Some of my friends planing to visit Paris by the end of 2015. So they have been asking me for some tips.
*Before the Paris Attacks on Friday 13th but to be honest, don’t make it hindered your spirit, only be extra careful.
|AJ Tips On Paris ~ Read Carefully!|
|18th Oct 2015|
I’ve always found Paris to be one of the easiest places to be as a solo woman traveler. Perhaps that’s because Parisians are as accessible as you want them to be. If you want to be on your own, they respect your privacy. If you want conversation, they’re ready to banter, debate or share a good story.
The same holds true for where you decide to stay. If you want to experience Paris like a Parisian, stay in a vacation apartment.
I personally recommend www.haveninparis.com. You can cook your own meals (or invite friends over to share a meal or coffee or a bottle of wine). With all of the wonderful street markets (rue Cler and rue Mouffetard) and epicuries (like my favorite at Le Bon Marche), you’ll enjoy the most wonderfully fresh food you’ve likely ever prepared.
If you want to meet people and perhaps find sightseeing companions, stay in a small hotel. During my visits to the Hotel Valadon (a 12-room hotel in the 7th), I would strike up the most wonderful conversations with fellow travelers as well as the owners at breakfast in the small dining room lounge. Website: http://www.hotelvaladon.com/hotel.htm
Cafés are also a great place for women travelers. Not only is the food there less expensive, but cafés are a great place to eat on your own with a good book for company. My personal favorite is the Café du Marché on rue Cler 38 and rue du Champ de Mars in the 7th. When I want a bigger menu selection, I head next door to Tribeca, a restaurant popular with the locals that serves up delicious food. Further down the rue is a creperie that’s perfect for a meal on the run or a dessert treat (I love their crêpe Nutella).
My favorite restaurant in Paris is Le Restaurant on rue Veron in Montmartre. The food in this mostly-locals restaurant is exceptional, and it’s far enough off the tourist path to remain a secret (until now). For something a little “clubier” and a bit pricey I like Kong Paris on rue de Pont Neuf. The food is surprisingly good for such a trendy destination (if you watched Sex in the City when Carrie went to Paris, you’ve seen this restaurant). At night, the club comes alive with chic Parisians and lounge music.
Paris has, of course, some of the best shopping in the world. If you’re looking for sales, then you need to plan your trip around the biannual “soldes.” Because sales are state-regulated in France, there are two sale periods each year: summer and winter. Each runs about six weeks. The summer soldes typically start at the end of June, while the winter soldes begin in January.
Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann is a shopping mecca, offering 10 floors of clothing, accessories, jewelry, food and home goods. Even if you’re not looking to go shopping, just standing on the bottom floor and looking up to the stunning Art Nouveau dome will give you great satisfaction. Actually, there are three Galeries Lafayette to explore here: the main store, the men’s store (Lafayette Homme) – which also houses Lafayette Gourmet – and the home store (Lafayette Maison), all wrapping around Place Diaghilev across from the Opera Garnier. You’ll also find a rather large assortment of restaurants, wine bars and tea salons inside the stores, so you really can make a whole day of it.
Merci, Paris’ newest concept store, offers a breathtaking space where you can shop with a conscience. Merci donates all of its profits to a co-op for young women in Madagascar. They stock everything from clothes to flowers and garden accessories, to perfumes, custom furniture, home goods and second-hand books. Much of the clothing on sale (from brands like Bonpoint, A.P.C., Isabel Marent, YSL and Chloe) has been created and priced exclusively for Merci. Address: 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais – 3rd. Tel : 00 33 1 42 77 00 33. Open daily Monday to Saturday 10am-8pm Metro Saint Sébastien Froissard.
Unlike the U.S., France doesn’t have discount drugstores (or even large drugstore chains). City Pharma (26, rue du Four in the 6th) offers 30 to 40 percent off most popular brands. That means you can stock up on your favorite French and European labels like Weleda, Biotherm, Roc, Caudalie, Phyto, Vichy, Bioderma, Roger et Gallet … and even American brands like Neutrogena and John Frieda.
While we are talking ‘beauty’ and ‘travel’ you can even get a taste of Marrakech while visiting a Paris hammam. A twenty-minute metro ride to the posh Paris suburb of Boulogne takes you to Les Cent Ciels where for 40 euros, you have access to the hamman, sauna, relaxation lounges, restaurant and pool. Extra services include gommage, massage and facials. P.S. Most of the time, Les Cent Ciels (meaning ‘100 skies’) is exclusively for women, but some evenings and Sundays are co-ed.
Paris is also home to the largest flea market in the world at the Porte de Clignancourt, Les Puces de Saint-Ouen (“Les Puces”). With more than 17 acres (or 7 hectares), Les Puces is an all-day (or all-weekend) affair, and it can be overwhelming. You may want to consider hiring someone to take you through the market (or risk getting lost). Les Puces is open Saturdays (8:30am to 6:30pm), Sundays (10am to 6:30pm) and Mondays (10:30am to 5:30pm). Less intimidating is the Vanves flea market, which is open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 7am to 2pm.
Loud Note: Beware of pickpockets at all markets. They know that when you are busy shopping you are a perfect target. And the metro… or everywhere ….
More Tips ……
Paris is certainly home to many luxury hotels, but if you shop around, you can find some basic bargain sleeps. One of the oldest hotels, with a lovely and quiet prime central Paris location is the Hotel Henri IV on the Place Dauphine, which offers rooms from 60€ per night and includes breakfast. And if you don’t mind attending mass or spending some time in adoration, some churches offer affordable, albeit bare-bones, guest housing. Try Maison Eymard, just two blocks from the Arc du Triomphe, which offers singles, doubles and even triples from 32€ per night with breakfast! The Maison d’accueil Ephrem, the guesthouse of famed Sacre-Coeur Basilica in the charming Montmartre district offers basic rooms from 13€ per person, per night. Three meals per day are available at an extra cost.
Reasonable hotel in Marais district…
Travelled solo to Paris and through the internet found a great hotel in the Marais district — Hotel Paris Francel.
They’re located in the 3rd arrondisment about three blocks from the Republique Métro. This two-star renovated hotel has an elevator and breakfast room with quite reasonable rates. My room was a 6th floor corner room with doors that opened to a Juliet balcony on both front and side – also a window that actually opened in the updated bathroom (loved the hair dryer). English speaking staff handle the front desk, made phone calls for me and arranged for my transportation to airport. From the hotel you can stroll to Notre Dame Cathedral in about 20 minutes. In the Monoprix department store located on the street behind the hotel is a grocery store and deli counter (also ‘fun’ shopping in their cosmetic department). For me, Hotel Paris Francel was a great find and I would definitely return.
Eating out in France…
Now that you have your hotel tips, here’s a few dining out tips. Learn them well and your French waiter might even think he’s serving a local.
Flea markets that entice…
The original Marché aux Puces, or flea market, was born in Paris. Many an antiques shopper heads to Saint-Ouen, which is really a confusing jumble of many different markets in one, in search of French treasures. This famous market is huge, and as such, can be overwhelming, exhausting and quite expensive. Another smaller and more manageable option is the Vanves flea market, named for the nearby metro station. And just like any neighborhood yard sale, you’ll surely find the prices reasonable. The Village Saint-Paul, with its collection of over 200 antique shops on the peaceful cobblestone pedestrian-only streets in the Marais, is another alluring alternative.
Watch the sun reflect off the Seine…
Romance and Paris go hand in hand, and what could be more romantic than watching a beautiful sunset in a tranquil location? Whether you’re alone or with a special someone, head to the very tip of the west-facing Île de la Cité, which can be reached via a staircase near the statue of Henri IV on the Pont Neuf. At the bottom, you’ll find a park called the Square du Vert-Galant, which is one of the most idyllic spots in the city. Sit on one of the park benches that line the teardrop-shaped walkway or venture out to the edge of the stone landing. Dangle your feet off either side and take in the equally stunning panoramas of the right and left banks at dusk and watch the sun reflect off the Seine as it sets behind the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge.
Picture perfect picnic places…
One can’t travel to Paris and not partake in at least one picnic. One suggestion is to take a walk along the market street of Rue Cler, in the 7th arrondissement and pick up your provisions (like cheese, bread, fresh fruit and even wine!) at the shops and then stroll on over to the Champ de Mars and join the locals on the lush green lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. Enjoy your lunch or dinner with an up close view of the tower. Other popular picnic spots include the Luxembourg Gardens, the Tuileries, Place des Voges and Buttes Chaumont. Or you could always claim your own picturesque slice of quai along the banks of the Seine and watch the boats cruise by.
Organic in Paris…
Paris has many organic and vegetarian-friendly options for travelers. If you’re looking to shop for your own produce try one of the organic food markets in Paris – the Marché Biologique Batignolles,which is open Saturdays or the Marché Biologique Raspail, which is open Sundays. If a large supermarket is more your style, seek out chains like Biocoop and Naturalia. Organic breads, croissants and pastries are available at a Moisan boulangerie, which has locations all over the city. For a large selection of organic wines try Le Verre Vole in the 10th or La Cave des Papilles in the 14th. Those looking to dine out have options like Breizh Cafe, Au Grain de Folie and Le Potager du Marais. When shopping or studying menus, look for the words biologique or just simply bio when seeking out organic options.
Wine bars beckon mid-afternoon…
Most cafes, bistros and restaurants in Paris keep specific lunch and dinner hours. When you find yourself hungry during the off-times – head for a wine bar! Wine bars are a great place to try some wine-by-the-glass and delicious homemade fare in a casual, convivial setting. Generally speaking they are open longer hours, so they make a perfect spot for food in between lunch and dinner hour when everything else is closed. Tips? try Taverne Henri IV or Willi’s Wine Bar – both in the 1st, La Cremerie in the 5th and La Baron Rouge in the 12th.
Paris museums are a must…
Paris has no shortage of museums, but admission prices can add up. To save money, travelers should definitely check into the Paris museum pass, but do the math to see if it’s the best value for your situation. Those traveling on a tight budget will delight in knowing that some Paris museums are actually free to visit! The Musée de la Vie Romantique, Musée Coqnacq-Jay, Maison du Balzac, Maison du Victor Hugo and Le Petit Palais are just a few. But don’t miss a free visit to Paris’s fabulous history museum, the Musée Carnavalet, which is not only housed is a spectacular building with a beautifully manicured courtyard, but displays historical treasures like Marie Antoinette’s slippers and Napolean’s toiletries. Most of the national museums also have free days – usually the first Sunday of the month.
Aperitifs with a view…
When in Paris you must take part in cocktail hour; enjoy your drink otherwise known as aperitif. Since Paris boasts such gorgeous backdrops, I recommend you take your aperitif with a view! Next time you’re in Paris near the I’le Saint- Louis, stroll over the Pont au Double bridge toward the left bank and hop aboard the Kiosque Flottant, a floating barge docked right on the Quai de Montebello, with a prime view of Notre-Dame in the background. Aim to stay from dusk to darkness to behold the cathedral which takes on a magical glow when illuminated by floodlights. You can also enjoy drinks while watching the lights from the Eiffel Tower flicker, from the terrace of the Cafe de l’Homme.
Searching for souvenirs…
Souvenir shopping is a favorite pastime in Paris. Food always makes a great gift and Paris has no shortage of gourmet shops to find yummy treasures. Big name shops like Fauchon and Hediard are good options, but so are the epiceries in department stores like Galleries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché. Those with a sweet tooth should try macarons from the famed Ladurée or Pierre Hermé or some decadent artisan chocolate or caramels from Jacques Genin. Visit E. Dehillerin for culinary tools and copper pots or a branch of La Vaissellerie if you have an obsession with white porcelain tableware. If vintage art or books are more your style, shop the bouquinistes – the large green stalls that line the walls on both banks of the Seine, near the city center.
Note: Whilst shopping at La Fayyette do take some time to go to the 7th floor to see Paris city panorama for free!
Shopping in Paris – She Gets the Best Deals
I bet there are a lot of people who still believe that Paris is the most expensive city in the world (not true!) and that there is little or next to nothing that they can afford to bring home, apart from an Eiffel Tower key chain and a bottle of Chanel No.5.
I can prove to you that by taking tips from the French themselves, visitors to Paris can come home feeling both chic and happy knowing their checking accounts haven’t gone into the red.
While it’s certainly true that you can limit your shopping to the posh streets of Paris and stick to such global brands as Hermes, Vuitton and Dior, you will only end up buying what you find in other major financial capitals, and you certainly won’t have the kind of fun that comes from venturing off the beaten track.
Timing is important…
Location and timing are crucial aspects of shopping for the best deals in Paris. Some of the best deals are in the least expected places. For instance, if you shop at an open-air food market, it’s a good idea to go mid-week, when it is less crowded and the prices are lower. Make a point of shopping a half-hour before the market shuts down (12:30 p.m. instead of 1p.m.), because the stall keepers will often offer some great bargains to unload leftover merchandise.
My favorite food market is the Marché Richard-Lenoir, near the place de la Bastille, the most lively and animated market in Paris. If you love mushrooms, they have the widest array in the city including wild cepes and chanterelles. They also have a little United Nations of takeout food, including specialities from North and West Africa. Yum!
The Paris Flea Market…
If you shop at the Paris Flea Market, go early in the morning when you get the pick of the best merchandise. (This is when the dealers tend to go as well). The best day of the week to shop is on Monday, when dealers want to unload all the weekend’s unsold merchandise. If you don’t speak French and don’t know your way around the Flea Market (the largest in the world), it’s a good idea to go with a professional shopper who will negotiate and later help ship your treasures home.
The Paris Flea Market remains the best place to buy antiques in Paris. It is virtually a “free-trade zone” at the gates of Paris, in a working-class district, where the rents are low, and the merchants manage to avoid paying lots of taxes. This is because they run a primarily cash-driven business. Don’t want to walk around with a wad of cash? Have no fear — you can go to various change outlets, and obtain cash against your bank card.
P.S. Do bring a tape measure to the market, as well as swatches of material from home that will help. This way, if you decide on a wonderful find, you’ll know that when it arrives at your house, it fits into your decor and doesn’t overwhelm the room.
When it comes to small items that you’ve purchased, it’s a good idea to carry them on the plane with you. Always remember to pack a smaller suitcase within a suitcase – so you have room to carry your treasures home.
Fashion finds at food markets…
Food markets are not just for selling food — they also have merchants that sell wonderful fashion accessories, including handbags and carry-on luggage, as well as scarves and even cashmere pashminas. Last year, I purchased a lovely lined raw silk turquoise tunic and a shocking pink cashmere and silk pashmina at my local market on theBoulevard de Grenelle, for less than half of what I might have paid in a department store. Many of these merchants import directly from India and Nepal, bring back the merchandise in a suitcase, and sell it in an open-air market, thus saving on a middleman or two. Okay, so it isn’t the Galeries Lafayette — but isn’t this more fun?
Bras, lipsticks, sweaters and jeans…
I also am a big fan of the Monoprix chain, where under a single roof you can find all sorts of goodies, ranging from gourmet food gifts to lovely silk scarves that are virtually Hermes knockoffs.
On my most recent trip, I bought some lovely matching bras and panty sets on sale, fine cotton ribbed socks and some lipstick by the same company that makes Chanel products for half the price. (I’m not allowed to say which company!). If you have long hair that you like to tie back in a bow, or wear with a headband, Monoprix is also your best bet for both quality and price. Even their sweaters and jeans are nice for casual wear, and their children’s clothing is definitely worth looking at. Best of all, the size of these stores (which are in every arrondissement in Paris) is do-able — unlike department stores, which tend to be exhausting.
Les soldes and designer resales…
Most people don’t realize this, but thirty percent of the retail sales in Paris are done during a six-week biannual period, called “les soldes” (the sales). They usually start the first week in January, and in the second week in June. If you are enterprising and love French clothes, try to schedule a week in Paris to get the best deals on designer clothes and accessories. Or if you can’t schedule in a trip during those times, head for the designer resale shops where you can find gently used clothes and accessories by Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, and Sonia Rykiel, to name a few. My favorite outlets of this type include Griff’troc (17, Boulevard de Courcelles) on the Right Bank and Chercheminippes (110, rue de Cherchemidi) on the Left Bank.
Gifts for the men in your life…
While many would argue that Paris is a woman’s city, don’t think the needs of men are overlooked. Not only are there wonderful discount designer men’s wear stores, but there are shops selling fine custom-made shirts for less than $100 such as JLR Paris, and ready-to-wear shirts for less than $35 (Ray R. Club), sewn with finest Pima cotton. The discerning man will also be delighted with the selection of stores selling cigars, desktop accessories, sailing gear, fishing gear and gourmet cookware.
Culturally correct dress…
So what’s the down side of shopping in Paris? Two things: the sizes do run smaller than those in North America or the United Kingdom. The sales help can often be indifferent and even rude. To brace yourself for shopping in Paris, try to be as chic as some Parisians — while you don’t have to dress to kill, it’s a good idea to dress smart, and favor slacks and blazers over jeans and sweatshirts or tee-shirts. Women should make up lightly, and men should be well groomed.
French shopping etiquette…
Keep in mind basic shopping etiquette. “Bonjour (hello), s’il vous plait (please), and merci (thank you), au revoir (good bye)” go a very, very long way. When in doubt, ask “parlez-vous anglais? (do you speak English?)” When you walk into a shop, please avoid touching the displays. Ditto for fine food stores, such as Fauchon, unless it’s very clear that it’s self-service.
There’s nothing more gauche than walking into an antique store with a backpack.
Why, pay attention to all these niceties? It so happens that in France, a shop isn’t a moneymaking machine, but an extension of the storeowner’s personal space. Shopkeepers are watchful and tend to favor their regular customers over walk-in trade. Many have invested their life-savings into their small operation, and barely break even. But they are passionate about what they do, whether it’s offering homemade chocolate shaped into a colorful painter’s palette or an Eiffel Tower, or selling a custom-made hat that makes you feel like Greta Garbo or Audrey Hepburn. Often their mouthwatering displays are works of art in themselves. I have stopped counting the number of times when I have said the Flea Market is the only museum in the world where you can go shopping. And all of these things make shopping like the French an unforgettable experience, warranting many return visits to Paris.
……. and for your convienient,
Check the Visitors and Convention Bureau site…
Paris has one of the most helpful, informative and user friendly Visitors and Convention Bureau websites I have come across. The site is chock full of info about Paris’s museums, concerts, shows, special events, art galleries and exhibits and holiday happenings. You can also find up-to-date information on maps and transportation, new hotels, shops, clubs, restaurants and spa openings in the city. It’s a fabulous resource and great starting point for anyone looking to visit Paris!
Visit them at http://en.parisinfo.com/.