They say that Paris is the world’s most visited city and judging by the amount of far-flung friends I’ve seen since moving here, I can see why. Every other week a long-lost contact or random acquaintance gets in touch to tell me that they’re coming to town and to ask for recommendations. My list of “Pepita-approved” Parisian restaurants is probably the most accessed file on my computer. But even more valuable is the practical advice I’ve learned and given to said visitors. And while being down-and-out in Paris might be a romantic idyll, here are some tips for doing the city right if you’ve got the centimes.
Gotta Get a Guide
To say Paris is steeped in history and culture is an understatement; every square inch has a story to tell. Instead of burying your head in a book, make like the jet-set and see the sites with an expert guide—bilingual, of course—who will take you on a walking tour of your favorite quartier or museum and enrich you with insights and explanations that you never expected. Book it for the first morning of your stay and milk your guide for tips for the rest of your visit.
Shop the Right Rue
Although not as broad and leafy as Avenue Montaigne, what Rue Saint Honore lacks in width and foliage it makes up for in length, choice, and globetrotting fashionistas. With Chanel’s original atelier and Hermes’ famous flagship just a few blocks apart, Rue Saint Honore is the undoubted epicenter of the fashion world, sandwiching a few popular brands between the uber-luxe boutiques so that even weary wallets are catered for. And speaking of catering, the cafes (like DaRosa and Ferdi) and shops (like Gianvitto Rossi and White bIrd) around the corner on Rue Mont Thabor are hidden gems.
Sip and See
While some stars like to show off at Paris’ old-style palace hotels, a fair few come to chill out at the new Mandarin Oriental, Paris. With its unostentatious atmosphere, discreet service, and the most eye-wateringly expensive suite in town, it’s no surprise that The Mandarin’s leafy inner courtyard boasts some of the most sought after tables in town. Grab one on the bar side and spend a few indulgently lazy hours sipping champagne and snacking on gourmet street food (conceived by the celebrated chef, Thierry Marx) while trying to work out who’s behind those dark designer shades at the next table.
It Pays to be Well-Heeled
If you’re truly jet-set, hire a driver because unless you’re happy to do the Metro, getting around Paris can be a pain: There aren’t enough taxis on the road and those that are can’t always be hailed. A new service called Le Cab can be booked for point-to-point to car rides and their website is in English which helps. Of course, even with a car, Paris traffic is unpredictable, so ‘by foot’ is by far the best way to get around. Invest in a pair of butter-soft Chloe flats (try the boutique on Rue Saint Honore or Iris on the leftbank) and you’ll be set to walk ’til you drop.
Make a Meal of It
The Eiffel Tower tends to top most visitors’ to-do lists and for good reason; the tower itself is an engineering marvel and Paris’ intricate street layout is best appreciated from above. Unfortunately, this means that the line-ups to its different observation decks can seem never-ending, even if you book your ticket in advance. The best way to fast track up the tower is to reserve a window table at the Jules Verne restaurant. This pricey Alain Ducasse outpost serves surprisingly excellent cuisine (no microwaved ‘tower food’ here) and entertains enough deep-pocketed locals celebrating birthdays and anniversaries to temper the feeling that it’s just a tourist trap. That’s not to say that it isn’t, but the thrill of dining on Ducasse’s cuisine halfway up the Eiffel Tower will make a lasting souvenir.