The last time I visited the city, I was 17. It was a school trip jam packed with activities: Louvre, Eiffel, Musee D’Orsay, Rodin Museum, Montmartre, Notre Dame, Versailles, and Disneyland Paris. After 16 years, the brightest memory I have is watching a choir perform in the jewel box that is Sainte-Chapelle.
Visiting museums on that trip is the reason I became obsessed with studying art and history. When I came home, I scooped up book after book, and that turned into another art-filled trip to Greece, and then eventually a study abroad in Scotland. I graduated college with art history as a second major.
This time around, Corey and I didn’t really have any plans to visit museums at all. Well, we didn’t really have plans, period. It was 3 weeks after our wedding and I was going for a work conference, so we tacked on a weekend before. We barely managed to book a hotel by the time we left.
Fortunately, we received no fewer than 4 different emails from friends with lists of things to do and places to eat. So, I’m here to pay it forward. For future friends visiting Paris, here’s our list of recommendations for you, in no particular order.
“This was our favorite restaurant of last summer’s trip. Only regret was not getting the chef’s tasting menu. Well priced. A bit off the beaten path and a little hard to get to, but definitely worth it.”Email from our friend Steph G
I’m so glad Steph G recommended Pirouette to us because it was the best meal we had in Paris, and we would have never found it on our own. It was creative, charming, simple, and well-priced.
It’s where we realized that we’ll never get wine nearly as good in Boston, so we should just drink up.
It’s also where we learned that Parisian parents casually dining with their wiggly 6-month-old will be better dressed than we could ever hope to be, so it’s not really worth trying. Sneakers for the rest of the trip!
Liquiderie Craft Beer
We were told by multiple friends that the neighborhood around Canal Saint Martin was “trendy” and “the Brooklyn of Paris.” We walked miles exploring this area.
Corey, who always has a mental map of all beer stores within a 1 mile radius of his location by some form of alcohol-fueled osmosis, wanted to drop into Liquiderie.
Two hours later, we had tried some beers (of which I don’t remember but Untappd will), and we had made friends with the bartender (who was quitting his web developer job to help open a beer bar), and an aerospace entrepreneur (who was about to launch an international project that was the culmination of 20 years of work).
I could have stayed for hours but then we had to run because we were late for our boat.
“Definitely do a bateau river cruise on the seine at night (you can usually get dinner). It’s sort of cheesy but also 100% awesome and worth it. Such a great way to see the whole city and it’s beautiful at night.”Slack message from our friend Kate O
We made it right on time!
It was a bit of a mad dash but once we made it, Bateaux Parisiens was a relaxing and wonderful way to see the city. Since we were staying a little ways from downtown, this was our first time seeing all the sights in many years… and between the pink sunset and golden monuments… Paris put on quite a show.
Bruno Big Brother
We happened to stop into Bruno Big Brother (“Da Ge”) Restaurant 3 days after it opened and holy moly was it delicious. My friend who reviews new restaurants in Paris hadn’t heard about it yet (we tipped her off!), and we created the Foursquare check-in. Highlights: their liquor stash is pretty on point, and their vegetable noodles with poached egg is pure comfort.
Le Comptoir General
“MUST GET DRINKS. Literally down an alley, but had SUCH a great time here. Had African jerk chicken, Tiki cocktails… it’s bizarre and amazing.”Note from our friend Jill F (via her “Jill’s Guide To Paris” Google Doc)
We almost didn’t make it to this place because we couldn’t find it. Everything on the street was closed, and if a group of people hadn’t been walking out of the alley as we turned around, we probably would have called it quits.
“Bizarre and amazing,” as Jill describes it, is just about right. In the alley way, a neon pink arrow points you to the entrance. The decor is a mix of vintage theater, tropical tiki, with a splash of a weird curio/colonialism vibe. Once you walk in, it was a massive space with excellent cocktails, funky displays, and live music.
The people watching was so good. We were super jetlagged and happy to be hanging out late in such a unique space.
L’Atelier des Lumières
Throughout this trip, I was using a mix of Duolingo and YouTube to practice my nonexistent French. YouTube related videos pointed me to a vlogger who recommended the L’Atelier des Lumières exhibit to anyone visiting Paris – it’s an immersive light experience featuring Van Gogh.
While it didn’t beat out my favorite immersive exhibit, seeing the tech behind this build was amazing spectacular. I did a tiny bit of projection art in college so I know how exacting the work can be, and the display was pretty seamless.
Thank you Foursquare for helping us find this gem! A different kind of Parisian bakery. Fresh bread right out of the oven. Flavorful and tender lamb. Packed seating in a tiny setting. So, so delicious.
La Boîte aux Lettres
If Pirouette was the best dinner we had in Paris, then La Boîte aux Lettres was the best lunch. It was actually our first meal in the city. At that point, we had stepped off the plane at 8am, eaten a chocolate croissant, drank some strong coffee, and wandered Sacré Coeur and Montmartre.
We hadn’t planned a thing and wandered into this lunch spot because a few Automattic friends had checked in on Foursquare. It was the perfect place to relax after 12 hours of traveling. The service was delightful (and to our relief, available in English), everything was homemade, and it felt like a delicious meal at a friend’s place.
Cafe St. Regis
My colleagues and I grabbed breakfast together before everyone caught their respective trains and planes out of the city. What wonderful way to wrap up a trip. A beautiful walk along the Seine, a quiet place to sit, some delicious pastries and classic Parisian scenery.
Women of Paris Walking Tour
When Corey and I visited Dubai in 2017, one of our favorite experiences was a walking tour that focused on the history of Dubai through the lens of women. We thought we’d try the same thing again with a “Women of Paris” walking tour. This one was called Sugar & Spice, and we explored parts of the glamorous Saint Germain-des-Prés district while snacking on some delicious pastries. While it wasn’t as awesome as the walking tour in Dubai, it was still a fresh way of seeing the city.
Scavenger Hunt with Invader
One of the nights in Paris, we met up with Danette St. Onge, a former coworker at America’s Test Kitchen who is now a food writer based in Paris. She introduced us to a Invader, a French street artist who has been creating a worldwide “Space Invader” project since 1998.
His art represents pixels in ceramic tiles. To date, he’s placed 1400 mosaics around Paris, and 3700 around the world, in cities like Los Angeles, Hong Kong, London, Tokyo, and Perth.
It’s one thing to appreciate these mosaics, and another to turn it into a scavenger hunt. The artist created a Pokémon Go-type app where you can capture them all. It was such a fun and addicting way to explore the city. We always kept our eyes open, hunting for treasure. We found some that were truly beautiful, with reflective tiles, and others that were a silly play on the location (or street name).
This trip to Paris, 16 years later, was completely different from the last. I now understand why people are obsessed with Paris. After spending a week there, I’m now obsessed with Paris too. I felt like we only scratched the surface of what the city had to offer… and can’t wait to go back.