The city of lights has been visited a thousand times or more, but there’s plenty of new additions keeping France’s capital fresh, and adding to the eternal charm that makes it one of Europe’s most enduring travel destinations.
This Grande Dame of Paris is one of the city’s oldest and most prestigious hotels, having played host to everyone from Hemingway to Matisse, James Joyce to Picasso. Originally opened in 1910, this stunning art-nouveau wonder has had a glorious refurbishment, re-opening last summer after a three year absence. Chief architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte has done a commendable job of unearthing the Lutetia’s hidden gems, from the original frescos in Bar Josephine to the bright stained glass ceiling in Le Saint Germain restaurant. Though these nods to the Lutetia’s illustrious history are glorious, it is perhaps the innovations that truly shine; from changing a disused function room into an airy courtyard bar to the new wood-panelled library open to the public. The design is sumptuous. Our room was a palette of rich navy, grey and white, with a walk-in wardrobe big enough to serve as the departures lounge for Narnia and a marble bath tub you could easily do laps in. Yet the luxury here is a sizzling undercurrent that never threatens to overwhelm you, because this is luxury in its most confident, understated form. At the Lutetia, simple things are done beautifully. This is in evidence everywhere, from the décor to the service to the food at Le Saint Germain, where we dined on citrus-infused butter and warm bread, a stirring red Sancerre and a classic chicken Caesar salad with no frills. We left thinking we had rarely eaten anything better. Like the hotel, it was simple, yet perfect.
If the Lutetia is pure class, Brach is pure personality. This Philippe Starck designed modern wunderkind of a hotel is brimming with quirks and urban edge, that manage to at once impress and welcome. Everything is burnt umber, brown or yellow, like a 70’s sitcom with a modern injection of African, South-America and Asian influences. Greenery bursts from the first floor terrace, lending the metal façade a softer touch, and this playful synergy of warmth and urbane design is in evidence throughout, from the book shelves decorating the rooms to the floor to ceiling windows and mirrored walls. The bar and restaurant on the ground floor have already, since the hotel’s nascent beginning in October 2018 (in the otherwise relatively sleepy 16th arrondissement) become a social hub- even on the snowy Tuesday night we stayed. The first floor lobby spills on to the terrace and, come summer, that outdoor bar will be one of Paris’s hottest haunts. It helps that the food and drink are unquestionably good, with breakfast serving quirky bags of pastries among cushioned enclaves brimming with art books, and the evening bar service was seamless. Should you fancy experiencing Paris’s brightest new star, check in soon: that terrace awaits.
Le Clef Champs Elysees
If it’s a taste of real Parisian apartment life you’re after – but can’t be bothered with the Airbnb admin, then the Ascott’s latest opening is for you. La Clef Champs Èlysees is a collection of seventy serviced residences- apartments with all the benefits of a hotel, from 24-hour reception and a fitness room to a breakfast room, launderette and even a limousine service. Nestled in the heart of the city, a stones-throw away from the Arc de Triomphe, the building is a plush 1907-built Haussmanian-style edifice, with opulent interiors and breath-taking views that may just provide the perfect romantic bolthole you need.
Van Gogh at L’Atelier des Lumieres
This innovative and seriously impressive new art spacin Paris has a totally unique flavour. Classic art works are projected on to the walls of this disused foundry between Bastille and Nation, which allows you to stroll around and truly immerse yourself in the floor-to-ceiling digital works. Their next major exhibition, Van Gogh: Starry Nights, opens on 22 February and runs until December.
Japon Japonismes at Musée des Arts Decoratifs
This often overlooked museum is a stunning find (not least because of its famous restaurant Loulou). This season’s knockout exhibition runs until March, and features the richness and uniqueness of Japan’s art and design, as well as its influence on Western decoration and Japan’s special relationship with French art.
Vivian Maier at Galerie les Douches
This smaller gallery is a treasure trove for art fans and a great off-the-tourist-trail spot. Nestled in the 10tharrondissement, it’s current exhibition- running until the end of March- celebrates the incomparable photography of Vivian Maier –who took effortless and engaging street photographs in her spare time and whose talent has only been posthumously celebrated.
Astair feels like what would happen if Wes Anderson came to town and opened up a classic Parisian bistro. There’s an intoxicatingly authentic blend of modern panache and French charm to this new opening, where the dishes are staples – yes frogs legs, snails and foie-gras feature – and the interiors possess that Anderson quirk- reds and blacks and marble columns, with a retro vibe. It’s undeniably charming, neatly stylish and, most importantly, the food is pretty damn good. Open all day, it’s the ideal lunch spot in the midst of a Paris stroll.
Ducasse sur Seine
Taking a river cruise in Paris is perhaps one of its more hackneyed pursuits. Romantic in theory- its more often squished faces crammed between tourists and flashing cameras as the boat chugs its way past Notre Dame in reality. Which is why it may seem odd that Michelin-star-laden chef Alain Ducasse should choose a Seine river cruise as his latest Paris venture. Yet Ducasse-sur-Seine is, of course, not your average tourist steamer. This is a sleek eco-friendly electric boat- tastefully decorated in navy and chrome- which silently glides down the Seine without even a hint of a garbled announcer on a megaphone. Instead, a neat booklet on your table shares fascinating insight into each sight you pass as lunch is served.
The food at Ducasse-sur-Seine is, as you would expect, astoundingly good. Simple French fare is cranked up to eleven; with croque-monsieur canapes kick starting proceedings and Coquilles Saint-Jacques proving a melt-in-the-mouth main course. Opened late 2018, this floating foodie wonderland is one of the capital’s best new ventures. Opt for lunch to see the sights, or float by night to see the lights – though I doubt anything could be as distracting as the chocolate praline dessert.
For something a little-less formal, but nonetheless delicious, there’s Marxito; the new street food restaurant from esteemed culinary mastermind, Thierry Marx. In a city typically averse to take-aways, there’s something wonderfully refreshing about a Michelin-starred chef making sandwiches and pancakes. Yet, of course, these are not just your everyday M&S sarnies; Marxito’s menu features saké paper beef, miso parsley sauce, marinated aubergine and smoked salmon, as well as sweet pancake desserts filled with matcha. Grab to go and eat as you discover the city.
It takes its name from the Chicago musical heroine herself, and the prohibition, speakeasy night-club vibe persists throughout. Created by the same team behind Paris favourite Piaf, this is a bar come restaurant come all-night dancing mecca with a definite degree of vintage razzle-dazzle. Head here for an old-school night on the town, with cocktails named Ginger Rogers and Charlie Chaplin, soviet-red interiors and live music as well as a suspected splattering of celebrity sightings for this recently-opened new haunt.
It may be the newest opening from Michelin-starred chef Hélène Darroze, but Joìa; her first left bank joint, which opened in the autumn of 2018, is much more than just its food. The first floor features a cosy and delightful cocktail bar that is ideal date material. The concept behind Joía- with its soon to arrive breakfasts and afternoon teas- show it is imagined as more than just an upscale bistro, but an all-day dining experience. Its bar (open from 5pm) is testament to that; with a buzzy vibe and a decadent menu of cocktails created or inspired by women well as French classics and innovative additions, like L’Herbe Rouge, made from a heady mix of bourbon and cocoa beans.
Launched last month, this abandoned train station in the 14th arrondissement is the capital’s most exciting new venture. Its name literally translates at ‘punch’- a reference to the punching of tickets and its versatile space will be home to a café, restaurant, creative space and bar; aiming to be Paris’s newest social hub. Watch this space.