As your train pulls into the bustling Gare du Nord, prepare to immerse yourself in the Parisian way of life from the moment you step on the platform. You may have visited this famed European capital many times before, but this weekend, you will experience it less like a visitor, and more like an art-loving local. Taking you off the beaten track, you won’t be guided towards long queues at The Louvre or overwhelming crowds at The Eiffel Tower. Instead, expect sumptuous dishes at charming bistros, hours of browsing eclectic street stalls, meandering in and around beautiful historical buildings, and stumbling upon hidden jazz clubs from which music spills out onto the surrounding streets.
After gathering your bags and leaving the station, take in the sights and sounds of the city around you. Paris has an indisputable charisma in its air and it’s impossible not to let yourself get carried away with it. While it may be tempting to hail a taxi, this time, why not make the most of travelling light for your weekend trip and take the Metro where you'll be able to enjoy some people watching. Hop on Line 5 towards Place D’italie and get off at Campo-Formio from which your weekend home is only a pleasant 10 minute stroll away. Alternatively, as you’ll be doing plenty of walking later today, order an Uber and gaze out the window as Parisian life whizzes past you.
While many hotels may claim to be a ‘home away from home’, Hotel Henriette is truly unparalleled when it comes to homely comforts. Positioning itself as your ‘friend’s house’, the hotel prides itself on a warm and welcoming atmosphere and impeccably stylish design. Designed by former fashion stylist Vanessa Scoffier, the hotel is decorated with vintage furniture pieces – old-age accents complementing the hotel’s contemporary feel. The boutique hotel is situated on a quiet cobbled street in the Mouffetard district and boasts thirty-two uniquely decorated rooms, all designed to delight guests with their charming and intimate ambience.
After checking in and dropping off your bags, head downstairs to the hotel’s chic sitting area where you can review your plans for the day while sipping on an espresso. Flick through the available independent art magazines to excite you for the art-filled day ahead, or simply take a look around at the hotel’s quirky and unique art pieces for some Parisian inspiration. Whether it is shopping, night-life or gluten free restaurants that you are interested in, the concierge and staff are as friendly as they are knowledgeable and will be on hand to happily answer any questions you may have.
Today’s afternoon will be spent in the fashionable district of Le Marais where artistic and architectural masterpieces await you. There’s no need to rush though, so take your time to appreciate the sights as you leisurely make your way to the 3rd arrondissement. Along the way, be sure to stop at the many street stalls selling vintage publications and beautiful prints depicting nature drawings, from local flora to butterflies and rabbits.
Before you come to cross the River Seine, pause a moment to really take in your surroundings. Standing here, you will see the Panthéon standing proudly on your left as well as the spectacular Notre Dame Cathedral across the water ahead of you. Cross over the river along Rue De Bernardins and take a walk around the groomed gardens of Notre Dame. While the front of the cathedral is often very crowded (be wary of pick-pocketers!), the garden hidden at the back of the cathedral is an idyllic spot from which to peacefully admire the stunning architecture of the cathedral, specifically the countless gargoyles that watch over the city from up above.
Once a marshland area, Le Marais is the aristocratic district of Paris where several architectural
feats from throughout history line the streets. Today, the area is one of the most fashionable districts and is home to several art galleries and renowned restaurants. Celebrated for its melting pot of cultures, Le Marais is a wonderful area of Paris to explore – one moment you can be visiting the House of Victor Hugo, and the next, you can find yourself snacking on falafels in the Jewish district. As is a frequent occurrence in Paris, the streets of Le Marais boast a number of lovely cafés - we would suggest indulging in a delicious vanilla waffle at Méert on 16 Rue Elzevir, the perfect spot for people watching.
Neighbouring the famous Cirque D’Hiver, Clown Bar is one of the best modern French restaurants in Paris today and is definitely not one to miss for the foodies. From word-of-mouth raves to stellar critic reviews, this excitingly innovative restaurant seems to be all anyone can talk about - and all for good reason. With Belle-Epoque tiles hand-painted with illustrations of clowns, the interior is opulent and elegant with a touch of playfulness – much like its brave menu. For those true foodies who aren’t afraid of unique flavours, we dare you to try the ‘cervelle de veau’, veal brains. But if you don’t think you can quite stomach this French delicacy, treat yourself to the Duck and Foie Gras Pie with Date and Yuzu Puree to share between two. Incredibly rich, the burst of flavours is unlike anything you would have tried before. Be sure to pair your meal with any one of the wines from their seemingly endless selection - the restaurant’s sommeliers will be available to recommend the perfect wine for your dish.
Only a short walk from Clown Bar, the Musée Picasso is housed within the beautiful Hôtel Salé and is one of a handful of museums in Paris that offer free entry to guests. With a collection that comprises over 5000 pieces by the iconic Spanish artist, the museum reopened in 2014 after five years of renovations. Take a walk around the extensive display that sprawls across three floors and be taken on a visual journey that gives you some insight into the creative process of this artistic master. After enjoying the museum, be sure to take the short walk to Place de Vosges - the oldest planned square in Paris. Boasting impressive architecture and gardens, this is the perfect place to pause for a moment of stillness and reflect on all that you have seen in just one simple Parisian afternoon.
As dusk closes in, make your way to the Centre Pompidou where you can watch the sun disappear behind the skyline of the city beneath you. A tourist hotspot and an iconic example of 20th century architecture, the Centre Pompidou may seem like an obvious attraction to visit but its generous views of the city are too beautiful to ignore. Take the private elevator up to Georges café and enjoy a cocktail or two as you take in the stunning scenery at your feet – do avoid ordering food here as the menu is tourist-targeted and thus overpriced.
After a long day of exploring Le Marais, head back to Hôtel Henriette where a heavenly pillow or a delectable cocktail awaits you. Whether you choose a restful doze or a refreshing drink, make sure you’re revitalised before heading out to enjoy Paris by night. One of the oldest and most vibrant neighbourhoods in Paris, Rue Mouffetard boasts a plethora of bars - you won’t have to limit yourself to only one. With every bar serving drinks, from the classics to the more creative cocktails, Rue Mouffetard is the ideal place for a Parisian bar-hop. After wetting your appetite with a drink or two, pop into Petit Chatelet for a light bite before moving on to La Caveau de Huchette. A mesmerising jazz club in the Latin Quarter, Le Caveau de Huchette has played a pivotal role in the city’s long-lasting love affair with jazz music. While the live musicians may take centre stage, the real show is put on by local regulars who emerge onto the dance floor, moving to the jazz and swing sets as if born to do so.
After a good night’s sleep, enjoy the soft morning glow in the quaint flower garden hidden at the back of Hôtel Henriette. Here, order yourself a fresh coffee and a selection of buttery croissants to enjoy as you flick through the morning paper and ready yourself for another day of getting to know the City of Lights.
The Musée Rodin is your first destination this morning and calls for a gentle hour’s walk to get there. This journey will take you through the spectacular Jardin du Luxembourg so be sure to make time for a wander around these grounds so as not to miss these exquisitely landscaped gardens. Also on your way is La Ferme d’Alexandre, a fantastic cheese shop boasting a huge selection of exquisite cheeses and a staff of friendly cheese mongers on hand to give you advice and recommendations based on your personal preference. We implore you not to leave without taking with you a piece (or wheel) of Compte cheese to sample later on in the day when you reach Champ de Mars.
While the exhibitions inside the museum provide fascinating insight into Rodin’s brilliant work, unlike most of the museums you will have visited in Paris, much of the collection is exhibited in the outdoor gardens. As you stroll through the gardens and admire the extraordinarily life-like sculptures, you’ll be washed over by a surreal feeling of these works being alive, breathing in the fresh air and basking in the warmth of the sunshine.
If you’ve ticked the Eiffel Tower off your list once, the chances are the crowds and queues haven’t left you wanting to rush back anytime soon. For a more peaceful experience of the iconic landmark, make your way to Champ de Mars, a large public park unknown to most tourists, sitting nearby the Eiffel Tower. Here, you will find La Bonbonniere de Marie, a charming little café offering delicious crépes, fresh juices (or a glass of rosé if you prefer), and most importantly picturesque views of the Eiffel Tower without the hustle and bustle of the crowds. Now is the perfect time to sample that delicious Compte cheese you bought earlier while gazing up at the iconic structure towering above you.
As time is of the essence, skip the Metro journey and take a taxi to the St Martins Canal district, an area with a buzzing atmosphere and plenty of places to eat and drink. Forming the backdrop of the much-loved French film 'Amelie', the bohemian charms of this canal area draw a trendy crowd from all around Paris. Hidden through a dark shaded courtyard, Le Comptoir General is a local hotspot in this area and where you will drop in for an afternoon glass of wine. Shabby-chic in its interiors, this restaurant oozes a laid-back attitude that isn’t so easily found in Paris. By now, you will have worked up an appetite so head to Fraiche Restaurant for a last lunch. The menu features heavenly French delights, all lovingly prepared and thoughtfully presented. It may not be dinner, but save room for dessert as the poached pear with tonka, praline, milk chocolate and beer sorbet is not a dish to leave Paris having not tried.
Although it was only a one-night romance with this enchanting city, you will depart feeling that you have scratched the surface a little deeper this time around. While Paris is a city truly well-trodden, it is not one that is truly well-known. Discovering what makes this city so special will surely take longer than one night and perhaps even longer than a lifetime, but for the moment, this special glimpse into the magic of Paris will do…