Gourmet restaurants, amazing architecture and quirky spas - when it comes to luxurious short breaks, the French capital ticks all the right boxes
Each year, more than 25 million visitors flock to Paris. It’s testament to the city’s constant ability to reinvent itself that many of those tourists are there to check out the latest concepts and trends rather than just the familiar tourist sights. Losing out to London in the 2012 Olympics bid wasn’t exactly a highlight for the city, but its continuous unveiling, on an almost monthly basis, of new cultural treats has ensured that it has stayed top of Europe’s tourist tree.
There’s the Cinématheque Francaise, devoted to movies and their history, a revamped Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the opening of the uber-modern Nike, Louis Vuitton and Lancel megastores on the Champs-Elysées plus makeovers of seriously chic places to stay such as L'Hotel and the penthouse at the Plaza-Athénée.
There’s also the opening of a footbridge over the Seine dedicated to Simone de Beauvoir and the arrival of two new museums: the Musée du quai Branly, designed by Jean Nouvel and costing £160 million; and the Musée de L’Orangerie, which, following a six-year makeover, houses some exquisite Monets in fabulous surroundings.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Lunch like Monet
Take time out to visit the river café Maison Fournaise. A former haunt of Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Remoir in the 1860s, it lies just outside Paris. The pair used to frequent this watering hole, where you can now enjoy lunch and dinner, when they painted pictures of the Seine at the start of the Impressionist movement. The café’s balcony, which Renoir called “the most beautiful spot in all the environs of Paris”, was the setting for his famous 'Luncheon of the Boating Party'. Don’t miss the museum next door or the Impressionist Walk nearby.
Only the French could invent a beauty routine based around chocolate. Take a load off at 32 Montorgueil, a stylish urban retreat, which used to be an off-licence before its transformation into an uber-chic spa retreat. Its speciality is the phytochoc face treatment, which involves being covered in cocoa polyactive (chocolate!) for 90 minutes – the results being a reduction in wrinkles and firmer skin.
If you’re in the mood for indulging in some nightlife while you’re in town, then two clubs popular with the well-to-do in-crowd are worth checking out. Le Paris Paris has been a hit since it opened in 2005, while the VIP Room, created from a former cinema lobby, has floor-to-ceiling plasma screens and wildly expensive cocktails to enjoy.
Go highbrow and hunt out famous French architect Le Corbusier’s numerous buildings dotted throughout the city, such as the impressive Cité de Refuge, on rue Cantagrel, in the 13th arrondisment.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Setting: A listed building in the 8th arrondissment, with opulent interiors by Noe Duchaufour Lawrance; chandeliers, round tables and etched mirrors.
Chef: Alain Senderens, previously a three-star Michelin chef at Lucas Carton.
Best dish: langoustines with rice noodles hits the spot.
Le Cristal Room
Setting: a sumptuous townhouse in the 16th arrondissement, which is a boutique and showroom for Baccarat, the French crystal company. The décor, by Philippe Starck, is salon-style; think deep red marble mouldings and huge Baccarat chandeliers.
Chef: Thierry Burlot.
Best dish: scallops with Petrossian caviar
Setting: in the fashionable Saint-Germain district, this is a bustling bistro that's quintessentially Parisian.
Chef: Yves Camdeborde – who sold his cult bistro La Régalade to young chef Bruno Doucet in 2004, and resurfaced in the spring of 2005 with this luxury hotel-restaurant.
Best dish: the wonderful plats du jour such as duck confit or long-simmered joue de boeuf (beef cheek).
Setting: filling the two-storey space above Louis Vuitton’s headquarters, this is the place to head if you don’t fancy opulence but do want an incredibly trendy Tokyo-meets-Paris vibe. Think orchids, chairs adorned with pictures of geishas, kitsch objects designed by Philippe Starck, and restrooms with miso soup lamps.
Chef: Richard Pommues.
Best dish: chicken in yoghurt with wasabi is delicious.