It’s no secret that I love Paris and have visited many times. I first ventured there when I was twenty – one and fell in love with the beauty, history and romance of this magnificent city. Here are just a few of the highlights from our recent 2023 trip to Paris.
1. Le Calife Bistro Boat
Our first cruise on Le Calife, an authentic French cruising restaurant, was for my forty – eighth birthday. It had been recommended by some Parisian friends. Even Parisians celebrate their special occasions on this boat! We’ve been coming back for over ten years, and it never disappoints. We absolutely loved it and always recommend this warm and unique experience to every one of our friends and family who visit Paris. You have a wonderful view of the city lights in a romantic setting and the food and wine is beautiful. Passengers can cruise for lunch or dinner. My pick is seeing the City of Light and Love by night. It is a special experience. My most recommended must do when in Paris.
2. Galeries Lafayette and Samaritaine
Both of these shops are historically significant and architecturally beautiful, as well as wonderful shopping experiences. Visit the Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann rooftop for the views. In Samaritaine you can book in for a meal at Voyage, the glass roofed restaurant on the 5 th floor. Guided heritage tours, shopping experiences and fashion shows can also be booked. I always love to shop on my travels and it’s lovely to take home a little piece of Paris from one of these magnificent department stores.
3. Le Village Saint – Paul
This quaint historic village is filled with antique shops, galleries, designers, vintage fashion, historic monuments and hidden squares. In the heart of the historic Marais district, it’s a haven of peace and tranquility. Explore the maze of cobble stoned streets and enjoy a quiet meal in one of the many hidden away cafés and restaurants.
4. Fashion Museums
The recently opened Le Galerie Dior is exquisite. Sharing a history of the designer and the House of Dior you can expect an archive of Dior couture pieces spanning over 70 years. The installations are stylish, sprawling over several levels. I booked a ticket before even leaving Australia and didn’t have to queue as it was for the first booking of the day.
Enjoy a coffee or lunch at the restaurant before you leave and browse the special Avenue Montaigne Dior store. The Musee Yves Saint Laurent is another must do experience for the fashion lover in Paris. This lovely museum shares the life and fashions of this iconic designer and his fashion house. His studio set up was amazing and had us enthralled. Although smaller than Dior, it was less busy which made for a wonderful experience. I booked online the day before and we walked straight in. A marvellous place to while away a few hours.
One of the oldest Roman streets in Paris this lovely strip is filled with shops, restaurants, cafés, bars and history. See the fountain from iconic film – Midnight in Paris or head to happy hour in this student quarter. It’s always cheap and lively. We always dine at Le Maison de Verlaine for its authentic bistro food, cheap fixed price menus and history. It’s a quaint setting where Hemingway lived and wrote – A Moveable Feast and where poet, Paul Verlaine spent his last days in the poverty room upstairs. Tiny restaurant, Le Verre a Pied was featured in the movie, Amelie. During the day you can visit the markets or buy a book, maybe some artisan jewellery in one of the bespoke shops lining the streets. Head to the nearby Arenes de Lutece for a fascinating look at ancient Roman ruins right in the heart of Paris. It’s a real hidden gem. Once you’ve visited Rue Mouffetard and the surrounding area you will be back again.
Everyone knows and loves the iconic Shakespeare and Company bookstore in the Latin Quarter where you can buy a stamped book, write a secret message upstairs or head to one of the many free author talks. Yet right nearby is the tightly packed Canadian bookstore, The Abbey Bookshop. Its floor to ceiling shelves are a treasure trove for book lovers. Found in an historic setting, it’s crammed full of new and secondhand books. Don’t miss the basement! I also love browsing through Librairie Galignani on the Rue de Rivoli. It has a great selection of French and English books in a sprawling space. Bonus points for heading to nearby Angelina for a famous Mont Blanc cake and rich hot chocolate.
7. Exhibitions – Pompidou Centre
I’ve only been to the Pompidou Centre twice. Both times have been for fabulous exhibitions, first an Andy Warhol retrospective in the 80’s and more recently Picasso. The building is a sight to see in itself and when I first saw this modern art gallery it was still being maligned as a blight on the skyline. Fast forward to 2023 and it is now a well-loved landmark and home to Europe’s largest collection of modern and contemporary art. The views from the top floor are a must see. You’ll need to be quick if you want to visit as it will be closing in 2025 for five years of renovation work.
8. Le Petit Chatelet
This is a favourite restaurant. Found in the Latin Quarter, right near Shakespeare and Company, this restaurant by the Seine has great views of Notre Dame when sitting outside or upstairs. Inside this family – owned business is cosy and inviting. You’ll be wedged in close to your neighbour but that adds to the fun. Choose from the blackboard menu which is filled with classic French dishes. We chose a three-course menu which was reasonably priced and delicious. I delighted in a puffy goat cheese tart with pesto sauce, duck with honey sauce and to end a refreshing blackcurrant sorbet. My husband loved his foie gras, steak cooked over the fire and a duo of crème brûlée – raspberry and passionfruit for dessert. The real showstopper is the Crepe Suzette which is torched at the table with its flames almost licking the ceiling. This is one Paris restaurant that never disappoints.
9. Concert in an Historic Church
We were lucky enough to be seated front row for a Symphony Concert in one of the oldest churches in Paris, Saint Julien- le- Pauvre. This church was built in the 12 th century. These concerts are regular events, and the orchestra was amazing. With special guest
performances from Opera singer, Olga from the Paris Opera and a sensational young violinist from the Conservatorium, the audience from around the world were on their feet for a standing ovation. The musicians gave us a taste of all our Symphony favourites from Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and more in an unforgettable setting. A night to remember!
10. Walking Tours
One of our favourite ways to get a feel for a city is to join a walking tour. We’ve done a literary walking tour of Paris and a famous landmarks of Paris walk. On this trip, we enjoyed a tour of the Latin Quarter. Starting at the world famous, Odette (which specialises in cream puffs) we passed famous landmarks like the Sorbonne, The Pantheon, The Museum of Cluny and the home of Emily… when she is in Paris. Along the way we found out where to buy the best croissants, baguettes and the sites of fabulous morning markets. Our student guide, Margaux gave us an insight into the education system in Paris and shared knowledge that only a true Parisian would know. A lovely way to get to know Paris, ramp your steps up and while away a few hours. You can always head back and revisit your favourite landmarks more thoroughly after the tour.
These are just a few of our favourites and I hope I’ve encouraged you to start planning your next trip to this most vibrant of cities. I love Paris in the Autumn, but also in the Spring, Summer and Winter. There really is no bad time to go to Paris. There really is so much to explore in every season for every reason.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).