Paris’ historic charm doesn’t detract from its more modern offerings, finds Josephine Price
There’s something enduringly alluring about Paris, which is why it attracts almost 50 million visitors a year. It’s suffered recently, though, with attacks and unrest. This may have dented international visitor numbers (down by 8.8% in 2016 compared to 2015) but it’s bouncing back and enjoying a resurgence. The classics — the Louvre, Sacré-Cœur and Notre-Dame — still draw in the crowds but they’re also making way for a new swathe of galleries, supper clubs, urban farms, inventive restaurants and concept bars that were stifled by the city’s haughty reputation. With great exhibitions gracing the metropolis in 2017 and 2018, now is a good time to sell the destination.
Paris, je t’aime.
MORNING: Belleville is the new neighbourhood du jour. From Parc des Buttes-Chaumont — one of the biggest green spaces in the capital — there’s an impressive panorama.
AFTERNOON: Perch on the banks of Canal Saint-Martin under the statuesque plane trees and watch boats moving along the calm waters. Side streets are packed with independent eateries and coffee shops: refuel with a punchy espresso at Ten Belles — it’s worth the queue.
EVENING: Stay in the area for the evening and head to dinner at Ober Mamma. This uber-cool Italian keeps things simple but huge bowls of fresh pasta keep tables full. Across the canal, Le Comptoir Général lures those in the know off the main drag and into its homage to Franco-African culture in a multi-purpose ramshackle space. From a farmers market, a library, brunch, live performances, thrift shopping or drinking, it’s all here. For cocktails, check out the private bar in a salvaged ship helm.
MORNING: Start the day treasure hunting at the Saint-Ouen flea market, worth the 30-minute metro journey to the north-west of the city. Furniture, art and market vendors look like they’ve come straight from a mid-century chateau interspersed with dashes of modernity with neon lights, contemporary art and mid-century homewares.
AFTERNOON: Head to Saint-Germain-des-Prés for a dose of traditional Paris. Stroll the wide pavements of the Left Bank that were once the playground of the literary set. Stop by the taxidermy wonderland Deyrolle, and then load up on macarons in Ladurée’s sugar-sweet tearoom.
EVENING: A knowing crowd heads to the discreet red-velvet salon style cocktail bar at Maison Souquet in Pigalle before supper. Dine at Le Relais Gascon for a taste of southwest France — expect duck in all its forms: pâté, confit, magret and more. For those with energy left, Chez Camille is a small neighbourhood bar to bob to blues and soul before the neighbours shush you from their windows and the bar closes its doors.