Paris is renowned as the ultimate destination for lovers. So what does the city of romance have to offer solo travellers in search of culture, cuisine and adventure?
Irresistibly picturesque and rich in history, there’s no denying that Paris, ‘the City of Lights’, is also the city of romance. But don’t be fooled, It isn’t just for lovers. It’s also the ideal place for a solo trip. With no itineraries to share and no one to please but yourself you can be gloriously self- indulgent, and spending a day on the Left Bank is one of my favourite ways to be just that.
I always feel inspired at Hôtel des 3 Collèges (16, rue Cujas) a cute, mid-range hotel over looking the Sorbonne. Located on a peaceful side-street behind the bustling Boulevard Saint Michel, it is ideally located for exploring the Left Bank. The comfortable rooms have wi-fi and flat screen TVs and a continental breakfast can be served in the hotel lounge or delivered to your room. I would recommend the latter as the impressive rooftop views are best enjoyed over an early morning coffee and croissant.
My first stop of the day on any visit is always Shakespeare & Co. (37, rue de la Bucherie). A true Parisian gem and one of my favourite haunts. A bookstore by day and a sanctuary for writers and artists by night, it is incredibly easy to lose track of time among the two floors of books stacked from floor to ceiling. Opened by George Whitman in 1951, and with a history dating back to 1913, George’s daughter Sylvia now runs the store and continues to delight visitors and locals with regular literary events, festivals and workshops.
New books in hand, I’ll head straight to Café Le Bonaparte on Rue Jacob for a to-die-for chocolate chaud experience. A thick layer of rich chocolate is delicately presented in the bottom of your cup and served with a steaming jug of hot milk so you can mix the drink to your taste. Absolute bliss!
On a clear day I’ll be sure to visit the Institute du Monde Arabe (1, rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard). The ninth floor roof terrace of this stunning cultural centre offers arguably the best view of the city, and the building itself is an architectural wonder. Once inside the collections, exhibitions and arts programmes only confirm that the Institute is a must-visit.
Despite the excellent choice of dining options, I can never resist an alfresco lunch. Picking up fresh bread, cheese and fruit from a supermarket (and if I’m treating myself, a macaron from Gérard Mulot, 76, rue de Seine), I’ll stroll to the Jardins du Luxembourg and take a seat among the fountains and sculptures or laze in front of the magnificent 17th-century palace.
Saint Germain is scattered with stylish and quirky boutiques, perfect for an afternoon window shopping. I love Cire Trudon (78, rue de Seine) which sells handmade perfumed candles, and the vintage luggage and handbags at Adrenaline (30, rue Racine).
Going to the cinema in Paris is a film-lover’s dream, and where better than in the city’s oldest cinema? Cinéma du Panthéon (13, rue Victor-Cousin) screens new and classic arthouse films. The venue now has the added bonus of the Salon du Panthéon (open until 6pm), a delightful salon-style tearoom and café designed by the goddess of French cinema herself, Catherine Deneuve. For true film buffs, the historic Le Champo (51, rue des Ecoles) features auteur retrospectives and midnight screenings.
For an early-evening cocktail, I’m addicted to Fu Bar (5, rue St-Sulpice) but beware…the apple martinis are so good you may never make it to dinner!
Le Petit Prince de Paris (12, rue de Lanneau) is a hidden gem for solo diners, and only a stone's throw from the hotel. The restaurant is intimate, warm and inviting, and so are the staff and clientele. Tables are comfortably close together so it’s easy to strike up conversation with fellow diners and the typically French set menus, cheese plates and desserts are delicious and affordable.
Dinner here is usually the end of a perfect evening for me, but if you want one for the road, The Bombardier (2, place du Panthéon) is a friendly English pub and a popular favourite with ex-pats.
Hôtel des 3 Collèges t: 01 43 54 67 30 http://www.3colleges.com/
Shakespeare & Co. t: 01 43 25 40 93 http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/
Institute du Monde Arabe t: 01 40 51 38 38 http://www.imarabe.org/
Gérard Mulot t: 01 43 26 85 77 http://www.gerard-mulot.com/
Cire Trudon http://www.ciretrudon.com/
Adrenaline t: 01 44 27 09 05
Cinéma du Panthéon t: 01 40 46 01 21 http://cinema.pantheon.free.fr/
Le Champo t: 01 43 54 51 60 http://www.lechampo.com/
Fu Bar t: 01 40 51 82 00
Le Petit Prince de Paris t: 01 43 54 77 26 http://www.lepetitprincedeparis.fr/
The Bombardier t: 01 43 54 79 22 http://www.thebombardier.com/