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The Hidden Gems of Paris

A Parisian’s guide to the best hotels, restaurants, and out-of-the-way shopping spots that the city has to offer.

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I MOVED BACK to Paris from New York mid-pandemic after a little over 14 years in Manhattan. The city had changed immensely. Parisians now spoke English and seemed kinder, welcoming almost, and the streets were cleaner. And of course, in true Parisian style, my favorite spots in my neighborhood of Saint-Germain were still there: the neighborhood cafe, the nice bakery, the bookstore, the movie theaters. But what surprised me most was the arrival of a whole slew of smaller spots like ultraspecialized shops, and restaurants with a one-dish focus; even some of the movie theaters now play the films of one director only, for a month straight.

I took a full sabbatical the minute I stepped off the plane. I have often mocked the flocks of teenage Americans zigzagging the streets of Paris, but now, after years spent working in New York, I understand their need for a total disconnection from your roots in order to better project yourself into the future. I learned that, after all these years, I was still very French. That I didn’t need thousands of people telling me it was right to like something, that socialism isn’t a dirty word, and that joie de vivre can actually be a way of life and not a dinner pun.

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I live and work in the 7th arrondissement, (where I recently published the first issue of my magazine, Study), a stone’s throw away from my old stomping grounds in the 6th, and though I sometimes miss the Upper East Side of New York City, I am happy to once again call Paris my home.

Where to Stay

Paris hotels have a reputation for offering more charm than square footage, so for a perfect stay I would favor location, and there isn’t a better, more central, more charming spot than Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Though its bohemian days are long gone — no more Drugstore, no more La Hune bookstore, or basement jazz clubs — it is still one of the most Parisian of places to walk around. From the Jardins du Luxembourg to the banks of the Seine, there are endless spots to discover.


Hotel d'Angleterre

Probably one of the most charming and convenient locations at this price in all of Paris. You’ll be minutes away by foot from the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre, on a charming small street that is filled with typically Parisian home decor stores. Offering the feel of a lovingly preserved private home, your room will make you feel like you've stepped back in time and are living in a Truffaut movie. 44 Rue Jacob, 75006 Paris


Hotel Pont Royal

A place with literary pedigree, as James Baldwin used to stay here when in Paris to be closer to his friends, the renowned art-dealing Maeght family, who still have a space across the street. Across the way on the Rue du Bac, you’ll be able to get your ginger shot from Cojean or the best pates au four (French mac and cheese) at Café Varenne. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have one of the rooms with a view of the Eiffel Tower. 5-7 Rue de Montalembert, 75007 Paris


Hotel Lutetia

The only big luxury hotel on this side of the Seine, it underwent a renovation a couple of years ago and the service is now aligned with the prices. The bar and brasserie are favored by Parisians and tourists alike, and if you’re willing to splurge, you can book the Francis Ford Coppola room. Decorated by the director himself, the room is filled with personal objects such as scripts and stills. It also boasts a palatial terrace with 360-degree views of Paris. 45 Boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris


Where to Eat

If you are staying in the 6th, you might as well eat in the 6th. The below three spots have various price points and types of cuisine — no need to eat French food at every meal — but all are equally delicious and Parisian. They’re also neighborhood staples at which you may even be lucky enough to spot some French icons like Catherine Deneuve or Charlotte Gainsbourg.


Yen

Probably the best Japanese noodle restaurant in all of Paris is just a minute’s walk from the famed Café de Flore. It opened decades ago and remains a staple for aficionados of Japanese cuisine. Though snobs prefer the downstairs to see and be seen, I think the upstairs has a more relaxing and cozy feel. The flower arrangements are changed every week and composed by ikebana master Ryuku Bota, which is another reason this gem is worth visiting. 22 Rue Saint-Benoît, 75006 Paris


Benchy

A small Japanese sando place run by Kaito Hori that has incredible service and is right off the Bon Marché department store. Amongst the treats on offer are savory sandwiches made out of the fluffiest Japanese white bread, perfect oat milk iced lattes, and yuzu soda. An extra perk: It’s right next to Moby Dick, actor Gerard Depardieu’s fish store. 50 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris


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Le Cherche Midi

A culinary icon of the neighborhood, this popular restaurant opened in 1978 and serves some of the most delicious Italian food in Paris. All of the pasta is homemade and the mozzarella arrives fresh from Italy by plane three times a week. And if you like truffles, just run there and thank me later. 22 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris

Where to Shop

As for shopping, sometimes it’s about the memories attached to an object that you’ll be able to find in each of these stores that will make them forever Parisian. Though sourced from all around the world, a signature fragrance, a Danish photo book, or a Japanese cutting knife will end up being this special thing you brought back from Paris and use year after year. It sure beats a plastic Eiffel Tower key chain or a felt beret.


Dover Street Parfums Market

Possibly the best perfume store in the world, and you wouldn’t expect less from Rei Kawakubo, the genius behind fashion brand Comme des Garçons and retail space Dover Street Market. The store is situated in one of the last quiet street of the Marais district and has every single fragrance launched by Comme des Garçons over the years (ones that smell like rubber, incense, cinnamon, or the California sun) as well as a slew of guests like Costa Brazil, Edward Bess, or my collaboration with perfumer Régime des Fleurs. In true Kawakubo style, you can keep coming back and still be surprised by new references and ever-changing installations within the two-floor space. It is truly heaven for fragrance lovers. 11 bis Rue Elzevir, 75003 Paris


Yvon Lambert Bookshop

Gallerist Yvon Lambert opened a dream space for book and art lovers alike in the Marais after years of running one of the most influential galleries in Paris for decades. The store boasts an excellent selection of art and photography books as well as global magazines. The back space of the bookstore has a small exhibition area where they present the work of artists they love and whose books they often edit. They also have the best merch and an incredible selection of limited-edition items from past and present artists dear to Mr. Lambert. An extra perk — the receipts all boast artwork by London-based Orfeo Tagiuri. 14 Rue des Filles du Calvaire, 75003 Paris


KAMA-ASA

Hidden in a courtyard off the Rue Jacob, this small utensil shop will transport your kitchen to Tokyo. I don’t even cook and I like to spend time here. Along with a charming location that makes you feel like you’re in the countryside, everything they sell is as beautiful as it is useful: incredible bento boxes, knives, vegetable peelers, pots and pans, little brooms. Each object is carefully selected and made with the utmost care. It’s form and function at its best. 12 Rue Jacob, 75006 Paris

Header image: Photography by John Kellerman / Alamy Stock Photo

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Christopher Niquet Writer

Christopher Niquet is a Paris-based editor and writer. He is the editor in chief and founder of STUDY, a publication that seeks to create a place where words and images could be equally valued and given the same level of care and space on the page.

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