WHY WE LOVE IT
- The magical setting for Amélie is still the most romantic on the planet.
- A vin chaud (in fall/winter) or a coupe of champagne (in spring/summer) at a zinc.
- Indulging in the classics: Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Sacré Cœur, La Coupole?
- Exploring the edgy, ethnic and novel: Oberkampf, Ménilmontant, Belleville and Canal St.-Martin.
- Pinch-me-am-I-really-seeing-this art at the Louvre, d’Orsay, Pompidou Center and other museums.
- It’s style central, from the classic couture houses and insouciant street fashion to the impeccable shop-window displays.
- La cuisine, bien sûr—with retro-bistro and ethnic-cuisine booms in full swing.
- French kissing in the Tuileries gardens, tombstone-spotting at Père-Lachaise, holding hands on a Bâteau-Mouche at sunset.
WHEN TO GO
Fair weather and fewer crowds make April, May, June, September and October the best months for travel. (If you’re planning a fall trip, when lots of conferences and trade shows hit town, book well in advance.) Considering July or August? Think again. That’s when many Parisians take their own vacances, shuttering some restaurants and small shops and leaving the city to the tourists.
WHAT TO PACK
You’ll need an electrical converter and plug adapters for American appliances (don’t forget adapters for phone plugs and a telephone adapter for laptops); pain relievers and other key over-the-counter medicine (they’re much pricier in France); comfortable shoes (you’ll be doing a lot of walking, sometimes on unforgiving cobblestones); and rain gear (it can turn cool and rainy almost any time of the year).
WHAT TO BUY
Fashion, of course, including fab faux jewelry; jams, mustards, pâtés and other easy-to-pack edibles; sexy, lacy lingerie that brings the honeymoon home; anything kitchen-related, from ceramic gratin dishes and marrow spoons to jacquard tea towels and madeleine molds; scents for the two of you, whether royal re-editions from the venerable Guerlain or Caron, unisex products from Iunx or bespoke fragrances from Cartier or Parfums de Nicolaï; prints from the Bouquinistes, the used-book sellers whose green wooden boxes line the Seine’s Left Bank, or from the Louvre’s Chalcographie boutique, which sells engravings made from the museum’s collection of antique original copper plates.
It’s a tough job, but one of you has to do it: live in France for at least 40 days before the wedding. The civil ceremony must take place where you reside, and although requirements can vary from place to place, most municipalities demand the following: Aside from your passport or French resident permit, you must submit a birth certificate; proof of domicile in France; an affidavit of law certifying that you are free to marry; another affidavit from the American consulate called an attestation de celibate stating that you aren’t already married; a divorce decree or death certificate (for widows and widowers); and a certificate of health. Once you’ve gone through this process, the town or city hall posts banns (announcement of intent to marry), which must be published no less than 10 days before the ceremony. You must also arrange to have a French civil authority, such as the mayor or a city councilman, perform the ceremony. Whew.
Start at the French Government Tourist Office (franceguide.com), with offices in New York (825 Third Ave., 29th floor; 212-838-7800) and Los Angeles (9454 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 210; 310-271-6665), can provide free maps and brochures. Also helpful is the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau (parisinfo.com), whose Web site offers online hotel reservations, sells the Paris Museum Pass and explains all the transit-pass options (a one-week Carte Orange for zones 1 and 2, purchased at Métro and RER stations and requiring a passport-size photo, is a better value than the Paris Visite pass); it has kiosks at seven locations, including the Carrousel du Louvre and Gare de Lyon and Gare du Nord railroad stations.
ALAIN DUCASSE AU PLAZA ATHÉNÉE
25 Avenue Montaigne, 8th arr.
The magic begins when you manage to nab a table at this Michelin three-star restaurant. (Reserve months ahead.) It heightens when you’re seated beneath a cloud of 10,000 dangling crystals in the grand, columned space, anticipating the meal of a lifetime. All the rich grace notes of haute cuisine are here—osciètra caviar topping langoustines accompanied by lemony crème fraîche; showers of Alba truffles over carrot-stuffed Bresse chicken—but so are the updated, seasonal takes on tradition, such as turbot in red-wine sauce with mushrooms, bacon, smoked eel and pearl onions. Despite the luxe surroundings, with the expert servers smartly dressed in black jackets and charcoal-gray trousers to match the felt screens scattered about the room, the atmosphere isn’t hush-hush, and the conversation flows as freely as the impeccably chosen wine.
Hôtel de Crillon
10 Place de la Concorde, 8th arr.
You’ll get a heavy dose of romance along with impressive cuisine in what many consider the city’s most beautiful dining room (in an over-the-top, belle époque sort of way). This gilded warhorse looking out onto the Place de la Concorde was reborn with the arrival of its current chef, Jean-François Piège, a former lieutenant of Alain Ducasse. Since then, Piège has been celebrated for his inventive twists on classic French cuisine and fanciful, sometimes even theatrical presentations, such as egg Florentine, here a truffle-laced yolk swimming inside a crunchy edible shell. Don’t miss his signature langoustine fritter in langoustine essence with caviar or the spectacular sphere of black truffle slices encasing a salad of baby leaves and herbs. You can’t miss the jaw-dropping check.
4 Rue Beethoven, 16th arr.
It may be a bit out of the way, over in the 16th near the Eiffel Tower, but after eight years, Pascal Barbot’s sleek silver-gray boîte still has a fair claim on this town’s "most-coveted table" crown—there’s room for just 26 people—especially now that it’s earned a third Michelin star. It’s all about the food as you tuck into the cool creations on the surprise tasting menu, the only menu offered. Just let the waiter know beforehand what foods and seasoning you won’t eat and you’re off. With dishes such as "ravioli," thin slices of avocado wrapped around crabmeat or foie gras marinated in verjus (a sour fruit juice) and layered with raw button-mushroom shavings and lemon purée, you couldn’t have chosen better yourself.
102 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 14th arr.
This Left Bank haunt seating 450 makes up for its lack of intimacy with bustling, even hectic brasserie ambience. You may not spot today’s equivalent of Josephine Baker, Pablo Picasso and Man Ray—all La Coupole habitués—but the people-watching among the mosaics, tall green frescoed pillars and art deco light fixtures is still great. Order a towering plateau de fruits de mer, steak tartare, lamb curry or crêpes Suzette and savor this quintessential Parisian experience. Later, in the basement lounge, you can tap your toes to the sounds of salsa, house and disco.
41 Rue Monsieur le Prince, 6th arr.
If you’re looking for a budget restaurant with a literary pedigree and homey, deeply satisfying French food the way grandmaman would make, try this historic little bistro in the Odéon section of the Latin Quarter. With heart-warming classics such as escargots, pumpkin soup, beef bourguignon, duck confit and fruit tarts touted as the best in Paris, it’s not surprising the decor’s old-school too—wood paneling, lace curtains, brass hat racks, painted tile floors—just like it was when Joyce, Hemingway and Kerouac were regulars. A caveat: Polidor’s gentle prices attracts throngs of Parisians as eager to save as you are, so you may end up seated with strangers. Stay away if you must dine à deux.
DANS LE NOIR?
51 Rue Quincampoix, 4th arr.
Why go out of your way to eat merely competently prepared dishes when you’ve come to one of the great culinary cities of the world? In the case of this eatery near Les Halles, it’s all about concept. Once you’ve ordered your scallops with rhubarb and mushrooms, daurade (sea bream) in rosemary-flavored seaweed or a "surprise" menu, you’re led into and seated in a pitch-black dining room by blind (and fortunately, mostly English-speaking) waitstaff. Gimmicky? Maybe, but fascinating nonetheless: Your remaining senses get a real workout, and you can’t help but get to know your neighbors as you pour your water all over the table or lunge at the wrong plate. It’s an unforgettable experience, and you’ll never turn up your nose at eating with your fingers—almost everyone ends up doing it here—again.
11 Rue Treilhard, 8th arr.
In recent years, several "name" chefs have tossed their toques and traded in their Michelin stars for more modest eateries that make it about the food again. Dominique Bouchet, of Tour d’Argent and Hôtel de Crillon fame, may be the most notable among them. His new place has received universal raves for its expert take on cuisine bourgeoise and its warm, orchid-accented dining room with exposed brick walls. Though the menu can toss in a surprise or two (like the leg of lamb slow-cooked for seven hours in a sauce flavored with caramel and cacao beans), much of the pleasure here derives from beloved standards— chilled pea velouté, fresh almonds and summer truffles; baked John Dory with rosemary and sautéed chanterelles with shallots and parsley; rice pudding—impeccably executed. Reserve miles ahead.
MON VIEIL AMI
69 Rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Île
Île Saint-Louis, 4th arr.
Once the only reason for visiting Île Saint-Louis was to walk down its quiet streets to line up for Berthillon’s famous ice cream. Now this splendid example of those nouveau bistros you’ve been hearing about is another. A 40-seat spin-off from a Strasbourg eatery called Buerehiesel, the restaurant’s stone-walled room is a modern update of Alsace’s half-timbered style. Chef Antoine Westermann takes the same approach toward his home region’s hearty fare, so don’t expect the usual choucroute. Veggies and "market fresh" are twin obsessions of his, yielding dishes like roasted duck breast with lemon confit, celery root, prunes and walnuts, and shoulder of venison in red wine squired by potato purée and caramelized apple. The menu’s a steal, the diners are a mix of Parisians and tourists, and the atmosphere is convivial, especially if you’re seated at the long communal table running along one side.
63 Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 8th arr.
You’ll be tempted to treat this trendy Champs Élysées–area spot famous for its futuristic lounge look—think George Jetson with wing chairs—as a fun watering hole, but you should stick around for the seriously good food. Some of it’s fairly classic (venison and foie gras with braised cabbage and stewed apple), some internationally inspired (a ceviche-style shrimp-and-scallop concoction served hot) and some a bit playful (cacao-roasted duck breast with mashed, caramelized turnips and chocolate tagliatelle). The dining room itself puts on quite a show, with plasma screens, multicolored light effects and a DJ spinning an ambient mix of tracks into the wee hours.
6 Rue Balzac, 8th arr.
This culinary iconoclast may have expanded his empire of eateries to London, Hong Kong and Tokyo, not to mention the Left Bank, but you’ll swear he’s right there in the kitchen cooking just for you at his flagship restaurant near the Champs Élysées. The decor is subdued, with blond wood and soft lighting; it’s the seasonal cuisine, often showered with truffles, that creates the fireworks. Gagnaire’s most inventive dishes are complex mini symphonies of flavor, color and texture that work despite the unlikeliest matchups. Case in point: langoustines with green apples and banana chips in sweet onion fondue. Reserve as far in advance as possible, and double-check your credit card limit.
63 Rue de l’Ouest, 14 arr.
With all the haute cuisine in Paris, it’s easy to forget that some of the most interesting food in town comes from France’s former colonies. Near the top of our list of ethnic eateries is Bashir Benamrane’s authentic Algerian restaurant, close to the Place de Catalogne, behind the Tour Montparnasse. Taghit means "oasis" in the Berber language of North Africa, and this surely fits the bill for newlyweds (or romantics of any stripe). Who could resist a candlelit, ocher-colored room with elephant tusks flanking the doorway? The food and drink here are equally exotic, including couscous perfumed with orange-blossom water, artichoke and lamb tagine, cinnamon and pine-nut coffee and fig liqueur. The cool jazz music playing in the background adds to the appeal of this cozy place that’s quite a cut above the usual couscous joint.
7-11 Rue Saint-Benoît
Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 6th arr.
Tel: 01-42-61-53-53, 888-452-8380
If your idea of chic is more midcentury modern than chintz and tassels, repair to this four-story designer hotel in Paris’s most sought-after district. Soothing earth tones greet you in the public spaces, with lots of stone and wood, while the 112 rooms are divided into four color categories. Still, nothing’s one hue here; "cumin" rooms are described as cinnamon with beige and brown, and orange quarters are awash in citrus tones with a touch of spice. (Hungry yet?) Soft fabrics and limited metal keep the chill factor to a minimum. Although there’s an airy breakfast room and a bar that offers lunch and dinner, you’ll have to go elsewhere for more formal meals—not exactly a hardship, since an enormous selection of excellent restaurants is just steps away.
HOTEL DU CYGNE
3 Rue du Cygne, 1st arr.
A 100-euro-a-night hotel in the center of Paris that’s not only not a dump but charming? It’s a rare thing indeed. But enter the wood-beamed, stone-walled lobby of this 20-room property just north of the bustling Les Halles area (and also a short stroll to the Louvre and Notre-Dame), and you’ll see how warm, pleasant and, yes, romantic Hotel du Cygne is. The guest rooms are smallish—as they are in most Parisian hotels of any category—but attractive, swathed in soft pastels and whites, with crisp matelassé bed covers; some quarters have wood-beam ceilings and wood paneling or wainscoting. The white-tiled bathrooms are reasonably spacious and even boast marble counters. One downside: no elevator. But, really, how many 17th-century buildings do you know that have one?
7 Rue de Berri, 8th arr.
A gorgeous late-19th-century mansion turned hotel just off the Champs Élysées, the Lancaster is the ultimate romantic retreat. Furnished with classic French antiques and historically accurate fabrics, it still somehow manages to feel contemporary. Perhaps it’s the blond-wood paneling, French design’s innate restraint or the occasional modern touches—more pronounced in the main lounge, restaurant and interior courtyard—but whatever the wizardry, this 46-room, 11-suite hotel is anything but old-fashioned. TVs-DVDs, heated towels racks, two telephone lines—all the conveniences are here, along with the celebrated La Table du Lancaster. Feeling sharp, zesty or bright? Chef Michel Troisgros’s clever menu offers dishes in those categories and many more.
HOTEL LUMEN PARIS LOUVRE
15 Rue des Pyramides, 1st arr.
If you’re a design maven with a taste for boutique hotels, you can’t get more central than these new digs down the street from the Rue Saint-Honoré. The Lumen plays with period styles, updating Rococo-esque pieces with, say, a slap of silver paint or whimsically upholstering modern pieces with flocked Victorian-style fabric. (Our favorite inside joke is the headboard that appears to fuse the back of a Louis XV settee with that of George Nelson’s Marshmallow Sofa.) In the 32 guest rooms, many of them on the small side, gray tones and a quietly contemporary decor prevail, with bathroom fixtures that are très moderne. While the bells and whistles of larger properties are missing—no gym, for example—you will have the petite Le Passage Saint Roch restaurant, serving nouvelle French cuisine, at your disposal.
15 Place Vendôme, 1st arr.
Tel: 01-43-16-45-33, 800-223-6800
Who needs Versailles when you’re ensconced in the Louis XVI splendor of the one and only Ritz? (How many hotels have songs written about them, not to mention their own filmography?) You’ll feel like a right royal couple at this Parisian pied-à-terre of kings. You can book the former suite of Coco Chanel, Marcel Proust or the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, a thrilling brush with history. But whatever you do, book a room in the Vêndome Wing, the oldest part of the hotel, with soaring ceilings, marble fireplaces, tapestries, crystal chandeliers and baths with gold-plated swan faucets. Start your day with a swim in the spa’s stunning Roman pool and end it with a nightcap at the glamorous Hemingway Bar. In between, browse the—yes, ritzy—jewelry shops lining the handsome Place Vendôme, just outside the door. And don’t miss having a meal at the Michelin-starred resident L’Espadon, one of the best restaurants in Paris.
6 Avenue Frémiet, 16th arr.
The aristocratic 16th is staid no more now that this boutique hotel for the adventurous has moved into the ’hood. A perfect antidote to antiques overload, the Sezz look tends toward the cool, masculine and cerebral. The 13 rooms and 14 suites have gray slate walls and slightly kinky leather-and-chrome bed frames, and some come equipped with glass-wall or out-in-the-open bathrooms that leave nothing to the imagination. Splashes of color come in the form of red leather armchairs here, a lime shag rug there. Besides style, there’s substance: You’ll have a personal assistant at your disposal, use of a sleek mini spa with Jacuzzi, steam room and massage room, and champagne for toasting your wise choice, at Bar la Grande Dame, the first Veuve Clicquot bar in Paris.
228 Rue de Rivoli, 1st arr.
Tel. 01-44-58-10-10, 800-650-1842
Thanks to a central location that just may be unbeatable, this palatial 1835 landmark boasts some of the best views in Paris. You may never want to leave your wrought-iron balcony if you book a Tuileries suite, so ravishing is the panorama of the gardens nearby. And for couples planning to spend even more, the Belle Étoile Suite features Paris’ biggest roof terrace. Even if you don’t snare these serious perches, the rest of the 160 rooms and suites are plenty pampering, all tastefully opulent in the Louis XVI style. The Spa Valmont offers a soothing respite from sightseeing, where treatments like the World Seas Body Wrap or Energizing Massage will leave you glowing and ready for the culinary magic of Chef Yannick Alléno, whether at the formal restaurant or at the more low-key Le Dali.
Marais district, 3rd arr.
Shh… the address is a secret—that is until you actually book a room in this bed-and-breakfast in a Marais district town house. This luxe hideaway doesn’t have to try hard to cultivate an air of exclusivity, since it has only four guest rooms to rent. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe the riot of antiques, including four-poster and canopy beds; the stone fireplaces; the walls lined with velvet, ostrich leather or tapestries; the mahogany-paneled bathrooms. Each room is different—one has a private staircase leading to a small terrace—and all are without TVs. But with so much bric-a-brac to look at, do you really need CNN?
MURANO URBAN RESORT
13 Boulevard du Temple, 3rd arr.
This hotel on the north edge of the Marais is a crazy futuristic folly or a space-age slice of heaven, depending on your taste. If cool techno features such as Bang & Olufsen sound systems, adjustable mood lights and fingerprint-operated door locks mean a lot to you, bite the bullet and book the all-white (and scarlet) Suite Tiziano, with its own pool and terrace. Or you can stay ahead of the curve in the Honeymoon Room, with its circular bed and tub. After a dip, sink into the soft-cushioned armchairs at the hotel’s restaurant and savor the Mediterranean cuisine beneath stalactite-like lights. There’s a workout room, and even though the small spa is under construction, you don’t have to skip your massage or other treatments; just order one and the staff will come to your quarters.
9 Rue Mandar, 2nd arr.
If you can easily picture yourself strolling down the street with a baguette under one arm and a string bag full of fraises and fromage hanging from the other, consider living like a Parisian and renting an apartment. Offering rates that are sometimes below those of many hotels, a short-term rental agency such as Parisian Home will find you fully furnished digs from simple to stylishly palatial in just about any neighborhood in central Paris and provide extras like maid service. These fab flats could include No. 101202, a one-bedroom beauty with classic decor, a marble fireplace mantel and soaring French windows on rue Pierre Lescot, in the heart of the Marais; No. 106287, a modernist duplex on Rue Sèvres in elegant St. Germain, with a spiral staircase, quirky posts and beams, bold splashes of color and a glossy slate-gray bathroom; or No. 111073, a charmer on the rue Forge Royale in the bar-and-restaurant-packed Bastille, with breezy white appointments, exposed wooden beams, stone walls and a loft sleeping area.
PARK HYATT PARIS—VENDÔME
5 Rue de la Paix, 2nd arr.
Tel: 01-58-71-12-34, 888-591-1234
It’s really saying something that Paris’s newest grand hotel, just up the street from the Place Vendôme, can hold its own against its venerable neighbor the Ritz. The Park Hyatt offers visitors a very 21st-century approach to Gallic luxe: Each of the 168 rooms features deep, rich mahogany paneling, softly earthy silk upholstery and bronze figural sculptures that seem to pop up everywhere in the hotel, plus heated bathroom floors. And what’s that subtle whiff of orange and patchouli? It’s Blaise Mautin’s signature fragrance piped through the ventilation system. You can bliss out at the in-house spa, work out at the small gym and then indulge guilt-free at the Pur’Grill, sampling innovative creations such as spelt risotto with smoked haddock, and chocolate ganache with iced ylang-ylang parfait.
MUST-SEES (ON WHEELS)
Sure, you could skip all the travel-poster staples and congratulate yourself on being too cool for clichés, but then you’d be passing up the pride of Paris, places that residents themselves frequent. At the top of the list: Tour Eiffel (5 Avenue Anatole France; 01-44-11-23-23; tour-eiffel.fr); Notre-Dame Cathedral (6 Parvis Notre-Dame; 01-42-34-56-10; notredamedeparis.fr), the Hôtel de Ville (city hall), Sacré Cœur Basilica (35 Rue du Chevalier-de-la-Barre; 01-53-41-89-00; sacre-coeur-montmartre.com) and the Arc de Triomphe (Place Charles-de-Gaulle; 01-55-37-73-77; arc-de-triomphe.monuments-nationaux.fr). But just because you’ve decided to see the sights that countless millions have seen before you, it doesn’t mean you have to follow in their footsteps. Instead, do like the Parisians do and zip from monument to monument on three-speed vélos (bikes), courtesy of the wildly popular Vélib’ (01-30-79-79-30; en.velib.paris.fr). A program of some 1,000 self-service docking stations around Paris for 20,000 bikes, it allows you to pedal a rental at modest prices. (You’ll need an American Express card with a "smart chip" that contains security data about the cardholder; check before you leave to see if your card does.) You can return the gear to any Vélib’ station with an empty dock, and the stands are open 24/7, a boon in a city where the Métro shuts down around 1 a.m.
Even if you're not museum mavens, you can't miss the one and only Louvre (Rue de Rivoli at Rue du Louvre; 01-40-20-53-17; louvre.fr). And try to squeeze in three other stars: the Musée d'Orsay (1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur; 01-40-49-48-14; musee-orsay.fr), Beaubourg/Centre Pompidou (Place Pompidou; 01-44-78-12-33; centrepompidou.fr) and the Musée National Picasso (5 Rue de Thorigny; 01-42-71-25-21; musee-picasso.fr). Those crossed off your list, you can pick and choose from a number of atmospheric museums that are distinctively Parisian: MAC/VAL (Place de Libération; 01-43-91-64.20; macval.fr), a cool window onto contemporary art and popular culture; Musée de la Mode et du Costume (10 avenue Pierre I de Serbie; 01-56-52-86-00; paris.fr), referred to locally as Galliera and showcasing the history of fashion; and Musée National du Moyen Âge (Place Paul-Painlevé; 01-53-73-78-00; www.musee-moyenage.fr), masterpieces from the Middle Ages housed in the 15th-century Hôtel de Cluny, plus ancient Gallo-Roman baths unearthed next door. The recently opened Musée du quai Branly (37 Quai Branly; 01-56-61-70-00; www.quaibranly.fr) is a standout both for its displays of non-Western art and audacious architecture. And since you’re on your honeymoon, why not surrender to museums that will make you swoon, such as Musée Rodin (79 Rue de Varenne; 01-44-18-61-10), where you’ll see The Kiss, among other sculptures; and Musée de la Vie Romantique (16 Rue Chantal, 01-55-31-95-67; vie-romantique.paris.fr), once the home where writer George Sand would meet her lover Frédéric Chopin and now charmingly staged to evoke that era
ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?
In the City of Love, where do we begin to single out the sights that will make your hearts beat faster? The islands in the Seine rank high: Île de la Cité, dominated by Notre-Dame but also the home of Sainte-Chapelle, a lacy gem; and the largely residential Île Saint-Louis, whose narrow cobblestone streets are a delight to ramble. You’ll also want to explore the quiet side lanes of medieval Marais; don’t miss the intimate Place des Voges, once popular for trysts and duels. You may be tempted to skip the old artist quarter of Montmartre as too touristy, but it still encompasses some pretty pockets—Place des Abbesses is one—staircases, sloping byways and even a vineyard. Even farther afield is the most romantic park in Paris, Cimitière du Père-Lachaise (pere-lachaise.com), in the eastern 20th arrondissement, with its gracefully decaying, often spectacular mausoleums and famous occupants (Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Abélard and Héloïse). No doubt you’ll take a moonlight stroll along the Seine, but all those beautiful buildings really do look more magical when you’re cruising in a *Bâteau Mouche (Port de la Conférence, Pont de l’Alma, Rive Droite; 01-42-25-96-10; *bateaux-mouches.fr).
IT’S EASY BEING GREEN
The open-air expanses of Paris are legendary, ranging from painstakingly manicured to quasi-wilderness—and discovering them together is a romantic adventure that deserves its own category. The most famous and formal is probably the 16th-century Jardin des Tuileries, the huge rectangle between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, with its statuary, reflecting pools and flower beds; after your stroll, gaze at Monet’s water lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie (01-44-77-80-07; www.musee-orangerie.fr), in the corner of the gardens by the Seine. Just as stately, the Jardin du Luxembourg, straddling Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Quartier Latin, is the quintessential Paris park, where you can try your hand at boules, wander the apple orchard, watch the children sailing toy boats on the octagonal pond or just relax on one of those famous green chairs. For a walk on the wilder side, head to the edge of the 16th and the Bois de Boulogne. Like New York’s Central Park, it’s a world unto itself, a great place (daytime only) for strolling, biking, boating and ogling the roses, irises and water lilies at the Parc de Bagatelle.
If you want to establish your street cred, check out the cutting-edge neighborhoods that young Parisians are flocking to. In the 10th and 11th arrondissements north of the Bastille, a trio of hilly working-class quarters, Oberkampf, Ménilmontant and Belleville, are attracting arty types with a mix of hip galleries, shops, bars, music joints and eateries in shabby-chic surroundings. Visit the Edith Piaf Museum (5 rue Crespin du Gast; 01-43-55-52-72); stroll along the Canal St.-Martin with its pretty cobblestone quays and footbridges; browse the Tuesday- and Friday-morning food market on Boulevard de Belleville; and be sure your café crawl includes Nouveau Casino (109 Rue Oberkampf; 01-43-57-57-40; nouveaucasino.net), Café Cannibale (93 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud; 01-49-29-95-59), Café Charbon (109 Rue Oberkampf; 01-43-57-55-13) and La Bellevilloise (19 Rue Boyer; 01-46-36-07-07; labellevilloise.com).
FROM THE INSIDE
Some people prowl the food markets; others frequent the art-house cinemas on the Left Bank. There are lots of activities that will make you feel Parisian. Frankly, we’d rather cook. You can try your hand at the national obsession with a class at L’Atelier des Chefs (10 Rue de Penthièvre; 01-53-30-05-82; www.atelierdeschefs.com, off the Champs Élysées.) In just a few hours they’ll have you in Food Network form. If you’re here in July and August, hang out at the Paris Plage, a two-mile stretch along the Right Bank of the Seine that’s transformed into a beach, complete with white sand, palm trees, chaise longues, hammocks and umbrellas. Join the locals in a game of volleyball or dance the night away at a guinguette, an old-fashioned outdoor café. If you really do want to stick your toe in the water, swap the Seine for a hammam, a Turkish-style steam bath. Since you’ll want to soak with your sweetie, try a co-ed option such as Les Bains du Marais (31-33 Rue des Blancs Manteux; 01-44-61-02-02; www.lesbainsdumarais.com) Wednesday evenings and weekends or Hammam Medina Center (43-45 Rue Petit; 01-42-02-31-05; hammam-medina.com) on Saturdays.
GET OUT OF TOWN
Pull yourself away from Paris’s charms, if just for an afternoon, to sample some nearby pleasures. You mustn’t leave France without seeing the magnificent palace and gardens of the Sun King and Marie Antoinette at the Château de Versailles (Rue Royale; 08-10-81-16-14; www.chateauversailles.fr), a 40-minute ride away on the RER. For breathtaking stained glass and sculptures, visit the 12th-century cathedral at Chartres, some 50 miles away. The old quarter is charming, and on Saturday you can catch a couple of photogenic outdoor markets. Giverny (45 miles northwest) is another quaint town, whose main claim to fame is impressionist painter Claude Monet’s home and gorgeous water gardens (84 Rue Claude Monet; 02-32-51-28-21; fondation-monet.com), best seen in the spring. If you’re fans of the bubbly, consider Reims, the heart of the Champagne region and 90 miles northeast of Paris. Many famous makers are based there and offer visits to their caves; Taittinger’s cellars—Gothic on one level, Gallo-Roman on another—are particularly evocative. Don’t let those tastings go to your head—otherwise you may be tempted to visit a Loire Valley chateau or three. Resist. Sure, you can take a train, then a bus to Chambord or Chenonceau, but you can’t really see more than one palace without renting a car, and it’s a trip better suited to overnighting.
CHOCOLATS DEBAUVE & GALLAIS
30 Rue des Saints-Pères, 7th arr.
This jewellike shop devoted to dark chocolate should give pause to milk-chocoholics. It began life as a pharmacy in 1800, and its cocoa-dusted truffles (Proust’s fave), chocolate coins and hazelnut pralines displayed on old-fashioned walnut counters can still cure what ails you. Whether you buy kilos of bonbons or just one piece—try the 99-percent-pure chocolate bar for a shock to your taste buds—your order will get the same beribboned-and-stamped wrapping. A Right Bank branch is located at 33 Rue Vivienne, 2nd arrondissement.
213 Rue Saint-Honoré, 1st arr.
You can hardly miss this sassy facade with its painted cartoon images and blue-and-white candles. And inside, the three all-white floors are devoted to everything cutting-edge and eco-friendly, from shampoo and gadgets to fashion and accessories, with artist and designer limited editions a specialty. Before you take off with, say, a pair of headphones encrusted with amethyst Swarovski crystals or a box of Keith Haring cookies, head for the basement and the aptly named Water Bar, which pours more than 100 brands of H2O from around the world. A splash of Antipode from New Zealand, anyone?
51 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1st arr.
If you’re a foodie—and you probably will be by the time you leave food-obsessed Paris—follow the chefs to their favorite haunt, this family-owned kitchenware store near Les Halles. Don’t be put off by its looks—or lack of them. It may not be a sleek, cookie-cutter chain with inviting displays, but Dehillerin’s narrow aisles are clogged with all the cooking and baking equipment you’ll ever need. You may have registered for nonstick stock pots and frying pans, but what about a duck press, lidded pain de mie tins or silicone madeleine molds? The pièces de résistance: heavy copper pots that range from the practical (saucepans for making… you guessed it) to the exotic (turbot kettles) to the gigantic (a braising pan you could take a bath in).
16 Rue Royale, 8th arr.
We discovered this pâtisserie’s exquisite macaroons when a very fancy hotel laid them on our pillow one evening. We’ve been dreaming about them ever since. Founded in 1862, Ladurée later expanded into an elegant tearoom that still draws an upper-crust crowd. Most of their confections are available to go, including those airy almond-paste cookies bracketing a layer of creamy filling. Offering flavors such as salted butter caramel and orange blossom, Ladurée can hardly be accused of lagging behind the times, but fortunately, they’ll wrap your purchase as they’ve always done, in a box tied with ribbons too pretty to open. But go ahead and dive in—those macarons are so fragile, they’ll never make it home in one piece! Other locations: 75 Champs Élysées; 21 Rue Bonaparte, in St-Germain-des-Prés; and in Le Printemps department store.
11 Place de les Etats-Unis, 16th arr.
A sumptuous chandelier half submerged in an aquarium, a three-meter crystal chair and a giant turning chandelier are just a few of the stars at this funhouse for luxe lovers designed by Philippe Starck. Displayed against plain concrete walls, the tableware collections seem to glitter all the more. Sure, they sell pitchers with 3,000-euro price tags, but their jewelry won’t break the bank. Besides, the retail items will seem like a bargain after you toured the gallery upstairs that pays homage to the company’s history. Once you’ve ogled the chairs designed for Indian maharajas, Czar Nicholas II’s candelabra and Josephine Baker’s stemware, you’ll be in the mood for the royal treatment, and you’ll get it at the chic restaurant that surrounds the stairway and that fab revolving light fixture.
MARCHÉ AUX PUCES DE LA PORTE DE VANVES
Avenue Georges Lafenestre (on bridge after Períphérique) and Avenue Marc Sangnier, 14th arr.
The St.-Ouen flea market (marché aux puce) may be the oldest and largest of its kind in Paris, but the one at Vanves, in the southwest beyond Montparnasse, is more selective and more manageable. Hop the No. 13 Métro train to Porte-de-Vanves, then follow the crowd. Among the more than 300 stands offering antiques, collectibles, bric-a-brac, jewelry and artwork, there may lurk some gems—after all, dealers themselves buy here—but chances are you’ll find attractive decorative items rather than treasures. The market is open weekends from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Avenue Marc Sangnier and all afternoon on Avenue Georges Lafenestre, but visit first thing in the morning, since some vendors close shop early.
34 Avenue Montaigne, 8th arr.
90 Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, 8th arr.
Few things are more evocative than scent, and France long ago cornered the market. The two boutiques of this 104-year-old haute parfumerie, both on fashionable shopping streets a short stroll off the Champs Elysées, are classic spots for sniffing. Artisanally made—take that, Chanel No. 5—Caron’s 13 signature fragrances are dispensed from huge crystal containers into any bottle of your choice (of course, they sell those here too, as well as men’s scents and their famous finely ground face powder). The perfumes are unabashedly feminine, including a surefire choice for your honeymoon, N’Aimez que Moi ("Love Only Me"). And the gracious and gorgeous Old World atmosphere will have you swooning even without those heady scents wafting about.
64 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th arr.
It may have just turned 143, but this grande-dame department store near the Opéra Garnier is anything but stuffy. All the famous fashion names are represented here as well as lesser-known boutique labels and what’s claimed to be the largest accessories department in Paris. Other great sources for souvenirs are the revamped home-decoration department—throw pillow, anyone?—and miles of beauty counters. Here’s one place where it pays to flash your foreignness: Show your passport and you’ll receive a 10-percent store discount card. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the staggering inventory and sprawling layout—three buildings, multiple levels—stop for a snack under the stained-glass dome or at the rooftop Le Déli-cieux with its million-euro view.
Rue de la Pompe, 16th arr.
If you and your fiancé are contributing to your own wedding, chances are you won’t be shopping till you drop at the likes of Chanel, Prada and Hèrmes. What you can do is head to this eight-boutique discount consortium along Rue de la Pompe, near the Bois de Bolougne. (To get there, take the 9 Metro line to Rue de la Pompe.) Essentially a warehouse that sells overstock, remaindered and ever-so-lightly used—think runways and photo shoots—designer clothing and accessories, it can’t offer the luxurious atmosphere of a Rue Saint-Honoré salon, but it can provide a shot at possessing a famous label you could otherwise not afford. How do you think all those chic Parisian shop girls manage to dress like models?
71-73 Rues des Saints-Pères, 6th arr.
Only the French would pack a street named for the holy fathers with sexy-lingerie shops. One of the best of these Saint-Germain-des-Prés emporia is Sabbia Rosa, a small, tasteful shop that stocks sweet nothings of the silk and sensual kind. Whether you’re an A-lister like Catherine Deneuve, Madonna or Naomi Campbell or an unknown, looking for something demure or daring, the eponymous owner is welcoming, helping you find just the right fit and style of cami, negligée—think Brigitte Bardot—or undergarment,. (If you don’t, she’ll custom-make sizes not in stock.) You may flinch at a pair of panties that cost 50 euros, but can you really put a price on feeling like a French film goddess?