Published: June 2009
By Elizabeth Garnsey
Luxe, Calme, et Bon Marché Stylish yet sensibly priced hotel rooms, the best consignment couture, and delectable meals that won't break the bank
Somewhere north of a backpacker's baguette-and-Brie and south of a rock star's suite at the Ritz, there's a way to see Paris that neither deprives the visitor of the other food groups nor denies him the pleasur es of a five-day Métro pass. Here, our Paris primer for travelers in search of the next great deal.
Hotels under $150 per night (or thereabouts) aren't hard to come by; the trick is finding the charming ones. One flower among the weeds is the Hôtel Rivoli Notre-Dame (19 Rue du Bourg-Tibourg, Fourth Arr.; 33-1/42-78-47-39, fax 33-1/40-29-07-00; doubles from $103) in the Marais neighborhood. The lobby is done in an attractive motif the hotel calls neo-Gothic, while the 31 guest rooms are decidedly French, with vichy (gingham) fabrics and silk wall coverings. Another plus: the Mariage-Frères tea shop (33-1/42-72-28-11; lunch for two $35), a tea lover's essential address and a great stop for an inexpensive lunch, is just a few doors away at No. 30-32. Even as the Marais becomes more commercial and its resident-artist base slips away to more untamed neighborhoods, its cool shops and poseur cafés are still style central. Plus, it's home to two great museums: the Grand Carnavalet (whose objects and art depict Parisian life from the Bronze Age to the present day) and the Musée Picasso.
For that Parisian experience ne plus ultra, stay at Hôtel Le Ste.-Beuve (9 Rue Ste.-Beuve, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/45-48-20-07, fax 33-1/45-48-67-52; doubles from $115), with its David Hicks-designed rooms, great service, fruit-packed raspberry and apricot breakfast jams, and proximity—a five-minute walk—to the Luxembourg Gardens.
If the Ste.-Beuve is full—and it's likely to be unless you reserve well ahead of time—the nearby Hôtel Le St.-Grégoire (43 Rue de l'Abbé-Grégoire, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/45-48-23-23, fax 33-1/45-48-33-95; doubles from $160) is just as satisfying. Also designed by Hicks, the St.-Grégoire is set in an 18th-century building; two of its 20 rooms even have terraces.
Across town, steps from the Madeleine, the Hôtel Bedford (17 Rue de l'Arcade, Eighth Arr.; 33-1/44-94-77-77, fax 33-1/44-94-77-97; doubles from $145) caters to businesspeople but is ideal for anyone who appreciates a uniformed staff, soundproof rooms, and an elegant—if slightly staid—restaurant. The formal dining room is still topped by its original 19th-century stained-glass dome. There's also a modern bar with a lounge. Owner Gérard Berrut collects modern art and has turned the hotel's walls into his gallery. The Hôtel de l'Arcade, down the street at No. 9 (33-1/53-30-60-00, fax 33-1/40-07-03-07; doubles from $150), has the same owner and comme il faut demeanor.
It's easy to take advantage of Paris's food markets and prepare a few meals yourself in one of Citadines' 18 apartment hotels (800/755-8266; www.apartmenthotels.com; from $75 for two in a studio). Though slightly sterile, the properties are all in surprisingly prime locations—across from the Louvre near the Palais Royal, next to the Eiffel Tower, down the road from the Opéra and the Place Vendôme. The newest opens this month in a seven-story building overlooking the Seine near Boulevard St.-Germain (53B Quai des Grands-Augustins; 33-1/41-05-79-05, fax 33-1/41-05-78-83).
Al Diwan 30 Ave. George V, Eighth Arr.; 33-1/47-23-45-45; lunch for two $10. Stand at the zinc counter for a lunch or afternoon snack of addictive Lebanese sandwiches (chicken and hummus; falafel and tahini; grilled lamb); for dessert, have the dripping, flaky baklava.
Florence Finkelsztajn 19 Rue des Rosiers, Fourth Arr.; 33-1/48-87-92-85; snacks $2-$8. This is the best Jewish deli for an afternoon pick-me-up of chopped liver, blini, apple strudel, or a brick of cheesecake.
Lina's Sandwiches Locations throughout the city, including 50 Rue étienne-Marcel in the Second Arr., 22 Rue des Saints-Pères in the Seventh, and the newest, at 47 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the Third; lunch for two $15. Look for a Lina's when you're in the mood for a sandwich (smoked salmon and cucumber; cheese, shrimp, and avocado; taramasalata on toast), a good salad (mozzarella and tomato), and a heavy—as it should be—fudge brownie.
Café Véry Tuileries garden; 33-1/47-03-94-84; lunch for two $20. Eating in this egg-shaped wood-and-glass structure (try the lentil salad or the warm salmon on wilted greens and cucumbers) is a great alternative to picnicking on the lawn. And it's perfect for a rainy day.
Colette 213 Rue St.-Honoré, First Arr.; 33-1/55-35-33-90; lunch for two $25. Check out the Pucci dresses and the latest Prada sandals on your way downstairs to Colette's café. There, servers as attentive as they are beautiful will bring you a sumptuous lunch and a mocha mille-feuille made by Ladurée, one of the best pastry shops in town.
L'Épi Dupin 11 Rue Dupin, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/42-22-64-56; lunch for two $35, dinner for two $51. The two-course prix fixe lunch is a bargain, considering the extraordinary quality of the food: beet salad with avocado and shrimp, scallops in a saffron infusion, snapper with sautéed leeks, all prepared by inventive chef François Pasteau. "So many of my clients are regulars that I want to surprise them with a new menu every day, and by creating a marriage of unusual flavors and textures," he says. He's not joking about the stream of regulars. If you want a table for lunch, reserve at least two days in advance; for dinner, at least 10.
Casa Corsa 25 Rue Mazarine, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/44-07-38-98; dinner for two $65. The all-Corsican staff at this bi-level, orange-walled restaurant—just a year old—presents lesser-known specialties from the le de Beauté (Corsica, of course), including zucchini-and-brocciu (sheep's cheese) tarts, scorpion fish in olive oil and tomatoes, chestnut-flour bread, and a long list of Corsican wines.
Café Verlet 256 Rue St.-Honoré, First Arr.; 33-1/42-60-67-39. French silver screen starlets have been spotted buying bags of beans at this shoe box-sized place, where a sit-down coffee is only $2 (it's at least $4 at most places). The menu describes two dozen coffees, including their origins and percentage of caffeine. Cappuccino and café au lait are available, along with light meals like muesli ($3.50), a croque-monsieur ($3.50), or a salade composée—chef's salad ($5.50). Café Verlet has been around since 1880 and retains all the aloofness, sans snobisme, you'd expect from its St.-Honoré address.
Web Bar 32 Rue de Picardie, Third Arr.; 33-1/42-72-66-55; www.webbar.fr. Have a cocktail and check your e-mail ($6 for an hour on the Web) at this spacious three-level bar, and stay for free art exhibits, DJ music, and short films.
Pick up a free copy of the quarterly version of Time Out for English-speaking visitors at places like the Alliance Française (101 Blvd. Raspail), American Express (11 Rue Scribe), and many restaurants and hotels. Otherwise, buy the weekly Pariscope, with a several-page supplement in English provided by the Time Out crew.
Monoprix 48 Blvd. Haussmann, 33-1/48-74-46-06; 50 Rue de Rennes; 33-1/45-48-18-08. This is a chain of K-mart equivalents—but a step up because, hey, the goods are French. You'll find great buys on lingerie, the occasional Petit Bateau T-shirts and baby clothes, and all manner of too-cool-for-school supplies like smartly designed colored cardboard folders, bound notebooks, and pencils and pens that les étudiants français no doubt take for granted. Take a look at the Bourjois line of makeup, which happens to be manufactured in the same factory as Chanel's and sells for a fraction of the price. At the Rue de Rennes store, grab a carrot-and-apple concoction at the organic juice bar, and try the sandwiches or sushi rolls.
E. Dehillerin 18-20 Rue Coquillière, First Arr.; 33-1/42-36-53-13. The very best copper cookware here costs about half what you'd pay in the States—unless you splurge on shipping.
Pharmacie Fouhéty 26 Rue du Four, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/46-33-20-81. This is the place for 30 percent markdowns on all the products you find in French pharmacies: Phytologie hair products, Kneiss bath gels, Roc face and hand creams, cool toothbrushes, and Quiès wax earplugs (the best).
Gammes de . . . 17 Rue-du-Temple, Fourth Arr.; 33-1/48-04-57-57. Last year's women's collections from Guy Laroche are 50 percent off (and half that price in January and September, France's official markdown periods).
Et Vous Stock 17 Rue de Turbigo, Second Arr.; 33-1/40-13-04-12. An outlet store for men's and women's sweaters, jeans, and jackets from $40 to $100.
A.P.C. Surplus 45 Rue Madame, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/45-48-43-71. Shipments of overstock jeans, jackets, shoulder bags, and more arrive from the main store of this stylish frock house, favored by film and design types. Prices range from $20 to $150.
Réciproque 88-123 Rue de la Pompe, 16th Arr.; 33-1/47-04-82-24. A giant consignment store for label addicts only! Signs everywhere in this seizième locale say NE PAS TOUCHER (don't touch), making the shopper feel like a child playing too close to a nuclear warhead. But if suits by Chanel, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent are your thing, and you're willing to pay up to $1,000 for one that's a few years old but in good condition—some with the tags still on—this is your place. Housewares and accessories (from Murano glass vases to designer bags and jewelry) are also for sale in several of Réciproque's eight storefronts on this street.
For a more relaxed atmosphere and a less overwhelming selection, try Dépôt-Vente de Passy (14-16 Rue de la Tour, 16th Arr.; 33-1/45-20-95-21), which is smaller and less expensive than Réciproque, and not as stuffy. Here, a pre-owned Chanel suit runs closer to $450, a Prada bag goes for $220, and a Lacroix evening jacket or YSL overcoat can be found for $200 to $300. A lined, three-quarter-length zebra-print coat (its label had been removed) was a mere $75, and there were Chanel earrings for $75. Only your wallet will know the difference.
For details on the following tips, no source is better than the Paris Tourist Office (127 Ave. des Champs-élysées; 33-1/49-52-53-54; www.paris-touristoffice.com).
Museums More than two dozen of Paris's museums and monuments are free on the first Sunday of every month. Among them are the Louvre, Orsay, and Rodin museums, as well as Versailles; Notre Dame throws in guided tours. With the Carte Musées et Monuments, you not only gain access to 70 museums and sites, but you also get to bypass the lines. Sold at museums, the tourist office, and major RER and Métro stations, the card is $12 for one day, $24 for three days, and $35 for five. The Paris Visite Métro-and-museum pass, also for sale at the tourist office, is good for all subway and bus rides, including trains to both airports and Disneyland Paris, and gets you discounts to major museums. It costs $18 for three days, $26 for five.
Airport-transportation deals Take the public Roissybus ($7 one way; 33-1/48-04-18-24) between Charles de Gaulle Airport and the Opéra Métro, behind the Palais Garnier on Rue Scribe, or the Orlybus ($5 one way; 33-1/44-36-32-74) between Orly and the Denfert-Rochereau Métro. The Airport Connection shuttle van (33-1/44-18-36-02; $25 for two) will pick you up at your hotel.
Half-price theater tickets At the Kiosque Théâtre (Place de la Madeleine, Eighth Arr.; open Tuesday-Saturday 12:30-7:45, Sunday 12:30-3:45; cash only), line up with the locals for half-price tickets to all the major theaters except for the Palais Garnier and the Opéra Bastille.
1. Rétrodor baguette . . . 80 cents, from L'Épi des Lombards (Blvd. Sébastopol, at the corner of Rue des Lombards). A French baguette, only more so, made from a 1930's recipe.
2. Onagrine "Rose" lip balm . . . $3, available at most pharmacies. Light on iridescence, heavy on moisture.
3. Moroccan tea glasses . . . $3.50 each, at Israel Épicerie (30 Rue François-Miron).
4. "Cèdre" incense sticks . . . $4.50, from Miller et Bertaux (17 Rue Ferdinand-Duval). When lit, these bâtonnets give off a one-of-a-kind smoky, clove-ish fragrance.
5. Diptyque candle . . . $24, from Diptyque (34 Blvd. St.-Germain). Habitués stock up when in town. The world's best scented candles are priced at a little more than half of what they cost in the United States, and the newest varieties, including firewood and quince, are available only in France.
6. Sisley's Eau du Soir scented soap . . . $20, from Sephora stores. A quintessential Parisian extravagance—exquisite perfume put to quotidian use.
7. A Notre Dame gargoyle . . . $10, at the cathedral's gift shop.
8. Chocolate-covered almonds in a sachet . . . $7, at La Maison du Chocolat (8 Blvd. de la Madeleine). Only God could make them better.