The Concise and Opinionated Guide to the City
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See creepy stuff at an unusual museum – October 2019
Our recommendations for travelers going to Paris in the fall are usually about new gallery openings, but our newest series of “bored in” travel books have inspired us to go in a spookier direction this year. Bored in Paris–Awesome Experiences for the Repeat Visitor has an entire chapter on chilling and thrilling things to do here and so we’ve chosen a special one to share with our readers…
Inside a row of deserted wines cellars east of the city center lies a strange and wonderful museum unlike any other. The Musée des Arts Forains (Museum of Fairgrounds) boasts the antique collection of one man –and only houses part of it, at that. We like to think it’s the best part. A guided tour of this mind-bending museum must be arranged by reservation only because it is completely interactive. Jean-Paul Favand is delighted to have you ride his rides and play the games which are all salvaged from old carnivals, circuses, and sideshows.
The dimly lit cellars reverberate with music from actual pipe organs as you make your way back in time. You’ll see mechanical fortune tellers, ride a carousel from 1900, and experience a very rare self-pedaled bicycle ride just to name a few. This museum is beautiful yet creepy and is sure to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Tickets must be purchased in advance coinciding with the various dates of the tours posted on their website. Even though this is not in our kids’ section, children are welcome to join this unusual ninety-minute tour. Check it out at arts-forains.com
It’s the start of the social season in Paris – September 2019
There’s a lot going on in the French capital so if you’re planning to visit during the fall season, snag a ticket soon to the opera at the Palais Garnier or Opéra Bastille. As of this posting, there are still seats available for Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.
In addition, a very special weekend is coming up… for three decades, the Journées du Patrimoine (European Heritage Days) event has allowed visitors to explore buildings and cultural sites that are not usually open to the public. This year it will take place on September 21st and 22nd. Take a backstage tour of the historic Opéra-Comique or explore little known areas within the Hôtel de Ville. Either will provide a unique experience that would not usually be offered to the public.
Full drama and a Modern French Experience – August 2019
OMG! The Hotel La Mondaine is so cool. Listen up; this new hotel north of the Gustav Moreau House Museum provides the perfect stay away from the tourist hoards for people who want tons of style and the feeling of a 5-star for a small price. Okay that was a mouthful. But it’s all true! La Mondaine is only a 3-star because it is small and doesn’t have a major restaurant, etc. But the guest ratings are so high that it’s now comfortably in the suburb level. A twenty minute walk from the Palais Garnier, hotel remains walkable to many of the best sights but is still probably best for those who are willing to jump in a taxi or Uber once in a while. By the way, it has a “no children” policy.
Update – July 2019: Fine dining on the Eiffel Tower is back!
Restaurant Jules Verne, located high on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, has been a favorite of ours since its inception. It has finally reopened after a fantastic renovation. Enjoy a five or six course tasting menu and revel in how good it is. They are currently booked solid but you can sometimes snag a table that has cancelled at the last minute. Contact them by phone (listed at the website above) because you never know.
Rent an inexpensive bicycle right on the street – July 2019
Paris has some twenty-thousand Velib’ bicycles ready to be rented on the cheap. You’ll see them everywhere and you don’t need a reservation. They can be rented for a day or a week during which they can be picked-up and dropped-off and switched out in different locations as many times as you want. This makes the entire system more convenient than renting from a shop. The Velib’ app makes the whole thing even easier so download it prior to renting your bike. Wait for sunset and ride along the very bank of the Seine. Safety helmets are not mandatory in Paris so be sure to take care. When you’re done, return the bike to a docking station and take the printed receipt so you have proof that it made it back. Many of the Velib’ bikes (both regular and electric) have a basket attached –just the thing for carrying delicious picnic items to your favorite park.
Where to enjoy a picnic in Paris – June 2019
Now that summer has arrived you may want to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors rather than be inside a cramped restaurant. Between Paris’ fabulous cheese shops, bakeries, and various épicerie, it’s easy to put together a finger-food feast here. Picnicking is practically a Parisian way of life –when the weather is warm. The word pique-nique was coined by the French and has been in use since the 1600’s. Lucky for you, we know the best spot to enjoy a packed lunch in all of Paris: at the gorgeous Square du Vert-Galant. This little park is in the middle of the River Seine and therefore enjoys sweeping views of both the Right and Left Banks. You’ll find it at the very western tippy-tip of Île de la Cité (City Island) which means it’s at the opposite end from Notre Dame Cathedral. Access this adorable park from the Pont Neuf bridge and then go down the stairs near the back of the equestrian statue. (It all makes sense when you’re there.) If you’re coming from the Right Bank then stop for picnic goodies at Fromagerie Danard on Rue du Colonel Driant 5. If you’re coming from the Left Bank, just grab some baguette sandwiches at Boulangerie Paul on Rue de Buci 21. And since public consumption of alcohol is legal here until 9pm, don’t forget to bring some wine and plastic cups to toast your beautiful day. Bon Appétit!
Fly in a helium balloon high over Paris – May 2019
The world’s largest helium balloon, Ballon de Paris Generali, is located on the left bank in Paris and you can go up in it as high as 150 meters. The view is amazing of course, and the bragging rightsand IG opportunities are off the chart. Visit their official website for more information and be sure to heed our special tips: 1) It is wind and weather dependent so check the real-time notification on their website even as you are heading over; 2) Do not purchase tickets beforehand as it does not save you any queue line at all and gets complicated if you choose a poor weather day; 3) Buy your tickets there and then wait your turn… there’s usually not a long line. Very affordable at 6-12 euros per person.
Update: Major fire breaks out at the Cathedral of Notre Dame
We are heartbroken to learn that this venerable icon of the city is engulfed in flames today, the 15th of April, 2019. It is one of our favorite places in the world.
In Focus: Where to eat brunch in Paris – April 2019
April and May bring sunshine and moderate temperatures to the City of Lights so why not make a celebration of it by enjoying a delicious brunch… in Paris that means a leisurely couple of hours with friends and loved ones on the Right Bank at The Pancake Sisters, who now have two locations to choose from. The humble vibe means come-as-you-are to eat sweet or savory pancakes because that’s what they do there, and they do it well. Whether you choose the Canal Saint-Martin spot or the one near the Bastille, their pancake “sandwiches” or pancake stacks will knock your socks off. To round things out they also offer a selection of salads, cheeses, juices, and pastries. Book ahead to avoid the wait!
In Focus: Musée National Gustave Moreau – March 2019
This month we’re featuring local sights that are lesser-known but which are a must-see in our very opinionated view. In Paris, that means the Moreau Museum. Housed in the former home and studio of the famed symbolist painter, this place is more than just a gallery of his work, though the gallery is impressive and contains hundreds of paintings by the prolific artist. We love this place because its just cool to be there, in the man’s home, with all of his furnishing still in place (including his own collection of works by other artists) which together give visitors the feeling that the man himself might walk in at any moment. If all of that is not enough to tempt you then go there just to see the (second) most beautiful staircase in Paris. It will knock your socks off. Details and hours can be found in our Clued In Paris.
In Focus: Food Tours – February 2019
Want to combine the great cuisine of France with the uncrowded streets of Paris in February? We have just the thing for those visitors who are ready for something other than the usual sights. Take a food tour! This gentle pleasure combines local knowledge, beautiful wintry streets, colorful stories, interesting chefs, and lots of tasting! It will be just the thing to warm you up. Find out more information right from the source by clicking here: Original Food Tours Paris
In Focus: Where to shop the sales – January 2019
Like many stores in the U.S., France puts its best designer items on sale after the holidays. If you’re visiting Paris in January and have the urge to do some shopping (or just want to come home with one really special item) now is the time. The most famous shopping street in Paris is rue Saint Honoré which runs sort of east/west through the 1st arrondissement, a block or two from the famed Tuileries Garden. For those who are unfamiliar with Paris, this means that the best shopping can be found smack-dab in the city center, just north of the River Seine. This may be helpful to know even if you don’t plan on hitting the boutiques… being aware of this type of location also tells you precisely where a city’s most desirable neighborhood is. That’s usually where you’ll also find some of the best hotels, and some top-notch restaurants too. But a large city like Paris can have more than one great shopping street so our #2 pick has to be the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, located a bit farther west.
In Focus: New Year’s Eve in Paris – December 2018
Planning to be in Paris for the start of 2019? Start making party plans now. Lasers, fireworks, and other pyrotechnics will be on display at midnight near the Eiffel Tower which means you should probably choose a restaurant for dinner on the left bank, not too far from the Champs du Mars. This way, you can enjoy a lingering meal and then stroll on over to where all the fun will be. The Metro subway service will run later than usual, until 2:15 am, and is free from 5pm on December 31 to noon on January 1. For a festive evening with Champagne, consider getting a ticket to the Lido Show and avoid the outdoor crowds altogether. Vive La France!
In Focus: Autumn in Paris – November 2018
If you’ll be one of the clever travelers coming to Paris before the onslaught of visitors who descend upon it for Christmas and New Year’s then good for you. You may not have the opportunity to spend your actual holiday in the city of lights, but you’ll get a taste of what this incredible place is really like for its local residents. Why not try for a table at the fabulous restaurant inside the Hotel Costes, or sip French champagne at the bar on the top of the Eiffel Tower? (By the way, reservations are not accepted at the bar but it’s open every day from until 10:30pm.) Both of these will make for great memories, and before you go we hope you’ll grab a copy of Clued In Paris. It has info not found in other guides which is exactly why it stands apart from the rest!
In Focus: Special Exhibit – October 2018
October in Paris means art. Modern art. The contemporary scene is alive and well here, especially from October 18th to the 21st, and will feature over 3,000 artists in special exhibits. Small galleries and large events will showcase the works, especially at the Grand Palais, the Jardin des Plantes, in the Jardin des Tuileries, and on the Esplanade des Invalides. For details, be sure to check out the official FIAC website.
In Focus: Le Ballroom speakeasy – September 2018
Don’t you just love finding a secret bar with a “hidden” entrance that’s open late and serves creative mixology? We do. And if you’ve never been to a speakeasy before, you should try it. In Paris that means Le Ballroom du Beef Club, a velvety spot quietly hiding underneath the Beef Club, which is a steakhouse restaurant in the Les Halles area. You’ll find it in the 1st arrondissement at 58 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. To get to the speakeasy you’ll have to find the black door that opens to a staircase. (Look left when facing the restaurant.) Other than that tiny clue, we can’t help you. No website.
In Focus: Special Events – September 2018
If you plan on being in Paris around September 8, 2018, you’re in for a special treat! Le Grand Feu (the big fire) will take place on that night. It’s the largest and most elaborate fireworks display in all of Europe and the pyrotechnics are unriveled. While the fireworks can be seen from the city center, you can experience all of it up close and personal by taking a taxi to the Parc de Saint-Cloud. In this park, they light a bonfire in front of a gorgeous waterfall and present the best pyrotechnics nearby. Thousands of people flock to it and you should be one of them. It goes from 9pm to 11pm, and you can check out more details at their website here. It’s a great way to celebrate fall!
In Focus: Hôtel Signature, Saint Germain des Près – June 2018
This summer we’re featuring some of our favorite hotels and in Paris that means the Signature in Saint Germain. We love this hotel so much and not just for its convenient location to so many great sights on the left bank. We love that it is classical on the outside but quirky and fun on the inside. What could be better than that? It gives a light-heartedness to your stay in Paris and helps to remind you that you’re in Paris to enjoy yourself. You will find Hôtel Signature, Saint Germain des Près at rue Chomel 5, not far from the Musée d’Orsay.
In Focus: Paris in midsummer – June/ July 2018
There’s so much going on in Paris in July that we thought we should give everyone a heads-up. No wonder it’s such a popular summer destination! Let’s just say that between the 7/14 holiday, the fashionistas, the firemen, the music lovers, and the cyclists, there’s no end to it all! People-watching will be in full swing and the clubs will be rockin’. And those special restaurants, (you know, the ones you plan on visiting,) well they will be all booked up if you don’t make those reservations soon. Chop chop! Here are the main events going on:
July 1-5 Haute Couture Fashion Week/ July 2, 6, 9, & 12 – performances of Don Pasquale at the Paris Opera House/ July 14th – National Bastille Day parade and fireworks/ July 13 & 14 -Firemen’s Balls/ July 29 – Paris arrival of the Tour de France/ And throughout the month there will be Vivaldi and Mozart concerts inside Saint-Chapelle, Chopin concerts by candlelight in Saint Ephrem Church, and even free pop concerts at the Hotel de Ville. Vive la France!
May update: Awaiting your upcoming trip
If you’re like us, you like to think about a European sojourn almost as much as going on one! For those dreamers and planners, we thought we’d take a moment to introduce you to our favorite live viewers, Skyline Webcams. Through their terrific website, we’ve watched the Eiffel Tower twinkle in special holiday lights as well as bring in the dawn. They’ll be adding more Paris cams soon so keep an eye out and start getting excited for your own visit there. If you’re in the USA, remember that France is six hours ahead of the east coast and nine hours ahead of the west coast. So fun!
In Focus: Electric Bikes are here – April 2018
It’s springtime, and we’ve been waiting to tell our ardent readers about the sheer joy of being part of an Electric Bike Tour through Paris! The key word here is electric. This type of bike is very easy to ride because it practically goes by itself. This means that you don’t have to in shape or a great bike rider – everyone from retirees to children can enjoy this. These tours (and there are several to choose from online) take a group of riders at a specific time to many of the city’s great sights while the leader explains about the history and significance. Some of the tour leaders are very funny, which adds to the fun of the experience. You stop at the sights but usually don’t enter. There is almost always a snack or complimentary beverage stop –and bathroom stops as well. Do something different on your Parisian sojourn: get on a bike!
In Focus: Seasonal Update – February 2018
There are few cities that do Easter as decadently as Paris, and this year with Easter falling on April 1st, all the festivities, shop window displays, and decorations will be at their height in March. If you plan on visiting Paris at that time, good for you! The weather can be brisk but won’t take anything away from the gorgeous pastel decor of Paris’ Easter celebrations. Candy stores and patisserie shops will be offering up some of their most beautiful items. Even the famous Ladurée macarons will have an Easter spin. We adore the shops on pedestrian-only Rue Mouffetard at Easter-time and recommend that you head down there for a peek. And if you’re in Paris on a Friday afternoon during Lent, make sure to pop into Notre Dame cathedral to see worshipers, many crawling on their knees, coming forward to kiss the Crown of Thorns. (This relic was acquired in 1239 from Constantinople and spends most of the year hidden away within Saint-Chapel next door.) It comes out to be presented to the faithful on the first Friday of the month at 3pm, and on every Friday during Lent. The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, (guardians of this relic) present the Holy Crown of Thorns to be venerated by faithful who come from all over the world. Quite the spectacle! More info can be found in our fabulous Clued In Paris eBook.
In Focus: Paris means romance – January/ February 2018
Are you in love with a special someone and really want to show it? The perfect place to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year is in Paris and you should start planning it immediately. There’s simply nowhere more romantic, and the Parisians definitely know how to do Valentine’s Day right!
Choose a well-located hotel with a big tub for that perfect bubble bath. We like Hotel Duo in the Maris district (Right Bank) because it fits the bill perfectly with its lovely updated style and affordable prices. Of course, if you can afford to stay at the Ritz Paris, then go for it!
Once you’ve procured the hotel and dinner reservations, all that’s left is to buy a gift. Why not pick up something from Paris while your’re there? We recommend stopping by Parfumerie Buly for an exquisite fragrance for your sweetie– or for yourself. This stunning place is basically unchanged since 1803 and can be found only at #6 Rue Bonaparte (located on the left bank in the 6th arrondissement.) It simply screams seduction. The name on the outside windows will say “Officine Universelle Buly 1803.” Or, if you prefer fragrances and soaps which are a bit more budget friendly, head over to one the famous Fragonard parfumerie. There are many locations around Paris so just pop their name into google maps to see which one you’re near. We love their sculpted soaps presented in gorgeously printed paper boxes.
New 2018 edition of Clued In Paris is here!
We are excited to announce that our shiny, precocious, brand-new edition of Clued In Paris for 2018 is now available on amazon.com. If you already own an edition of our Paris e-guide, you may request a free replacement upgrade to this new edition by giving the folks there a call at the number below. They are very helpful and truly want you to have the latest version of our books! Amazon’s direct customer service telephone: 1-866-321-8851 We hope you enjoy the new Clued In Paris and wish you safe travels!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Paris, 2017!
If you’ll be enjoying the holidays in Paris this year, good for you! Paris is more beautiful than ever and has a very traditional yet modern approach to Christmas. The patisseries are packed full of seasonal goodies and the churches are decorated. Treat yourself to an evening concert of Les Violons De France at the amazing Madeleine Church. You can book ahead or pay cash at the door for this very memorable performance. Prefer dance? The Paris Opera Ballet is presenting Don Quichotte. Looking for the perfect New Year’s Eve feast? Enjoy a giant seafood platter with champagne at Le Grand Colbert!
In Focus: Holidays at the Ritz/ November 2017
“Wow” is all we have to say! The most infamous (and classiest) hotel in Paris has to be the Hôtel Ritz Paris located right in the Place Vendome on the right bank. After literally closing down for four years to do a €200 million renovation, the Ritz is now better than ever. At Christmastime it will be sparkly and gloriously decorated to enhance it even further. Can’t afford to stay there? No problem. Go there for a holiday cocktail or dinner and see how the other 2% live.
In Focus: Tacos in Paris/ October 2017
We love eating cheap in Paris because it feels naughty, like we’re cheating somehow. And who doesn’t like to cheat? A new taqueria called Candelaria may be offering the only tacos in Paris but man-oh-man are they good. (And the cocktail offerings aren’t bad either!) This adorable place in the upper Marais neighborhood stays open from noon until 11:30pm Thursday through Saturday (late by Parisian standards,) and until 10:30pm on other nights. Olé!
In Focus: French cheese? Yes please/ August 2017
If fromage is not one of your shopping focuses when you’re in Paris then you are missing out! As the capital city of the largest cheese-making country and tradition in the world, you can find it all there. But there are so many types that we thought a some recommendations might be in order. Before we get started, note that the three fromagerie (cheese shops) we like best are: Marie-Anne Cantin near rue Cler, La Ferme Saint Aubin on Île de Louis, and Fromagerie Laurent Dubois in the Latin Quarter. What’s our favorite cheese, you ask? French Chèvre is pretty hard to beat. Is cheese allowed through customs when I return to the U.S.? It is, IF you have the cheesemonger seal and shrink-wrap it for you. (It must stay sealed until you get through the inspection.)
Asking for a taste before you buy cheese is normal and expected so don’t be shy. Here are the ones you should try: Camembert and Brie (soft), Roquefort and Bleu d’Auvergne (moldy), Tomme (semi-soft, from the French Alps), Cantal (firm – cow’s milk), Comté (ancient, semi-hard, and nutty), Pont-l’Évêque (mild, semi-soft, from Normandy), and finally Époisses de Bourgogne (pungent, soft, village cheese.)
Buy a few different ones and then create an amazing cheese platter when you get home. It will bring your whole trip right back to you!
By the way, the folks at the cheese shop may try to sell you some cured meats as well which it fine as long as you eat them while in Europe. For some odd reason, cured meats are not allowed into the U.S. even when they are sealed and shrink-wrapped and if found, the customs agent will confiscate them and throw them in an airport trash can.
Where to have breakfast when you don’t like what your hotel is offering: July 2017
Oh how we love Bertrand’s patisserie in the Latin Quarter, just steps away from the left bank of the Seine. Mornings there are uncrowded and unhurried, with the friendly staff doing everything they can to make you happy. Try their cappuccino with the huge foamy head, and then indulge in the best, most buttery apricot croissant you ever had. And it’s not even expensive!
In Focus: Le PSJ: A great excuse to visit Paris/ June 2017
This year’s Paris Jazz Festival is set to run from June 17 to June 30 on the grounds of the Parc Floral de Paris located within the green space of the immense Bois de Vincenness. This public park area takes up more than half of Paris’ 12th arrondissement and should again prove to be the perfect venue for this event. Some performances will take place on a the jazz barge, a floating stage of a boat, set up on one of the park’s large ponds. From vocals to instrumental ensembles, there is something for every jazz lover. Check out the official website for more information here. The nearest (nice) hotel is the lovely three-star Hôtel De La Porte Dorée.
In Focus: Chateaubriand in Paris: Not what you might think/ May 2017
Our pic above is from the very respectable and very delicious Brasserie Vagenende and shows the “Chateau-Briand” from their menu. While it was a thickly cut, beautifully charred piece of tender beef, it was what Americans and British would call Filet Mignon. What’s the difference? We will tell you… In the states, the raw tenderloin from a cow can be cooked in two succulent ways. When it is sliced in individual portions and then grilled, it is known as a Filet Mignon. However, when that same tenderloin is roasted whole like a roast beef and then sliced upon service at the table (usually for two or more persons), it is known at Chateaubriand. Both of these preparations are heightened further when served with a creamy Bearnaise sauce.
In Paris this is not the case. We see “Chateaubriand” on menus everywhere there and so far it has always arrived as a grilled steak. We don’t know why most Paris restaurants don’t simply call it Filet Mignon, but we hope this will be a helpful bit of info for you. (By the way, the Parisian restaurant called Le Chateaubriand doesn’t even offer beef tenderloin in any preparation!
Brasserie Vagenende is an actual Belle Epoque restaurant from 1906 and is located in Saint-Germain, Paris. It is recommended in our Clued In Paris.
In Focus: Moreau Museum and French Pastries/ April 2017
From the Rodin Museum & Grounds to the artist studio and former home of symbolist artist Moreau, art definitely still reigns supreme in the City of Lights. We visited the Musée Gustav Moreau on a rainy Monday (the perfect thing to do on a bad weather day) and arrived just as they were reopening after their lunchtime closing from 12:45pm to 2pm. We never tire of seeing this wonderful place, often overlooked by visitors to Paris. The amazing spiral staircase is worth the entire trip to the 9th arrondissement, but the many paintings both finished and unfinished are spectacular too. In the rooms once inhabited by the great symbolist painter, you will find personal belongings and furnishings which give the feeling that Moreau himself may enter at any moment. Afterwards, walk down the street to find Terra Corsa and experience some of the best charcuterie and cheese platters, giant quiches, and tapenades in Paris. We will be featuring Terra Corsa as a great lunch place in next year’s 2018 edition of Clued In Paris.
Pastries: A new find in the 4th arrondissement, not far from the gorgeous Hôtel de Ville, is a little patisserie charmingly named Au Petit Versailles du Marais. Not only are their pastries and bakery items top quality, they have a lovely seating area where you are welcome to enjoy your purchases in quite a civilized manner. We mention this because the seating area cannot be seem from the outside of the establishment and it all makes for a perfect breakfast place. Café au lait, anyone? Located at 1 rue Tron, Paris
In Focus: the Palace at Fontainebleau/ March 2017
The Clued In Travel team just visited the palace at Fontainebleau for the first time ever, a real treat on a March day when we were often the only people in the rooms. Compared to the (almost always) crowded Château Versailles, Château Fontainebleau definitely gave it a run for the money. Built for generations of French royals, it was later the favorite of Napoléon Bonaparte.
In Focus: New Year’s Eve in Paris/ December 2017
If you happen to be in Paris this New Year’s Eve, splurge for a fancy prix fix champagne dinner with dancing at midnight at the ultra famous Le Grand Colbert restaurant. The raw oysters and giant link prawns are perfectly in season! The late seating runs €170 a person.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Clued In Travel Books team!
Fall 2016 travel tip:
Pack something white to wear if you will be in Paris on October 4, 2016. The city’s fabulous White Night Nuit Blanche celebration means all of the galleries and museums will be open into the night for the biggest cultural event of the season. It also features special exhibits and musical performances.
In Focus: the Palace at Versailles/ Fall 2016
The musical fountain display at the Palace of Versailles will come to its seasonal conclusion at the end of October. Visit the Versailles website for more information and to view their monthly calendar of events.
Summer 2016 update!
After years of careful, painstaking restoration, the famous and mysterious Lady & the Unicorn Tapestries are back on view at the Museum of the Middle Ages, Musée National du Moyen Âge. Don’t miss it.