Plan a trip to the City of Light to feast your eyes (and appetite) on a greener, greater Paris.
The next time you’re strolling through the Champ de Mars, have a look 400 feet up at the world’s chicest wind turbines tucked away in the Eiffel Tower. They’re a sleek bronze symbol of the monumental changes underway in Paris, where 190 countries gathered at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change near the end of 2015 to commit to limiting warming to no more than two degrees. In addition to the city’s comprehensive climate change campaign—including planting 20,000 trees, powering all public lighting with renewable energy sources and building a modern eco-quartier called Clichy-Batignolles—you’ll find a growing number of restaurants and hotels have joined the green Parisian renaissance.
Here are the best ways to spend a sustainably minded—and deliciously rewarding—vacation in Paris.
The Best Farm-to-Table Dining
“The Paris food scene has been very receptive to returning to a style of preparing and eating food that has always existed here,” says Emily Dilling, author of Paris Paysanne and newly released My Paris Market Cookbook: A Culinary Tour of French Flavors and Seasonal Recipes. Holybelly is one such season-driven spot that Dilling believes is representative of a new generation of French restaurateurs. Though it’s more akin to the kind of trendy minimalist cafés you'd see in Melbourne or Williamsburg rather than the 10th arrondissement, Holybelly’s local clientele keeps coming back for the artisanal coffee and savory pancake topped with a fried egg, crispy bacon, bourbon butter and maple syrup. “But that doesn't mean that classic French [chefs] lack loyalty when it comes to local products,” notes Dilling. “Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, Le Verre Volé and Le Bon Georges are some examples of great restaurants that take pride in making excellent French cuisine and using high quality, locally sourced ingredients.”
Sipping wine at charming run-of-the-mill sidewalk cafés may never go out of style, but visitors will delight in discovering how the culinary scene in Paris has evolved, with a roaring craft beer movement, an explosion of over 40 food trucks—try Le Camion Qui Fume and The Sunken Chip—and the reawakening of locavore gastronomy. You might not know from the understated menus, but some of the best restaurants in town are run by culinary environmentalists, crafting dishes inspired by what vegetable suppliers like Joël Thiébault bring in that week. Reliable farm-to-table establishments, such as Pierre Gagnaire, L’Astrance and Table, collaborate with Thiébault, who also works with Plaza Athénée and George V.
Although Dilling says farmers like Thiébault and Hermione Boehrer “have been geeking out on rare or underappreciated vegetable varieties for their entire careers,” it’s only in the last few years that there’s been a real renewed interest among chefs and diners in supporting local agriculture. “In a short time, the consciousness of where what we eat comes from has been raised and revered.”
The Best Farmers Markets
There are over 80 markets across the 20 arrondissements, yet roaming the vibrant intersections of food and flowers you won’t greet many family farmers or small-scale producers. Down the street from Moulin Rouge, Marché bio des Batignolles is one of three all-organic greenmarkets in Paris and is a favorite Saturday morning activity for locals like Dilling, who love the peaceful atmosphere and strictly organic vendors from the Île-de-France region (where there are over 6,000 farms). “I'd go there just for the fresh and delicious eggs from La Ferme du Nohain,” says Dilling. “But the allure of freshly pressed wheatgrass juice, homemade pasta, and piping hot potato pancakes seal the deal.”
Fuel up with an Anglo-inspired brunch around the corner at Le Bal Café before plunging in to shop for souvenirs or a picnic—go to picturesque Parc Monceau—or a home cooked meal back at your Airbnb pied-à-terre.
As for what goods to get, Dilling says, “This depends on the season, but I can always count on a beautiful selection of fresh herbs and delicate young sprouts or hardy cabbage varieties at Hermione Boehrer's stand at Marché Batignolles and Marché Raspail. I love the autumn and winter squash at Mr. and Mme. Dormoy's stand at Marché Daumesnil.” If you can’t find everything you need at the market, neighboring La Recolte is choc-full of ethically and locally sourced ingredients. “While I love the organic markets of Paris,” Dilling says, “My heart belongs to neighborhood markets like Marché Cours de Vincennes, Marché Daumesnil, and Marché Bastille, which all have a great selection of Île-de-France farmers.”
The Best Green Hotels
It’s as true as ever in Paris that you don’t have to sacrifice luxury for a light carbon footprint. From big brands to boutique properties, hotels are finding creative, interactive ways for guests to think about what it means to be a responsible traveler. At the HYATT Madeleine, you can tour a new beehive and taste the homegrown honey in various dishes at La Chinoiserie. As part of a new company-wide “Rooted in Nature” program, which aims to serve 75 percent sustainably-sourced food by 2020, the Shangri-La Hotel, Paris just launched “100 percent Green Dinners” at La Bauhinia, featuring market-driven menus on Thursday nights; producers and wine growers come on the first Thursday of every month to engage patrons in a dialogue about adventures in mindful dining. A mélange of new design-conscious hotels are enticing travelers with tucked away addresses, affordable rates and an “it’s easy to be green” tune that sounds as good as it looks. Among the eco all-stars are Hidden Hotel (from $173), carbon-neutral Hotel Gavarni (from $82) and Le Citizen (from $149), a 12-room hotel on the banks of the Saint Martin canal in North Marais, where perks like complimentary locally-sourced breakfast and a free minibar are as appealing as the strict water and energy conservation policies.
The Best Way to Explore Paris
Paris is still the moveable feast that Ernest Hemingway once knew, but the way in which we experience it has changed. Mayor Anne Hidalgo imagines a City of Light that beats with the sound of spinning wheels and bells, not gas-guzzling motors. In an effort to improve air quality and reduce CO2 emissions, Hidalgo aims to ban all diesel vehicles in Paris and double the number of bike paths—including five bike highways—to 870 miles by 2020. If you’re here for a short visit, you may find walking is too slow and the Métro is too, well, underground. Fortunately, these days there are more options than ever for cruising around town, from pedicabs and tuktuks like Hanif Cab and Cyclopolitain to scooter companies like Paris Trikkes and Paris by Scooter to friendly knowledgeable shops like Paris à vélo c'est Sympa, which rents city cruisers from $16/half day and offers three-hour bike tours from $30.
The popular Vélib bike share program, which costs $1.82/day (if you stick to 30-minute rides at a time), is a great way to make the most of your trip. With 20,000 bikes and 1,800 stations, it’s easy to design a day full of self-guided excursions. Pick up a free Paris à Velo station map at any Paris town hall office, then consider pedaling to newly reopened Musée Rodin (Station no. 7015) or the new energy-efficient Philharmonie de Paris in Parc de la Villette (Station no. 19018) for a concert and bite at contemporary seasonal bistro Le Balcon. Then, spin through the beautiful Bois de Boulougne, where the Fondation Louis Vuitton (Station no. 16123) has become an ecological model for current and future cultural institutions.