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Best of Paris

Joanna Van Mulder A Carla Tolemeo-designed chair at the Hôtel Meurice on Rue de Rivoli.

Photo: Joanna Van Mulder

POST-MUSEUM NIBBLES Lunch is the first thing to suffer in any museum-packed itinerary of Paris. Here, five restaurants to remember so you can avoid tourist traps serving last week's steak at next year's prices. The family-run Little Italy Trattoria (13 Rue Rambuteau, Fourth Arr.; 33-1/42-74-32-46; lunch for two $55) is across the street from the Centre Pompidou and an affordable alternative to the museum's Georges restaurant. Order the spaghetti carbonara or the orecchiette alla siciliana (zucchini, capers, and garlic in a creamy sauce) and be prepared to share: portions are generous. Hip regulars include Rochas hotshot Olivier Theyskens and the new favorite designer of the ladies who lunch, Andrew Gn.

Savy (23 Rue Bayard, Eighth Arr.; 33-1/47-23-46-98; lunch for two $62), a traditional bistro a few minutes from the Grand Palais, is the perfect destination for stick-to-your-ribs lentils and lardons, veal served with shoestring fries topped with the meat's jus, and the darkest chocolate mousse. Those in the know request the front room.

For an inexpensive choice within minutes of the Musée d'Orsay, try Le 20 (20 Rue de Bellechasse, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/47-05-11-11; lunch for two $55). The daily, market-based menu (steak tartare or decadently buttery sole meunière) is written on a blackboard. Cigarette-haters beware: Sit near the door.

Lunch at L'Épi d'Or (25 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, First Arr.; 33-1/42-36-38-12; lunch for two $70) is a terrific reward after a grand tour at the Louvre (only five minutes away). Try Christian Louboutin's favorite lamb, cooked for seven hours, or kidney served with skinny french fries.

Chez Gramond (5 Rue de Fleurus, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/42-22-28-89; lunch for two $96) is ideal after a visit to see the Phillips family's private collection of Cézannes, Picassos, and Hoppers at the Musée du Luxembourg. Order the house specialty, roasted squab, and catch a glimpse of chef Jean-Claude Gramond working the room in his signature clogs.

After admiring the more than 250 sculptures at the Musée Rodin, it's time for the ultimate French lunch: entrecôte with frites or mashed potatoes and a carafe of vin rouge, followed by crème brûlée, at Café Varenne (36 Rue de Varenne, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/45-48-62-72; lunch for two $74).

What to Do

GALLERIES AND BOOKSHOPS Just as visiting museums is essential to understanding Paris, so is grazing in the rare­fied atmosphere of the antiques stores and bookshops. Antiquarian Pierre Passebon, the curator of Galerie du Passage (20–22 Galerie Véro-Dodat, First Arr.; 33-1/42-36-01-13; www.galeriedupassage.com), has impeccable taste and stocks the best 20th-century French furniture, made by the likes of Jean ­Royère and Emilio Terry, as well as works by contemporary artists such as Wendy Artin.

Karl Lagerfeld devours books at a daily rate. The tomes at Librairie 7L (7 Rue de Lille, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/42-92-03-58) are mostly photographic and are laid out like jewels on browse-friendly tables. The designer glibly describes the selection as "artistic Left Bank," but it's much more cosmopolitan than that. Recommended titles, many unavailable outside of France, include Raphaëlle Saint-Pierre's Villas 50 en France, Paris by the thirties photographer Moï Ver, and Inughuit, photographs of Eskimo by Tiina Itkonen.

Palais de Tokyo (13 Ave. du Président-Wilson, 16th Arr.; 33-1/47-23-38-86; www.palaisdetokyo.com), across the Seine from the Tour Eiffel, is a huge space with mile-high ceilings that exhibits the works of artists such as Vanessa Beecroft, Jeff Koons, and Kara Walker. Other highlights include a bookshop and BlackBlock, the groovy boutique.

Galerie J. Kugel (25 Quai Anatole-France, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/42-60-86-23; www.galerie-kugel.com), in the Palladian Hôtel Collot, is run by brothers Nicolas and Alexis Kugel, whose clients include countless Rothschilds, Hubert de Givenchy, and Henry Kravis. The mansion's four floors are full of superb antiques, among them mirrors from the throne room of the 18th-century Saxon king Augustus II (the Strong) and an eye-­popping collection of Renaissance jewelry.

Where to Shop

PRÊT-À-PORTER No need to limit your buying strictly to Saint Laurent, Vuitton, and Louboutin. These boutiques stock a well-edited selection of lesser-known and equally bright talents. The stylish Mona Blonde picks only the crème de la crème of the latest collections for her eponymous store Mona (17 Rue Bonaparte, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/44-07-07-27). You'll find trousers by Chloé's Phoebe Philo, skirts by Lanvin's Alber Elbaz, suits by Alexander McQueen, and shoes by Marc Jacobs.

Madame André (34 Rue du Mont-Thabor, First Arr.; 33-1/42-96-27-24) sells the Gilles Dufour collection plus a mix of inexpensive items, such as perky underwear by I. C. Pearl and colorful bangles from India, displayed in a candy-pink interior.

If you're heading to Paris to fill your trousseau, look no further than Fifi Chachnil (231 Rue St.-Honoré, First Arr.; 33-1/42-61-21-83). Fans of the lingerie designer's fifties-pinup style (push-up bras, marabou trimmings, lacy negligees) include Victoire de Castellane, Christian Dior's fine-jewelry designer.

Follow the lead of savvy Parisians to L'Habilleur (44 Rue de Poitou, Third Arr.; 33-1/48-87-77-12) for last season's designer clothes—both men's and women's—at exceptional prices.

Inès de la Fressange calls Calesta Kidstore (23 Rue Debelleyme, Third Arr.; 33-1/42-72-15-59) the Colette for kids. This sparse concept store sells the trendiest European accessories and clothes, including T-shirts by London's No Added Sugar and hippie pieces by Belgian designer Pilar.

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