The ultimate luxury guide to Paris

a city with many buildings
The Insider's Guide to ParisHotel Dame des Arts

Paris is, as they say, always a good idea. To me, thanks to my Parisian father, it is always home. Though we long ago decamped to London, the city of lights has an inescapable allure, perhaps most especially for a half-Frenchie in exile across the channel.

On my frequent trips back, I have curated my own collection of local spots, favoured museums and even preferred sunny-day strolls, as well as the perfect choices for date nights and Sunday lunches (also, don't miss our edit of the best luxury hotels in Paris).

Away from the pyramids of the Louvre, the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower and the crush of crowds on the Champs-Élysées, you'll find the streets I adore strolling down, the in-the-know restaurants and the cosy boltholes that make the French capital so special. Visiting now, as a tourist, these are the spots I never miss and, you'll be pleased to hear, neither do many Parisians.

The Hidden Gem: Hotel Rochechouart

hotel rochechouart
Cyril Duchene

Like many of Paris’ cooler enclaves, Pigalle was once viewed as seedy, a little dangerous, a bit, well, cheeky. It is, after all, the arrondissement which houses the infamous Folies Bergère and the Moulin Rouge. The traces of this naughty pedigree remain in the city’s hottest bars and hotels and a tree-lined island cutting through boulevard Rochechouart is named after one of its most famous transgender performers, Coccinelle. It is along this road that you will find the Art Deco charm of Hotel Rochechouart. A large slice of its appeal lies in its proximity to the eternal delights of Montmartre, with the Sacre Coeur visible from its upper floors and rooftop terrace. The rooms are finished in classic Parisian apartment style – unfussy but chic – with a palette of cream, dark brown and a subtle hint of mustard yellow. The restaurant and bar have a late-night buzz. A white vaulted ceiling, low lighting and booth seating give it an air of cosy romance and the menu is replete with French classics. The scallops are a standout. Set apart from the crush of tourists, with a quiet kind of cool, Hotel Rochechouart feels like a sexy little secret. Which is very Pigalle, after all.

Hotel Rochechouart, 55 Blvd Marguerite de Rochechouart, 75009

The Ultimate Apéro: Hotel Dame des Arts

hotel dame des arts
Hotel Dame des Arts

The rooftops of Paris are beloved, and yet so few are decked out with the requisite bar to truly enjoy them in warmer climes. Enter Hotel Dame des Arts. Possibly one of the coolest new spots on the Left Bank, their restaurant – overseen by Othoniel Alvarez Castaneda – serves a treasure trove of melt-in-the-mouth Mexican food, while the smart rooftop bar offers one of the most impressive views over the capital.

Hotel Dames Des Arts, 4 Rue Danton, 75006

The Secret Garden: Parc des Buttes Chaumant

sibyl temple and lake in buttes chaumont park, paris
daboost - Getty Images

Make the pilgrimage to the 19th arrondissement and you will be rightly rewarded with one of Paris’ most underrated pleasures. Created in the reign of Napoleon III, this vast park is done ‘in the English style’, with 61 acres of undulating hills and a Roman folly overlooking a small lake. On a sunny day, the grass is scattered with families – and the savvier tourists – having picnics.

The Hidden Histories: Chapelle Expiatoire

chapelle expiatoire
Monuments Nationaux France

You can live in Paris and still, perhaps, have missed this tiny piece of French history. Where this early 19th-century chapel now stands, was once a mass grave for the aristocrats who met their fate at the blade of the guillotine. Its most famous residents were King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, for whom this small memorial was commissioned by their only surviving child in 1826. It commemorates their exhumation and reburial at the royal tomb of Saint Denis in 1815 and contains two beautiful sculptures of the late monarchs, as well as their last letters, reprinted in full, on stone plinths. As much an emotional tribute from a grieving daughter as a fascinating piece of post-revolutionary history, this underrated sight is well-worth a visit.

Chapelle Expiatoire, 29 Rue Pasquier, 75008

The Sweetest Treat: Butterfly Pâtisserie

butterfly patisserie
Marie-Claire Chappet

Heading to Paris and not sampling its many desserts is surely a crime against nature. But if you really want to indulge in style, treat yourself to Hôtel de Crillon’s newly launched Butterfly Pâtisserie, where the hotel’s pastry chef, Matthieu Carlin, is masterminding some of the capital’s most sinfully delicious treats. Try the mille-feuille and die happy, trust me.

Butterfly Pâtisserie, Hôtel de Crillon, 10 Pl. de la Concorde, 75008

The Friday night dinner: Chez Georges

chez georges
Marie-Claire Chappet

Chez Georges, in the 2nd arrondissement, is a traditional spot that has the kind of high quality you would expect from a restaurant with enough quiet confidence to not have its own website. The waiters and managers know the place is good, and you’ll be hard pressed to get a table out of them by just trying your luck. If you’re fortunate enough to get in (where you’ll be seated up close and personal with your fellow diners, true brasserie style) you will be rewarded with a hand-scrawled menu of quintessential French cooking; simple, yet masterful.

Chez Georges, 1 Rue du Mail, 75002

The After-hours spot: Maison Souquet

a room with red chairs and a painting on the wall
benjamin rosemberg

Should you be having an illicit rendezvous in Paris (and honestly, where else would you?) there can be no more delectable enclave than this ostentatious Belle Epoque spot. A stroll away from the heady Moulin Rouge, it is brimming with all the velvet-tasselled glamour of that era. The cocktail bar is the perfect nightcap venue. Much like its comprehensive list of rare champagnes and absinthes, it is sexy and just a little too much.

Maison Souquet, 10 Rue de Bruxelles, 75009

The Sunday Lunch: Brasserie Lipp

On a Sunday afternoon in Paris, anyone who is anyone will be dining at Lipp. The place is rammed with regulars, from grand old bourgeois dames to the great and good of French cinema, and all are treated alike; with gruff, sardonic charm. The set up is much as it has been since this titan of Saint Germain dining opened in 1880 and the walls and doors are plastered with cheeky missives denouncing shorts and cigar smoke, just as its menu strictly condemns salad as a meal. It has a thoroughly deserved reputation for excellent food, dry-witted waiters and a particularly fine Brouilly. Their roast chicken and pommes purée are simply unbeatable. I can’t leave town without having had it.

Brasserie Lipp, 151 Bd Saint-Germain, 75006

The Date Night: S’ebon

This pocket-sized eatery is the ideal choice for a romantic evening with your beloved, be they a best friend, a lover or a cherished grandmother. With just a smattering of tables, and most of them laid out for two, this is an intimate, candle-lit place. Yet its allure is all in its spectacular food, which takes a modern European menu and plays with it magnificently. Some of the most subtly inventive food in the capital is served here, which is why it has long been one of Paris’ ‘if you know, you know’ restaurants.

S'ebon, 62 Rue d'Orsel, 75018

The Rainy-day escape: Musée Carnavalet

When the heavens open, head immediately to the oldest museum in the city. The complete history of Paris – in more than 4,000 pieces – is laid out in a former private home in the heart of le marais. A fascinating curation which will take you on a journey from prehistoric Parisians to the student protests of 1968 via the French revolution and the Nazi occupation, makes it a riotous way to spend a rainy afternoon in the capital. Plus, it’s free!

Musée Carnavalet, 23 Rue de Sévigné, 75003

The Artistic Interlude: Musée Delacroix

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to art museums in Paris. But if you have exhausted the Louvre or haunted the galleries of the Orsay too often, consider the humble but compelling former house of the French artist Eugène Delacroix. Filled with many of his personal items and intriguing facts about his quotidian life, as well as several of his early sketches and most famous paintings, it is an intimate look at one of the country’s most celebrated creatives. On a sunny day, end your tour with a coffee in the pretty garden below his studio.

Musée Delacroix, 6 Rue de Furstemberg, 75006

The Big Night Out: Alcazar

Located in the buzziest part of Saint Germain, this atmospheric restaurant has been a go-to destination for well-heeled reverie ever since it was opened by Terence Conran more than 20 years ago. Its 2015 facelift made it even more of a chic party hotspot. Set across two floors, with a mezzanine level bar and a live DJ at the weekend, head here armed with joie de vivre and the stamina for some of Paris’ punchiest espresso martinis.

Alcazar, 62 Rue Mazarine, 75006

The Boutique Bolthole: Hotel de La Boétie

hotel de la boetie
hotel de la boetieTouriste

Finding an affordable hotel in Paris is a little like looking for bad cheese in France. Thankfully, that is where Touriste comes in. A relatively new hotel brand, they specialise in budget-friendly hotels with a certain je ne sais quoi – a bright, quirky chicness splattered over their simple offerings all with their own distinct personalities. A stone’s throw from the Champs Élysées, one of their latest openings, Hotel de la Boétie, could not situate you in a more central spot in Paris. Despite the clamour and showiness of this vast nearby avenue, there is a calmness to the rue de la Boétie that proves a salve after a busy day of strolling around the sights. Sweet but unpretentious, it is the ideal choice for a city-break base. Plus, the design has been masterminded by the Swedish powerhouse Beata Heuman and the rooms are like confectionery brought to life, with porthole windows in the bathroom, soft pink sheets, branded towels and a slight whiff of Wes Anderson in the air.

Hotel de La Boétie, 91 Rue La Boétie, 75008

The Best Coffee Spot: Ma Bourgogne

Overlooking the most beautiful square in Paris, Place des Vosges, is this quintessential neighbourhood restaurant. Their steak tartare is a knockout, their waiters are the best type of rude and drinking a glass of Sancerre here in the summer while people-watching is one of life’s greatest joys. It was an old local for my family and thus, it is my favourite place for an espresso or café crème whenever I am in town.

Ma Bourgogne, 19 Pl. des Vosges, 75004

The Taste of Provence: Chez Janou

The waiters here once refused to put a candle in a dessert for my birthday dinner, understandably, as my husband had ordered us a wobbly chocolate mousse. They are wonderfully irreverent, and famously impatient, perhaps because their patrons invariably indulge in an 80-strong pastis menu at the bar before taking a seat. Nestled in le marais, Janou serves unrivalled Provençal food – the best this side of Marseille – in a cosseting environment of wood-panelled walls, bold Belle Epoque posters and a far-too-drinkable wine menu.

Chez Janou, 2 Rue Roger Verlomme, 75003 Paris

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