True, there are as many ways to fill a day in Paris as there are delicious croissants on its streets.
But since you’ve landed on this page – and since I took the opportunity to disable your back button – you’re about to find out this girl’s idea of a perfect day in Paris (nothing wrong with a little hyperbole).
You: Hmm, I don’t know. What exactly am I getting into?
Me: Lots of meandering, even more eating, some café lounging, a smidge of passersby-judging, and almost no reduction to your ambitious list of must-see historical places and museums.
After all, chances are you’re not competing in The Amazing Race. It’s okay to slow down a little. Or a lot. This is Paris, and the singular goal is joie de vivre.
Yes, here we begin with sleep. Why? Because it takes place at night, and Parisians love their nighttimes. Though sometimes sleep doesn’t take place at night . . . but that just means you’ve made very good use of your nighttime.
So where to lay your head? Hotel Recamier, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. This boutique hotel tucked away in a quiet little corner of the Place Saint Sulplice has the most decadent linens and towels, plus a very friendly staff, ideal location (for meandering) and a luxurious-but-comforting design that gets it featured in design mags.
Breakfast (or dinner, depending when you get in…)
Walk to Patisserie Gérard Mulot on rue de Tournon for a flaky morning pastry or quiche with a café crème. Marvel at how the tiny cream server is just big enough to fill your coffee cup after they pour in deliciously rich coffee. Marvel too at how quickly your pastry went away, and purchase another. (Maybe a palmier.)
This is where the meandering comes in. Perhaps I should have warned you about enticed you with this earlier, but it’s humanly impossible to wander the streets of Saint Germain and emerge without shopping bags, so get that plastic ready. When boutique stores die and go to heaven, this is where they go.
Don’t miss Pierre Hermé on Rue Bonaparte, where you can – nay, must – purchase a sampling of the world’s best macarons. Don’t believe me? Head on over to The Lazy Travelers to see their scientific methodology for finding the best macarons in Paris.
The area also becomes bookstore heaven the closer you get to the Latin Quarter, is horticultural heaven in Luxembourg Gardens, and is photography heaven just about everywhere. So voilà!
Should you begin to feel très fatigué, it’s time to head to the nicest-looking café on the block and secure a seat outdoors. It should go without saying that a perfect day in Paris implies perfect spring weather, so you can soak up the sun while sipping on a chocolat chaud or another cafe creme and enjoy the eye candy of Parisians going about their day.
Around midday, hop a cab to Notre Dame, where you can meander some more around the cathedral and along the banks of the Seine. If you happen to be here with someone you find attractive and would like to fall in love, now is the right time to do it.
Eventually head to the Pont Saint-Louis to cross onto the city’s cutest island and stroll down its main street, Rue St. Louis en l’Ille, until you reach l’Auberge de la Reine Blanche. It’s important that you continue this far, not only because it becomes increasingly less touristy, but because that’s where you’ll find my very favorite lunch spot in the whole world (I’ve got a thing for hyperbole).
Lest you raise your hopes, it’s really nothing special, but that’s what makes it so special. It’s a cute, country style, prixe-fixe lunch spot, with crowded tables. Get there early: at 2pm, they stop seating. The service might not be the friendliest, but in some masochistic way, it adds to the pleasure in Paris. And only in Paris.
If you’re a fan of that two-word delicacy outlawed in California and beginning with the letters f and g, they’ve got a nice starter here served with garnishes of rocky sea salt, green olive oil, fig jam and fresh herbs. Divine. I usually finish with a salad and am always over the moon with the house wine selections. Contrary to what you might expect given the day’s menu so far, skip desert.
Why? Because next we’re headed for ice cream which was described by a friend of a friend as the best dessert in the world (a girl after my own heart). An all-natural gelato place nearby serves the most beautiful cones, resembling a flower – so tempting, but resist! When in Italy, eat gelato. Here, eat super rich, buttery smooth glace from Ma. Berthillon, available at their flagship store or from vendors up and down the street. (My favorite is the dark and toasty salted caramel.) Walk your cone one block south for more Seine strolling.
Afternoon and Evening
Next: a museum. Normally, this is not how I would spend my day in a city. Cities are meant to be explored from street view, where you can feel the pulse. But this is Paris, and after a morning of beauty and a couple glasses of Bourgogne at lunch, you’re probably feeling inspired towards artistic expression. My pick is the Musée d’Orsay: accessible, manageable, bright and airy.
Don’t overdo it here, because at some point it would be optimal to return to Recamier for a nap or some reading in the garden lounge. Pamper yourself for a bit: maybe take a bath, and get ready for the evening.
After night falls, enjoy an aperitif in the garden before dinner at La Société. Slightly pretentious. Decidedly overpriced. And such a treat. Revel in the stylishly dressed waitresses, surprisingly friendly service, minimalist interior, and gourmet food (really, what isn’t gourmet in Paris?).
What you decide to do with the rest of your evening is entirely up to you and le destin. Whatever happens will be perfect; after all, this is Paris.