A Weekend In Paris
In every manner, the City of Lights dazzles.
The mention of Paris makes the heart swoon like nowhere else on the planet. The city entices with its amazing art, architecture, culture, and gastronomy, but there is a quieter charm waiting to be discovered as well: the quaint cobbled roads, the delicious patisseries around the corner, and the cozy little bistros that beckon with a glass of Beaujolais. Prepare to make Paris your own.
How to Have the Best Weekend in Paris
The monument-lined boulevards of Paris, the masterpiece-filled museums, and the unique patchwork of neighborhoods are endlessly fascinating to explore. Even if you’re only in town for a few days, the city’s outstanding transportation system allows you to see a lot of it. This itinerary takes in the unmissable sights and local secrets of the French capital to provide you with an amazing weekend in Paris.
The vibrant Latin Quarter, centrally located on the Left Bank and named after the language students who lived there until the French Revolution, remains a student hotspot today, with the famed institution La Sorbonne at its heart. This colorful neighborhood is a great place to start your time in Paris, and you’ll see it at its most raucous as the sun sets on Friday evening.
Begin with an apéro (pre-dinner drink) at a riverbank café like Café Panis. Then, in the maze of tiny streets between the Seine, rue St-Jacques, and bd St-Germain, avoid the overpriced, touristy restaurants in favor of authentic bistros like Le Petit Pontoise, with bare wooden tables, crimson banquettes, and blackboards chalking up classics like cassoulet escargots (snail stew), or contemporary Baieta, with a sleek charcoal-hued dining room and refined.
After dinner, visit late-opening Shakespeare & Company, a magical warren of book-lined rooms, before heading to one of the quarter’s famous jazz clubs, such as Caveau de la Huchette, which is atmospherically set in a medieval cellar used as a torture chamber during the French Revolution, or convivial Café Universel. Finish your evening with a stroll along the Seine’s lamp-lit bridges, which reflect Paris’ illuminated landmarks in the rippling water. It’s stunning.
Saturday early morning
Prepare for the day ahead (and get rid of any lingering effects of a Sauvignon hangover) with a skillfully crafted coffee and a vegetarian dish (with vegan and gluten-free options) from adorable tiny cafe Cuppa. It’s only a few steps from here to the Musée d’Orsay, which is housed in a spectacular old railway station and displays France’s national impressionist, post-impressionist, and art nouveau collections from 1848 to 1914. Among the many artists whose instantly recognizable paintings compose a greatest hits parade are Manet, Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, and Van Gogh.
Close by, the Musée Rodin houses sculptures by Auguste Rodin in his former workshop/showroom, the 1730-built private mansion Hôtel Biron (containing the white-marble The Kiss), and its tranquil rose-filled gardens (where the bronze-cast The Thinker can be found).
Saturday late afternoon
Continue west down the Seine to the Eiffel Tower (if you haven’t gone to the top before, now is the time; just be sure to pre-book a time slot to avoid excessive lines). To enjoy a calm perspective of the city from the water, take a Vedettes de Paris river tour or a hop-on, hop-off Batobus.
The Boulevard des Champs-Élysées, which runs from the enormous place de la Concorde, where Louis XVI was guillotined in 1793, is Paris’ most famous avenue, surrounded by luxury shops and showrooms. The enormous Arc de Triomphe, honoring Napoleon’s 1805 victory at Austerlitz, stands at its western end: climb its 284 steps for a spectacular view of the city.
The area around the former wholesale markets of Les Halles is teeming with restaurants; enduring favorites include 24-hour brasserie Au Pied de Cochon, with gleaming mirrors and frosted-glass lamps (its pig’s trotters are a house specialty and its onion soup is Paris’ best); and Michelin-starred neo-bistro Frenchie (if the latter is full, try its walk-in wine bar Frenchie Ba).
Make a reservation to see a performance at Paris’ magnificent opera venue, the Palais Garnier. If clubbing is more your thing, go to Le Rex Club, a house and techno institution. Continue north to hilly Montmartre for can-can at the Moulin Rouge, beneath its namesake red windmill; live music at venues such as Le Divan du Monde; or cocktails at absinthe specialist Lulu White (one of a string of bars along the same small street), or Le Très Particulier, a jewel hidden in the walled garden of a 19th-century mansion-turned-hotel (ring the buzzer to gain entry).
Marché Bastille has over 150 kiosks providing seasonal fruits and vegetables, freshly baked bread, cheeses, fish, and much more. For a more authentic experience, visit the nearby Marché d’Aligre, which also boasts a covered food market and a bric-a-brac-filled flea market (a post-market glass of wine at rustic wine bar Le Baron Rouge is a neighborhood tradition).
Make your way to the terraced, flowering park Jardin du Port de l’Arsenal, on the eastern side of Paris’ 230-berth marina Port de l’Arsenal (from which cruises head underground en route to Canal St-Martin), or to the charming hidden square Place des Vosges, surrounded by elegant symmetrical houses with cloister-like arcades.
Sunday in the afternoon/evening
Stroll west to the maze of narrow, medieval alleyways that make up Le Marais, one of Paris’ coolest neighborhoods, which is teeming with fashionable cafes, bars, and boutiques selling designer homewares and clothes in both the lower and higher Marais (upper, ie northern Marais). Le Marais is one of the city’s ZTIs (international tourist zones), which allows shops to be open on Sundays (though some still close). Bring France Home is a remarkable destination for one-of-a-kind French-made gifts and souvenirs.
Canal St-Martin, northeast of Le Marais, is crisscrossed by wrought-iron bridges and has a spate of art, fashion, jewelry, and homewares businesses on and around its banks, which are also open on Sundays. Its shaded tow walks are ideal for a stroll, or you may simply relax at laid-back cafes such as waterside Chez Prune. If you have time before your train or flight, finish your weekend in Paris at one of the many eateries here, such as the modest bistro/wine bar Le Verre Volé.
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