Musée de l’Orangerie
Musée de l’Orangerie is where you’ll find Claude Monet’s Water Lilies – eight, impressively large paintings that wrap around two, oval-shaped rooms, each one showing the changing light on the pond in Monet’s garden at Giverny. The opportunity to get up close to these paintings is enough of a reason to visit, but you’ll also find pieces by Renoir, Cézanne, Picasso and Modigliani here, to name a few.
If sculpture’s more your thing, then head to the Musée Rodin on the other side of the river. This 18th century mansion was once home to the artist Auguste Rodin, who, in a bid to stay there, gave his work to the French government when they bought the property in 1911. So now, you can see his pieces as well as work by other artists – mostly sculptures but also drawings, paintings, ceramics and photographs – both inside the house and in its surrounding gardens.
Parc André Citroën
As well as museums, Paris isn’t short on parks and gardens. The Jardin des Tuileries, with its iconic green chairs, isn’t far from our store, but hop on the Métro and you’ll be at Parc André Citroën in half an hour. It’s one of the city’s most modern parks, on a site that used to be home to a Citroën factory. You’ll find two glasshouses, contemporary landscaping, and a tethered hot-air balloon you can take a ride in (even if it’s just 150 metres up in the air).
Though it’s outside the city, the Château de Versailles is always on our must-do list when we’re in Paris. Its history is well-known – probably its most famous owners were Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who lived there until the French Revolution in 1789.
Versailles is understandably very popular, so if you can’t face the queues to enter the palace itself, we suggest heading straight into the gardens instead. Usually much quieter, you can easily spend an entire day wandering around the Orangery, parterres and groves, as well as the 800-hectare park with its Grand Canal.
With a menu that’s guided by the phrase ‘the simpler, the better’, and a setting that’s sleek, but certainly not stuffy, Papillon is one of our go-to restaurants for contemporary French food. You’ll need to book ahead though, this is such a popular restaurant, especially at lunchtimes. And just note that they’re closed at the weekends.
If Papillon is our favourite for contemporary French food, then Astier is one of our favourite traditional bistros. There certainly isn’t a shortage of these in Paris, but this one charmed us with its simplicity (think red-checked napkins, wooden tables and chairs, and old photographs dotted around) and its famous cheese board.
You wouldn’t think to head to Paris for Italian food, but Big Mamma’s restaurants are not to be missed. Bright, fun and totally joyful, each location (there are six in total, spread across the city) is distinctly ‘Big Mamma’ but all a little different. From Pink Mamma, where they cook over cherry wood on a three-metre barbecue; to Biglove Caffè, which specialises in brunch; to Popolare, a pizzeria where, from Thursday to Saturday, you can dance to ‘big Italian tunes’ until the early hours.
One recommendation: the queues at all their restaurants can get quite long in the evening, so arrive in time for opening or visit for lunch instead.
Le Used Book Café
If you’re heading to Merci, one of our favourite shops in Paris (see below), then you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to somewhere for lunch. There’s La Cantine on the ground floor, which opens onto a courtyard garden; Le Ciné Café just outside the store, where they project classic films onto the wall; and Le Used Book Café. With its floor-to-ceiling library, this is where we’ll stop for a snack – try the organic, soft-boiled eggs or rosemary scones that they’re known for – and a browse.
And then there’s the shop itself. They describe themselves as a concept store, and sell clothes, accessories, homeware and stationery, spread over three floors of a former wallpaper factory. It’s quite an experience – you enter through a courtyard, past an old, red Fiat 500, and into a large, light, double-height space. This summer, they’ve even set up camp on this spot, with old-fashioned canvas tents, artificial grass and a huge photographic mural of a lakeside forest.
Alix D. Reynis
Tucked down a side street in the Marais district, you’ll find the studio and shop of sculptor Alix D. Reynis. She works in Limoges porcelain and gold vermeil to create crockery, lamps, candles and jewellery decorated with delicate, engraved patterns. She’s also collaborated with illustrator Marin Montagut on pieces inspired by Paris’ gardens; and with printmakers Antoinette Poisson, whose stationery you can also find in-store.
Centre Commercial started out with Veja, an organic, fair trade, French footwear brand. The founders then went on to create this store in the 10th arrondissement, which sells clothes from brands that, like Veja, believe in transparency when it comes to their making methods. Expect classic-meets-contemporary pieces from brands like Officine Générale, who make all their ethical clothes in Europe, and British shoemakers Church’s.
À la Mère de Famille
It’s almost impossible to walk past one of À la Mère de Famille’s shops without wanting to go in and buy everything. These confectioners have been around since the 1700s, and now have several stores dotted across the city. If you can, head for their flagship in Monmartre, with its wooden counters, geometric tiled floor and antique ceiling pendants.
Astier de Villatte
You can buy pieces from this ceramics brand all over the world, but if you’re in Paris, it’s certainly worth making a trip to one of their own stores. One on either side of the river, they’re both small spaces filled to the rafters (literally) with all-white ceramics, patterned notebooks and boxes of incense displayed on towering wooden shelves.