Planning a short break in Paris now that travel is back on the agenda? There are so many new things to see and do – here are a few ideas for what to seek out while you’re visiting the City of Light.
Visit La Samaritaine
La Samaritaine was founded in 1870 by Ernest Cognac and Louise Jay, and the famous department store overlooking the city’s Pont Neuf and the River Seine is now owned by luxury group LMVH. No expense has been spared in the makeover of this grand building, which closed for safety reasons in 2005 but reopened in June 2021 to much fanfare when the jaw-dropping results of the painstaking €750 million renovation were revealed. The façade, grand staircase and glass-topped atrium have all been restored to their former glory, while inside pâtisserie creations matching the signature design on the store’s carpet are just one example of the incredible attention to detail. Take a guided tour to learn more about La Samaritaine’s fascinating history before shopping up a storm, and with an entire floor devoted to dining there’s no shortage of places to eat and drink. There’s even a spa on the ground floor and a new 5-star Cheval Blanc hotel onsite if all that shopping leaves you needing a rest.
Try a wine-tasting experience
For a wine-tasting experience with a difference, head to Les Caves du Louvre, a former royal wine cellar just a stone’s throw from the Louvre with an impressive connection to its namesake – an extensive network of tunnels runs all the way to Paris’ most-visited museum. The renovated and newly reopened space now offers an immersive wine-tasting experience with knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides, during which you move through the cellars learning about production methods, labelling practices and of course, sampling wines from different French regions. You can even make your own wine, or buy a bottle to take home from the onsite shop and its list covering some 300 wines from around France.
See another side of Montmartre
If you’re already very familiar with Montmartre’s iconic sites – Sacré-Coeur, Place du Tertre, Moulin Rouge – then a guided walking tour of the off-the-beaten-track streets and alleyways is the perfect way to see it from a local’s point of view, while for those keen to see the famous district through the eyes of Amélie Poulain it also takes in sites from the hugely successful film. A vineyard is perhaps the last thing you’d expect to find in a city and yet Le Clos Montmartre, just across from the Lapin Agile cabaret, is exactly that. Other unexpected sights include a statue climbing through a wall – Le Passe-Muraille is the title of a story by Marcel Aymé about a man named Dutilleul who discovers he can walk through walls, and the statue is located on the square named after the French novelist – and the Wall of Love in the Jehan Rictus garden, a 40m2 art installation featuring the words ‘I love you’ in over 250 languages.
Where to eat
If you watched Call My Agent! then you might recognise Le Fumoir – the restaurant was the setting for some of the dining and bar scenes in the hit Netflix series. Lunchtime menu €26 for starter and main or main and dessert (€30 for three courses), with lots of healthy choices including salads and a fish of the day.
If duck is your meat of choice and champagne your drink, dinner at Canard et Champagne is not to be missed. Located in the covered Passage des Panoramas, this 200-year-old restaurant serves French duck from free-range farms in all its forms, from foie gras and terrine to confit and even a burger, and champagnes from the best small producers. Set menus from €29 for two courses, up to €66 for three courses with champagne flight.
For a traditional Parisian bistro dining experience head to Le Bouclard, with its cosy wooden interior and the warmest of welcomes from host Jacqueline. Two-course menu with glass of wine and coffee €25, served at lunchtime and early evening for pre-theatre dining. Poulet Rosalie is a popular speciality while the Pastrami de Boeuf is an innovative creation inspired by the chef’s many years living and working in New York.
Where to stay
An easy 15-minute journey from Gare du Nord, M Social Hotel Paris Opera is located on the iconic Boulevard Hausmann in the Opéra district. The newly opened hotel has recently been refurbished for the modern-day traveller (think deep-spring Hypnos beds and unlimited high-speed WiFi), yet expect to feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to the 1920s as you enter through the revolving door into the Art Deco foyer. The perfect base from which to explore the famous Boulevard, the hotel is also within walking distance of the Opéra Garnier, Galeries Lafayette and Montmartre with its many attractions. Enjoy a drink in the bar after a busy day of exploring or dine at the hotel’s classic French brasserie, Brasserie Hausmann.
From €220 for an Alcove room (standard), from €250 for a Signature room.
How to travel
Travelling by Eurostar is a great way to maximise the time you have in Paris. The train pulls in at the city’s Gare du Nord station just two hours 15 minutes after leaving London St Pancras, with no precious minutes of Paris exploration time wasted at a baggage carousel or in a lengthy passport control queue. You’ll be doing your bit for the environment too – travelling by train produces 93% less CO2 per passenger than flying. I felt I was in France before I’d even left London, thanks to a breakfast tray that included a buttery, flaky croissant and a bright pink rhubarb compote chosen for me by none other than Raymond Blanc (the Michelin-starred French chef has been Eurostar’s Business Premier Culinary Director since 2012).
Standard one-way fares start from £39 based on a return journey. Business premier fares £245 one-way based on a return journey. Tickets are now flexible with no exchange fee on changes up to 7 days before departure.