Finding Paris in London
In all our worldly travels, Paris remains one of our favorite places on earth. It’s nearly impossible for us to tear ourselves away from the enchanting City of Light once we’ve set foot on its storied boulevards. But since inevitably we must, we can’t help but seek out a little bit of Paris in every city we visit, whether it’s finding a replica of the classic French bistro in New York or sampling our favorite Parisian designer in Beijing.
Lately, our inner Francophile has been quite tickled with London, especially with the arrival of the UK’s newest fashion icon, the Duchess of Cambridge. Her head-turning style reminds us that London and Paris are simpatico as two of the world’s most ravishing fashion capitals.
If you decide to venture across the channel (perhaps for a fall shopping spree?), you’ll find that you won’t have to leave the pleasures of Paris far behind. With regal department stores, refined restaurants, stylish hotels, world-class museums, lovely parks, and even a river running through it all, London and Paris are cut from the same cloth.
Start by checking in at The Dorchester and you might get a sense of déjà vu. A member of the Dorchester Collection, this is the sister hotel of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris and Le Meurice. You’ll find the same Old World opulence as these two Parisian properties but with a decidedly British formality. Still, when we’re dining on fine French eats at The Dorchester’s branch of Alain Ducasse or sipping champagne in The Bar or The Promenade, we have to keep reminding ourselves to say, “Thank you,” not “Merci,” for every gesture of fabulous service.
Alain Ducasse isn’t the only eatery with a London replica. You’ll also find Parisian macaron purveyor Ladurée nestled in the Burlington Arcade, Covent Garden, and Harrods department store. One of our Paris favorites, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, has an outpost in London, and chef Daniel Boulud (hailing from Lyon) has further expanded his empire with a location of Bar Boulud in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Plus, plenty of notable Brits are trying their hands at French nouveau cuisine, like Gordon Ramsay at Maze Grill.
But in agreeable weather (which in London can be fleeting–bring an umbrella!), you’ll probably want to pack a hamper of goodies (we love Fortnum & Mason for that purpose) and head out for a picnic. St. James’s Park is our picturesque pick for an afternoon on the grass. It may not be quite as sprawling and colorful as the Jardin du Luxembourg, but the views of Buckingham and St. James’s Palaces framed by trees and fountains are just as regal.
For viewing great art, the National Gallery is London’s answer to the Musée du Louvre. And yes, among the mammoth collection of paintings from the 13th to 19th centuries you’ll find French masters, including Monet and Cézanne.
And now for the pièce de résistance: the fashion. Even the most loyal Francophiles will thrill to the British finds in posh Mayfair, with boutiques by Stella McCartney, Matthew Williamson, Burberry, Mulberry and other homegrown designers. But in the fabulously shoppable Knightsbridge neighborhood, you’ll find a “mini Paris” along Sloane Street: Parisian fashion houses including Christian Dior, Maje and Christian Lacroix have all set up shop here. You’ll also be following in the footsteps of the duchess herself: the “high street princess” has been known to favor the shops along King’s Road, beginning at Sloane Square. C’est si bon!
For more ways to re-create Parisian chic while brushing up your British, visit The Purple Passport’s London Guide.
This guest post is from The Purple Passport, a collection of online city guides for discerning travelers and locals. Jennifer Garcia-Alonso is cofounder of The Purple Passport. Rachel Levin is senior writer of The Purple Passport.
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
The Bar at The Dorchester
The Promenade at The Dorchester
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Fortnum & Mason
St. James’s Park