Maybe more than any other city in the world, the French capital is the kind of destination dreams are made out of. Mention Paris to people from all over the world, and they will start fantasizing. The city conjures up vivid images in everyone's head.
Thoughts of the Eiffel Tower, of the world's best fashion. Of baguettes fresh out of the oven, tucked under the arms of the locals.
A lot has changed in the city in recent years. A booming international food scene has taken the stuffy dining experience and transformed it into something new and exciting. There is no shortage of good coffee to be had anymore. And the famous Bobo lifestyle is still going strong. Here are our top picks for 12hrs in Paris.
(Image: Le Pigalle)
10 am – If there has ever been an infamous, mythical neighborhood in Paris, it’s Pigalle. From its seedy sex shops to its cabaret shows, from the Moulin Rouge to the world-famous artists that once roamed the streets, Pigalle’s history is unlike any other.
Lacking communal space or a grand monument to this multicultural neighborhood, the founders of Le Pigalle took it upon themselves to create what they call ‘an authentic neighborhood hotel’, a place shaped by the cultural mix and vibrant spirit of this unique neighborhood just south of Montmartre.
To create an authentic experience, the team behind Le Pigalle first turned to their neighbors – the hotel team is local (some were even born in the neighborhood), the breakfast croissants are baked nearby, and the books and music are selected by local bookstores and resident DJs.
Renovated in the ‘Nouvelle Athènes’ style of the neighborhood, Le Pigalle collaborated with the design studio Festen Architecture to transform the building. The designers referenced the neighborhood’s neo-classical details and colorful facades while injecting simple volumes and modern materials to create playful design combinations throughout.
The local experience extends into Le Pigalle’s more than 40 rooms, using vintage and modern furniture and objects that add to the unique character of each room. The guest rooms vary from typical Parisian-style pied-a-terre accommodations to shared bunk beds, making the hotel accessible to travelers with many different budgets.
11 am – A Melbourne-style café located in one of Paris’ most charming neighborhoods, the area around the Canal Saint-Martin. Holybelly was founded in 2013 by Sarah Mouchot and Nico Alary to fill a void in Paris’ cafe scene. They serve delicious breakfast, brunch, and lunch every day from 9am onwards, with a menu that is heavily incorporating seasonal and local produce and thus, changes all the time.
Their breakfast is wonderful, with stacks of pancakes, homemade granola, and all the egg dishes you could ask for on the menu. On weekends and even some weekdays, long lines will form in front of the cafe, and since they don’t take reservations, expect to wait a bit for a table.
Holybelly also serves quite good coffee, so keep that in mind when you’re just looking for a caffeine fix.
12 am – Tom Greyhound’s mission statement is as simple as it is bold: create a store entirely dedicated to a multicultural and contemporary approach to fashion.
One visit to its beautiful location in the heart of the Marais and you’ll say: ‘Yep, mission accomplished!’
Opened in March 2014 as the first international outpost of the original Korean concept store that is Tom Greyhound, the boutique offers an eclectic array of creations from international designers, yet never loses sight of what’s up and coming.
The fashion industry’s most famous names, such as Jacquemus, Dries van Noten or Loewe share the spotlight with up-and-coming talents like Courreges, Coperni, and Aeron. Sporty & Rich is sold here, as is Scandi power brand Toteme as well as some wonderful niche beauty products.
The store is gorgeous, located in a beautiful old building, and occupies two floors. Different areas are partitioned off to showcase different fashion styles, which makes it fun to take time and explore the shop. The staff is approachable and helpful, but won’t be all over you. Instead, they give you time to walk through the boutique by yourself, discovering the great selection of products at your own pace.
1 pm – The Next Door and Acte 2 were two exceptional menswear boutiques in the small Southern French town of Avignon. Why is that relevant to our Paris guide? Because the founders of those outstanding shops have now moved their operations to Paris.
All the charm of the – now-closed – original is on display here, with friendly staff ready to answer all of your questions and none of the stiffness that so often comes with shopping in high-end stores.
The Next Door is located in one of Paris’ most vibrant neighborhoods – the area around the Canal Saint-Martin – and occupies four stories of a corner building. On the ground floor, you’ll find the (street) fashion brands of the moment, Beams+, Yunya Watanabe, Neighbourhood, and Sacai, to name a few. This is the place to find that rare sneaker or accessory that you have been staring at online. The basement features a fantastic selection of sneakers and more affordable streetwear brands like The North Face, Nike, and Adidas; and the second floor features a brand new yoga studio, offering a variety of courses.
2 pm – All around Paris, you’ll spot office workers, shop assistants, and students flocking to the restaurants starting around noon. Lunch is a big deal here and is usually served between 12am and 3pm. One of our favorite lunch spots in the whole city is Paperboy, a charming cafe serving some of the best midday snacks in the whole city.
You’ll get to choose from different dishes of the day that focus on different proteins. Have your pick of meat (with pastrami and turkey), fish (smoked salmon), or pick a vegetarian plate. Everything here tastes great and comes on big plates full of healthy sides like handmade coleslaw, avocados, and crunchy salad. The menu also features some sandwiches and fried chicken, if that’s what you are craving. For drinks, stick to the homemade lemonades.
The place is always packed, yet the service staff always stays cool and charming. Paperboy also serves a fantastic breakfast (including the best peanut butter ever), so if you’d like that instead, drop by earlier.
3 pm – 0fr. Librairie is one of the best bookshops in the city and a true treasure trove for print fans. Ofr. sells art books, beautiful older editions, and lots and lots of magazines. You’ll find the world’s coolest titles here, covering everything from fashion to food and gardening. In the back of the shop is a big gallery space that regularly hosts exhibitions. Admission is free, so make sure to peek in the back room when you’re done perusing the stacks and stacks of books.
For a special souvenir, rummage through the shelves that hold limited edition T-shirts, Greek Sandals, or vintage French worker’s jackets.
4 pm – François Pinault, the French founder of luxury group Kering, is one of the most important and prolific private art collectors in the world. To house his extensive collection and make it accessible to the public, he opened the Bourse de Commerce Pinault Collection in 2021 in collaboration with the city of Paris. The collection, which is housed in the historic Bourse de Commerce building, features a diverse array of contemporary and modern artworks from some of the world's most celebrated artists.
The stunning Bourse de Commerce building was built in the late 19th century and originally used as a place to negotiate the trade of grain and other commodities. Murals on the wall still showcase its history, but the building has undergone extensive renovations by architect Tadao Ando to transform it into a state-of-the-art exhibition space. Its grand architecture and ornate details provide the perfect backdrop for the collection's thought-provoking and visually striking modern artworks and is worth the visit itself.
The collection features works by a wide range of artists, including Jeff Koons, Cy Twombly, and Cindy Sherman, and a broad mix of paintings, sculptures, photography, and video art, all of which is curated to provoke thought and spark conversation.
Tickets can be booked online in advance.
5 pm – Just down the street from Paperboy is Dreamin' Man, a tiny cafe shop that serves wonderful coffee. The blue-grey facade looks a bit faded and there is not even a sign, so this place feels a bit like a discovery. Inside, the vintage vibes continue, with mismatched furniture, rough walls, and wooden shelves that look a bit wonky. The coffee is stellar, though, and the baristas super friendly.
There are barely any seats inside and only a few more available on the pavement in front of the cafe, but the place is warm and welcoming. The team recently opened up a second Dreamin’ Man location at the back of the cult concept store The Broken Arm in the heart of the Marais.
6 pm – Visiting this shop in Saint Germain feels like stepping into a different time. Outfitted using some elements of the founder Jean-Vincent Bully's original boutique, the store’s dark brown wood cabinets, made of elm, bramble, and cherry wood, evoke an old European pharmacy. The marble floors, brass fixtures, and grand chandelier do the rest. High-end beauty and grooming products, combs, and soaps in beautiful, old-school packaging line the counters and shelves and make for wonderful souvenirs.
A lot of the products can be personalized, hand-embossed with your or your loved ones' initials by the very knowledgeable members of staff. Some of our favorites are Buly’s scented candles, the lip balms in their rectangular packaging, and their hand cream, the ‘Crème Confort’.
There are two more Buly 1803 locations in Paris in different corners of the Marais.
7 pm – Nicknamed the ‘Oval Paradise’, the reading room at Bibliothèque Nationale de France’s historic Richelieu site recently re-opened after a 12-year renovation and it’s already a highlight on Paris’ packed list of architectural must-sees. The canopy and the gilding of the cornice have been restored, the glass ceiling lets in the light from outside. In the middle of the room are large, antique Recourra tables with power outlets and scattered all around are comfortable chairs to read, rest, and relax.
It’s the only reading room in the building that you can visit without a membership to the library, admission is free for all ages, the wifi is, as well. Around 20.000 titles are stored in the oval, almost 2km of books. Among them is France’s biggest collection of comic books and mangas, more than 9.000 of them.
8 pm – A bouillon is a broth, yes, but it is also the name of traditional worker kitchens that sprung up in Paris in the 1860s. Serving traditional French meals with little fuss for very little money, they were the brighter, louder versions of the French brasseries and went out of style with the years until only a few of them were left.
And then, Bouillon opened, and their renaissance began. Quantity, turnover, closely packed tables, and a (now-relaxed) no-reservation policy explain the kitchen’s ability to offer quality fare at prices that are hard to believe. Appetizers start at 2.50 € (the iconic hard-boiled eggs, filled with mayonnaise), mains are often under 10 Euro. Leave room for dessert! They taste as good as they look. The (good!) house wine comes filled in Bouillon-branded bottles in various sizes and is equally affordable, as are the non-alcoholic options. It’s always bright and loud, the tables tightly packed.
Bouillon recently started to offer a limited number of tables per night for reservation, which we highly recommend. If you don’t have one, try to arrive very early or very late. Starting around 6.30 pm, the line outside grows massive and waiting times are long. There is a second Bouillon location near Pigalle.
9 pm – Folderol is our favorite bar in Paris right now and the reason is simple. It serves two things only: wine and ice cream. Opened by pastry chef Jessica Yang and her husband, chef Robert Compagnon, who also run the successful restaurant Le Rigmarole (currently operating as Pizzamarole, serving just that), this is our dream spot for a cozy drink before or after dinner.
The ice cream menu, scribbled on the wall, changes daily, depending on what is available at the market and every flavor is special, creamy, the best ice cream you ever had. You taste the thick cream and the quality ingredients that went into each flavor – Ethiopian coffee, vanilla from Mexico, dried flowers from Taiwan.
The wine selection is equally stunning and the staff is very helpful if you’re not sure what you want or like. You can order it by the glass, by the bottle, or to bring home.
12HRS © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED