The next few years are big for Paris, with a surge in urban renewal leading up to the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics: think plenty of new restaurants and bars, as well as blockbuster exhibitions in freshly minted museums.
Here’s how to see the current stars of the French capital in just three days.
9am: Steps from the Seine, the Marais district in the 4th arrondissement is quite possibly the French capital’s hippest hangout. The streets are filled with designer boutiques, contemporary galleries and achingly cool bars. And then there’s the Place de Vosges, which has been called one of the most beautiful squares in the world.
It’s here that you’ll find the grand hotel Le Pavillon de la Reine, set in an ivy-covered, 17th-century mansion, replete with a fairy-tale garden courtyard. Check into one of its 56 rooms and suites, each individually decorated with exposed wooden beams, bold fabrics, patterned wallpaper and gilded mirrors – some also come with marble fireplaces.
10am: In the same district, legendary Poilâne has been hand-cutting cookies and kneading sourdough since 1932. Its apple tart is the perfect morning pick-me-up – order it with a bowl of café au lait.
11am: Irrespective of season, there’s nothing quite as romantic as wandering along the banks of the Seine. Follow the river as it winds north-west towards the Eiffel Tower, taking your time to peruse the wares of the city’s bouquinistes. Set up on either side of the water, these independent sellers of antiquarian books also stock old maps, postcards and vintage posters.
12.45pm: While the words ‘bus’ and ‘restaurant’ rarely sit well together, the Parisians have managed to take the concept of movable dining to chic heights. The city’s new Bustronome experience serves lunch and dinner; jump aboard the elegantly fitted double-deckers at the Arc de Triomphe and motor past landmarks like the Louvre and Opéra de Paris. Soft jazz plays while you enjoy a four-course meal paired with French wines.
2.30pm: Once you disembark, it’s a short walk to the city’s most famous landmark. For security reasons, the Eiffel Tower is now ringed by glass walls, which means you can no longer linger freely beneath it. But you can still zip to the top for unbroken views and a glass of bubbly in the tiny Champagne bar.
4.30pm: Perfectly positioned within the opulent Ritz Hotel, the Chanel au Ritz Paris spa is a serene cocoon of billowy white fabric and blonde wood. Treatments use Chanel products exclusively: book Le Grand Soin, which sees you massaged and slathered from top to toe in collagen, then pop past the make-up lounge for a zhuzh-up in anticipation of your next stop.
6.30pm: Despite its recent facelift during the Ritz Hotel’s multi-million-dollar renovation, Bar Hemingway is still as charming as ever. Named after author Ernest Hemingway – who was responsible for ‘liberating’ the space from the Nazis, apparently by downing 51 dry martinis in a row – the dimly lit lounge is decorated with photos of past frequenters such as Cole Porter and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sink into the bar’s classic tufted leather banquettes and order the Ritz Pimms, uniting Champagne and ginger ale with fruit garnishes.
8pm: It’s a short stroll west to the new Fauchon l’Hôtel, a first for this brand, more traditionally known in Paris for its incredible patisseries. Make a beeline for the Grand Fauchon Café, a design-driven restaurant done in glossy pink and gold. The dinner menu is extremely well priced, especially if you order the generously portioned tasting plates: a flavour-packed bowl of rice studded with razor clams and topped with shellfish foam, perhaps, or Auvergne candied pork, perfectly paired with pointed cabbage and silky white asparagus.
9.30am: Cross the Seine and head south to the 14th arrondissement. It’s here you’ll find Poinçon, a newly opened social hub occupying an abandoned train station. In addition to a creative space, there’s a bar-restaurant-café where you can order breakfast staples such as buttery croissants (is there any other kind in Paris?) and strong coffee.
11am: Still on the Left Bank, multi-level arts and culture venue La Cité de la Mode et du Design occupies a dramatic, undulating riverside building, clad with a bright green roof and concrete-and-glass facade. Ponder the museum-quality art installations, then order a pre-lunch cocktail on a terrace overlooking the water.
1.30pm: Jump on the subway to Forum des Halles, a sprawling shopping and dining district in the heart of Paris. Amid the 150 shops and restaurants – capped by a spectacular wavy roof nicknamed La Canopée – you’ll find Chez la Vieille, a bistro dishing up rustic terrines and slow-braised meats. Next door is a dramatic circular building that was once the city’s grain market; it’s currently being given an overhaul by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando.
3.30pm: A former iron foundry, L’Atelier des Lumières is now the city’s first digital art gallery. Opened in 2018, the space hosts dazzling digital shows that highlight major artists through projections over concrete floors, ceilings and walls. The current season is dedicated to iconic works from Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh.
6pm: It’s cocktail hour, and there’s no menu at popular Marais bar, Bisou. Instead, tell the mixologist what you fancy, and he’ll create something bespoke on the spot.
8.30pm: One of the best ways to take in the lights of Paris is on an evening river cruise. Book the new Ducasse sur Seine experience, and you’ll do just that over a six-course meal courtesy of Michelin-star-laden chef Alain Ducasse. The sleek, eco-friendly electric boat – tastefully decorated in navy and chrome – silently glides along the water while you sip Dom Pérignon and nibble croque-monsieur canapés, before sitting down to an astoundingly good meal.
11pm: End your evening at recently opened speakeasy Roxie, where cocktails come with names like Ginger Rogers and Charlie Chaplin, and live music includes everything from jazz to show tunes. The lipstick-red space, which doubles as a dining room, comes with plenty of vintage razzle-dazzle.
9am: The most famous avenue in Paris, perhaps the world, glamorous Champs-Élysées is a dining and shopping mecca. At famously luxe bakery Maison Ladurée, start the day with
light-as-a-feather blinis topped with house-cured salmon, followed by melty macarons to take away.
10am: It’s a short walk up the boulevard to the newest outpost of the Galeries Lafayette department store, where 150 personal stylists are on call to ensure you strut the streets of the world’s fashion capital in style. Flamboyant French-Lebanese jeweller Selim Mouzannar has a boutique here, as does punk-inspired fashion brand Enfants Riches Déprimés.
12pm: The Left Bank’s 7th arrondissement is the setting for new tree-lined foodie precinct, Beaupassage. Choose from high-profile chefs including Anne-Sophie Pic (gastronomy), Yannick Alléno (with a restaurant, wine cellar and art gallery), Olivier Bellin (seafood), Nicole Barthélémy (cheeses) and Pierre Hermé (pastries), among others.
2pm: It’s a 30-minute subway ride east to the towering Grande Arche de la Defense, recently reopened and now inviting visitors to its rooftop for views over the city. Yes, there are other places to gain perspective, but this modern marvel opens up a pretty pocket of Paris often overlooked by visitors.
3.30pm: The Arche is also within easy reach of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, a creative hub occupying a sailboat-like building crafted by star Canadian-born American architect Frank Gehry. In addition to a range of commissioned artworks (including an installation by Gehry himself), the space hosts exhibitions, cultural workshops and events.
7pm: One of Paris’s standout kitchen talents, chef Sota Atsumi is the brains behind freshly opened 11th arrondissement restaurant, Maison. The menu of biodynamic produce might feature crisp Jerusalem artichokes with Comté cheese, walnuts and uni (sea urchin), or Breton-style pastry kouign-amann with mango-ginger chutney. Book well in advance.