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Travel

Paris, France City Guide

by Sabrina Smelko

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Who doesn’t dream of leisurely exploring Paris, soaking in the sun and culture, and enjoying its beautiful architecture? For Jonathan Randall Grant, that describes a typical day in his life. As the founder of Culture Keeperan online publication that celebrates style, adventure and society, Jonathan is always on the hunt for talented individuals to share their stories — including photographers, designers, filmmakers, historians and anthropologists.

Whether he’s exploring a new museum, sharing a unique perspective of Paris from the eyes of a local, or featuring links to neat products, Jonathan is passionate about curating a quality life. Today, he’s taking us on a virtual tour of a day spent in Paris, broken up into his favorite spots, places where the cool kids go, and extras to try in every category — from brunch spots to where to grab a drink after a long day. –Sabrina

Photography by Nicodem Creative

BRUNCH, PLEASE

WHERE I GO

TREIZE BAKERY might be the coziest spot in St. Germain. When you make your way through the courtyard off the rue des Saints Peres, the owner greets you kindly and offers fresh biscuits (those are rare in Paris). She will probably chat with you for a bit, and then scurry off to help her staff make you a mind-blowing meal.

WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO

HOLY BELLY serves up some great food with Brooklyn vibes. This brunch spot is all the rage at the moment. It is situated near the canal, the perfect location for a post-brunch stroll.

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Lately, I have been going to SEASON several times a week, most often to read in the afternoons with a cup of coffee. It is beautiful and well lit. The staff are lovely, and everything I have eaten there has been amazing. They have a fantastic Acai bowl, and it is a great place to mingle with a stylish crowd.

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STROLL

WHERE I GO

Paris is filled with hidden gardens and hideouts. JARDIN DU MUSEE RODIN is one of my favorites, because it is small and hidden, while still maintaining a sense of grandeur. This garden is perfect for picnics, strolls, and games of hide-and-go-seek. Rodin’s sculptures are scattered throughout, so you can get a close-up view of his work. I like to imagine it as it was when Rodin lived there with other artists like Isadora Duncan. At that time, the garden was overgrown with plants and Roman antiquities.

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WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO

JARDIN DU PALAIS ROYAL is hidden from the bustle of Paris, but just a block from the Louvre. Unlike the major gardens, this one has a soft and easy feel. Its elegant vibe (and cafe Kitsune) has made it a hit with the Fashion Week crowd. You can also browse the arcade of tiny shops filled with vintage couture along with the outposts of ACNE and Stella McCartney.

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PARC DE LA VILLETE is a complete universe to explore. The grand canals and lawns are crisscrossed by modernist bridges, and playgrounds. You can stroll around fantastic architecture and through miniature forests. Go on a sunny day and bring a picnic. This is modern Paris.

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SEE SOME ART

WHERE I GO

The PALAIS DE TOKYO is my favorite museum in Paris. It is typically filled with mind- and heart-altering exhibitions. The Palais features contemporary installations from around the world. They also have a great restaurant / cafe / bookstore / club. I try to go once or twice a month.

WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO

FONDATION RICARD is the place every up-and-coming artist wants to be seen or exhibit. It is the place to be right now. If you are in Paris for one of their openings, you will be treated to a mix of the coolest people in Paris. Of course, you should get a Ricard (traditional Parisian beverage) at the tiny, but stunning bar.

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Don’t neglect the classics. THE LOUVRE may be on everyone’s list, but it is worth it. No one is too cool for the Louvre. I recommend a few alternatives to the major tourist obsessions… Check out the work by JL David, also the Rubens “De Medici series,” and the courtyards of sculpture. Even if you only spend an hour or two, no visit to Paris is complete without a visit to its epicenter.

GET A CUP

WHERE I GO

LE PELOTON is Paris’ most recent establishment in the realm of new-wave coffee. The centrality of its location, along with the perfection of each beverage means that I am there at least once a week. I also recommend the pecan pie. I could go on all day about all of the cool new coffee places sprouting up in Paris, but this one is my current fave. Friendly, adorable, simple… The vibe is unpretentious, and they have WIFI, so double win.

WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO

FRAGMENTS is probably the coolest coffee shop in Paris at the moment. Drinks are pricier than in most cafes, but the ambiance, service, and general vibe are welcoming and warm. It is tucked away from the bustle of the city, and they also do juices.

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KB Cafe is off the normal tourist track, and the adjacent Rue des Martyrs is quickly becoming one of the hippest streets in Paris. A.P.C. and Kitsune just opened up shops nearby, so you know the area is hot. I keep going back for a pour-over of their Brazil roast. KB is always busy with a stylish crowd.

SHOP A BIT

WHERE I GO

OFR is a magical set of shops near Temple. Their magazine selection is unparalleled. Stacks and stacks of magazines and art books await your perusal. They even stock old editions, little art prints and treasures, and sell vegetables out front on weeknights. OFR recently separated the bookstore from the gallery, but they are only a block away from each other. (While you are there, stop by the most mesmerising vintage shop in Paris at 18, rue Perrée.)

WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO

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MERCI is part concept store, part department store, a haven for everything simple and well-curated. They have a few cafes, the best linens in Paris, and all the little objects for your home that you didn’t know you needed. (If you can’t find it here, try the BHV.)   Nicodem Creative_Paris Guide_MERCI24

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I pop by KILO SHOP once a week to see what is new in this massive shop. Pricing is by weight, and while it is not the cheapest vintage clothing in the world, the location near the BHV has become the go-to spot in Paris. Perfect if you are looking for a scarf, an old fur, trench coat, or worker’s jacket.

LATE LUNCH

WHERE I GO

CANDELARIA has the best tacos in Paris, with an amazing grotto-like bar just behind. Don’t miss this place. Check out OB-LA-DI next door, if you are longing for a coffee afterwards.

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WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO

If you are looking for a meal of ultra-fresh food and a comfortable vibe, then NANASHI is the right spot. It is perfect for reading in the late afternoon with a cup of tea. They have amazing bento boxes, and a veggie-fueled menu. There is plenty of seating, which also makes it a great location for larger groups. (Also, vegan-friendly Pinson is just across the street.)

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I have put a few oddities on this list, and CHEZ LOUISETTE is one of them. Imagine that someone decorated their basement for Christmas in 1948, and then left up the Christmas decorations. Now imagine that they also invite their grandparents to perform classic songs by Aznavour and Piaf every Saturday. That is this place. Their food is classic and inexpensive. It is located in the Paris Flea Market, so many of the regulars are antique dealers. Chez Louisette is an amazing and bizarre experience that I adore.

SHOP SOME MORE

WHERE I GO

PUCES ST. OUEN is an endless labyrinth of antiques and curiosities. When you exit the metro, you have to fight your way through the crowds and sellers-of-fake-hermes-belts to get to the good stuff, but the trip is worth it. The Paris Flea Market opens up a beautiful world of hidden alleys and tiny shops filled with treasures. Go on Saturday morning. Bring cash.

WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO

COS is the one brand that all of my fashion-world friends agree upon. Bold, structured pieces, in muted colors. Chic, with a beatnik, space-aged twist. Prices are comparable to GAP. There are now locations spread throughout Paris, but those on the Rue Montmartre and the Rue de Rosiers are the best.

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DEYROLLE, the former royal taxidermist, is another favorite stop of mine. Head upstairs and peruse the tigers and lamas, and cases of insects. They don’t allow photography, but this place is full of inspiration. (For a more intense experience with stuffed animals, check out the magnificent Musee de la Chase et de la Nature.)

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REST

WHERE I GO

ST. THOMAS D’AQUIN is a lovely spot to rest, pray, and hide from the weather. You will rarely see another tourist in this church. Normally the only other person around is a sweet old lady who will explain to you the history. It is just off the intersection of the Blvd. St. Germain / Rue du Bac, so it is central, but hidden from view. The Style of the church is crisp and simple, but retains a strong elegance. It is one of the most peaceful spots in the city.

WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO

LE COMPTOIR GENERAL is a sort of fantasy world. You enter down an alleyway into a garden, and what appears as a long hallway of a 1960s hotel in some sub-saharan capitol. At night the bar is packed with a fun crowd, mingling and dancing. During the day, this spot has a relaxed vibe. Be sure to check ahead as they are often closed for events. If you go after 9 pm, you might have to wait in a long line.

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SEYMOUR+ is the coolest new experience in Paris. It is a technology-free quiet-zone. For 7 euros you can explore various peaceful and well-designed rooms. In each there is a writing prompt, or comfortable chair, and a few tactile objects. I spent a peaceful afternoon at Seymour + last week, and I am dying to get back. There is something sensual and sacred about it.

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CATCH A DRINK

WHERE I GO

When I need to meet friends for a drink on the right bank, LE VOLTIGEUR is my go-to spot. Not too cool, not too traditional, it is the perfect mix of both. Prices are reasonable, and the people-watching is fantastic. I think it is one of the most underrated spots in the Marais.

WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO

LE MARY CELESTE has wonderful cocktails, chic ambiance, and a generally cool vibe. I am not a cocktail connoisseur, but this place always wows me.

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BAR DU MARCHE is a very classic, Parisian establishment. This bar was a cornerstone of beatnik Paris in the 1950s. The wait staff are always fun and flirty, and they all wear caps and overalls (salopettes, in French). Du Marche doesn’t try too hard. They have good music and a terrace that is a great place to see and be seen.

DINNER, YO

WHERE I GO

When I say that CAFE DE L’INDUSTRIE is my favorite cafe, I actually mean that it is really the ONLY cafe to which I return on a regular basis. The decor and vibes at this place make me feel at-home with Turkish rugs, old paintings, palms, and a lived-in patina. There are locations on both sides of the street, but GO TO THE BROWN ONE. Trust me. L’Industrie serves up inexpensive, traditional comfort foods.

WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO

Everyone seems obsessed with LES CHOUETTES since its renovation. On rainy afternoons, the upstairs balcony is a discreet place to meet for a drink or read a book, and the ambiance is chic. It is located near the epicenter of Parisian cool: the Carre Du Temple / Quartier des Enfants Rouge.

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TOKYO EAT is stylish and hip. It is open late, and is connected to the Palais du Tokyo. They serve up a wide range of dishes from all over the world. It has an amazing mid-century vibe. The adjacent coffee shop and bookshop are also stellar. I am obsessed with their orange trays and always charmed by their chatty wait staff.

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CATCH THE SHOW

WHERE I GO

LA FLECHE D’OR is a metro station-turned-music venue. Over the past eight years, this has been my regular spot, where have seen some amazing performances of every genre. It is big enough to get acts like Cat Power and The Bahamas, but small enough that you won’t get separated from your friends.

WHERE THE COOL KIDS GO

LE BATEAU is a cute spot for hearing good music. I have seen a few smaller rock acts, and a fair amount of Canadian folk performances. Upstairs, you will find their restaurant and bar, so go ahead and arrive early for a burger and fries (the French are currently obsessed with burgers, so ironically, this is perhaps the most French thing you could order).

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If you want to see a film in Paris, you have hundreds of options. I highly recommend supporting the many tiny cinemas in the 5th and 6th arr. that screen vintage and art films. They are little treasures, and are part of what make Paris so special. For an extra-special experience, you can see a contemporary film at LA PAGODE (close to Bon Marche). Built in 1896, it has a Japanese garden in front, and an ambiance you won’t find anywhere else.

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