Check out our slideshow for pictures from our trip to Paris (beyond the Marais).
Besides the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and other touristy (but essential) stops for Parisian visitors, the trendy Marais district — like New York City’s SoHo or West Village — is a must.
But the Marais, which translates to “marsh” in French, wasn’t always as hip as it is now. Tour guide Skall (yes, that’s his full name — he’s French, OK?) tells Metro that the influx of the gay community in the 1980s restored the enclave’s cool factor. The arrival of plenty an art dealer also helped, as the area today is famous for its contemporary galleries. While gallery-hopping, make sure you stop by these other establishments for a truly tres magnifique Marais experience.
Fromagerie Jouannault No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to a specialty cheese shop. Whether you like your curds from cows, sheep or goats, find it here (even if it didn’t originate in France). Want to take some cheese back to the States? The staff will vacuum-seal your purchase so it’s TSA-friendly.
Le Marche des Enfants Rouges The city’s oldest covered market is also the area’s best kept secret: walk through an alleyway to enter this indoor market, where you’ll likely bump into Parisians doing their grocery shopping. You can buy everything from local produce to international foods. The market is also a great place for stop for a bite, with cuisines ranging from Japanese to French to Moroccan represented. Fun fact: It’s named for the red outfits children at a nearby orphanage used to wear long ago.
Violette & Leonie Find vintage and modern-day womenswear, plus shoes and jewels, at this trendy consignment shop. Designer pieces from Dior, Hermes and Isabel Marant mingle with high street items.
Merci Picture the Urban Outfitters of Paris and you’ve got Merci. Shop for quirky souvenirs — Eiffel Tower cookie cutter, anyone? — plus home furnishings (there’s a plethora of kitchen items on the top level), clothes, bath products, stationery and much more. The store recently did a collaboration with NYC’s Museum of the Modern Art, so you know the goods are stylin’. When you’re done shopping, peruse the library of cookbooks and stop for a coffee.
Dalloyau The history of this sweets shop is almost as rich as its chocolates. Charles Dalloyau was a baker who won the attention of Louis XIV during a tasting. The king hired Dalloyau, and he and his brothers worked for the royal court over four generations. The store is famous for its Opera cake: a thin layer cake soaked in coffee syrup and topped with coffee buttercream, chocolate ganache and a dark chocolate coating (serves six; about $60). Avoid the Laduree lines for a macaron from these guys instead.
Hotel du Petit Moulin This quirky hotel used to house the oldest bakery in Paris (the exterior retains the original signage, so the charm still remains). Each room is designed in a different fashion by Christian Lacroix, and the eccentric nature of the building means that each room is shaped differently as well. If you can, book Room 104 — you’ll walk down a flight of zebra-covered steps into your private dwelling. In the morning, there’s continental breakfast. Rooms start at 250 euros (about $336) per night.
Pavillon de la Reine It’s easy to walk by this ivy-covered hotel — it’s hidden in a private courtyard behind shops on the Place de Vosges. The hotel recently underwent an overhaul; ask for one of the renovated rooms, which are loft style and overlook the private courtyard. Come down for eggs, ham, cheese and those fabulous French pastries in the morning. Rooms start at 385 euros (about $518) per night.
At these hotels
Before leaving for dinner during your stay, stop for a drink at the Honesty Bar: Fix yourself a cocktail and, on the honor system, check the price list and leave the appropriate number of euros. Ironically, both hotels have just added a Dishonesty Hour, Wednesdays from 5-6 p.m., when you can help yourself to drinks for free.