Monday, 5 December 2016

Design Tourist: 32 Hours in Paris travel tips

Now what on earth can you do in 32 hours in Paris? Well quite a lot actually. At the end of November I took a quick trip to Paris for what was essentially a girls night out - just one that lasted 32 hours and involved getting on a plane. It wasn't a hedonistic spend up though, just a chance to spend some quality time together (a feat that's quite hard to achieve when your a Mum) albeit in Paris.  Brighton to Central Paris can be done in under 3hrs which is a seriously quick hop. It was one of my #take12trips for 2016 and it was a really wonderful weekend.
So when time is tight you either need to scheduled the hell out of your trip or be lucky enough to know Paris so well that you can be laid back with your plans.  Happily the latter was the case for us BUT that was because we were visiting a local (and I've already been there 4 times this year).
So here's my tips to make it work. Firstly stay central pick the arrondissement that best suits your personality and what you like to do. If upscale luxury shopping and major galleries is your desire then the 1st arrondisement (75001) home to the Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries and concept shop Colette. Or maybe it’s the draw of the 6ème bustle of Saint Germain (75006) with a vibrant café lifestyle, boutique shopping and Haussmannian style buildings. Or the maybe it’s the call of the Marais’ arty gallery scene and laid back brunching (spread over 75003 and 75004). What ever your passion Paris will have village that suits you. Staying central also means that you should be able to do lots on foot rather than using the (excellent) metro.

Try to combine activities. Why not go shopping to concept store Merci but also stop by the library café for a midmorning cup of coffee. It’s seriously good instagram material plus just around the corner is the amazing Musee Picasso Paris or instead a short walk will take you to Marche des Enfants Rouge which I absolutely love as this hidden food market isn’t on everyone’s itinerary. You can spend a lovely hour seeing the locals stocking up on essentials and eat from the selection of food stalls.

Sundays in Paris are an altogether more sedate affair, so why not Sunday like a local? It’s not uncommon for independent stores to be closed and even some restaurants – although many in the central more touristy arrondissements are open. Locals spend Sunday mornings in one of the small pop up brocantes that happen around the city. If you want to track one down, as they often appear only once a month in a particular location, check out brocabrac and Société Parisienne d'Animation et de Manifestation
Paris is an incredibly photogenic city and around every corner you’ll find an “instagram moment”. I always try and take a stroll in one of Paris’ wonderful parks or squares even if it’s just getting from A to B.  I like to visit to Le Jardin du Luxembourg possibly one of the most beautiful public spaces in the city. For others it might be Tuileries Gardens or Palais Royale Gardens. If you do visit the Jardin des Tuileries you could also visit Monet’s waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie across the road.  Another opportunity to get outside and combine it with seeing stunning works of art is to head to the Rodin Museum. It has 7 acres of lawn and gardens and the most rewarding avenues of pollarded trees. I still haven't made it out to Fondation Louis Vuitton the Frank Gehry-designed cultural center but I promise I will in 2017 its set in wonderful parkland too. Quite frankly walking most places in Paris will be a rewarding affair as there is just so much to gawp at.
Want to do something different in Paris? While Paris is well known for its towering historical churches, the Grand Mosque is a very worthwhile stop in the Latin Quarter where in a beautiful mosaic filled courtyard you can order fantastic mint tea. In complete macabre contrast you could opt to visit the city’s Catacombs. It will probably be one of the weirdest things you’ll ever do (I can top it by saying I have taken a Brighton Sewer Tour – I kid you not!) 

For the future: If you’re going to be visiting Paris after September 2017 it’s worthwhile keeping an eye on the eagerly anticipated renovation of the Fondation PierreBergé–Yves Saint Laurent at 5 Avenue Marceau. The space, which was used as Saint Laurent’s atelier and office for more than 30 years, will be fully refurbished in its original style, allowing visitors the opportunity to experience Saint Laurent’s studio as it was while he was sketching and designing. 


You can’t possible include all of these points of interest in 32 hours – so pick your vibe and stick relatively local. It doesn’t matter what part of town you’re staying in, there’ll always be a great local café, where you can drop in at any time of day for a coffee, to people watch, or engage in conversation over an aperitif or two.

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