Everyone has her own version of Paris—this is ours a list of the Best things to do in Paris.
1. Visit the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore (across from Notre Dame on the left bank), which is a very personal English bookshop opened some 60 years ago by George Whitman, an American. In the age of chain bookstores, this one is as funky and original as they come, with readings on Monday nights at 7. Thousands of starving artists and writers have stayed here over the years, and it is worn and delicious. A wonderful book to read about the bookstore is Time Was Soft There, written by one of these young nomadic writers. Be sure to have your book stamped with their insignia on the way out.
2. Go to the place des Vosges (pictured above and below), which is the oldest and most beautiful square in Paris—and where Victor Hugo lived. Have a drink in one of the cafés on the square and then roam around the Marais for the day, or end on the square. It was built by Henry IV in 1605-1612, over 400 years ago. The place des Vosges is found in the 4th Arrondissement.
3. Go to the rue des Rosiers and see the old Jewish section—one deli actually survived the Nazi occupation, Jo Goldenberg’s, but sadly it closed a few years ago. It is best to have lunch here at Chez Marianne (2, rue des Hospitalières-St.-Gervais, corner of rue des Rosiers, in the 4th), if you like falafel and meze. Or a takeout falafel from the famed L’As du Fallafel (34, rue des Rosiers) will hit the spot. There are fabulous clothing stores in this neighborhood, including our favorite, l’Eclaireur. The Picasso Museum* is in the Marais, and if you haven’t been you should definitely go. Our tour of the Marais is the perfect way to see this area.
*The Picasso Museum is closed for renovations through 2012.
4. Check out the tip of Île de la Cité: the place Dauphine. The first of Paris’s wine bars, Taverne Henri IV (13, Place du Pont Neuf, in the 1st; 01 43 54 27 90), is there, plus some other lovely restaurants—combine this with a walk through Île St. Louis. The best places here are Mon Vieil Ami, for inventive fresh market cuisine, and l’Orangerie, (28, rue St. Louis-en-l’Île) for a romantic dinner. Of course, the famous Berthillon ice cream shop started here as well (29, rue St.-Louis-en-l’Ile).
5. Walk along rue St.-André-des-Arts in the 6th, heading toward the 5th, at night. It’s touristy but here you can see how narrow Parisian streets used to be before Haussmann redesigned the city in the 1800s. See Stroll from St. Germain to Notre Dame.
6. In the 5th (the Latin Quarter, near the Sorbonne) another magical out-of-the-way place is the Mosquée de Paris (39, rue Geoffroy St.-Hilaire; 01 43 31 38 20). It’s an historic mosque from the 1920s with a bathhouse, or hammam, as they call it. Call first as women’s and men’s days are different. You can enjoy couscous and mint tea in the café. This is a very different experience for the more adventurous traveler, especially if you get the nude rubdown in the hammam along side the rest of the women. Shyness doesn’t fit in here! You can also have tea and sweets in the sublime inner garden, plus the little gift shop is a delight. You will feel like you went to Morocco for the day.
7. Our favorite small museum is the Musée Rodin, in the 7th—this couldn’t be more beautiful. There is also a wonderful café outdoors for lunch.
8. Even though it’s terribly touristy, a boat tour on the Seine at night is one of the best ways to see Paris, particularly at night. There is also a water taxi (Batobus), which runs during the day; it makes periodic stops—and doesn’t have the obnoxiously loud taped tour guide.
www.yachtsdeparis.fr (high end, but worth it)
9. The very best and most impressive grocery store—it makes Dean & DeLuca in New York look silly—is the Grande Épicerie, on the bottom floor of the Bon Marché department store in the 7th. This alone is worth a trip to Paris—seriously.
10. St.-Sulpice, one of Paris’s many impressive churches, has a Delacroix painting to the right as you walk in, plus the church figures heavily in The Da Vinci Code. The fountain out front is lovely—great shopping near here, too. YSL, Christian Lacroix, etc. Place St.-Sulpice in the 6th.
11. Sainte Chapelle is a must-see—it’s near the Conciergerie (where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned), on the Ile de la Cité. Ste.-Chapelle’s stained-glass windows are unreal.
12. Spend some time on the walking bridges—we love the Pont des Arts, which connects the left bank to the Louvre. Enter the museum this way, walking from the left over to the right bank, into the interior courtyard of the Louvre. When you turn left, you get the best shot of the pyramid. Have a coffee at Café Marly, which overlooks the pyramid. Check out our Girls’ Guide bridge tour.
13. Go see an opera or ballet at Opéra Garnier or Théâtre du Châtelet. The building from 1875 is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in Paris, and the ceiling by Marc Chagall is not to be missed. If you can’t get in to see a production, tours are offered. A drink at Café de la Paix afterward is de rigueur.
14. Buy chocolate or macarons to take home at Pierre Hermé; plus, all the specialty food shops around the Madeleine church in the 8th are good for gifts. Of course the famous Hédiard and Fauchon are here, too. Go to Ladurée for tea. If you enjoy cookware, E. Dehillerin, in the 2nd, is where all the chefs go to buy their copper pots (still cheaper than in the United States, and the store ships).
15. Spend a day at the Marché aux Puces St.-Ouen de Clignancourt (the flea market), which is open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.