By Evan Upchurch
Divided into the right and left banks by the river Seine, modern Paris is much more than Audrey Hepburn in Charade, Edith Piaf’s La vie en rose, and the stories of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The city changes from one neighborhood, or arrondissement, to the next. We asked five people from the Virtuoso family to talk about the Paris they know and love.
The Sixteenth Arrondissement: Calm & Upscale
Our expert: Laurence Tafanel, Owner of Esprit Saint Germain
Tafanel’s charming boutique hotel is in the heart of Saint Germain, but she has always lived in Neuilly-sur-Seine, an upscale suburb of Paris close to the sixteenth arrondissement. Both areas are family-friendly, residential neighborhoods, also home to many French stars.
With a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower and a chic art-deco ambience, Monsieur Bleu restaurant, located inside the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art museum, is a must. 20 avenue de New York
Make a reservation at Le Stella for traditional French cuisine in an intimate bistro. Practice your French, as you will be surrounded by locals. 133 avenue Victor Hugo
Plan a picnic at Bois de Boulogne on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and stock up on supplies at these neighborhood stops. Buy fresh baguettes at Béchu (118 avenue Victor Hugo) and delicious pastries at Aux Mérveilleux (29 rue de l’Annonciation). Explore the magnificent permanent collection of impressionist paintings at Musée Marmottan-Monet (2 rue Louis Boilly) or discover the large collection of Asian art at Musée national des Arts asiatiques (6 place d’Iéna).
Saint Germain: Classic & Eclectic
Our expert: Gary Johnson, Seattle-based Virtuoso agency owner
Gary has been visiting Paris for 45 years, first as a child accompanying his father, a Pan Am pilot, for long weekends. In high school, he brought home armfuls of baguettes to pass out to grateful teachers. Today, he loves Saint Germain, historically a center for art, music, and literature – and still a hub for in-the-know, artistic Parisians.
The neighborhood gem is Laurence Tafanel’s 28-room hotel Esprit Saint Germain, says Johnson. Close to Saint Sulpice and the Luxembourg Gardens, it is one of the city’s best-located properties.
For a welcoming neighborhood restaurant, try Le Christine – they use fresh, seasonal products for a modern French menu. 1 rue Christine
The Hermès (17 rue de Sèvres) space was once the famous art-deco Lutetia swimming pool from the 1930s, transformed in the early 2000s into a concept store with a Hermès boutique, but also a tea salon, florist, and library.
After a day of shopping, treat yourself to a few pastries (try any of the fruit tarts) from Mulot (76 rue de Seine).
L’Île Saint-Louis: Charming & Isolated
Our expert: Hubert Moineau, Paris-based Virtuoso agency owner
Moineau now lives in the second arrondissement, but his heart remains on the quaint L’Île Saint-Louis, where he grew up and lived for the majority of his life. This small island in the Seine that’s part of the fourth arrondissement is well-known by tourists, but has an authentic heart – if you know where to go.
Visit during the week to avoid the weekend tourist rush and to catch it in its “village” form. If you must go on a weekend, the ideal Sunday activity is to get ice cream or sorbet at Berthillon (29-31 rue Saint-Louis en l’Île) and walk down to the Seine to relax and participate in a common Paris pastime: people-watching.
Every Parisian has a go-to café and bistro. Try the low-key Le Louis IX for a quick café allongé (espresso with hot water) or typical bistro meal (23 rue des Deux Ponts).
Ulysse is a small travel bookstore owned by a member of the Explorer’s Club. Hunt for a special book to remember your time in Paris (26 rue Saint-Louis en l’Île).
Fine dining is nearly synonymous with the city. For a true gastronomic experience make a reservation at Le Sergent Recruteur, whose narrow building once served as a former tavern (41 rue Saint-Louis en l’Île).
Le Marais/Oberkampf: Trendy & Lively
Our expert: Nicola Rusborg, assistant director of sales, Ritz Paris
Rusborg, originally from Germany, arrived in Paris two years ago to help lead the successful reopening of this historic palace hotel. Like many 20- and 30-somethings, she settled between two of the city’s hottest neighborhoods: Le Marais and Oberkampf. Le Marais is renowned as the place to be for trendsetters and young professionals, while Oberkampf is considered a young, up-and-coming area characterized by shabby-chic, even gritty areas.
Start your night at the trendy Italian restaurant Ober Mamma, and enjoy a Cucumber Spritz at their beautiful bar while waiting for a table — they don’t take reservations. (107 Boulevard Richard Lenoir). Continue at Udo Bar, where the beer, electronic music, and currywurst transport you to Berlin (4 bis rue Neuve Popincourt). If you prefer a cocktail scene, try the crazy-hip Candelaria – a tiny Mexican restaurant at first glance, but home to a hidden cocktail bar in the back (52 rue de Saintonge).
Window-shop on Rue Vieille du Temple (tip: unlike many Parisian stores, many shops here are open on Sundays) or visit the newly renovated Picasso Museum (5 rue de Thorigny).
Stop by Merci, which combines fashion with homewares, and its Instagram-worthy café next door (111 boulevard Beaumarchais).
The Fifth Arrondissement: Fun & Down-To-Earth
Evan Upchurch, student at La Sorbonne and freelance writer for Virtuoso and Travesías Media
I’ve adopted Paris as my new home, after arriving here almost four years ago. I live in a cozy studio in the fifth arrondissement, a hub for students and the heart of the Latin Quarter. Walking its streets feels like being in a living museum.
Head to Buns, a tiny burger joint started by two friends who were once part of the Buddha Bar team, and grab a BBQ burger (or, for vegetarians, a falafel burger) at extremely affordable prices (8 rue Gay Lussac). Stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens and try and spot the Medici Fountain’s mind-boggling optical illusion.
Make a late reservation at one of the quartier’s trendiest wine bars, Le Bar de Fer, on a cobblestoned street just off the famous Rue Mouffetard (7 rue du Pot de Fer). You’ll love their live music and their planches mixtes, a beautiful assortment of charcuterie, cheeses, and salad.
Visit the Musée de Cluny to find the vestiges of the Gallo-Roman baths, the six tapestries that make up the fifteenth-century masterpiece La Dame à la Licorne, and gorgeous Renaissance art (6 place Paul Painlevé). Take a ten-minute walk to find more remains from the Gallo-Roman era in Paris, the Arènes de Lutèce – an amphitheater that once sat 15,000 people watching gladiatorial combats. Today, people read on its ancient steps and kids play soccer in the dust where gladiators once fought (49 Rue Monge).