Moss have gotten their caffeine and wine fixes...and now Japanese tourists photograph their café crèmes. After all, here it’s all about the view and less about the food. Open every day from 7:30 a.m. - 1:30 a.m. 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006. T: 01 45 48 55 26.
(6) La Buvette – Camille Fourmont is a one-woman-show inside this tiny gathering spot in the 11th arrondissement, bringing a sophisticated palate to streamlined dishes, such as mozzarella di bufala with a dusting of spices, smoked haddock with yuzu caviar pearls, and Galician sardines. She does everything from prep to plate to pour the natural wines. It’s always crowded there, and for good reason. Closed Monday; Open Tuesday through Friday, 5:30 - 10 p.m., and Saturday through Sunday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. 67 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011. T: 09 83 56 94 11.
(7) Les Grands Verres – The 16th arrondissement has finally got its groove with Les Grands Verres, the new all-day café, restaurant, and bar from owners of hipster hangouts Le Mary Celeste (for wine and small plates), Candelaria (for mezcal and Mexican), Hero (Korean bites), and Glass (for creative cocktails). Palais de Tokyo, the contemporary art museum, feels more like a badass Bushwick gallery and, thanks to Les Grands Verres, it now has an interesting natural wine program, cocktails on tap, and DJs spinning retro tunes on the enormous Eiffel Tower-facing terrace in the evenings. Open every day from 12 - 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. - 2 a.m. 13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75016. T: o1 85 53 03 61.
(8) Le Dauphin – Inaki Aizpitarte’s Rem Koolhaus-designed tapas and wine bar next door to his game changing neo-bistro, Le Chateaubriand, is as sexy as its natural wine and Basque-inspired dishes are delicious. Don’t miss this new classic, beloved by the most in-the-know foodies, which is now also serving an Asian-inspired and insanely delicious ramen-pho mashup at lunch. No reservations. Closed Sunday and Monday. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 7 - 11 p.m. 131 Avenue Parmentier, 75011. T: 01 55 28 78 88.
(9) Petrelle – Speaking of romance, this petite bistro in the 9th feels more like a boudoir. Books, trompe l'oeil murals, busts, and the owner’s cat and dog reclining at one’s feet complete the scene at this quiet and cozy spot that’s a favorite amongst intellectuals and tastemakers who seek solace in the deep banquettes and bottles of Bordeaux. The food perpetuates the sense of being in someone’s home, with plentiful and rustic portions of French bistro classics. Closed Sunday and Monday. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 8 - 9:30 p.m. 34 Rue Petrelle, 75009. T: 01 42 82 11 02.
(10) Claude Colliot – Tucked into a narrow road in the fourth arrondissement is chef Colliot’s eponymous contemporary bistro, which regulars like Marion Cotillard and Quentin Tarantino flock to for his playful prowess with vegetables and local ingredients (and, not to mention, his discretion). Closed Sunday and Monday. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 12 - 2 p.m. and 7 - 10:30 p.m. 40 Rue des Blancs Manteaux, 75004. T: 01 42 71 55 45.
(11) Le Dôme – If these walls could talk, they’d whisper Hemingway’s secrets, as it was here that he and his Lost Generation cronies dined (well, at least when they were flush with cash). Leopard print carpeting, warm lighting, and classic French cuisine from the sea (think plateaux of fruits de mer and bouillabaisse Marseillaise), will transport you to a Paris that is classique, chic, and wonderfully un-hip. Open every day from 12 - 3 p.m. and 7 - 11 p.m. 108 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014. T: 01 43 35 25 81.
Hotel Raphael – Remember Hotel Chevalier, the irresistible Wes Anderson short with a lithe, toothpick-toting Natalie Portman and quirky Jason Schwartman? Well, it was filmed here at Hotel Raphael, a 16th arrondissement home away from home for old-school French opulence. Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe views abound. 17 Avenue Kléber, 75116. T: 01 53 64 32 00.
L’Hotel – Nestled into a narrow street in the once-Bohemian, now posh sixth arrondissement, this hotel was once home to Oscar Wilde and is now full of plush jewel box rooms as well as a full service Hammam spa. 13 Rue Des Beaux-Arts, Paris 75006, T: 01 44 41 99 00
Hotel Grand Amour – Instagram-worthy and affordable, this 10th arrondissement spot close to the trendy Canal Saint Martin and restaurants of the 11th arrondissement is the brain child of graffiti artist and entrepreneur Andre Saraiva (Le Baron, Le Bain, Café Henrie). A pink-accented courtyard restaurant and lobby bar make it a staple for the fashion set. Rooms are so small you can be in the bath and the bed at once, but given Andre’s prankster ways, it’s probably intentional. 18 Rue de la Fidélité, 75010, T: 01 44 16 03 30.
Le Grand Pigalle – Nestled in the ninth arrondissement, this 37-room boutique hotel (and R29's home away from home during Paris Fashion Week) offers a contemporary twist on the classic Parisian aesthetic: It's minimalist without being boring, and charmingly bohemian without being, well, too bohemian. Its restaurant serves up delicious Mediterranean fare (for when you're steak-frites'd out), and its many balconies look out onto Villa Frochot, the former estate of painter Toulouse-Lautrec. Talk about l'histoire. 29 Rue Victor Massé, 75009. T: 01 85 73 12 00.
Marché Noir – No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to this exotic cavern in the Marais. Reasonably priced printed dresses, perfectly worn-in French workmen wear, and tribal textiles are gorgeously displayed in this cooler-than-thou shop with adjacent café. Owner Amah Ayivi’s personal style of rugged-French-African-bohemian-artist is a thing of beauty, and by combing the shelves at Marché Noir, the look can be yours too. 18 Rue Perrée, 75003.
Celia Darling – The space may be tiny, but the selection is plentiful. In the heart of South Pigalle, home to many a vintage gem (see: Retro Chic on Rue Condorcet), is Celia Darling, a shop owned by, you guessed it, a French woman named Celia, who carefully curates a selection of one-of-a-kind pieces, designer goods (at a reasonable price, no less), and some of the best accessories from decades past. Peek what's up for grabs on the store's Instagram account. 5 Rue Henry Monnier, 75009. T: 01 56 92 19 12.
Chez Sarah – If you’re in Paris on the weekend then a wander through the Marchés aux Puces Saint Ouen is a must for any vintage and antique lover, even if all you do is browse. Nearby vintage emporium, Chez Sarah, is one of the greatest troves of vintage clothing from 1900 to the 1990s. Everything from Victoriana to Courrèges and Yves Saint Laurent to original Dior…it’s not cheap, but it’s truly inspirational. 18 Rue Jules Vallès, 93400, Saint-Ouen. T: 06 08 01 80 89.
THANX GOD I’M A V.I.P. – With fabulous finds from Alaïa, Guy Laroche, Leonard, Givenchy, and much, much more, Thanx God feels more like a contemporary boutique but has an incredible selection of vintage threads and accessories. 12 Rue de Lancry, 75010. T: 01 42 03 02 09.