Springtime certainly is one of the best times to visit Paris, one of the most romantic and culture-rich cities in Europe. There is no better way to explore the city than on foot. March through to May is the perfect time to go, when the air is still fresh but the temperature not too cold. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, you cannot explore or really get to know Paris in one visit – there is just too much to see and soak up!
Our favourite spot is the Left Bank, the ‘Rive Gauche’, This was Hemingway’s turf and where the artistic crowd still hang out. Boulevard St Germain runs through the area, with charming little streets leading off it. Here you will find some of the cities finest antique & art shops and little boutiques. Our starting point is the new Hotel Le Saint à Paris, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Once three hotels across as many buildings, this luxury hotel reopened in 2016 and is now a frontrunner for the best boutique hotel in the area. On arrival, you can choose a plant or flower from the colourful selection to decorate your room and make you feel at home. Rooms 203, 303 and 403 have the prettiest views across the corner of the building, with three large windows overlooking Rue de l’Université and Rue du Pré aux Clercs. As you would hope in France, breakfast is a feast of all things naughty; mini croissants, pain au chocolat, apple puffs and chocolate twists, as well as hams, cheeses and fresh, crunchy baguette. In the evenings the Kult restaurant transforms into a snug and atmospheric bar serving beautifully presented cocktails – their Moscow Mule is one of the best we’ve had. Unusually for a small hotel, there is a fitness room, massage room and hammam – a welcome retreat after a day of exploring.
Just a few minutes walk away in Rue des Beaux Arts is one of our favourite hotels and possibly the most romantic hotel in Paris, L’Hôtel, a glamorous and theatrically designed hotel which was home to Oscar Wilde for quite some time. With its underground pool, Michelin Star restaurant and opulent bar, this is the choice for fashionistas, the romantics and anyone who loves a sense of history.
Just around the corner from either of these hotels, in Rue Bonaparte, you will find Buly 1803 a decorative masterpiece and a step back into the early 19th-century. This olde worlde apothecary is a delight to the eyes and is filled with familiar and exotic fragrances from its beautifully crafted candles, soaps, lotions & potions which embrace the past in beautiful packaging. There is a calligrapher on site who inscribes your name or a message onto the ‘savon superfin’, label or box. You can also place online orders if you don’t fancy carrying any of your goodies home – the candles are stunning and sit in a marble cylinder, but are very heavy.
If you are visiting Paris for the first time, don’t feel you need to cram in every cultural sight, we all know what they are. Instead, take to the streets and walk around to soak up the atmosphere, the life, the sounds and the beauty of the city. This is the best way to explore and absorb the experience that is Paris. There is no getting away from the fact that Paris is an expensive city; a chicken with Frites and a glass of wine will set you back over €20, so be prepared!
Rue du Dragon is a cute little street off Boulevard St Germain and is dotted with charming boutiques, one of which children will love, Cartes d’Art, which is filled with cards and stationery. Head on down towards Rue Cherche du Midi to the shop Smallable, another treasure trove for children. Here you can get your buggy wheels pumped up or repaired on site. Take a right up to Le Bon Marché, the French equivalent to Selfridges, which has a magnificent food hall crammed with world food and French delicacies. You can eat at one of the food bars which specialise in sushi, truffles or prosciutto and are dotted around the hall. You could spend a few hours marvelling at the choice of products and selection of colourful mini button or flower sugars, presented in beautiful boxes.
Not far from here is a great affordable hotel choice Louison Hotel. It is small and perfectly formed with a multilingual and charming team of staff with immaculate rooms, perfect if you are on a budget.
Of course, a trip to Paris wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its famous chocolate shops. In fact, there are quite a few to choose from and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, on the Left Bank, has the best selection. It is the cocoa capital of Paris! One of our favourites is Pierre Marcolini’s latest opening on Rue de Bac where glass cases are filled with immaculate rows of colourful bonbons and wonderful flavours including Earl Grey, violet, thyme & orange. Once awarded the Best Chocolatier in France, Henri Leroux is one of the most well-known chocolatiers in the industry with nearly 100 different creations and the adventurous might like to try the neon-green bar of matcha-yuzu chocolate.
There is a brasserie or bistro on every corner in Paris and one of the most famous is Brasserie Lipp, located at 151 Boulevard Saint-Germain. Here, for over a century, thinkers, literati and artists who have called Paris home have met, from Hemingway to former US Presidents. If you are looking for something less French, then book a table at Marzo, an authentic Italian pizzeria on 5 Rue Paul-Louis Courier – just 5 minutes walk from Hotel Le Saint à Paris. The simple white interiors and mouth-watering wood-fired pizzas (made by Italian pizzaiolo) are a welcome change after a few too many French meals.