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It’s been said that “Paris isn’t a city, it’s a world” and we tend to agree; that said, compiling the best Paris travel guide requires a little help from our friends in the City of Lights.
The French capital’s ever-evolving offerings – including the reopening of Samaritaine – continue to captivate even the most discerning of travelers, further establishing its foothold as one of SmartFlyer’s top trafficked international destinations. No matter how many times you visit, the city’s iconic hotels, distinct culture, rich history, stunning architecture, delectable gastronomy, and world-renowned art de vivre manage to remain feeling fresh year after year.
Paris is a year-round city with major international events marking all times of the calendar year including Fashion week(s), Premiere Vision, Saut Hermès, Prix de Diane, Tour de France, and even Paris+ by Art Basel – set to take place for the first time in October 2022. Looking further afield, the 10th Rugby World Cup in 2023 and the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games will draw international crowds for years to come.
Who’s it for
Paris is a city for lovers, making it an ideal destination for both honeymoons and anniversaries. When it comes to celebrations, Paris also caters to groups of friends looking for an unforgettable city break. The best Paris travel guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that for those with a disability, Paris is a welcoming city with transportation, equipment, and signage adapted to all needs. From private visits to the opera for an exclusive ballet performance to private jewelry workshops with the L’ÉCOLE, School of Jewelry Arts, each activity is tailored to fit your group’s needs. If you’re looking for things to do around town based on the season, look no further than the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau’s event list here.
Situated in the heart of Europe, the best Paris travel guide begins with easy access via Charles-de-Gaulle or Paris Orly. The French capital is connected to 557 cities in 132 countries by flight alone. Boasting one of the world’s most extensive transportation networks and the best connectivity anywhere in Europe, the TGV, Thalys, Lyria, and Eurostar trains further link the city to major European destinations including London, Barcelona, Milan, Vienna, Berlin, Stockholm, and more.
Dining: The Parisian Way
The eclecticism of Paris’ food scene mirrors the city’s diversity in many ways. Here, chefs’ mastery and the freshness of local produce beg to be tested as a part of the best Paris travel guide. In 2022, 96 restaurants were awarded at least one Michelin star, including 14 restaurants with 2 Michelin stars and 10 restaurants with 3 Michelin stars. Paris’s energy and penchant for reimagining itself are apparent both through inventive trends such as “bistronomie” while sustainability, local and seasonal products, and vegetarian options, has become the standard. Gigi exemplifies this with their simple French cuisine blended with Milanese flavors. And nothing gets more sustainable than taking private tours of the saffron gardens atop the opera house rooftops.
A Green City
The Parisian lifestyle is about appreciating the finer things: strolling along the Seine quayside, exploring little-known districts, window-shopping at designer boutiques and innovative flagship stores, or having craftspersons showcase their unique skills. The Seine is, more than ever, the star of Paris. As the city gets ready to host the opening ceremony of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024, the Seine beckons with its floating gastronomic restaurants and private cruises to take in the city. Paris offers the ultimate green experience; to live out the best Paris travel guide, explore one of more than 300 parks, gardens, and shared gardens like a true Parisian. Or, go to one of six restaurants in Paris that have been awarded the Etoile Verte. This recognition awards role models in terms of eco-responsible gastronomy in order to accelerate the green movement. We learned more from Corinne Menegaux, General Director of the Paris Visitors and Convention Bureau about how to make your trip to the City of Lights feel authentically Parisian.
SF: It’s such an exciting season for Paris. How is the city preparing to welcome international guests for major events like the Olympic Games?
Corinne Menegaux: “The Olympics and Paralympics games are a great challenge for the Parisian territory on a social, economic, and sustainable front. The Olympics are a key driver for improvement, modernization, and innovation, and to enhance visitors’ experience in Paris. We are expecting 15.1 million visitors during the Olympic Games! In that respect, we are working diligently to meet visitors’ expectations as they seek the best Paris travel guide during these major events. The games are an opportunity to empower visitors to discover Paris differently and sustainably, and in the meantime rethink the management of visitors to lesser-known areas and atypical activities.”
SF: Paris is a city entrenched in art – what does it mean to modernize its art scene with the launch of a collaboration with Art Basel?
CM: “Paris is famous for hosting events in leading sectors, including culture, art, fashion, creation, and design. We like to call Paris the Contemporary Creation Capital, and this is an image we wish to carry even more by supporting and promoting new initiatives and developments in the artistic scene. Welcoming Paris+ by Art Basel for the first time will attract an interesting and eclectic clientele, while putting the spotlight on new, exceptional, and sustainable venues, like the Grand Palais Ephémère where the Art Basel event – and even some Olympic competitions – will take place.
“These kinds of major events prove that Paris is a city of novelty and renewal, and they encourage the dissemination of art and culture in the city through many variations of the best Paris travel guide. Visitors will be able to enjoy both the excellent programming of the Art Basel fair and the large number of cultural activities and the specific lifestyle that Paris has to offer. The Paris Visitors and Convention Bureau is always thrilled to see such projects emerging in Paris, as they foster unforgettable moments and unique promotion of the destination.”
young redhead woman running joyfully in the sacred heart of Paris
SF: Everyone wants to experience Paris like a local – what does that mean to you?
CM: “Experiencing Paris like a local is an opportunity we wish to offer to our visitors, so they can really live the city and return home with the memory of a one-of-a-kind experience. We think that this can be achieved especially by adopting a slower and more virtuous way to travel. For example, visitors can choose between eco-responsible hotels or using sustainable means of transportation by making the best of the more than 1000km of cycling equipment and 8500 bikes – including some electric bikes – available to rent. Of course, walking in Paris remains one of the best ways to discover the city and feel like a true Parisian!
“The best Paris travel guide calls for indulging in local and seasonal food from eco-labeled restaurants, strolling through local farmer markets, picnicking in one of the hundreds of parks and gardens, or buying unique souvenirs from local craftsmen awarded with the label “Fabriqué à Paris” (made in Paris). We are also encouraging longer stays for a reduced carbon imprint per traveler, which allows them to take the time to further discover Greater Paris and lesser-known areas to truly immerse themselves into the Parisian local life.”
An Elevated Shopping Experience: Samaritaine
While Paris remains the symbol of fashion, the city continually breaks the age-old codes of tradition giving way to a more forward-thinking form of luxury aligned with the modern traveler’s expectations. In order to immerse yourself in the ultimate Parisian experience, the best Paris travel guide couldn’t overlook a visit to Samaritaine. This historic place has acted as a rendezvous point for Paris’ shoppers since 1870; and as of June 2021, the recently reopened department store is making a splash on the Seine. Today, Samaritaine acts as a vessel for more than 600 brands, including the largest beauty department in France with a prime location on the riverbank making for an idyllic shopping experience.
Samaritaine is designed to surprise with a trailblazing formula for those who seek exclusive merchandise and services. And the store’s restaurant offer add even more to the whole Samaritaine experience; guest can sample the best of French cuisine with the on-site Ernest Bakery, the tea corner with exclusive Samaritaine pastries, a Table du Chef for intimate and unique lunches & meetings and even a gastronomic restaurant, Voyage, located on the top floor, under a splendid glass roof. Just when you think that you have seen it all, Samaritaine offers personal stylist services and private historical visits. We checked in with Karine Lanctot, Senior Partnership Manager DFS France SAS (LVMH Group), for a deeper dive into the mission to compile the best Paris travel guide.
SmartFlyer: Tell us a bit more about the restoration process and what it feels like to see Samaritaine reborn.
Karine Lanctot: “The department store – which originally opened in 1870 – was closed in 2005 for safety reasons, just a few years after being bought by the LVMH group. Most recently, there was a massive rehabilitation and renovation project that lasted five years, mobilizing many craftsmen throughout France including painters, sculptors, gilders, and ironworkers. Today, this mythical Parisian department store has regained its place as an emblematic institution in the heart of Paris, very dear to the hearts of Parisians. Samaritaine has helped to fuel a renaissance of the district with a pedestrianized square offering direct access to the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris in the immediate vicinity of Louvre Museum and Seine river bank.”
SF: When seeking advice from the best Paris travel guide, we have to ask, what sets Samaritaine apart from other department stores in Paris?
KL: “We’ve created a place that ushers in an authentically French experience, where the chic clientele of avenue Montaigne meets the contemporary era of the Marais amongst grandiose historic architecture. Samaritaine’s rebirth – firmly anchored in its root – embodies the spirit of the founding couple, Ernest Cognacq and Marie-Louise Jaÿ. Yet, its reimagining shows an eye resolutely turned towards the 21st century with exclusive concepts and an uninhibited way of mixing luxury and designers that befits our time.
More than just a shopping center, we want Samaritaine to be a place of discovery, surprise, and experience. It’s a place where visitors can witness the avant-garde of creation and taste the cuisine of a contemporary chef, treat themselves to a piece of luxury while enjoying an espresso prepared by an expert barista, discover artisanal designer jewels and relax in the spa, or meet young artists and discuss the surrounding architecture with a historical guide. In this ever-changing place, there is always something happening to catch the eye of Parisians strolling by as well as discerning tourists in search of the French art de vivre.”
SF: While the entire store is high end, especially discerning shoppers can set up a private experience within the most glamourous areas of the department store, L’Appartement – Prestige Lounge located on the upper levels. Tell us more about this.
KL: “Just as our customers are unique, Samaritaine’s Prestige Lounge, l’Appartement, is a unique and special space that’s reserved for a special clientele. The Aterlieramo agency has imagined an exclusive space for Samaritaine that’s just as chic and cozy as a Parisian apartment with eight artworks created by five artists for LVMH Métiers d’Art displayed in the salons. In one of the refined and cozy salons, personal stylists design tailor-made proposals according to individual wishes. Customers are pampered with a dedicated and customized welcome, multi-skilled and multilingual staff, refreshments, snacks, and of course, delivery of purchases to your hotel or residence.”
SF: How does Samaritaine work with partners for an even more holistic experience?
KL: “We work with all the Parisian palace hotels to offer a unique and customized experience to our clients for the best Paris travel guide brought to life. For example, we recently created a complete dressing room in the suite of a famous Parisian palace as a surprise organized by a husband for his wife for their trip to Paris. The client discovered this when she arrived in the room and was delighted. In addition to a shopping session at Samaritaine, we can organize experiences in fashion, jewelry, watches, champagne brands, around know-how, craftsmanship.”
Midnight in Paris
Parisian nightlife is rich in great diversity. With its bars, clubs, concert halls, cabarets, and comedy clubs, museums open until midnights such as the recently reopened Bourse de Commerce and Galerie Dior, and restaurants from around the world, the city offers a wide choice of atmospheres and activities that meets the desires of all night owls. And holds many surprises. From the jazz evening to the rock festival to the rooftop terrace to the electro after party, through the many events organized all year round, there is a wide variety of ways to enjoy the city after dark.
Ready to get planning your next Paris trip? Contact your SmartFlyer travel advisor.