It’s often said that “Paris is always a good idea,” and we couldn’t agree more; but it’s your first visit to this city that ignites the inevitable love affair. This Spring, we partnered with a group of our SmartFlyer travel advisors who’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip to the “City of Lights” to share all the spots tailored to the first-time visitor. While it was a return visit for plenty of our agents, there’s nothing like diving back in with a sense of curiosity.
For the traveler seeing Paris for the first time, it can be overwhelming to decide which must-do spots are the priority. Should you go to the Louvre and line up to see Mona Lisa smile? Or is your time better spent at Musée d’Orsay taking a peek at its iconic clock? Better yet, what about seeing the city from atop the Eiffel Tower? Well, it goes without saying that all those stops are at your fingertips. But, when it comes to doing activities that will give you a bit more of a genuine connection to the city, we love experiencing Paris through its food, performance art and by hanging with the locals.
From the hottest hotels to the chic corner cafés and shops you can’t miss during your trip, our experts have you covered.
Drink + Dine
With no shortage of charming brasseries, iconic corner cafés and innovative fine dining options, Paris is undoubtably a city made for foodies. The only challenge becomes deciding where to begin.
- Shirvan Café Métisse: Located on the Place de l’Alma at the end of Avenue George V, this Azerbaijan-inspired spot faces the Seine (along with the fashion boutiques of the Avenue Montaigne). It’s great for a nice French Bistro feel with North African flare; on nicer days, enjoy seats outside on the terrace.
- Balagan: We love this spot, just steps from Jardin des Tuileries and Place Vendôme, for its lively atmosphere. Consider this as your nighttime spot for a good time with friends.
- Le Petit Lutetia: Near La Bon Marche and Hôtel Lutetia, this cozy spot is the ultimate people-watching outpost. It’s crowded, filled with impossibly chic locals that will make you wonder what the secret French women seem possess that makes them so incredibly stylish.
- Chez Monsieur: A figure of the city’s gastronomic landscape since the beginning of the 20th century, this is another chic Parisian bistro to add to your list. At lunch, the place crackles with energy, but at night, things become more romantic.
- Monsieur Bleu: For a bit of more refined dining experience, this option located within the Palais de Tokyo offers a superb pre-fixe menu laden with French delicacies. On a warm day, soak up the sun on this epic terrace, accompanied by views of the Eiffel Tower.
- Chez Janou: Located in Le Marais, this stop offers Provençal food, and a slow pace to match. The ambience was awesome, this place gets busy for a reason, so show up early. Be sure to try the chocolate soufflé!
Foodie Walking Tour. Atlanta-based travel advisor Heidi Hyland shared, “The gourmet tour in the Jewish Quarter left me wanting more. Walking along its narrow streets with the guidance of a local, seeing the people enjoy their daily lives felt really special.” The street where the tour focused, Rue Montorgueil, offers some of the best local shops for flowers, cheese, fish, meat and pastries. A few favorite vendors were Yann Couvreur Pâtisserie for gourmet pastries, Pierre Hermé for macarons, Pâtisserie Stohrer for eclairs and La Fermette for specialty cheeses.
Do a Flytographer Shoot. Capturing memories on vacation has never been easier, thanks to the services of our friends at Flytographer. With skilled (and local!) photographers in 250+ locations all over the world, we love linking clients up with a Flytographer to ensure they are really experiencing the destination, instead of feeling stressed over the pressure to snap photos of it. The best part? You’re actually in the pictures, without warily having to ask strangers to take them for you! Our agents enjoyed a 90-minute session with Maria, who is based in Paris.
Visit to Montmartre. NYC-based travel agent Barrett Hollo shares, “Take a step back in time and visit the village on a hill where Picasso lived. Feeling extra ambitious? Wake up before the sun, make your way to a local bakery for fresh croissant and espresso. Stroll around while the neighborhood is stirring, you’ll beat the crowds and feel like you in fact live in Montmartre. Get to the top — where the Sacré-Cœur is located— no later than 5:30am to see the city from above. You’ll be able to watch the sunrise over the city while Paris is still waking up.”
Cooking Class. A peek into a local’s home is sure to stand out on any trip, and the pastry class our team experienced taught by a well-respected former restaurant owner with a passion for baking was no exception. She welcomed our agents into her apartment and told the story of her career’s evolution through the Parisian restaurant industry, all while showcasing the step-by-step recipes to make three incredible French desserts. For travelers looking for some savory cooking tips, Marthe also teaches more traditional classes which kick off with visiting the local market before making a classic French meal for lunch.
Champagne Region. Manhattan-based agent Susan Andrzejewski shared, “For visitors seeking a taste of the countryside, venturing out to the Champagne region is a great option. Besides just having fun tasting different bubbly, you should expect to learn about the area, the industry and the way different Champagne houses approach their production. Our team also learned about how to pair Champagne with food and readily accepted that champagne should not be reserved for special occasions!”
Versailles. Atlanta-based travel advisor, Alison White mentioned, “The palace is a major bucket list item for many travelers to Paris, and absolutely can be daunting to do on your own considering the sheer size. Having a guide to bring the history to life is invaluable, not to mention getting you past the extensive entrance line! Come as early as possible, rent bicycles on the grounds of Versailles and enjoy Marie Antoinette’s infamous playground away from the crowds. If you have time, swing by the Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace for a leisurely lunch or afternoon tea at its Michelin starred restaurant.
Saint Germain and the Marais are amazing neighborhoods to shop local designers in Paris. Saint Germain has more fashion-forward shops while the Marais has a similar vibe to New York’s West Village. Either areas are great to wander around the local boutiques. Tampa-based travel advisor Lindsay Tenukas shared, “Some of our favorite Saint Germain shops include Manila Grace for its unique collection and Fragonard for their iconic perfume. In the Marais, we love Soi Paris for its feminine designs, Florian Denicourt for leather goods and Maison Labiche for customized everything, from t-shirts to hats and everything in between. On the Left Bank, don’t miss the Instagram-famous Merci for a curated selection of everything from fashion to home goods and L/UNIFORM for the luggage of your dreams.”
Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel
According to Barrett, “This is the spot to stay for the true epitome of feeling like you are a part of the French dynasty. From the attention-to-detail by the staff to the design of the signature suites, you’ll feel like you are in a true traditional Parisian palace, complete with modern technology.”
But beyond cool tech, Rosewood Hotels’ legendary service shines through during each guests’ stay. Susan shared, “The detail that they put into our arrival made such an impact on me. The delicious breakfast and champagne along with the monogrammed pillow cases and towels were delightful, of course, but what really impressed me was the jet lag amenity. I hydrated, pampered myself and fell in love with the Talika Eye Therapy patches. My butler knew how obsessed I was with them and brought me more along with information about how to order them at home. It is truly these details that make a hotel special.” | Book Now >>
Saint James Paris
This property, located in the posh 16th arrondissement, takes you off the beaten path of what Paris normally offers. The style is ‘crazy chic’ as the hotel likes to say, which will transport you to the true “La Vie en Rose.” Atlanta-based travel advisor Maggie Barton fell in love with the Saint James and shares, “One of the best kept secrets in Paris is the exclusive Saint James Club, sister property to Relais Christine.
A private 19th century villa hidden behind a beautifully manicured garden in the heart of Paris, feels a world away from city life. The elegant and eccentric interiors offer members and guests a very private and exclusive experience. Rich in history, Saint James Paris offers Michelin star dining, an well-equipped fitness room and Guerlain spa treatments. Perfect for couples and families, it’s a stylish retreat for unwinding after exploring fabulous Paris!” | Book Now >>
This Left Bank location is where you want to be to feel like a local. According to Xavier, “A founding member of The Set Hotels, the property is chic and sexy with clean lines. Some rooms feature sweeping Eiffel Tower views for a true ‘wow factor.’ And while the Left Bank is a bit more of an unexpected location for your first trip to Paris, it’s perfect for the traveler that wants to immerse themselves into Parisian life. You can taste a bit of daily life, or la vie quotidienne as the French say, here and still be within close proximity to many of the landmarks, monuments and museums.”
The property’s impeccable Akasha Wellbeing Centre is reason enough to make this your homebase. Not to mention, the hotel’s “Bar Josephine” is the spot where all the Parisians in the neighborhood are going to get a drink for happy hour. Get a table reservation in advance and people watch the glamorous people who work in the neighborhood. | Book Now >>
Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel, 10 Place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris, France
Saint James Paris, 5 Place du Chancelier Adenauer, 75116 Paris, France
Hôtel Lutetia, 45 Boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris, France
Drink + Dine
Shirvan Café Métisse, 5 Place de l’Alma, 75008 Paris, France | +33 1 47 23 09 48
Balagan, 9 Rue d’Alger, 75001 Paris, France | +33 1 40 20 72 14
Le Petit Lutetia, 107 Rue de Sèvres, 75006 Paris, France | +33 1 45 48 33 53
Chez Monsieur, 11 Rue du Chevalier de Saint-George, 75008 Paris, France | +33 1 42 60 14 36
Monsieur Bleu, 20 Avenue de New York, 75116 Paris, France | +33 1 47 20 90 47
Chez Janou, 2 Rue Roger Verlomme, 75003 Paris, France | +33 1 42 72 28 41
Yann Couvreur Pâtisserie, 137 Avenue Parmentier, 75010 Paris, France
Pierre Hermé Paris, 18 Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004 Paris, France
Pâtisserie Stohrer, 51 Rue Montorgueil, 75002 Paris, France
La Fermette, 86 Rue Montorgueil, 75002 Paris, France
Sacré-Cœur, 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France
Opéra National de Paris, 8 Rue Scribe, 75009 Paris, France
Manila Grace, 200 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75007, Paris, France
Fragonard, 51 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75004 Paris, France
Soi Paris, 104 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris, France
Florian Denicourt, 24 Rue Charlot, 75003 Paris, France
Maison Labiche, 105 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris, France
Merci, 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, France
L/UNIFORM, 21 Quai Malaquais, 75006 Paris, France