A Quick Guide to Paris’s Beautiful 1st Arrondissement
Paris is comprised of 20 arrondissements (districts), though, if we’re honest, none so deftly marry the city’s beauty and history quite like the 1st. This is the city’s cultural heart, where landmarks like Sainte Chapelle and the Louvre share avenues with world-class restaurants and even better shopping. Here, a quick guide on how best to spend your time (and the contents of your wallet) in one of Paris’s oldest neighborhoods.
We’d have booked a room at the Castille sight unseen: the location—within a stone’s throw of the Tuileries and Place Vendôme and smack next to the dangerously tempting Chanel Maison—is that good. But cross the threshold and you’ll discover far more to convince you to give up the rest of Paris (for the time being, at least). Guest rooms, spread across three 19th-century mansions, are spacious pied-à-terres with Murano mirrors, iron-wrought balconies, and a soothing cream color palette. (Don’t miss turndown service for gratis Jean-Paul Hévin chocolates.) The modern Italian restaurant, L’Assaggio, is overseen by Michelin-lauded chef Ugo Alciati, features a Florentine courtyard garden, and spotlights dishes like house-made agnolotti and fior di latte ice cream. Did we mention there’s a resident cat—a Russian blue who goes by “Heliot”?
Got cash to burn? You’re going to need to flesh out quite a bit (315 Euros a person) to dine at Le Grand Vefour—but the experience lives up to high expectations. When it opened in 1784 inside the arcades of the Palais-Royal, it became the first grand restaurant in Paris, and has been wining and dining the upper echelon ever since (Napoleon, Hugo, and Cocteau have all eaten here). Two Michelin stars is nothing to sniff at, either: Guy Martin prepares decadent dishes like Prince Rainier III pigeon and black truffle-topped oxtail parmentier to match the gilded neoclassical interiors. The desserts are spectacular, too, but you’re in Paris—end with the cheese plate.
The masses can have Ladurée and, dare we say it, Pierre Hermé. When it’s your sweet tooth that needs satiating, it’s time to pop into Angelina, one of the city’s most famous patisseries. Their hot chocolate is considered by many to be the best in Paris, and the takeout counter is stocked with eye-popping pastries of every flavor and color (go for the Mont Blanc cake—their signature). For a more leisurely experience, make a reservation (far in advance) for breakfast, so you can indulge at leisure in the Belle Èpoque tea room—just as Chanel and Proust did in their day.
Star chef Jean-François Piège has made finally his mark in Les Halles—one of Paris’ OG foodie hubs—with Clover Grill. The killer design (think marble floors, bold floral wallpaper, and geometric light fixtures) is no match for the menu’s wood-fired meat courses. There's lots to choose from, but we suggest washing down your smoked noire de Baltique beef or duck foie gras with a champagne cocktail, followed by a spit-roasted pineapple with vanilla, chili, and lemongrass ice cream for dessert.
Good luck getting into this stylish noodle joint on your first go. Reservations aren’t accepted, and communal seats fill up fast, but there’s a good reason why Kinutoraya is the most popular spot on rue Sainte-Anne (Paris’s Little Tokyo), and why it’s worth every minute to wait: they serve the best udon in Paris, in flavors both hot and cold and laced with lip-smacking ingredients like sweet duck, tempura shrimp, and quail eggs. The space isn’t too shabby, either. Whatever isn’t covered in exposed brick is laid with Métro-style tiles, mirrors, and brass fixtures à la Parisian bistros from the turn of the century. Heads up: it’s also cash only.
Arguably no French fashion brand is as iconic as Chanel, whose simple, elegant, functional suits and silhouettes changed the face of fashion forever. Among her many groundbreaking designs, you can thank Coco Chanel for the “little black dress” and fragrance No. 5. In 2018, the brand opened a new Paris flagship in the 1st, combining three 17th-century buildings into one heavenly four-story boutique. There’s nothing this 16,000-square-foot space doesn’t showcase—blouses, skirts, heels, handbags—but it’s the interiors themselves, which include marble lion sculptures, 28 works of art, and Chinese screen partitions, that make the boldest statement.
You'll find Louis Vuitton in nearly every major luxury retail outlet worldwide, but far fewer know about Maison Goyard, who do not sell online or advertise. That’s because their reputation is entirely built on word-of-mouth. Begun in the 1800s, the now-iconic name and its signature chevron-printed canvas bags and leather cases have become the travel luggage brand of choice for famous aristocratic jet-setters including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Coco Chanel, and Jacques Cartier. The good news? While their 19th-century steamer trunks come with astronomical price-tags (if you can even manage to find one), their classic totes run for a far more "reasonable" $1,150.
Want to impress your fellow Parisians and friends back home? Tell them you went shopping at Place Vendôme. Built in 1686 by order of King Louis XIV, this open-air "mall" of sorts houses some of the most prestigious haute couture and jewelry houses in the country. Marie Antoinette and Empress Joséphine favored the stones and baubles sold by Mellerio, traditional berets have been sold by Laulhère since the 1840s, and the city's most opulent hotel—the Ritz Paris—sits facing the square.
Perusing titles inside the oldest English language bookstore in Europe is a bucket-list experience everyone should knock off. The shop is still run by direct descendants of the original Gaglignani family, who have been in the publishing business since 1520, and, though the current location “only” dates back to 1856 it’s still worth paging through its 50,000-book library, which includes praised sections on fine arts and English fiction and history.
The Ritz may have undergone a top-to-toe renovation, but its iconic Bar Hemingway remains just as it was when its namesake swung back dry martinis here in his heyday. The classic drinks don’t come cheap—most are a cool 30 Euro—but are as old-school as they come (and you can best believe they all have their own backstory). More modern concoctions include a frozen Negroni and the Sorrento, made with limoncello, Prosecco, and orange bitters. Sip slowly so you can admire the authors that beam down at you from frames hanging on the wood-paneled walls.
Don’t let Le Fumoir’s proximity to the Louvre fool you into thinking you’re in cheesy tourist territory. Even if you’ve already checked off the museum, you won’t want to bypass the magic of this handsome pub-like lounge, whose jazz tunes, leather couches, and library of international newspapers and board games (including chess and backgammon, of course) draw in a good share of regulars. The terrace is just as nice, but even if you can’t score a table there, you’ll still be treated to the same speedy service and short-but-excellent menu (including a convenient prix-fixe option) of entrées, snacks, and cocktails. Come for the drinks; stay for the people-watching.
Although Verjus Wine Bar is a good place to kill time while waiting to get into its sister restaurant upstairs, it's a destination in its own right—an intimate, atmospheric, discreet watering hole in a cool vaulted cave near the Palais Royale where oenophiles (many by word-of-mouth) come to taste from a menu of by-the-glass vintages, bottles by lesser-known producers, and elevated small plates.
The Tuileries, in the heart of Paris, is as French as gardens get—a meticulously manicured and perfectly symmetrical expanse of lawn and gravel walkways designed by the same mind responsible for the gardens at Versailles, featuring elaborate sculptures by Rodin and Maillol and dead-on views of the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe. Even if you're simply passing through the 1st arrondissement, it might prove impossible not to take a detour through it to picnic and people-watch.
The Musée d'Orsay and the Louvre each house their own wings of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, but the smaller Musée de l'Orangerie is the only place you'll be able to take in Monet's world-famous Water Lilies murals. The eight massive paintings are displayed on their own in two oval rooms, glued directly to the concave walls, and illuminated by diffused light—the way Monet intended. If you have more time, be sure to check out the rest of the rooms, which contain works by Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso.
Despite being in the center of it all, a wall of arcaded galleries makes this quiet oasis easy to miss. Originally commissioned by the Cardinal Richelieu in the 1630s, the palace served as a royal residence for multiple monarchs including King Louis XIII, Anne of Austria, and the future Louis XIV, before being redesigned in the 1780s to add colonnaded corridors, a beautiful garden, and a host of shops, cafés, and restaurants frequented by the aristocracy. Today, the courtyard is open to the public, who come to read by the rose bushes and fountains and snap photos of Daniel Buren's striking "Les Deux Plateaux" installation.
This royal Gothic chapel, on Île de la Cité, served as the Kings’ residence until the 14th century. Renowned for its soaring stained glass windows—there are 15, each 50 feet high and dating back to the 13th century—the royal chapel is one of the world’s most staggering medieval attractions.
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