the essential Paris travel guide & map
Finally, the essential Paris travel guide & map are here! Two years ago Matt & I came to Paris. Fast forward to now, and we’ve fallen in love with the city, rented an apartment, and call Paris home 6 months out of the year. Eula took her first bite of food here, her first steps here, and celebrated her first birthday here. It’s become our second home. And I’ve gotten to know it so well, though it’s forever full of surprises. Below I’ve given you my Paris travel tips for the first-timer along with my favorite stays, coffee, eats, drinks, and shops. And I’ve included a free map of the most Instagrammable photography spots in Paris… because I miiiiight know a thing or two about that! The map also has my favorite eats & shops on it, and you can use it on your phone! It’s the perfect companion to a trip to Paris or planning one!
When people ask me “Why Paris?”, all I can really say is because when I look up, it makes me happy. Because my daily errands are more beautiful. Because I can buy a real époisses. Because when I’m surrounded by iron street lamps and Haussmannian rooftops and toy chimneys, I am, it seems, a little lighter. And I am not, by nature, light. I’m, if left to my own devices, an anxious person. And while I subscribe to the old adage, “It’s not where you are, it’s who you are”, I do find where I am can be the icing on the cake provided I’m doing well.
Given the wrong mindset, I can be miserable in Paris or paradise. We all could. But given that I am, on the whole these days, content & ever striving towards a reasonable assessment of the fear & sense of urgency that plague me regardless of circumstance, I find myself generally happy here in our fourth-floor walk-up come heatwave or snow, both of which we’ve been here for. I prefer the snow.
Paris, I think, is a mirror. If you’re young and wild, she’ll be young and wild. If you’re old and stodgy, she can meet you there as well. If you’re like me and decidedly (one hopes) neither, there’s that too. I spend most of my time in the admittedly bourgie neighborhood of the Marais where we live or working at a co-working space nearby. I rarely adventure to the left bank, though I’ve nothing against it. In the spring I look forward to taking Eula to Luxembourg Gardens to rent a toy sailboat to float on the Grand Bassin duck pond.
My favorite moments thus far have been spent tucked in some cozy café/bar/bistro with my husband or a dear friend, walking along or over the Seine, finding myself near the Louvre and glimpsing it without stopping while buying a power cord one day, magic hour when the streets glow, my morning walk to coffee, and buying flowers & vegetables at the market for supper.
For those wondering, we don’t have a visa, and because we travel so much, we don’t need one. If we ever walk down that road, I’ll be sure to share all about it! As it stands, we spend 3 months here every 6 months, which is how much we are allowed to be in Schengen as Americans. For us & our weird life we crafted, it works perfectly!
Paris Travel Tips
- Learn the basics. Most Parisians do speak a little English, but you’re going to get a much warmer welcome if you make an attempt with French. Just being able to say “hello”, “goodbye”, “please”, “excuse me”, “do you speak, English?”, and “thank you” is better than nothing! English has become the international language, especially in capital cities like Paris. You can use it, but don’t be a jerk about it or assume everyone speaks it.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes. You’re going to do a LOT of walking if you’re doing it right. Be sensible and chic a la the Parisians and opt for a leather ankle boot…or some good looking trainers! Americans aren’t the only ones sporting sneakers these days.
- Carry cash. A few places are cash only, so don’t get caught empty handed!
- Keep your wits about you in the metro. There are pickpockets, so stay aware of your surroundings especially late at night. I’ve never had a problem, but I know people who’ve had run-ins.
- Don’t bust out your laptop at a café, especially on the weekend, instead look for “co-working” spaces if you plan to sit and work. You pay by the hour but the drinks are free.
- Tipping isn’t much of a thing but there’s nothing wrong with a small tip or throwing your change in a tip jar at a coffee shop.
- Not all restaurants are child friendly though most are. Call or email ahead if you’re unsure.
- Just because they aren’t smiling and hugging doesn’t mean they hate you. Okay, they might hate you, but even friendly Parisians aren’t usually effusive (unless they’re from elsewhere…which many of them are!) And they can be very direct. Don’t take it personally. We’ve found it to be, generally, a very friendly city!
- French schedules are weird. Always double-check hours online. And even if it says they’re open, don’t be shocked if they’re closed.
- The entire city shuts down in August for les vacancies. It’s not the best time to visit unless you want quiet and don’t care if a lot of places are closed.
Places to Stay in Paris
- Apartments Actually
- Hotel Paradis
- Hotel Henriette
- Hotel Emile
- AirBnB – We love le Marais!
- Le Citizen
- Hotel Particulier
The Best Specialty Coffee in Paris
- Fragments Cafe – beautiful craft coffee and avo toast that’s the stuff of legends. Also, their chocolate cookie. If you’re looking to run into people you know (or know of!), Fragments is the place. Angle for the “Instagram” table by the window! Open 7 days a week, Monday-Friday 8 AM – 6 PM & Saturday and Sunday 10 AM – 6 PM.
- Boot Cafe – with their iconic blue storefront, Boot is an Instagram favorite, and they also serve Elephant(no Illy here!) A great place to grab a quick cup (and snap a photo!) a emporter as you explore the Marais.
- Loustic – our neighborhood favorite for craft coffee. I’ve been here at least three times this week—the food is as good as the coffee. AND if you’re lucky, catch them on Saturday’s for a breakfast burrito. Monday-Friday 8:30 am – 6 PM, Saturday 9:30 AM – 6 pm, Sunday 10 AM – 6PM.
- Neighbours – a small little café with pretty terazzo tiles on the bustling Boulevard Beaumarchais. They serve delicious espresso drinks and small bites. I’m obsessed with the granola bowl. Open seven days a week, Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM – 6PM & Saturday-Sunday, 9:30 AM – 6 PM.
- Radio Days – a quiet, calm little café with beautiful craft coffee. Open Monday, Wednesday-Friday 8:30 AM – 5 PM, Saturday-Sunday 10 AM – 6 PM. Closed on Tuesdays!
- Telescope – another specialty coffee purveyor in Paris. If you take your brews seriously, this is another stop for you. Monday-Friday 8:30 AM – 5 PM, Saturday 9:30 AM – 6:30 PM. Closed on Sundays!
Best Eats in Paris – Breakfast / Brunch / Juice Bar / Lunch
- Holybelly – wildly popular brunch spot with a decidedly Aussie bent with French flair (which means good coffee and food!)—arrive early or at off-hours if you aren’t prepared to wait in a line! Open 7 days a week, 9 AM – 5 PM with the last orders taken at 4 PM. No reservations.
- Candelaria – Candelaria is many things, but they also happen to have a killer Sunday brunch. Grab some huevos rancheros and a slushy margarita for a departure from the classic croissant & café. Open daily. Taqueria is open 12 PM – 10:30 PM Sunday-Wednesday, 12 PM-11:30 PM Thursday-Saturday, bar open 6 PM – 2 AM. Reservations recommended for a table in the bar and for a table for Sunday brunch.
- Le Petit Marcel – a classic little brasserie with a lovely skillet of eggs & bacon, delicious pastries, and very traditional coffees (i.e. not specialty), also open for lunch and dinner. Open 8:30 AM – 12:15 AM daily. No reservations.
- Buvette – the sister location of Buvette NYC and Tokyo, this is one of the most beautiful brunches in Paris—piles of fluffy scrambled eggs & thinly shaved ham, a croque madame to die for, and all manner of other deliciousness. Open 8 AM – 12 AM Monday – Friday and 10 AM – 12 AM Saturday & Sunday. No reservations.
- Ellsworth – A classy little Sunday brunch spot that also does lunch and dinner (see below) Sunday Brunch 11:30 AM to 3 PM
- Frenchie to Go– satisfying brunch classics like Eggs Benedict and killer takes on American treats like pulled pork sandwich, reubens, and a lobster roll. Breakfast/brunch until 11:30 AM only. Open daily: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
- Ob-la-di – a photogenic little tea shop in the heart of the Marais. Opens 8 AM – 5 PM Monday – Friday and 9 AM – 5 PM Saturday & Sunday
- Season – a juice serving, moringa pancake slinging healthyish diner-style café. Open Monday-Saturday: 8:30 AM – 1 AM, Sunday 8:30 AM – 7 PM. The kitchen closes at 4 PM on Sundays.
- Wild & The Moon- One of our favorite cold press juice & vegan food joints. A healthyish favorite for sure. I’m obsessed with their mylks! The Blue Star & the Hollyweed one are my faves. Hours vary by location. Check the website!
- Otium – a gorgeous cold press juice bar in the 9th. Tuesday – Saturday 9:30am – 6pm
- Miznon – the best pita of your life—a MUST eat, don’t miss the famous whole roasted cauliflower! Sunday – Thursday 12 PM – 11 PM, Friday 12 PM – 3:30 Pm, Closed Saturdays
Best Restaurants In Paris – Dinner
- Au Passage – Rock & roll vibes, small plates, modern food, creative & delicious flavor pairings. Order the things you might normally be afraid of (like duck heart or tripe) because you’ll love it here. Also a great spot for natural wine. Reservation recommended. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 7 PM – 1:30 AM. Closed Monday and Sunday.
- Septime – one of our all-time favorite meals (in the world). A reservation is a must & should be made far in advance. If you have a local friend willing to stop by in person and can be flexible with dates, that’s best. We often go for lunch as it’s cheaper, awesome, and a little easier to get in. Wine pairing is a must if you’re a wine lover. Open Monday 7:30 Pm – 10 PM, Tuesday-Friday 12:15 PM – 2 PM & 7:30 PM – 10 PM, and closed Saturday and Sunday!
- Clamato – seafood lovers heaven, owned by the same group that does Septime. Love this spot for dinner or pre-dinner oysters and something refreshing to drink. Wednesday-Friday 7 PM – 11 PM, Saturday and Sunday 12 PM – 11 PM, Closed Monday and Tuesday!
- Verjus – a modern bistro with fresh, creative tasting menus. Say hi to Rob in the kitchen for us! Reservations required. Monday-Friday 7 PM – 11 PM, Closed Saturday and Sunday!
- Frenchie – Another beautiful, modern bistro. One of our favorites. In fact, it’s been too long since we’ve been here. Gotta get back soon! Reservations required. Open Monday-Friday 6:30 PM – 10 PM, and 12 PM – 2 PM also on Thursday and Friday!
- Frenchie Wine Bar – the more laid back, walk-in friendly sister to Frenchie serving up addictive, high brow comfort food like pastas. Open 7 days a week 6:30 PM until 11 PM! No reservations needed.
- Shu – A taste of Japan in Paris. Like being transported to Kyoto. I dream of the ochazuke. Open Monday-Saturday 6:30 PM – 11:30 PM. Closed on Sundays. Reservations recommended!
- Ellsworth – Modern bistro fare in a cozy setting. I recently had some of the best fried chicken of my life there, and that’s coming from a Southerner. Open Monday 7 PM – 10:30 PM, Tuesday-Saturday 12:30 PM- 2:30 PM & 7 PM – 10:30 PM, and Sundays 11:30 AM – 3 PM! Reservations recommended!
- Le Grand Bain – Hip, small plates bistro in the 19th from a former chef of Au Passage. From sea snails to lamb shoulder to things like gourgeres covered in melting lardo, this place is the best for a fun night out with friends. Don’t miss the panisse & a bottle of natural wine. One of our favorite date night spots—tell Ed and his impossibly cool wife, Zoe, hi! Open 7 days a week from 7 PM – 11:30 PM!
- Le Mary Celeste – A laid back oyster bar with a great cocktail program & small plates from the homies that brought us Candelaria—best enjoyed by ordering sundries and sharing them with friends. Open 7 days a week from 6 PM – 2 AM! Reservations recommended!
- Le Petit Celestin – The place to go for classic dishes like boeuf bourguignon and tartare and a super energetic, fun vibe. Closed Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday-Friday 8 AM- 12 AM, Saturday & Sunday 10 AM – 2 AM
- Chez L’Ami Jean – Another classic spot serving up traditional French fare. Open Tuesday-Saturday 12 PM – 2 PM, 7 PM – 11 PM. Closed Monday and Sunday.
- Les Philosophes – my favorite French Onion soup in the city. Open 7 days a week 9 AM – 2 AM
- Robert et Louise – meat and potatoes, Paris style. Come here for the blazing hearth (where the meat is cooked), and don’t miss the escargot! It’s my favorite. Closed Mondays, Tuesday and Wednesday 7 PM – 11 PM, Thursday and Friday 12 PM – 3 Pm & 7 PM – 11 PM, Saturday 12 PM – 3 PM & 6 PM – 11 PM, and Sunday 12 PM – 11 PM.
- Dersou – Japanese French food in the heart of Paris with a sophisticated cocktail pairing. A personal favorite! Open Tuesday-Friday 7:30 PM – 10:30 PM, Saturday 12 PM – 3 PM & 7:30 PM – 10:30 PM, and Sunday 12 PM – 3 PM.
- Buvette – Beautiful food in a cozy atmosphere be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Open Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM – 12 AM & Saturday and Sunday, 10 AM – 12 AM
- Candelaria – TACOS in the front, party in the back. No Reservations needed! Open 7 days a week 12 PM – 11 PM & Friday and Saturday 12 PM – 12 AM.
- Restaurant A.T. – modern plates, natural wine, and an awesome chef. Reservations are best.
Best Places to Get a Drink in Paris
- Candelaria – Push through the kitchen door of the taco joint to find one of the best mezcal bars in the world. Reservations sometimes needed for a table in the bar. Order the Guapo. It’s not on the menu & involves hot sauce. The bar is open 7 days a week 6 AM – 2 AM.
- Sherry Butts – Chic craft cocktail bar near the Place des Vosges. Open 7 days a week! Tuesday-Saturday 6 PM – 2 AM & Sunday and Monday 8 PM -2 AM.
- Septime La Cave – Best wine bar in the city…it can get pretty packed! I like to go early for small plates (and to nab a coveted place to sit!) Open 7 days a week 4 PM – 11 PM.
- La Fine Mousse – For the beer lovers. Get your lambic & gueze on. Open 7 days a week 5 PM – 2 AM!
Where to Shop in Paris
- Merci – a lovely cafe & dreamy concept store, great for brunch and a shop. I buy ALL the linens here.
- Frederick Gautier Ceramics – small studio, Kyoto inspired ceramic artist
- Marché aux Enfants Rouge – Saturday Morning farmer’s market
- Marche d’Aligre – Flea Market meets Farmers Market. Heaven. Tuesday-Saturday 8am-5pm; Sunday 8am-1pm
- ZOE LEE – quirky, boutique shoe shop in the Marais
- Paul Bert Serpette – my favorite section of the weekend flea markets. Check their website for hours.
- La Trésorerie – beautiful, minimalist home goods store
- E.DEHILLERIN – reputedly Julia Child’s favorite kitchenware store, a classic not to be missed
- Terroirs d’Avenir – A collection of market shops on Rue du Nil—the most gorgeous produce stand, butcher, fishmonger, and little bakery
- Centre Commercial Kids – A super cute children’s clothing & toy store near Du Pain et Des Idees. They carry Bobo Choses & a few of my other favorite brands.
- BONTON – Children’s clothing mecca. Half of Eula’s clothes come from here. Maybe more.
- Epices Roellinger Paris – A beautiful spice shop that’s excellent for stocking your pantry or gifts.
- Boutique Noë – Japan-inspired fashion made in France. Beautiful woven leather bags & comfortable, free form clothing.
- Smallable – One more kid’s store! A concept store featuring children’s clothing, toys, home goods, and more!
- Le Marais – Okay, this isn’t a shop, but rather a neighborhood filled with shops. Great for a wander if you’re looking to do some shopping.
- La Galerie de L’instant – A vintage photography gallery and shop featuring iconic musicians. One day I’m going to get a photograph of Serge Gainsbourg here.
Best Pastries, Bread, Chocolate, and Sweets in Paris
- Du Pain et Des Idees – my all time favorite bakery in Paris. The escargot fruit rouges & orange flower butter brioche is to die for. Open Monday-Friday 6:30 am – 8 PM. Closed Saturday and Sunday!
- Poilane – an iconic bread bakery. Ina Garten has been known to stop in here. Monday – Saturday 8:00 AM – 7:30 PM & Sunday 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM
- Jacques Genin – delicious caramels & pate de fruit! Open Tuesday-Sunday 11 AM – 7 PM. Closes at 7:30 PM on Saturdays and closed on Mondays
- Le Chocolate Alain Ducasse – Ducasse does chocolate…enough said? Open Tuesday – Saturday, 10:30 AM – 7:00 PM.
- Paris Ladurée Royale – A classic. There are locations all over the city…so if you happen to be near one, grab a box of treats!
And that friends is IT! It was a labor of love for both you guys & the city to put this guide together, and it truly has ALL of my favorites on it. If you’re traveling to the city make sure you don’t miss the map! You can use it via google maps on your phone so it’s super handy to have on the go! It has some of my favorite walking routes, eats, shops, and allllll the good Instagram & photography spots!
And if you want to see A BUNCH of photos of Paris (hopefully to get you inspired to GO!), keep scrolling. There were so many, and I just couldn’t choose.