Paris is known for its exquisite cuisine, extraordinary shops and dizzying array of museums and cafés. But to really enjoy Europe’s most sublime city, do what the locals do: Keep it simple.
Author Sarah Horne Photography Bruno Fert / Picturetank
DAY TWO | In the morning, you reluctantly check out and prepare to quit peaceful Montmartre just as you were beginning to understand why the “Montmartrois” (so called because they rarely leave this part of Paris) love it so.
But first, try a bite of something flaky and buttery at the boulangerie Laurent Claudine (1) on Rue Caulaincourt before calling a taxi to take you and your bags to Mama Shelter (2), the Philippe Starck–designed hotel in the adventuresome 20th arrondissement. Here, an altogether funkier vibe prevails. You notice the carefully curated indie music playing in the lobby and the asymmetrical charcoal-colored denim aprons on the staff .
Once you settle into your minimalist room, you’re ready to make like a real Parisian and brave the bus, heading for the Marché d’Aligre (3) in the 12th arrondissement. Once there, you’re suddenly lost amid the shouts of the raucous fruit sellers, feeling the thrill of workaday Paris at its best. Few tourists find themselves here, so you can peruse the cheeses and flowers inside the covered market hall without ever feeling like a pest.
From the market, walk toward the Place de la Bastille, once a notorious prison and the flint stone of revolutionary Paris, now a magnet for cool hunters and young Parisian mothers with a weak spot for “bobo” boutiques. You’ll find both at Merci Boutique (4) on Boulevard Beaumarchais, a 19th century cloth factory repurposed into a three-level emporium.
For lunch, descend to the lower level and seek out the very good café Bastille, where the food is as worldly as the patrons (think Italian risotto, chilled herbal tea reminiscent of Marrakech and an English fruit crumble for dessert). Even if you throw down hundreds of euros on wares by Helmut Lang or Stella McCartney after your meal, you don’t have to feel guilty: All the proceeds at Merci go to help children in Madagascar and India.
From here, it’s time to find your way to Jacques Genin (5), the chocolatier on the Rue du Turenne that insiders deem the city’s best. Take some salted caramels for the road and sample them as you wander the Musee Carnavalet (6), a magnificent mansion built in the 16th century and now dedicated to the history of Paris.
Stunned by the macabre guillotine paintings and Napoleon’s personal toiletries, you cross the river at the Pont Marie onto the Ile Saint-Louis, meandering through the narrow streets before traveling back over to the Left Bank.
After passing the Odeon metro, hang a left and pop into L’Avant Comptoir (7), where all of foodie Paris meets and mingles at the counter for glasses of vin rouge and plates of Iberico ham croquettes served in a tidy pyramid. Linger long enough and you just might get double-kissed by chef Yves Camdeborde, Paris’ culinary rock star.
Dinner is at the nearby Ze Kitchen Gallery (8), where the dashing waiters swish about in finely tailored trousers, and chef William Ledeuil wows with acrobatic takes on fresh, seasonal cuisine. Find a taxi and cruise back to Mama Shelter, where you fall asleep fantasizing about how you’ll decorate your Parisian pied-à-terre.