Whether it’s the destination or the gateway to a larger trip, Paris is one of those cities with a certain “je nai se quois”. As an American visiting, you arrive and instantly hear the Parisian café music in your head, baguettes and croissants beckon, and you can’t wait for that first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. But so often, people find themselves in an endless tourist trap: long lines to get into museums, mediocre food catered to tourists, and overpriced and underwhelming experiences in general.
If you are visiting Paris for a short trip, don’t spend your time trying to hit the token “must see” spots. You will find yourself in the footprint of every tourist visiting the city, which will leave you over-stimulated and exhausted. Instead, luxuriate in the romance of the city. Splurge on a sumptuous hotel, get lost in a great book at a café, and enjoy every morsel of food and sip of wine that crosses your lips.
Built in 1854, the Hôtel Providence Paris is an 18-room boutique hotel tucked into a quaint corner in the 10th arrondissement near Gare du Nord train station, Canal Saint-Martin, and a short walk to the fashionable Marais district. The décor and artwork throughout is thoughtful and dramatic; perfect for an art lover. Balconies serve as the perfect backdrop for capturing a picture-perfect Paris trip. Pro Tip: Start your day with breakfast in the cafe or literally anywhere in the charming neighborhood.
The only large hotel on the Left Bank (or Rive Gauche) of the Seine River in Saint-Germain in the 6th arrondissement just across from Le Bon Marché, the famous department store. Contemporary French luxury defines the style at the Lutetia Paris, including stained oak parquet flooring, Murano glass sconces, and Carrara marble in the bathrooms Pro Tip: Order the Paris, Paris cocktail at the stunning Bar Josephine. Historic Art Deco frescoes cover the walls and ceiling for an impeccable backdrop.
Dining alone here one night, I appeared to be the only American, which is a very good sign. A “bouillon” is a style of restaurant that preceded Parisian brasseries with Bouillon Racine in the 6th arrondissement dating back to 1906. The Art Nouveau décor of mint green walls, beveled mirrors and gilded touches were absolutely stunning. A glass of Premier Cru Champagne started the meal with The Perfect Egg appetizer that is, quite literally, the perfect egg. An exquisitely poached egg swimming in a concentrated and rich red wine sauce. Salty bacon amplified the richness, which the Champagne cut right through, and rustic whole wheat country bread sopped up the sauce. The roasted chicken main course with a glass of Bourgueil was absolute perfection in its simplicity. Pro tip: Order the Perfect Egg. Do not pass go and do not collect $200. Just order the perfect egg.
For an eclectic bohemian vibe in the 3rd arrondissement, look no further than Derrière. Set up like a Boho apartment, there are plenty of interesting décor elements to see, including a mattress as seating at a few tables. The menu is inventive and the fresh bread and butter is not to be missed. The outdoor seating feels like a secret garden and is a great place to bring a book to get lost in. Pro Tip: try the well-priced prix fixe menu. Every dish was fantastic.
For a classic French meal, try Le Comptoir in the 1st Arrondissement. Think: escargot, caviar, foie gras, and cassoulet. With an Art Nouveau backdrop, a seat indoors or on the terrace gives quintessential Parisian vibes. Pro Tip: After dining, walk through the shop section for gourmet foodstuffs to take home. Think Périgord truffle sauce, anchovies, and gourmet nuts.
A hard-to-find speakeasy in the 2nd arrondissement tucked behind the Italian restaurant Daroco Bourse. Danico does not disappoint if you’re looking for inventive and unusual cocktails. But trust, as Danico is listed among the 100 best cocktail bars in the world, according to the 50 Best guide. Pro Tip: if you find the cocktail menu overwhelming, explain to the sever what you like and don’t like, and they’ll craft something special for you.
Considered an “industry hangout” for the wine trade, Willi’s, in the 1st arrondissement, was Paris’ first true wine bar when it opened in 1980. The Rhone-focused wine list is extensive and includes various pour sizes besides a simple glass. When visiting, I enjoyed a shiitake goat cheese and arugula croquette and a spring vegetable ragout with diced dried figs and fregola sarda. Pro Tip: Sit at the bar and have the friendly and knowledgeable staff guide you through a tasting.
Best Cafés for People-Watching
With a history dating back to 1356, Le Moulin de la Vierge (The Mill of the Virgin) in the 7th arrondissement is worth visiting for that fact alone! All the bread is organic and baked onsite in their wood-fired oven. Grab a coffee, something sweet, and get lost in this café as you feel like a local and people watch. Pro Tip: Before you leave, grab one of the signature “Paresseuse” baguettes that they’re known for.
Chambelland is a bakery and café in the 11th arrondissement, popular with the gluten free crowd. So gluten free, in fact, that the owners soured their own equipment to mill their own flours (buckwheat and rice based) to ensure no cross-contamination. Located in a courtyard area that encourages people watching, grab a seat and enjoy the afternoon. Pro Tip: Try the signature 5-grain bread, their best-selling loaf.
If you are in need of “me time” and want to look your best in the City of Lights, consider a facial at Anne Semonin, where some say you can get the best facial in Paris. A 90-minute customized facial at this spot in the 3rd arrondissement is pure tranquility and luxury to the max. At Anne Semonin uses all her own proprietary products are used. Pro Tip: sign up for their email list to get 15% off your first service.
Brianne Cohen is an LA based event producer, certified sommelier, wine educator, and wine writer. During the pandemic, Brianne entertained over 7,000 people through her “Virtual Vino” online wine classes, regularly highlighting diverse (i.e. Black, BIPOC, female, and LGBT) owned wineries. She now offers both in-person (and virtual) wine tasting experiences for her corporate clients. Brianne regularly judges at international wine competitions, including the International Wine Challenge (IWC) in London and holds the WSET Diploma certificate. She writes on her own blog and for outlets such as Decanter, Vintner Project, and Kiplinger. She also holds an MBA from Loyola Marymount University. Brianne Cohen Wine & Events is a certified woman-owned business with WBENC.