Places to stay:
Hotel de Nice on the Rue de Rivoli – tried and tested; very French, budget place, great location. Caution: I haven’t been there for years.
Places to eat:
Chez Julien – small neighbourhood restaurant on the river. Manages to be cosy and stylish at the same time. The food is excellent. The staff can be slightly snooty, but persevere and they will melt.
Le Fumoir – close to the Louvre, but not at all touristy. Great food, great value set menus, with a funky bar at the front for drinks before or after dinner.
Places to drink
Anywhere on the Place des Vosges for sheer atmosphere. I think this has to be my favourite square in the world (possibly alongside the Plaza Mayor in Mexico City).
Hotel Costes for extravagant cocktails in a dark, lush setting with the beautiful people.
Le Petit Fer au Cheval – traditional zinc bar in the Marais. Good for coffee at breakfast time too
La Belle Hortense – wine and literature in the Marais. What’s not to like?
Les Deux Magots – good lunch spot in St Germain. Not cheap, but a friend of mine swears their salade nicoise is the best in the world! A cafe with history: Hemingway, de Beauvoir and the like used to hang out here.
Things to do
Too many to mention! Here’s my top ten:
1) Visit the Musee d’Orsay: admire the architecture and the art; take a break in the cafe behind the clock.
2) Drink Kir Royale – delicious aperitif of champagne & cassis and eat croissants from a traditional boulangere.
3) Go to the Pompidou Centre and gawp at the sheer audacity of the building. Maybe have a coffee at the Cafe Beauborg on the square outside.
4) Stroll through the Tuileries and marvel at Monet’s waterlilies at the Orangerie
5) Go to Notre Dame and wander round the Ile de la Cite.
7) Browse in La Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Hausmann for shopping art nouveau style
8) Window shop in Le Marais for stylish chic
9) Take in the view from Sacre Coeur in Montmartre
10) Hang around the graves of the famous in the cemetery Pere-Lachaise
I know there’s so much more to do in Paris so I’d love to hear some of the recommendations you’d put in your top 10 – do let me know by posting a comment below!