Long Weekend: Our top travel guide to Paris

Words by
Flora Drummond-Smith

30th April 2019

With the Rive Gauche undergoing something of a renaissance, it’s worth rediscovering the French capital, from culture and shopping to the best restaurants

With its winding cobbled streets, majestic honey-hued architecture, world-renowned culture and characterful cafés, Paris is indefinitely alluring. And following the re-opening of the Hotel Lutetia, the Rive Gauche is undergoing a renaissance, marking
a chic new chapter of the area’s storied past.

STAY

Rising like an ocean liner from Boulevard Raspail, Hotel Lutetia is a century-old Parisian institution. Marking the stylish revival of Paris’s storied Rive Gauche, the famed hotel reopened last summer following a four-year revamp. Combining original Art Nouveau and Art Deco features with contemporary furniture and finishes, interiors are pristine. Enjoy a drink in the magnificent Bar Joséphine, which features a recovered floor-to-ceiling 1910 Art Nouveau fresco, while bags are ferreted away to your room by ultra-attentive staff. Styled in rich navy or beige colours, rooms are chic with Murano glass light fixtures, dark parquet floors and enormous beds; keeping things satisfyingly contemporary, small wall-mounted tablets — this is not a hotel for the tech-adverse — are fitted throughout to control everything from the lights, curtains and temperature.

Bar Josephine at Hotel Lutetia
Bar Josephine at Hotel Lutetia

Bar Josephine at Hotel Lutetia

A swim in the long, marble-decked pool — which offers glimpses of the bustling boulevard outside —  is a virtuous way to kick off the morning, allowing you to make the most of the breakfast buffet, which includes an extensive array of cheese including pungent shavings of tête de moine, alongside cold meats, fruit and bite-sized buttery pastries; the chaussons aux pommes are a must.

Old-school opulence is still firmly de rigueur at the elegant Le Bristol Paris. Resplendent with chandeliers, heavy tapestries and polished marble floors, Le Bristol is as timeless and stately as it is welcoming, with friendly staff and a resident Burmese cat, who can often be found slumbering on a velvet armchair in the lobby. Every detail is explored: fresh lemon-drizzle madeleines crowned with gold leaf and a silver tray of handmade chocolates in rooms are a thoughtful welcome, mirrored wardrobes are capacious and street-facing rooms with balconies are furnished with a table and chairs for your morning coffee with a view of the Eiffel Tower. In the bathroom, Bamford products and an embroidered head pillow in the marble bath make for the ultimate soak.

Le Bristol Paris
Le Bristol Paris

Le Bristol Paris

Breakfasts at Le Bristol are fit for a king. If you have time for a leisurely morning, order room service for plates of creamy scrambled eggs and toast or truffled eggs benedict, a basket of viennoiseries and a thick cup of hot chocolate à l’ancienne.

EAT AND DRINK

Dining in Paris is always an art form. At the Lutetia’s Le Saint Germain restaurant, diners sit bathed in dappled, coloured light from the bright artwork created by artist Fabrice Hyber that adorns the historic glass ceiling. Feast on scrumptious dishes such as the surprising oeuf 63° — named after the apparently perfect temperature to cook an egg — which is inky black with truffle and mushrooms under an airy citrus emulsion, or roasted lamb loin delicate with notes of orange blossom and candied lemon polenta.

Lutetia's Saint Germain
Lutetia's Saint Germain

Lutetia's Saint Germain

A walk up the jostling Champs-Elysées is worth the effort when it is rewarded by lunch at Fouquet’s. Dressed in dark, rich hues and plush velvets and with the air of a private club, it is a favourite haunt of French politicians and celebrities alike. Have lunch at the hotel’s namesake restaurant for classic French fare done well. Or, if the weather is fair, ask for a table in the garden at Le Joy restaurant — which reopens after refurbishment in April — and dine on light tuna poké bowls washed down with a glass of Veuve Clicquot.

Afternoon tea at the sumptuous Café Antonia at Le Bristol is a delightful affair. Towering plates of delectable toasted bread sandwiches bursting with such fillings as veal with rocket, sundried tomatoes with tzatziki and aubergine, or chicken, egg, salad, and tomato come accompanied by fruit cake and delicate French tarts, including the traditional chestnut purée and meringue montblanc. And, with more than 12 fine teas on the menu, from fragrant jasmine green tea to blends with notes of lavender or chestnut to choose from, each brew is as outstanding as the pastries.

Café Antonia at Le Bristol
Café Antonia at Le Bristol

Café Antonia at Le Bristol

CULTURE

Of course, you could nip into Le Musée d’Orsay to drink in impressionist wonders, or pay a visit to the Mona Lisa at the infamous Louvre, but to get under the skin of a painting you can’t beat Atelier des Lumières — Paris’s first digital museum of fine art, which will be displaying its second installement of immersive art produced by Culturespaces — Van Gogh, La Nuit Etoilée until 31 December. Combining panoramic, large-scale visuals with music, the exhibition transports visitors “inside” the artist’s work.

SHOP

Located at the heart of Saint-Germain, the supremely upscale department store Le Bon Marché is the ultimate shopping destination. Go for brands such as Hermès, Mary Katrantzou and Jacquemus, and discover gems such as Aurelie Bidderman, Alice Balas and La Prestic Ouiston. If food shopping is on your list, next door is Le Grand Epicerie de Paris where you can pick up anything from jewel-hued macarons to Périgord black truffle foie gras.

Fouquet's
Fouquet's

Fouquet's

The well-heeled gent might prefer Matthew & Cookson, which stocks velvet slippers embroidered with anything from yellow emojis to flags and cocktail glasses. Or, if you favour shrubs over shoes, Le Prince Jardinier on rue du Bac is a must. Piled high with illustrated gardening books and secateurs, it is a verdant treasure trove.

Eurostar runs daily trains from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. From £58.