The Ultimate Guide to Paris

Where to stay and what to do in the City of Lights.

eiffel tower
(Image credit: Future)

There are few destinations like Paris, with its picture-perfect abundance of charming cafes, boulangeries, flower markets, and winding cobblestone streets. Nicknamed "The City of Lights" for the city's glowing glass lamps and its leading role in the arts and sciences, the city has been a source of inspiration for some of the greatest artists and writers of our time—from Ernest Hemmingway to Salvadore Dali to Picasso. A stroll through the city, with its neoclassical architecture, French manicured gardens, and gilded masterpieces at every turn, will transport you to another time and place, but not without offering visitors a vast array of modern options to enjoy from sleek hotels, contemporary cuisine, and inventive cocktails. Whether you've paid a visit to the city before or this is your inaugural trip to one of the most romantic places on earth—there is no shortage of options to explore in and around Paris's 20 arrondissements—each exuding a distinct personality of its own. 

For first-timers visiting Paris, there are a few non-negotiables. Pay a visit to the Eiffel Tower in daylight and at night as the lights begin to twinkle on the hour, take a trip to the Musée Rodin dedicated to the works of French sculptor Auguste Rodin, and a trek to the Louvre to smile back at the Mona Lisa. If time permits, head to the city's outskirts to experience the wonder of the Catacombs underneath the city streets of Paris. Exploring the endless nooks and crevices—from beautifully curated boutiques in the St. Germain neighborhood to the fromageries of the Morais— is one of the simple pleasures of spending time in the city. Ahead, some of our other favorite places to discover in Paris.

eiffel tower

(Image credit: Future)

Getting There

We've all paid our dues wedged between two people in the middle seat on a transatlantic flight, and let's say it's not pretty. If you're considering booking business class for your next trip, consider La Compagnie. The French boutique airline offers travelers an all-business class experience at a flat rate price that, while still a treat-yourself option, won't completely break the bank. With a sleek 76-seat configuration, each seat feels like your own posh pod, equipped with media centers, fully reclinable seats, and a chic welcome kit complete with French beauty products. You'll arrive in Paris looking and feeling unapologetically fresh and well-rested. Oh, and did we mention they'll welcome you with champagne? The food is one of the standouts of the La Compagnie experience. In addition to bubbly, guests will dine on a seasonally changing four-course menu, encompassing an appetizer, wine pairing, and a cheese tray. Jet lag, who? 

Terrace at Hotel Lutetia

(Image credit: Hotel Lutetia)

Where To Stay

Like many destinations, finding the right place to stay is often about location, location, location. If you aim to feel like a well-pampered Parisian, look no further than the immaculate accommodations at Hotel Lutetia, a refined yet modern five-star luxury resort in the heart of one of the city's most picturesque neighborhoods, Saint Germain des Prés and the best option for accommodations on the Left Bank. Situated in a stunning Art Deco building originating from 1910, rooms offer a tranquil escape from the bustling streets of Paris. While in the comforts of your room or suite, you can sip coffee or wine on one of the outdoor terraces while looking out at the nearby parks and cafes.

For discerning spa lovers, the hotel's luxurious Akasha spa is an oasis with a stunning lap pool, hot tub, sauna, and hammam, and a full spa menu that takes a holistic approach to well-being with treatments ranging from aromatherapy experiences to hot stone massages.

And, of course, a trip to Paris would only be complete with outstanding cuisine. For a traditional French brasserie experience looking out over Boulevard Raspail, visit Brasserie Lutetia, followed by a martini (arguably the best in the city) or a glass of champagne at Bar Josephine, where you'll be in awe of the floor-to-ceiling art frescos.

For a cozy night of great drinks, food, and jazz, visit the hidden members club, Bar Aristide, where Chef Barman Nicola Battafarano has created an exclusive cocktail menu inspired by music.

Alternatively, staying close to the city center, within walking distance of great restaurants, sites, and attractions, will help you maximize your time in the city. New to the Paris hotel scene, The Bulgari Hotel Paris (which celebrated its first birthday this December) is located in the ultra-convenient George V neighborhood, but without the heavy foot traffic that sometimes comes with the nearby shopping hub of the Champs Elysees. 

The quest for the perfect location was ten years in the making, finally settling on a corner in the "Golden Triangle," in a building that was the former home of a Parisian Post Office. Step inside the Bulgari Hotel and the intimate, sultry sleek vibe immediately puts you at ease. Its seventy-six rooms and suites are akin to an elegant home, with chic interiors, deep soaking tubs, and lovely sun-soaked terraces. The Bulgari spa, which will entice you to spend your entire day in the underground oasis, boasts a glowing lap pool, a whirlpool, a sauna, a steam room, and a treatment room with signature treatments using cult-following French products like Augustinus Bader.

On the lobby floor, The Bulgari bar is the perfect place to end the evening with a digestif before heading up to your room, where a nightly tea and sweet treat will be waiting for you.

Gigi restaurant

(Image credit: Gigi Restaurant)

Where To Eat & Drink

Between croissants and red wine at Café de Flore, a proper sit-down meal in Paris is an experience worth carving out time for. Make a reservation at Les Marches near the Palais de Tokyo for a bistro-style lunch at a super local spot. Order an omelette and pomme frites. If you're seeking a view, look no further than Gigi Paris restaurant, with an unmatched setting under the Eiffel Tower and within walking distance of the Bulgari Hotel. For delicious tapas-style dishes, Michelin-star restaurant Le Grand Bain will satisfy the craving for innovative seasonal dishes perfect for sharing amongst a crowd. Bambou's chic gastro bar offers an inventive take on Thai cuisine, while Ristorante Il Barone has excellent no-fuss home-cooked Italian food for those who need a break in Parisian fare. Cocktail lovers should head to Le Mary Celeste for trendy drinks and small plates. At the same time, Hôtel Madame Rêve's  cocktail bar, ROOF, offers a great rooftop bar, and Shangrila's Le Bar Botaniste will transport you back in time with spirits like absinthe and fernet.

Sara Holzman
Style Director

Sara Holzman is the Style Director for Marie Claire, where she's worked alongside the publication for eight years in various roles, ensuring the brand's fashion content continues to inform, inspire, and shape the conversation about fashion's ever-evolving landscape. With a degree from the Missouri School of Journalism, Sara is responsible for overseeing a diverse fashion content mix, from emerging and legacy designer profiles to reported features on the influence of social media on style and seasonal and micro trends across the world's fashion epicenters in New York, Milan, and Paris. Before joining Marie Claire, Sara held fashion roles at Conde Nast's Lucky Magazine and Self Magazine and was a style and travel contributor to Equinox's Furthermore website. Over her decade of experience in the fashion industry, Sara has helped guide each brand's style point of view, working alongside veteran photographers and stylists to bring editorial and celebrity photo shoots to fruition from start to finish. Sara currently lives in New York City. When she's not penning about fashion or travel, she’s at the farmer’s market, on a run, working to perfect her roasted chicken recipe, or spending time with her husband, dog, and cat. Follow her along at @sarajonewyork