When our Assistant Editor Katie came back from her trip to Paris earlier this year, she had so many fantastic locals-only tips that I asked her to share them here. And what better a time than when Jess is in Paris herself? Keep an eye out on @shopcupcakesandcashmere, as Jess tries out Katie's travel tips! xEmily
I'm not in the minority when I say Paris is easily my favorite place in the world. The architecture, history, food, and fashion are unparalleled, and I'm so fortunate that I spent a full year there in school. Two years after graduating, I still look back at my time abroad as some of the best memories of my life. Now, when I go back to Paris, I try to live like the local I once was. While I get how tempting staying in the Marais is (as Leslie prefers), for me, the heart of Paris is found in the 6th arrondissement, Saint Germain Des Prés.
Saint Germain Des Prés is a picturesque, historic arrondissement filled with small boutiques, old churches, and bistros. Coming from L.A., where everything is reviewed and posted all over instagram, it's so nice to return to a place where you stroll to find your favorite spots.
My now fiancé and I recently went to Paris for vacation (and to get engaged), and I wanted to start his Parisian experience with a quintessential, Saint Germain des Prés day:
Whenever I go back, I always stay at Hôtel Saint Germain des Prés. Located on Rue Bonaparte, this affordable, quaint hotel is close enough to tourist locations for walking, but far enough that almost every shop you go in will have only French speakers. The design is vintage, with rooms adorned with old lithographs and velvet drapes. Typically, I stay in Airbnbs when I travel, but this hotel's location, charm, and price make it unbeatable.
Whenever I start to Google "what's the best pastry in Paris," I try to stop myself from being too ratings-oriented. In contrast to L.A., most French bistros and bakeries don't have websites, marketing, or even social media. Wherever I see a long line of French speakers, that's a bakery I typically trust. Josephine's, which does have a Facebook, has some of the most buttery pastries I've ever tried, and their sandwich mixte (comté cheese and ham on baguette) is a daily must. Every morning, Rob and I rushed over for 2 café crèmes, a sandwich, and a chausson aux pommes.
I'm biased because I studied impressionist art in college, but the Musée d'Orsay is easily my favorite museum in France. It has an incredible collection, without being too overwhelming, and the layout is perfect for seeing the gradual development between art periods. After seeing the new exhibits, I always pop out and grab chestnuts from a vendor outside. Eating nuts that are cooked on a portable grill is something I'll only do when in the presence of the Seine.
We're travelers on a budget, so a camembert and jambon du pays sandwich with two big glasses of wine is all we need to be totally satisfied without breaking the bank. We decided to stop at Café Le Bonaparte which is right around the corner from the hotel. I love sitting at a local bistro because I never feel rushed to leave. In fact, we usually have to beg for the check. To add to the sleepiness of our 1 p.m. half-bottle, we followed it up by going to the Salon du Thé at Ladurée, which is tucked away above the main shop. A chocolat chaud and macaron is the perfect afternoon treat while seated in an incredibly vintage attic salon.
Whenever I go to Paris, I always prepare to shop. I even pack a duffle in my bag to bring home all the goods I've acquired over my short trip. The 6th is incredible for home design wares, high-end art, antiques, and small boutiques for jewelry and clothes. Every time I walk, I find something new, but these are my absolute necessities:
City Pharma: There are countless articles on "what to buy from the French pharmacy," but I personally won't leave Paris without Homeoplasmine and half of the Avène section. On my most recent trip, I picked up the Avène Extremely Rich Cream, and it's quickly earned its way to the top of my skincare routine.
l’Officine Universelle Buly: Buly 1803 is easily one of the most unique stores I've been to in Paris. Designed to look like a nineteenth-century apothecary, the store sells incredibly elevated, traditional beauty items such as perfume, toothpaste, face oil, etc. Stepping into the shop is like walking back in time, but, if a trip to Paris isn't in your near future, you can buy their products from major retailers like Net-a-Porter.
The Kilo Shop & Designer Consignment Stores: All of my best wardrobe staples (jean jackets and midi dresses) are from the Kilo Shop in Paris where you literally weigh your vintage goods to get your price. From vintage hats to leather pants, this store has everything you need. For high-end purchases, I always pop in Le Depot-Vente De Buci and Les Trois Marchés de Catherine B. These stores have some of the most iconic vintage pieces, but even I've walked away with some more affordable, vintage scarves and wallets.
Standard Go-Tos: Saint Germain has some great, classic Parisian stores like the Kooples and Zadig & Voltaire. If you have the time, definitely stop in for some cool girl, French fashion or just inspiration.
Monoprix: I am such an old lady at heart and love a grocery store. Monoprix is my heaven. I go from beauty to boulangerie and quickly fill up my cart. I can never leave without some pharmacy products and a bottle of Champagne.
While this club wasn't as good as Little Red Door (where we met Leslie and Jonah when our trips overlapped by a day), the Castor Club is a great place to grab some creative cocktails before dinner. I recommend the Turkish Delight which was an elevated combination of pisco, gum arabic, chartreuse, pistachio cream, lemon, and nutmeg.
Don't let the outside fool you, Le Petit Saint Benoit is the best French bistro experience I've ever had. It's been around since 1901, has fed some of the greatest writers of all time, and will give you that kind of French meal that only movies show. We started with escargot and rillette, then had a coq au vin and a boeuf bourguignon. I can't recommend the cheese plate enough, and we finished with a chestnut mousse that I still dream about. I honestly should do this restaurant's PR because it is my favorite place in the whole world.
Since Rob studies film, we couldn't not go to an old cinema. The Cinéma du Panthéon is technically slightly out of the 6th, but the old theatre is so charming, it's a local experience in and of itself.
I never ate as much in Paris as I did with Rob. He was insistent on celebrating our engagement every single night so it's lucky that we were averaging ten miles a day of walking. Le Récamier, a local bistro with a great outdoor space on the border of the 6th and 7th arrondissements, specializes in soufflés. We had the dark chocolate, but the Grand Marnier flavor looked like quite the experience (though I seriously recommend the Grand Marnier soufflé at Bistro Paul Bert).
I have so many recommendations in Paris that aren't in the 6th, but for a first day of a week long vacation, Saint Germain is my favorite place to start. If you're looking to speak French, ease into your vacation mode, and enjoy your surroundings, Saint Germain is all you need.
Have you been to Paris? What are your favorite places? Let me know in the comments. I always want to try something new!
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