We stayed in an AirBnB apartment in Saint-Germain, which was the perfect location surrounded by tasty boulangeries and quaint cafes, and still close to many major sites. We filled our days with sightseeing, wandering the streets, and eating way too many refined carbs. Walking was pretty much our exclusive mode of transportation (we logged around 12 to 15 miles per day), but it is truly the best way to see and experience any city. I’ll preface this “guide” by saying this a recap of some of the places we visited during our time in Paris, and my experiences and opinions on each. I left out some major hotspots on which I felt I had nothing new to add (i.e. Notre Dame & Eiffel Tower) or spots that really weren’t worth mentioning.
BREAKFAST + COFFEE
The Smiths Bakery the most darling little bakery and coffee shop, right near our apartment, so we stopped in daily. They have amazing pastries and coffee (even “American coffee” for those who need it), and a selection of takeaway salads and sandwiches at lunchtime.
Eric Kayser I had high hopes for Eric Kayser since it was most consistently noted as having the best croissant in all of Paris and they have locations all over the city. Their croissants were certainly better than most I’ve had, but still a little lacking in texture and flavor in comparison to…
Carton the BEST croissants I’ve ever had! If only we came here on our first morning, because once we tried Carton we became repeat customers. I’m somewhat of a croissant connoisseur and these were perfection. Note: they don’t serve coffee (just baked goods), but not to worry – The Smiths Bakery is just a few doors down.
Claus we intended on going to Claus for breakfast since that’s where their menu really shines, but wound up nearby around lunchtime one day. They’re offbeat from the standard French bistro, but the food is both beautiful and flavorful, and the decor is Instagram perfection. Try to get in for breakfast to test out their dutch pancake and lemon cake, but be warned the space is tiny so it’s nearly impossible to get in without a reservation.
Café Kitsuné the cutest little Americanized coffee shop that serves up specialties like matcha lattes and flat whites. The actual shop is small, but it backs right up to the Palais Royale, so you can enjoy your coffee outdoors.
MEALS + LIBATIONS
Paul we stopped into Paul for a light lunch one day, consisting of the torte of the day and a salad. The decor was to die for and the food was great, so we enjoyed ourselves despite the subpar service (our waiter was borderline rude – and not just in the standard French way). The vast majority of patrons were picking up sandwiches from their takeaway section which was highly recommended to us by our AirBnB host.
Atlas this was a last minute choice for dinner one night as we wandered down our favorite Rue de Buci, since it was so packed. It may have been slightly touristy, but the food was good and the live music on the street is an added bonus while you dine. We shared a bottle of wine, cheese & charcuterie, a chicken dish, and steak frites. Paul’s steak came out a little cold, but other than that we had no complaints and the experience was great.
Waknine despite being not very hungry due to all the macarons, olives, and glasses of wine I had prior, this was a stand out meal. I had a small but incredible mushroom ravioli dish, and Paul had steak and potatoes with a parmesan truffle sauce. I seriously could drink that sauce straight. The meal was slow and quiet, with a much more local and authentic feel than most.
Le Baromètre we wandered in here while in the neighborhood one night since it was busting at the seams with a bunch of lively, young locals. We kept our meal simple with wine, chicken and potatoes for Paul and a burger and fries for me. My pick couldn’t have been better, though it’s hard to know if that’s partially because it had been so long since I’d had a full on burger with a bun. But Paul swore his chicken was some of “the best ever”. All in all it was a great meal and seemed like a good spot for late night drinks given the crowd.
L’Avant Comptoir I so badly wanted to make it to this wine bar or their full restaurant next door, but we couldn’t quite get it in. I read so many great things about the food, atmosphere, and local patrons on nearly every travel site. The one night we tried stopping in, the wine bar was packed like sardines and the restaurant impossible without reservation. Plan in advance for this one!
Ober Mamma this is a new-ish Italian restaurant in Paris that seems to have blown up thanks to their unbelievable looking food and creative cocktails. We were torn about eating at an Italian restaurant in Paris since we had two weeks of Italian food in our future, so I didn’t plan it in despite wanting to try it out. Definitely make a reservation well in advance, and I think this restaurant will be well worth the advanced preparation!
Chez Nous this cute little wine bar was right in our neighborhood so we stopped in for a few drinks on our first night. The interior is dimly-lit and inviting despite the top hits playing over the sound system. We had several great wines, but above all we loved the service. We never even saw a menu, but had the greatest server with whom we talked over our wine preferences and took his recommendations.
SWEETS + TREATS
Cafe Angelina known first for their killer hot chocolate and second for their delectable pastries, Angelina is definitely worth a visit. Although their table service is overpriced and geared at tourists, it may be worth it just to experience the liquid chocolate. If you’re looking for a quick treat, do as we did and pick up a chocolate éclair and lemon tart. Both were fantastic but the tart was one of the best I’ve had.
Ladurée somewhat of an institution with locations all over the world, Ladurée is kind of an obligatory stop when in Paris. We decided to do a macaron taste off with Pierre Hermé one day, and Ladurée was the clear winner. I’ve had a lot of macarons in my life and these by far have the best texture – the delicate crunch on the outside, giving way to a soft cookie with thick, creamy filling. The vanilla was oddly our favorite of the bunch since the vanilla bean flavor came through so strongly.
Pierre Hermé I was optimistic that the slightly lesser-known Pierre Hermé would win out in the macaron taste test, but sadly, no. Overall the macarons were pretty inconsistent in texture with some too soft and others almost seeming stale. The fillings weren’t nearly as rich and creamy as Ladurée although I will give Pierre Hermé serious points for having such creative flavors! Still better macarons than you’ll find most places, and I particularly loved the orange coffee flavor.
A la Mère de Famille I was determined to seek out this historic chocolate shop in its original location and it did not disappoint. We bought two boxes that I slowly demolished throughout Italy, but somehow my very favorite chocolate was a coffee nougat filled one that we grabbed as a free sample on our way out the door. I assure you, this place is no See’s Candies.
La Droguerie I can’t even recall how I found this little hole-in-a-wall place, but I discovered it beforehand in my extensive research and I’m glad I did. Unlike the common tourist-focused corner crepe stands, this place serves up unbelievable, authentic crepes, as they should be. Honestly, worth trekking across town even if you’re not in the area.
PLACES TO GO + THINGS TO DO
Musée d’Orsay we’re really not huge art buffs so I’ll call it like it is and say we will certainly visit a few standout museums, but don’t feel the need to spend six hours a day there. The Musee d’Orsay is a beautiful museum that (unlike the Lourve) you can definitely see within a couple hours. It’s significantly less crowded as well, but I still recommend purchasing tickets online to avoid wasting any time in line. I love the location in a refurbished train station, and who doesn’t want to take a photo of the giant clock?
Luxembourg Gardens if I lived in Paris, I would be here every single day. The gardens are beyond beautiful (as seen in this post) and there’s so much to do. From tennis players to runners to preschoolers, the park is full of activities, but large enough that you’re still able to find your own quiet space.
Tuileries Gardens a beautiful garden for strolling around, despite the current construction taking place. I’d recommend grabbing a sweet treat (see above) and lounge in the gardens while you enjoy! Also, be sure to check out the ferris wheel for great views!
St. Germain Church this is one of the oldest churches in Paris, though despite its grandeur the tourists seem to barely have discovered it. It is beautiful inside and out and you’ll have the opportunity to learn a little about its history during your visit. Unlike Notre Dame, there’s no need to elbow through hoards of people to get in and out.
Rue Mouffetard visiting this bustling little market was one of my favorite activities and had we more time, I would have come every day. The quaint cobblestone street is lined with shops selling everything from fresh seafood to cheese to breads. Whether you’re doing morning shopping, just passing through, or picking up a quick lunch – do not miss it. The market feels so authentically French and filled with locals.
E. Dehillerin they had me at “Julia Child”. This place is best known as the store where Julia Child shopped and let me tell you, if you even moderately enjoy cooking, this place is like Disneyland. Every nook and cranny is filled with more cookware than you even knew existed. I would have bought so much more had my suitcase not already been over the weight limit.
Seine River Cruise as much as I wanted to experience a ride down the Seine, I was hesitant to commit to an entire dinner cruise, so this one hour trip was the answer. It gives a great preview of the major sites along the river, and provides a little history on each. We took ours at sunset, but I think it would have been even better in the dark of night. Warning: there are limited outside seats on the boat (where you get the best view), so get there early.
If you’re planning a trip to Paris and would like more detail or information on all the places we visited that aren’t listed here, please feel free to reach out!