Set up base
The Seine is viewed by locals as one of Paris’ most beautiful “boulevards”, and the river links all the major tourist attractions. For ease of movement, book a room in a hotel or bed and breakfast close to the banks to avoid inner-city, rush-hour traffic jams, which can be formidable, especially during school holidays. Citizen M Gare de Lyon; Mandarin Oriental Paris
A year in the life of...
The Musée National Picasso on Rue de Thorigny is hosting a retrospective of the artist’s work, focused on a single year of his oeuvre. I really gained a true sense of the massive amount of work that Pablo Picasso produced during his life as I absorbed the sheer scale of this exhibition.
The galleries are filled with paintings, sculptures, letters, and various parts of the life of one of the 20th century’s most prolific and influential artists. Many of the works on display pay homage to, and were inspired by, Picasso’s great love and muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter.
Just off the famous but tourist-filled Trocadero, in the RadioFrance broadcast centre, you’ll find RadioEat. Enjoy views of the Seine and the Eiffel tower while chef Thierry Bassard serves up contemporary takes on traditional fare in this unconventional, cafeteria-inspired eatery.
A passion project
A short taxi drive from the river along the Boulevard des Malesherbes in the direction of the Parc Monceau will take you out to the 17th Arrondissement. La Fabrique Generale, owned by Christophe and Cerise Benoist Lucy, is tucked away on the Rue Leon Cosnard. Christophe has a passion for vintage motorbikes, which he upcycles and sells to a dedicated client base, while Cerise lovingly creates vibrantly coloured felt hats by hand. Their little shop is worth a visit, if only for the eclectic mix of objets trouvés that they have assembled over the years. It’s like visiting a great collector’s home.
A palace of art
The Grand Palais, Paris’ Beaux-Arts masterpiece built in 1897, is located just off Avenue Winston Churchill, in the 8th Arrondissement. The soaring glass-and-steel vault allows light to flood the vast interior, which on most days of the week will be filled with artists, the well-heeled, and your average Parisian taking in the latest exhibition or performance. I was lucky enough to catch the opening night of the annual FIAC (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain) art fair and hob-nobbed with the rich and famous while enjoying art from hundreds of galleries from all over the world.
Some of the most breathtakingly beautiful apartment blocks, shops, and hotels in Paris line the shady, tree-lined Avenue Marceau, which winds its way through the Chaillot and Champs-Élysées districts. It’s here that you’ll find the showroom and workshop of Yves Saint Laurent, an icon of haute couture. Laurent is arguably most famous for his relaxed approach to fashion for women (think beatnik 1960s), and the newly inaugurated museum on Avenue Marceau is where the designer and his team worked on their new lines in preparation for fashion week, and entertained their best clients in style. museeyslparis.com
For art and architecture lovers, no visit to Paris is complete without an excursion to Frank Gehry’s wonder in the Bois de Boulogne park on the edge of old Paris. The Fondation Louis Vuitton soars above the greenery like a galleon in full sail, and Gehry used cutting-edge 21st century technology in the design and building process. Fittingly, it now houses some of the 20th century’s finest modern art, on loan from MoMA in New York. Be prepared to take at least half a day to see everything. From Cézanne and Pollock to Brâncusi and Warhol, there’s a lot to absorb, so take your time.
Guitry is sure to impress, if The Phantom of the Opera is your thing. It’s located in a renovated, functional theatre that still retains much of its turn-of-the-century charm. I particularly enjoyed its take on a traditional tarte aux pommes. theatreedouard7.com
Shop till you drop
Devotees of luxury will already know all about the famous Place Vendôme. It’s here that you’ll find international watch, jewellery, and fashion brands including Cartier, Bulgari, Patek Philippe, and Louis Vuitton. Take your time and browse: you’re sure to find the perfect gift for someone special. A stone’s throw away is the Rue Cambon, where Coco Chanel established her first boutique at number 31. The maverick fashionista was known to frequently pop down to Angelina on Rue de Rivoli to refresh herself with a cup of the most delicious hot chocolate in Paris, made with cocoa from Niger, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast (ask for the chocolat africain and they’ll know exactly what you want). Get your hot chocolate as a takeaway and spend the late afternoon people-watching on a bench in the Jardin des Tuileries across the road.
Dinner and a show
Just across the river, near the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Montparnasse district is well known for its multitude of vibey cafes and restaurants, and was a famous hangout for artists at the turn of the 20th century. The Théâtre de la Gaîté-Montparnasse is a listed historical monument and hosts regular nightly performances.