Paris is the world’s number one tourist destination and has long enjoyed – with good reason – a global reputation as a city positively bursting with beauty, taste, and style. This is a city that embraces its past while also looking firmly to the future.
Paris is also a city that has its fair share of secrets, where iconic destinations such as the Lourve and the Eiffel Tower overshadow some of the more subtle touches that give the city its many layers of charm.
If you’re planning a visit to Paris we’ll never tell you to skip Sacre-Coeur or Jardin du Luxembourg, but we do recommend taking the time to ferret out some of the lesser-known attractions, in order to have a truly authentic and engaging Parisian experience.
To discover a hidden piece of Paris is to discover a piece of paradise. For luxury and paradise all rolled into one you must first find the private-access street and the black wrought iron gates, then the secret stairway. There will be a few buzzes and intercoms along the way, but once you’ve jumped through these hoops you will be whisked into the heart of subtle luxury as you leave the city behind.
Le Très Particulier Montmartre, a former residence of the Hermès family, is a boutique hotel hideaway with a tiny, lush, courtyard garden, a small, elegant bar, and a wonderfully atmospheric salon, where the day begins as a lively tearoom and ends as an intimate cocktail lounge and restaurant. Exclusive and relaxed, Le Très Particulier is the haunt of low-key VIPs from around the world and is the perfect place for a romantic rendezvous, a subtle business deal, or simply sipping the outstanding house cocktails.
Outside of New Orleans there are few cities more associated with jazz than Paris. Since the 1920s, jazz has been a mainstay of the city’s music scene. These days Paris is home to myriad jazz festivals but the best way to have an authentic Parisian jazz experience is to visit the Montparnasse area, where dark, atmospheric clubs are filled with devotees of the art form – and where Hemingway first met Fitzgerald long ago. The music spills from the clubs long into the night and Bar Le Rosebud, with its classic cocktails and elegant waiters in white coats, may be the most authentic jazz bar of them all. The lights are low, the curtains are dusty velvet, and the stacks of vinyl at the end of the bar promise moody, exhilarating improvisation.
Smart means different things to different people and in this instance smart means stylish. From Place de l’Alma to Avenue des Champs Elyses, Avenue Montaigne is where the expression lêche-vitrine really starts to make sense. Lined with shops specialising in high-end fashion, Avenue Montaigne is home to many of the world’s most iconic luxury brands, with flagship stores taking pride of place. Montaigne Market, Paris’ first and most exclusive multi-brand designer boutique, established itself here in 2005, and despite some initial reservations from certain quarters it is now an established part of this smart, high-end scene.
As you stroll the streets of Paris looking for that perfect sidewalk café from which to watch the fashionable parade take a moment to look up: all around the city the work of legendary street artist Invader can be found, often just above or next to Paris’ iconic blue street signs. While Invader’s work has spread to more than 60 cities world wide, it was in Paris in 1998 that the incognito artist began his ‘space invasion’, and since then he has placed more than one thousand ceramic pixel mosaics on the city’s buildings, as a reference to the early days of digital and video games. To get you started on your discovery of Invader’s work, head to the Latin Quarter, which is said to have the highest concentration of this unique artist’s work, possibly in the 100s.
One cannot think of Paris without thinking of food and while a beautifully prepared meal served in elegant surroundings can never be wrong, there’s something about wending your way through a bustling street market that engages your soul. While Paris has more than its fair share of markets there is one in particular, rue Mouffetard Market, that is well worth seeking out. Found in one of Paris’ oldest neighbourhoods – the fifth arrondissement – the outdoor produce market that lines the street is complemented by myriad specialty cheese shops, patisseries, and fishmongers that nestle up alongside wine shops and butchers. Here is where the exotic sits comfortably next to the more common fare – and where you’ll feel you’ve had a taste of the ‘real’ Paris.
Text by Judi Lembke
Photo: Toril Natvig