The Country Life guide to Paris, France: Where to go, what to see, where to stay and what to eat

Paris is always a good idea, so here’s our guide to what to do, where to stay and what to eat.

If Audrey Hepburn is to be believed, Paris is always a good idea. The line comes from the 1954 film Sabrina, in which Miss Hepburn plays the film’s titular character — who goes to the French capital to find herself and returns self-assured and elegant. I might not have come back transformed (yet, I keep trying), but there’s something about the City of Light that makes you stand a little taller, slow down and savour time and food.

What to do



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Merci Paris (@merciparis)

Explore the myriad shops: Couleurs Vernis Brosserie sells irresistible homeware; a cascading shell waterfall from Christian Jacquey Antiquites would be mine if I could get it home; the fanciest feet always sport a pair of Chatelles shoes (you can have them personalised) on Rue du Bac; Citypharma, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, is a treasure trove of discounted beauty and pharmaceutical brands. You must go early.

Elsewhere, Merci (above), on 111 bd Beaumarchais, is the mother of all concept stores and fantastic for present buying.

Recommended videos for you


There are too many Parisian attractions to list here, but you must not miss: the Musée d’Orsay, Saint-Chapelle, Richard Rogers’ Pompidou, a walk around the Tuileries gardens, Monet’s waterlilies inside Musée de l’Orangerie and Musée Rodin.

Before you travel, it’s also well worth looking at what’s on at The Foundation Louis Vuitton — a great hulking spaceship of an art gallery.

Flea markets

Paris is something of a Mecca for flea markets — marché aux puce in French. The one at Saint-Ouen was established in 1885, making it the oldest, and the largest, in the world. There’s are more than 2,000 stalls selling clothing, vintage items and antique furniture.

Where to stay

Hôtel Molitor, 16th arrondissement

Hotel Molitor has a sense of calm and holiday spirit you won’t find further in. Now in its 100th decade, the building was once an art deco lido — the rooms are arranged around the central pool. Before becoming a hotel, the abandoned pool was used as an exhibition space by street artists and a selection of art is on display in the lobby. I fell for the ochre rooftop terrace with views across to the Eiffel Tower, and a Clarins spa worthy of a stay alone. I tried the swim-inspired treatment and slept for nine hours.

Hôtel de Crillon, 8th arrondissement

Hôtel de Crillon, the former 18th-century residence of the Count de Crillon unfurls in a stately corner of the Place de la Concorde, between the Jardin des Champs-Élysées and the Jardin des Tuileries. Thanks to a recent renovation,  modern elements now interact with centuries-old bones. Here, original mouldings are the backdrop for brutalist accessories, and long-slung velvet sofas diffuse the formality of hand-painted panelling.
Bedrooms are coolly

Le Bristol, 8th arrondissement

Le Bristol is the undisputed Parisian Grande Dame hotel — with a storied history to match (it was the first hotel in the French capital to be awarded ‘Palace’ status). Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali have all stays; Josephine Baker partied with Mick Jagger and Grace Kelly inside the walls.

All of the bedrooms, including the entry-level ones, are big — never a sure-fire thing in Paris —  are decorated in a sort of old-fashioned, supremely comfortable grandeur. The ensuite bathrooms are all marble.

Downstairs, there’s another Parisian novelty, a large courtyard garden, re-landscaped a couple of years ago by English landscape gardener Arabella Lennox-Boyd. It’s well worth carving out some time to sit in it.

Click here to read our full review of Le Bristol

Le Meurice, 1st arrondissement

Known as the hotel of artists and thinkers — designed by its first owner, Charles-Augustin Meurice to appeal to British guests — Le Meurice is a pastel-hued paean to the most subtle and tasteful, and yet incredibly spoiling, Parisian hospitality. It’s perfect for a romantic getaway (after all, Paris is the city of love), but also great for indulgent girls’ trips, too.

Click here to read our full review of Le Meurice

The Ritz Paris, 1st arrondissement

The Ritz Paris (no relation to The Ritz London or the Ritz-Carlton hotel group) has occupied a plot on Place Vendôme since 1898, when César Ritz flung the doors open, promising every guest a personal telephone and a bathtub. The conga line of the great and the good who wrapped themselves in peach-coloured bathrobes (‘the colour softens and flatters women’s complexions,’ said Ritz) is too long to plumb, but Proust wrote here and Cole Porter composed, Hemingway drank and Coco Chanel moved in, spreading out in a suite from 1937 to 1971. It’s a feat to conjure hominess in a place with so much gold leaf, but they do.

The 142 bedrooms are dressed in Rococo 18th-century French decor, much as they have been since the start. Fresh paint — part of a recent renovation — bears the undetectable fingerprints of New York-based designer Thierry Despont, one of the hired hands behind the four-year, $450 million renovation that finished in 2016.

Hôtel Plaza Athénée, 8th arrondissement

Designed by Charles Lefebvre and Louis Duhayon, Plaza Athénée is in a five-star class of its own, even by the French capital’s high standards.

As is befitting of a hotel that has featured in countless films — Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada and Netflix’s Emily in Paris — the 194 rooms and suites are more like apartments than the diminutive shoe boxes usually found in the city of light. Don’t miss the Haute Couture Eiffel Suite, which, as its name implies, affords a picture-postcard view of the tower (don’t miss its nightly illumination, for five minutes on the hour, from 8pm to 1am), high moulded ceilings, silver leaf detail and a grand piano. In terms of sheer expanse, however, the fifth-floor Royal Suite takes the biscuit—covering nearly 5,000 sq ft.

Click here to read our full review of Hôtel Plaza Athénée

Hôtel Les Deux Gares, 10th arrondissement

Hôtel Les Deux Gares is well positioned — between Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est — for travellers transiting through the French capital.

It’s a beautiful old building, reimagined in quirky colour combinations inside by English interior designer Luke Edward Hall. There are 40 bedrooms in three colour combinations. The best ones overlook the train tracks, letting in lots of additional light. Other Facilities include a sauna, gym, bar and fantastic bistro.

J.K. Place Paris, 7th arrondissement

J.K Place Paris is the J.K group’s super-stylish, first venture outside of Italy (favourites include Capri and Rome), housed inside the old Norwegian Consulate at 82 rue do Lille (a ten minute walk to Musée de l’Orangerie across the 18th-century Pont de la Concorde). And it’s the place to book if you want similar levels of service to Paris’s Grande Dame hotels without any of the formality.

There are 29 high-ceilinged rooms, a subterranean Sisley spa, swimming pool and gym, and ground-floor lounge, bar and gym.

Hôtel Dame des Arts, 6th arrondissement

Hôtel Dame des Arts is a cool new addition to Paris’s Latin Quarter. It was once a Holiday Inn — don’t let that put you off — but now looks entirely unrecognisable. A masterclass in texture (this isn’t the place for you if you value colour), from the boucle banquettes and headboards to the fluted wood clad walls.

There are 109 contemporary bedrooms (some are very small so book with care), a bijou and very well-equipped gym and lively Mexican-inspired restaurant. Its pièce de résistance, however, is the rooftop bar with 360° views of the entire city.

Hotel de la Boetie, 8th arrondissement 

Hotel de la Boetie is where Swedish designer-of-the-moment Beata Heuman decided to make her hotel design debut back in 2023. The end result is similar to her residential projects — a masterclass in colourful sophistication. Pastel bathrooms, a mid-century style lobby, green velvet sofas separated from the check-in desk by a latticed wooden screen and sensual inky blue walls in some of the bedrooms.

The hotel doesn’t have an on-site restaurant, but the Champs-Élysées and all of its attractions are a few minutes walk away.

Where to eat

Parcelles, 3rd arrondissement


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Parcelles (@parcelles_paris)

Parcelles is a bare stone-walled wine bar in the heart of the Marais — that locals in the know like to rave about. On the other side of the street there’s a small epicerie.

Cafe Hugo, 3rd arrondissement

You’ll find Cafe Hugo tucked away under the arches of 17th-century Place des Vosges — Paris’s oldest planned square. It can get a little cramped inside so make for one of the tables on the pavement which just so happen to be one of Paris’s best places for people watching.

Le Bon Georges, 9th arrondissement


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Le Bon Georges (@le_bon_georges)

Le Bon George is a classic Parisian bistro (tiled floor, chalkboard menu and decorative wine bottles), renowned for its beef.

Clamato, 11th arrondissement


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Septime Family✖️ (@septimeparis)


A minimalist restaurant inspired by America’s East Coast oyster bars, where fish, other seafood and veggies take centre stage. There are no reservations so be prepared to wait during busier periods.

Le Rubis, 1st arrondissement

Le Rubis an old-school French bistro that hasn’t changed much in a half century. Expect earthy French food and a gargantuan wine list.

Le Collier du La Reine, 3rd arrondissement

A reasonably new seafood restaurant in the northern Marais. Order the oysters and frites.