9 Places You Need to Know in the City of Light
Beyond its flying buttresses and regal boulevards, the secret of Paris’s timeless attraction is its infinite capacity for reinvention. Hannah Westley goes beyond the tourist track to the neo-bistros, buzzy clubs and new art galleries that are burning bright in the City of Lights.
The Restaurant: Caillebotte
Our favorite Parisian food trend of the past few years? The nouveau bistro. Chefs have been reinventing the tried-and-true formula and this small, perfectly conceived restaurant from the team behind Le Pantruche is the epitome of elegant bistronomy. Warm natural materials—blond woods, stone, marble—offer a warm take on a Scandi by way of Brooklyn design. But the food is all Paris. Grab a seat at the open kitchen to watch the procession of seasonal, inventive fare, like flash-steamed Romégous oysters, followed by Vendée quail stuffed with kohlrabi and cabbage. Reservations essential!
The Bar: Le Coq
In the land of the vin, cocktail culture is still a relatively new development. Le Coq, the brainchild of boozy genius Tony Conigliario and French partners Thierry Daniel and Eric Frossard, is its most perfect Parisian expression. In lieu of the ubiquitous Jazz Age shtick, you’ll find a dark den of 70s glam—think raw concrete and black walls, exposed bulbs and a Gainsbourg-meets-Nouvelle Vague soundtrack. The cocktails draw from French spirits—chartreuse, liqueur d’ambrette, cognacs—and flavors. The Ceci N’est Pas Un Cocktail reinterprets a classic Kir Royale, transforming its buttery champagne flavors through the lens of a French bakery via a house made burnt butter liqueur.
The Club: Laperouse
Sure it’s great to be on the cutting edge. But part of the allure of Paris is reveling in the past. What if you could have both? Welcome to Laperouse. Former haunt of Victor Hugo, Marcel Proust and Jules Verne, this illustrious 18th century party palace is packing in today’s glitterati thanks to hipster nightlife gods La Clique (the team behind celeb playpens Le Baron and Nuba). Raucous dandyism reigns at this nouveau gentleman’s club with a mix of DJs, acoustic concerts and surprise performances by boldfaced names. So sink into a red velvet armchair, sip your absinthe and drink in the shock of the new.
The Art Gallery: La Maison Rouge
Founded by French art collector Antoine de Galbert, this handsome contemporary art space appeals to deep-pocketed connoisseurs and amateur enthusiasts alike. That’s largely due to its human scale. After years of mega-gallery openings, this 1,300 square meter, former industrial space feels infinitely approachable. Dedicated to the display of otherwise unseen private collections and emerging artists, exhibitions owe their diversity and success to the gallery’s relationships with independent curators. It’s also become a sort of cultural complex with a small bookshop, concert space and superb organic café whose décor and menu morph with the seasons.
The Boutique: The Broken Arm
Paris introduced the world to the concept store with the cutting edge Colette, the city’s now-and-forever arbiter of taste. And then, naturellement, we had hip young thing Merci. But the city’s latest concept store, The Broken Arm, is giving the old-timers a run for their considerable money in the relentlessly fashionable Marais. After four years of running fashion and lifestyle website, De Jeunes Gens Modernes, three young trendsetters decided to open their own place. The store sells the lifestyle they celebrate on their site with a mix of duds by designers such as Patrik Ervell, Gyakusou, Carven and Kenzo, alongside high-end office supplies and glossy design books. The cafe feels like a clubhouse for cool kids with the beautifully coiffed sipping Sancerre and nibbling on seasonal salads while flipping through the latest issue of Wallpaper.
The Attraction: Molitor
Originally opened in 1929 by the Olympic swimmers Aileen Riggin Soule and Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller, Art Deco swimming pool the Molitor became the sun-drenched hang-out of Paris’s beau monde. Famous for the launch of the first ever bikinis, the Molitor fell into disrepair after its closure in 1989, becoming an underground scene for raves and graffiti artists. Having undergone a superb renovation, this mythical landmark has been reborn as a luxury complex with two pools, a bar, spa, exhibition space and restaurant.
The Event: La Gaité Lyrique
From African pop to European electro, French nostalgia to grunge, La Gaité Lyrique’s lineup reads like a primer on Parisian hip. Add to that a video gaming area, exhibition spaces for digital art and a cutting edge art resource center, and you have a thoroughly modern look at the city’s cultural life. You also get a sense of history from the former theater/indoor amusement park’s grand old bones. Go on a Sunday for one of the city’s most imaginative brunches overseen by chef Carole Bénélus (think bulgur salad à l’orange and caramel grapefruit tarts).
The Hotel: Mon Hotel
This jewelbox of a hotel feels like a microcosm of modern Paris, all stately stone and ornate wrought iron on the outside, impeccable design on the inside. Pop art prints and cherry red Moooi chandeliers lend a playful vibe in the lobby. The candlelit lounge screens old black and white movies on the wall, an excellent backdrop for the throwback drink menu. Upstairs the look is clean-lined and understated with cameos from design stars like Philippe Starck. And its location on Avenue Foch gives you a taste of rarefied neighborhood living with the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysées a short walk away.