A Checklist for Paris
by Soo Eelee
The start of the year celebrates the wanderlust in all of us and we cannot stop raving about Paris. Just because we are such creatures of habit, here are ten things we wouldn't miss in the City of Lights
Time has not sundered the love between literature and Paris’s Left Bank. Occupying a prime piece of real estate facing the famous Seine River and a stone’s throw from Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Company is a ramshackle English language bookshop you wouldn’t want to miss. Entering this green-and-yellow façade with a rustic-looking signage can feel somewhat like entering a time warp to an older, less touristy Paris – think Victor Hugo. Inside, you will find a maze of tiny rooms filled with an extensive stock of second-hand books that will leave you in awe. When you’re done browsing, retire with some reading material to the nearby bar Le Petit Pont for a celebratory drink and one heck of a view while you feast your mind on your brand new buy.
Shakespeare and Company
37 rue de la Bucherie
Tel: 00 33 (0) 1 43 25 40 93
Daily 10.00am to 11.00pm
My ultimate dining place in Paris. At Le Relais de l’Entrocôte, life decisions are simple; it’s always steak or steak, and a supply of never ending crispy gold fries (which is also how I
would describe the beeline queue unless you go early). Inside, you’ll find tables set with rolls of white paper and the kind of stubby, plastic-handled knives you find tucked away in your grandmother’s attic. And all the waitress wants to know is whether you would like your meat rare, medium or well done. While great service is pretty much invalid here, none of it really matters when your steak is served with the “secret sauce” that is buttery, creamy and herby, all in the right amounts. The dizzying infusion of fatty richness at less than 30 euros for a steak, salad, and all the fries and sauce you can eat, the fix is no doubt a hit, and one taste I cannot forget. For those who would like to go for the full deal, don’t miss the crème brulee!
Le Relais de l’Entrocôte
15 rue Marbeuf
Tel: (33) 1 49 52 07 17
Daily 12.30pm to 2.00pm and 7.00pm to 11.30pm
As a rule of thumb, always shop in Paris. Oh wait, everybody knows that. Shopping is one of the main highlights for many tourists in Paris as prices for branded goods are cheaper and the VAT refund of 12 – 15% makes it irresistible. Also, being the birth place of numerous fashion houses including Givenchy, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, one can easily find the latest season and limited editions all in one place – Champ Elysees. But this is not what I’m talking about today. Instead, take some time and go fishing for good quality European brands that will not burn a hole in your pocket, at least not instantly. Check out Jonak and Cos, which houses many fashionable pieces that are practical yet timeless. For something with a stroke of couture, check out pieces from designer Azzedine Alaïa, who is known to many as the pinnacle of luxury and craftsmanship.
France is rich in arts and culture, and was also the country famous painter Vincent Van Gogh called home. While there are numerous art festivals popping up every week, a lover of contemporary arts must visit the Foire Internationale d‘Art Contemporain, better known as FIAC. During my latest stay in Paris, I had the opportunity to visit the 41st edition of the FIAC exhibition, which was held at the Belle Epoque splendor of the Grand Palais. While the main gallery base plays host to 191 galleries from 26 countries, FIAC has events that stretches to Tuileries, the Jardin des Plantes, the Place Vendôme and on the banks of the Seine. Even if you are not a fan of the arts, this annual event is truly an eye opener and an enriching experience for all.
While we are still on the topic of contemporary arts, one of my favourite museums in Paris has got to be the National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Pompidou. Boasting more than 50,000 works from key twentieth-century painters, sculptors, and architects including Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Miro, Magritte, Warhol, Saint-Phalle, Pollock, and countless others, the museum’s main collection is constantly refreshed and recirculated. Don’t forget to check out the temporary exhibits that are almost always worth the ticket price.
National Museum of Modern Art
The Centre Pompidou
Place Georges – Pompidou
Tel: (33) (0) 1 44 78 12 33
Daily 11.00am to 9.00pm, closed on Tuesdays
freshest breads and beans for the day. One of my favourite finds this trip is a tiny unassuming café called Terres de café. Offering 20 different origins, walking into this café is like an equivalent of a wine lover walking into a wine store, spoilt for choice. Terres de café offers café-goers a more creative cuppa joe that is nicely done and suited to one’s likings. For the more adventurous, feel free to ask the friendly barista to guide you through a tasting of the different beans available. Did we also mention that their croissants are awesome?
Bakeries and Cafes
Let your nose lead you to the best bakeries and cafes in Paris. At almost every turn in Paris, there’s bound to be something baking or brewing and filled with locals trying to get their hands on the
Another worthy find at the foot of Montmartre is the Le Petit Musée du Chocolat. While touristy, this bakery makes it worth your while with delectable pastries and way too much chocolate. Whether you opt for the traditional Kouign Amann or the “dip everything in chcoloate”, this is a great place for any chocolate lover.
Terres de café
13 rue d’Aligre
Tel: 01 43 44 74 12
Tuesday to Sunday 9.30am to 2.30pm and Tuesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons 4.00pm to 7.00pm, closed on Mondays
Le Petit Musée du Chocolat
16 rue de Steinkerque
Parks and Gardens
If you’re at all familiar with impressionist painting, which so often depicts Parisians at lazy picnics in romantic green settings, you would know that a park in Paris is almost never a mere plot of grass reserved solely for sports or a garden with a random selection of flowers and plants. Boasting more than 400 parks, Parisians pride themselves in making their city’s gardens places of elegance, arts and perfect symmetry. So pack a picnic, take a leisure stroll, or park yourself on a shaded bench, and enjoy.
The Tuileries is Paris' oldest and most lavish garden. Extending from the Musée du Louvre along the Right Bank of the Seine all the way to the Place de la Concorde and the beginning of the avenue de Champ-Élysées, this garden makes for a great visit in between the city’s major attractions. The gardens are dotted with dramatic statuary and perfectly symmetrical shrubbery that runs down through circular and hexagonal ponds, reflecting the Renaissance preoccupation with bringing rational design to nature.
Jardin des Tuileries
113 Rue de Rivoli
The Jardine des Plantes on the other hand feels like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Located at the east of the city’s Latin Quarter, the park features more than ten thousand species of plants, including tropical varieties, roses, irises, a botanical garden and a mesmerising labyrinth. There's also the Ménagerie (a small zoo) and the terrific Natural History Museum where one can view realistic models of all types of animals. Regardless if you are looking for a quiet spot, an educational visit or a picturesque view, you will find it here.
Jardine des Plantes
57 Rue Cuvier
At times, it feels like a juggling act when a visitor with limited time in Paris must choose to visit just one of the wonderful Parisian markets the city has to offer. The Marche d’Aligre is one of the oldest and truest neighbourhood market – so vibrant and bustling that it’s worth a detour. Open six days a week, the open-air market is lively and its personable vibe makes it feel like a village within a village. The colourful stalls sell a variety of vegetable and fruits at a very attractive price compared to other markets. Under the covered section of the market, don't miss
the cheese stand with its outstanding varieties. When you tire of the hectic market buzz, the area is filled with cafes and bars to relax and take the edge off.
rue d’Aligre 12e
Tue – Sat, 8am to 1pm and 4pm to 7.30pm
Sun 8am to 1.30pm
At first blush, Paris's Montmartre neighborhood might seem little more than a sad neon strip, lined with peddlers of souvenir windmills and aspiring artists. But idle away a few hours and lose yourself in the steep and cobbled streets, and you will find the local colour of one of the most historic and interesting neighborhoods in Paris.Sitting on the crest of the hill is the famous Basilica of Sacre-Coeur and a spectacular view of Paris.
On the contrary, you will find at the bottom of the hill, an endless line of bars, kebab shops and more sex shops and naughty live shows than you can possibly pretend to ignore. For the couples, grab a few drinks at sunset, take a slow walk and chill at the romantic steps lined by pretty lampposts and deciduous trees.
We save the best for the last. Whether you’re looking for a nightcap or an apéro, an old fashioned hotel bar or a new wave dive, Paris has it all sewn up. One of my favourite hole-in-the-wall bars in Paris is a lively local dive bar that will make you feel right at home. Spanish for forbidden or prohibited, Prohibido gives your buck’s worth with free flow of homemade tapas all night and possibly the most personable service you can find in Paris (with an Italian and Spanish owner, it’s hard to beat). If you’re looking to rub shoulders with the locals and maybe learn a few French words, this is the place to be.
32 rue Durantin
52 rue de Saintonge
Daily 6.30pm to 2.00am
For something fancier, Candelaria offers some of the best Mexican cocktails and food in Paris. Hiding behind the compact but atmospheric taqueria you will find a low-lit and relaxed cocktail lounge. While drinks are not cheap, the space is full of character and definitely worth a visit. Well, it is after all one of the world’s top 10 bars according to World’s 50 Best Bars.