Romantic, mouth-watering Paris – with so many wonderful things to do and see – where do you start? The dilemma becomes even greater if your time is limited. Below, I share five classic ideas if you have just 24 precious hours in my favourite city.
Promenade through the Tuileries Gardens
For an elegant introduction to the City of Light and to soak up the full splendour of Paris there’s nothing like a stroll through the gold-plated first arrondissement. The neighbourhood is classic Paris, dominated by the Louvre Palace, a patchwork of elegant squares and breathtaking gardens. Start at the Cour Carrée at the eastern end of the Louvre, with its grand splashing fountain. As you walk towards Pei’s glass pyramid and on through the archway of the Place du Carrousel, a fabulous panorama slowly comes into view. You step into the beautiful Tuileries Gardens and suddenly it seems all of Paris is before you: a thrilling, unbroken vista of grand monuments and thoroughfares. At this moment you know you are in Paris. When you come down to earth, head to the tea salon Ladurée on rue Royale or Pierre Hermé’s flagship pâtisserie on rue Cambon. You can’t visit Paris without sampling a great macaron!
Visit a market and have a picnic
For the food-lover, a jaunt to one of the city’s open-air produce markets is a quintessential Parisian experience. It’s a delightful way to sample a bounty of the fresh, regional produce packed in the city’s hamper, and also throws light on the rhythm of everyday Parisian life. An all-time favourite is the atmospheric Marché Président Wilson on avenue de Président Wilson in the 16e arrondissement, renowned for its breathtaking flowers, artistic displays of pristine produce and great location near the Eiffel Tower. It’s open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Grab a crusty baguette, a thick slice of chunky terrine and some perfectly ripe farmhouse cheese to enjoy with a rustic fruit tart and some sweet-scented strawberries. Spread out a picnic lunch on the banks of the Seine and watch the barges pass, or relax on the grass under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
Meander along rue du Bac
One of my favourite streets in Paris is the charming rue du Bac in the 7e arrondissement. Take a ramble along the village-like street that starts at the river and winds right through to the fabulous Left Bank department store, Le Bon Marché. Along the way you will find florists overflowing with fragrant roses, artisan ice creameries, pretty home décor boutiques and a bijou bunch of pâtisseries and chocolate shops. Don’t miss Chapon, a tiny, old-world chocolate store, and La Pâtisserie des Rêves, the pastry shop of dreams. Here, you will swoon over the lemon meringue pies, mille-feuilles and innovative éclairs slid into sleeping bags of chocolate. More chic pastries can be found at Des Gâteaux et du Pain, and Jacques Genin. For a reviving pause and afternoon tea, sink into a seat at an outpost of the celebrated tea salon, Angelina.
Pop into the Musée de Cluny
There are dozens of intriguing small museums sprinkled throughout Paris and these appetising little gems offer a warmth and intimacy impossible to find in vast galleries. Their manageable size means they can be enjoyed in the space of an hour or so, creating a delightful refuge in a hectic day of sightseeing and eating. I adore the Musée de Cluny and return each time I visit Paris. Deep in the Latin Quarter, it’s full of intriguing bygone treasures, a medieval attic offering valuable insight into the art and life of the Middle Ages. The flamboyant ogee arches, turrets and dragon gargoyles make it hard to believe there’s not a princess locked up in the tower at the top of the spiral staircase.
Dine at Joséphine ‘Chez Dumonet’
For a classic bistro experience, book a table at Joséphine ‘Chez Dumonet’ (117, rue du Cherche-Midi, 6e). The narrow vintage dining room with cracked-tile floor, zinc bar and white-linen-draped tables makes you feel as though you have walked into la vieille France. What you will find here is excellent, old-fashioned bistro cooking, a rarity in Paris nowadays, with many dishes available in half-portions. Book from 8.30 pm to dine with the locals in the evening, and finish with the Grand Marnier soufflé.