Paris City of Light. Icon of romance. Capital of fashion and gastronomy. Home to some of the world’s greatest galleries and monuments. It’s hard to imagine how Paris could improve its offerings.
And yet it has. With a young business-friendly president in the Élysée Palace, a successful bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, the eco-legacy of the United Nation’s Conference of Parties 21 and that euphoric FIFA World Cup win, a new optimism has infused the French capital. It’s more connected, more environmentally aware, you can shop on Sundays and it’s a leader in AI and R&D.
La Defense, financial district by night
Just take Silicon Sentier. In the cobbles-and-limestone 2nd arrondissement, the former financial district is now a buzzy hub where tech startups and behemoths, including Twitter and Facebook, sit shoulder-to-shoulder with artisan cocktail bars, neo-bistros and boutique hotels.
Even in the 1st and 8th arrondissements, recent renovations to luxury hotels such as the Ritz and Hôtel de Crillon and the elegant Place Vendôme itself have supercharged the city’s Haussmannian heart. Visit the Louvre, stroll the Jardin des Tuileries, label shop in the Golden Triangle or sample the dreamy pâtisserie of Pierre Hermé or Cédric Grolet.
For visitors, the city is also beautifully practical. Wi-fi is available everywhere, from parks to the Champs-Élysées. The Métro will get you across town in about 13 minutes. For an above-ground option, rent a bike or an electric scooter. Or just wander. Some pleasures are timeless.
Population: +2.2 million
Language: French is the official language but English is increasingly spoken.
Coffee: Average price of a cup of coffee €2 for an espresso and about €4 for a café au lait.
Spring: 5°C - 19°C
Summer: 14°C - 25°C
Autumn: 6°C - 21°C
Winter: 3°C - 8°C
The two main airports are Paris-Charles de Gaulle, also referred to as Roissy, which is 25 kilometres north-east of the city centre, and Paris-Orly, located 13 kilometres south.
A taxi to the city from Charles de Gaulle is €50 or €55 (for Right- or Left-Bank drop-off, respectively) and from Orly €35 or €30. The RER B commuter train connects both Charles de Gaulle (35 minutes; €11.90) and Orly (about 35 minutes, including Orlyval rail shuttle; €13.25) to central hub Châtelet.
Paris is linked to other French and European cities by air and high-speed rail. It also has an excellent public transport network, including the Métropolitain (aka the Métro) subway system, rail, buses and trams. A single ticket is €1.90. Peak times are 8am to 10am and 5pm to 8pm.
Best SIM card
The Orange Holiday card, €40 for 14 days (boutique.orange.fr), includes two hours of calls, 1000 texts and 10GB of data.
Best local app
Next Stop Paris, the free visitor app from transport body RATP shows major sites, itineraries, pass options and airport transfers.
Arriving a couple of minutes early for a meeting gives a good impression. But French attitudes to time are flexible so it’s possible your counterpart will be 15 minutes late.
Paris does not have a strong tipping tradition as service is included in the bill. The general rule is a five per cent tip in restaurants for good service; in taxis, round up to the nearest euro (miracles in Paris traffic merit €1 to €2 more); at the hotel, it’s €1 per bag.
If a business contact invites you out for a meal, make sure you allow them to pay or it may be seen as disrespectful.
Word of Mouth
Coffee pit stop
54 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 8th arrondissement honor-cafe.com
More coffee stand than café, Honor does seasonal single-origin espresso (from Paris roaster Coutume) and light eats in an elegant courtyard opposite President Macron’s digs at the Élysée Palace. Order a takeaway or pull up a stool at the bar.
228 rue de Rivoli, 1st arrondissement dorchestercollection.com
Situated inside palace hotel Le Meurice, Le Dalí is calm, luxurious and quintessentially Parisian, with décor inspired by the Surrealist artists. The extensive breakfast menu, served from 8am to 11am, covers all bases – from antioxidant juices and açaï bowls with goji berries and almond milk to classic eggs, pastries and champagne, truffles and caviar. Crisp white tablecloths signal a meeting-conducive hush.
LES GRANDS VERRES
13 avenue du Président Wilson, 16th arrondissement palaisdetokyo.com
Like its home, contemporary-art museum Palais de Tokyo, Les Grands Verres bucks expectations. But as Le Monde observed on the restaurant’s opening, there is a certain logic to putting Quixotic Projects, a group known for hip hotspots Le Mary Celeste and Candelaria, in charge of a 170-seater with monumental architecture and terrace views to the Eiffel Tower. The result is convivial, approachable dining with a focus on local produce, seasonality and sustainability. Solo diners can take a place at the 13-metre compacted-earth bar for American chef Preston Miller’s changing menu (octopus with celeriac and chestnut purée, for instance) or drop in for a cocktail.
Carré des Champs-Élysées, 8 avenue Dutuit, 8th arrondissement yannick-alleno.com
On the ground floor of the Neoclassical Pavillon Ledoyen, which is set amid manicured gardens between the Seine and the Champs-Élysées, L’Abysse is the latest venture from chef Yannick Alléno of three-Michelin-starred Le 1947 at Cheval Blanc. Reflecting Alléno’s fascination with Japan and its cuisine, the centrepiece is a 12-seat sushi bar, from which diners get a front-row view of master Yasunari Okazaki’s dexterity with perfectly selected and aged morsels of fish. For that business tête-à-tête, the luxe minimalist room also has plush velvet booths. Each menu (including a tour-de-force omakasé) takes the diner on a journey, finishing with a flight of exquisite desserts. The sake list is one of France’s finest.
Drinks with clients
EXPERIMENTAL COCKTAIL CLUB
37 rue Saint-Sauveur, 2nd arrondissement www.experimentalevents.com
Often cited as the spark for Paris’s craft bar movement, this local favourite on a cobbled side street in a historic market quarter matches a speakeasy vibe – ancient beams, leather chesterfields and upright piano – with the city’s best cocktails.
Best co-working space
Multiple locations www.hubsy.fr
With two branches, Hubsy (hubsy.fr) puts café-style co-working near Châtelet and Gare du Nord. You pay only for time (€24 per day), with snacks and barista-made coffee on tap. Services include high-speed internet, printing, meeting rooms and a conference-call space.
1. Beloved among Paris’s more than 400 parks and gardens, Jardin du Luxembourg in the Latin Quarter is 23 hectares of lush lawns, painterly flowerbeds and sculptures. Your stroll should include a shaded bench as well as the namesake palace (home of the French Senate), boat pond and the Florentine-style Medici Fountain.
The palace at the Jardin de Luxemborg
2. Two icons of luxury come together at Chanel au Ritz Paris, a state-of-the-art temple to beauty and body care. Three hours of head-to-toe multi-sensory bliss, the signature Grand Soin facial and massage begins with a consultation to customise treatments and includes access to the hotel’s beautiful Art Deco pool.
3. Stretch out those post-flight kinks in the soothing, chic surrounds of Paris Yoga Shala just off the Champs-Élysées. The seven-day schedule of hatha-related classes includes some delivered in English. All levels are catered for and no previous yoga experience is required. Try the dynamic Bhakti Flow or slow and meditative Yin Yoga.
If you have a couple of hours…
A go-to fashion destination for 150 years, department store Printemps has added three floors of gastronomy to its temptations. Printemps du Goût puts a meticulous selection of French artisanal products over two light-filled levels – highlights include La Maison du Chocolat, Byzance smoked salmon, Maison Dubernet foie gras, Lomi coffee, pâtisserie by Christophe Michalak and cheese from Laurent Dubois. Cap off the experience by having lunch or a drink in the 500-square-metre garden of rooftop restaurant Perruche.
If you have half a day...
For Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces by the likes of Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh and Renoir, Musée d’Orsay is a must-see. Use the website’s interactive floor plan to map your visit. Avoid Saturday mornings (the peak queues) and check the Affluences app for estimated hour-by-hour wait times.
If you have a day…
The inspiration for Versailles, Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, just 50 kilometres south-east of Paris, is said to be the best example of 17th-century architecture and landscape in harmony. Today, it’s almost as if its creator, Nicolas Fouquet, superintendent of finance under Louis XIV, still lives there, so beautifully preserved are the opulent furnishings, tapestries and paintings. Seen from the top of the dome, the 33-odd hectares of terraced gardens show the genius of French landscape master André Le Nôtre.
If you have a weekend…
The Loire Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed region of Renaissance castles, gardens, forests and world-famous vineyards, offers a king’s ransom of short breaks. The royal city of Blois (about 90 minutes by train from Paris; bloischambord.com) is an elegant entry point, close to the châteaux of Chaumont-sur-Loire, Cheverny and Chambord. Explore the city – don’t miss the House of Magic opposite the castle – and finish with a glass of something local and natural at wine bar Les 400 Coups (42 rue Saint-Lubin; +33 6 7755 0770). With a two-Michelin-starred restaurant and Clarins spa, the hotel Les Hauts de Loire, in nearby Onzain, combines modern luxury with the romance of a 19th-century hunting lodge. Take a cooking class, relax by the pool or stroll the 70-hectare grounds.