I don’t think you can truly call yourself a VIP unless you’ve been to Paris. Just walking round the city makes you feel more culturally aware and the moment you step into an art gallery like the Musee D’Orsay or The Louvre and your eyes are hit with an iconic impressionist artwork, it kind of changes the way you look at the world. Also, they party hard in France – at least until dawn – and even if you’re a bit of a lightweight I can guarantee you will stay out longer because you don’t want the new experiences to stop when you go to bed.
At the end of this blog post, I’ve listed the cheapest ways to get there from London– by Eurostar or by plane – with prices starting from £69 return. That’s cheaper than a night clubbing in central London and it’s a million times more VIP.
Thousands of city guides have been written about Paris but I’ve never seen one that explains how to get as much VIP activities as possible packed into 24 hours. So here’s my advice for how to do Paris in style.
Paris is for gourmands – the moment you arrive at the airport or station you can smell fresh French bread. You’re going to need something for lunch, something for dinner and something for breakfast the next day. I suggest:
Perfect for a decadently long lunch, La Coupole has been a Paris institution since the 1920s. This grand brasserie is the epitome of La Belle Epoque. Old photos depict previous guests from the Paris literary, artistic and cultural scene. Edith Piaf. Ernest Hemingway. Pablo Picasso. They all needed to eat and when they did they chose La Coupole. The décor is gorgeous, the food is beautifully presented and it tastes just as good as it looks. The foie gras was sumptuous.
For dessert, the creme brulee oozed vanilla and the chocolate fondant was satisfyingly gooey with a rich chocolate kick.
La Coupole, 102 Blvd De Montparnasse. Nearest Metro: Vavin. Visit La Coupole website here.
I was told about this brasserie by a friend who has been a regular for years. If you Google it, you can kind of see why.
It has it’s own Wikipedia page. Yes, for a cafe! Pablo Picasso was a regular as his studio was nearby and it was popular with all the best artists of the early 20th century. It’s also very cool that it was a hit with revolutionaries and Lenin and Putin both dined there. Unfortunately it was closed on my visit, but my friend said they do the best pork chops with truffle mash she has ever tasted and she has even dreamed of this mash. I trust her. I want to go back and sample it myself though!
La Rotonde , Blvd de Montparnasse. Nearest Metro: Vavin. Visit La Rotonde website here.
Fancy a quick dinner on the go? Paris is excellent for fine dining but sometimes you just want to grab and go. Places to go, people to see…but you still need to line your stomach if you’ve got a big night ahead. You’ll find Quick Burger – a tastier equivalent to Burger King – at the larger train stations.
Jump off the train on your way to a club and a delicious burger will be with you in minutes for around 3 to 5 Euros – a bargain!
Visit the Quick Burger website for the menu.
If you foolishly skip dinner – either because you were busy or you were too lazy to find the Quick Burger – you’re going to get hungry later on. Trust me, there are only so many cocktails at Harry’s Bar (see below) your body can take before you scream out for food. Even if you have dinner, once you smell pancake batter and warm Nutella you’re going to want to stop.
Near St Germain De Pres in the 6th arrondisement, there’s a street called Rue Princesse, which has several street food places that are open late. This means if you want crepes at 2am (like I did) you can. I recommend banana, Nutella and coconut flakes – very decadent!
Vin rouge or vin blanc. Champagne or Biere. Just ordering a drink sounds more glam in France. Here’s where to do it:
Harry’s New York Bar
For a pre-dinner aperitif (ie a very strong cocktail) you cannot beat Harry’s Bar, especially if you like vodka martinis. As you can see from the photo above, I do! Harry’s was one of Ernest Hemingway’s favourites and he came to drink the daiquiris, which are also pleasantly strong. The atmosphere here varies from civilised cocktail-sipping to drunken conversations with new friends over a stiff drink but for the best vibe I recommend staying upstairs by the bar. Downstairs, the table service is more formal – good for a date but not so good if you’re single and ready to mingle.
Harry’s Bar, 5 Rue Daunou. Nearest Metro: Opera. Visit the Harrys Bar website
If you’ve been to the Buddha Bar in London or Dubai then you’ll know how chic this place is. The Buddha bar in Paris was the first in the empire and
Buddha bar, 8/12 rue Boisay d’Anglais. Nearest Metro: Concorde. Visit the Buddha bar website
Eden Park Pub
After a few drinks, it gets to the stage of the evening where you start wanting to throw off the formalities, get up and dance and down a Jaeger-bomb (or is that just me?) At this time of the evening, you need to swap the cocktail bars for an open-all-hours place that serves no-frills drinks alongside great music and a large dancefloor. Eden Park is linked to rugby and we all know rugby boys know how to party!
Eden Park, Rue Princesse. Nearest Metro: St Germain De Pres. Visit The Eden Park Pub website
If you want to leave Paris feeling inspired (and quite frankly, why wouldn’t you?) then you should mark Solferino. on your Metro map and spend a few hours at the Musee D’Orsay. The reason, I say ‘inspired’ is because I am always cheered up when my eyes spot something beautiful. Sure I might be hungover or stressed by something but when I see a beautiful work of art it cheers me up and I am reminded that life is not all doom and gloom. Art is all about how you look about the world and when I come out a magnificent gallery like this, I feel calmer, more ‘zen’ and I look at everything in a different light.
Musee D’Orsay. 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur. Nearest Metro: Solferino. Visit the Musee D’Orsay website.
Have you seen the film The Da Vinci code? Then The Louvre needs no further explanation. Alternatively, have you heard of The Mona Lisa? This is where it’s housed. You’ll need a whole day at least to do the louvre properly but if you do only have afew hours then go to the website to see what’s on display then you can plan how to maximise your time. My personal top three is the Mona Lisa (obviously), the ancient Greek statue Venus Di Milo and the Titians (including Man With A Glove because the facial expression is just as enigmatic as The Mona Lisa).
This looks like a futuristic science lab but it’s the beauty hall of a department store. Not just any department store but the best department store in Paris. In London, we have Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Selfridges and in Paris they have Colette. This department store on the Champs Elysee is bigger than Harrods and Harvey Nicks and from the outside it’s as beautiful as an art gallery. You need to visit it at least once in your life, to walk around the beauty hall and smell the fine perfumes before checking out the chic fashion concessions. French women (and men) have an innate sense of style and I find walking round Colette gives me some ideas about what to put together when I’m back at home.
Colette, 213 Rue Saint Honoré. Nearest Metro: Tuileries. Visit the Colette website.
Everyone has their favourite districts (arrondisements)of Paris – depending if you want to be close to the party, to the river, to the museums, to the stadium or close to real life. My personal favourite is Montparnasse – the left bank – home to the artistic and cultural movements. You can smell the creative talent on the streets almost as much as you can the fresh bread and sweet pastries from one of the many boulangeries.
I stayed at the Ibis Alesia Montparnasse, where a room for two including breakfast and WiFi was £82.
From the outside it may not look like much but the twin room I had was spacious and clean, the shower was clean and there was a well-lit mirror – perfect for applying make-up. Just opposite, there was a boulangerie , where one of the most delicious mille feuilles that I’ve ever had in my life was 3 Euros. The bakery also sold giant macaroons and mini quiches as well as baguettes – you can eat so well in Paris.
In Paris, I find the Paris Metro is way more efficient than the London Undergound and cheaper too. If you buy a carnet of 10 tickets it will cost you 17 Euros, which works out to 1 Euro 70 a journey, compared to up to £4 for the London Underground. This Metro ticket will get you everywhere – even as far as the stadium –so you don’t need to stress what zone you are travelling in. If you arrive in Paris by Eurostar it’s all you need, but if you come into the airport you will need an extra return tickets, which is 19 Euros 50.
For cheap flights to Paris, check out Expedia.com. My friend paid £89 for a return trip by Air France. British Airways have sales a few times a year, where you can get flights from £49 each way. Currently they’re £55 each way at BA.com.
Eurostar is cheaper the further in advance you book. It’s possible to get it for £69 but if you want that, it will have to be a midweek trip. On the Eurostar website right now there is a search facility where you can say you want a £69 fare and it comes back with the times and days that’s available. I suggest doing it as arriving in Paris by train means you get straight to the heart at the cityat The Gare Du Nord without having to mess around at the airport.
So have I inspired you to go? Am I missing anything off my VIP Paris trips? Tweet @livelikeavip or comment below!