Despite being one of the most visited cities in the world those traveling to Paris with more contemporary tastes can still seek out a plentiful array of less tourist-trodden arrondissements, quieter museums, and cafés. From modern art venues to boutique hotels, chic local shops, hidden hammam spas, and hot ticket under the radar restaurants – plan a trip to the French capital with a more modernist focus with this handy weekend guide.
Paris has no shortage of dreamy places to stay. The quaint Hôtel Du Temps in the 9th arrondissement has somewhat casual rooms but a lobby bar that turns buzzy hangout on weekends. For hip and modern, there’s The Hoxton while Le Pigalle boasts neoclassical décor and, from certain rooms, sweeping views across Montmartre to the iconic Sacré-Cœur basilica.
Located in one of the city’s most aristocratic districts the storied Hotel Les Bains is suitably chic and intoxicatingly sexy. And, with its whimsical yet tasteful vintage train station themed décor, Hotel Whistler is just a stone’s throw from the Gare du Nord for those traveling on the Eurostar.
Paris is home to world-class fashion houses and priceless works of art and, so, yes, there’s the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Palais de Tokyo, Centre Pompidou, and Palais Galliera but a visit to Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris is a must for fans of the legendary French designer and couturier.
Musee Yves Saint Laurent Paris
Opened in 2017 on the site of M. Saint Laurent’s former couture house, the museum serves as a tribute to the man whose designs changed the way women dress and showcases rotating exhibitions from vast archives of his most prized collections, including Dreams of the Orient. For a truly exclusive experience, small guided tours held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings afford a private look before the museum opens to the public at 11 a.m.
Yves Saint Laurent/Thierry Ollivier
Next, head over to Bois de Boulogne, a beloved and famous local park on the west side of Paris. More than twice the size of New York City’s Central Park, it’s home to numerous attractions, including the striking contemporary art museum Fondation Louis Vuitton.
Fondation Louis Vuitton
Commissioned by LVMH chief Bernard Arnault and opened in 2014, the ship-like exterior, complete with majestic glass sails, houses a permanent collection across four categories: Contemplate, Pop, Expressionist, and Music & Sound. Temporary exhibits also feature, most recently Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field. No matter your taste in art, the Frank Gehry designed building is worth a trip alone.
An electric shuttle departs Place Charles de Gaulle (the corner of Ave. de Friedland by the metro exit) every 15 minutes for the museum during opening hours and costs 2 Euros or free for persons with disabilities.
FAIRE DU SHOPPING
Shop French ‘it’ girl label Sézane for casual-cool Parisian wardrobe staples – think blouses, jeans, and sweaters – at its Rue Saint-Fiacre boutique, which also boasts an in-house café and mini-movie theater. And no trip to the Left Bank would be complete without a visit to the city’s chicest, and, being founded in 1838 with a revamp in 1858, its oldest department store.
Fashion-conscious Parisians flock to Le Bon Marché, the expansive grand-magasin-come-cultural experience, which is home to everything from French luxury brands to a mouth-watering gourmet food hall across the street. Over in Le Marais, concept store Merci is worth a look too, which, alongside a prêt-à-porter clothing line, also carries chic home goods and décor.
Le Bon Marche Rive Gauche
VIN & DÎNER
Take a gourmet walking tour with Eating Europe whose stops in and around the 10th arrondissement include patisserie prodigy Yann Couvreur’s elegant Avenue Parmentier flagship and Paroles de Fromagers’ 17th-century cellar for a cheese tasting. People-watch over avocado toast at café Season in Le Marais, and do not forget to make advance reservations for Frenchie.
Laurent Fau/Patisserie Yann Couvreur
Thanks to chef Grégory Marchand’s market-driven dishes and a shiny Michelin star (it’s first) awarded earlier this year tables at this modern neighborhood bistro in the 2nd arrondissement are a white-hot commodity No luck? Try Frenchie Bar à Vins across the way: it has stellar small plates, housemade charcuterie, and a darling wine list. Get there at opening time to secure seats at a communal table and make new friends for the evening.
Virginie Garnier/Bar a Vins Frenchie
And a late-night rendezvous at the legendary Bar Hemingway, which dates to 1921, inside the Ritz is a must on any trip to Paris. Created in the mid-90s by head bartender Colin Peter Field and said to be the storied spot’s most famous cocktail, be sure to order the Serendipity. Made with Calvados, fresh mint, white sugar, apple juice, and finished with a Champagne top, Field fittingly calls the fragrant drink, ‘France in a glass.’
Carla Coulson/Bar Hemingway
DANSE JUSQU’À DAWN
Some say Paris’ answer to Studio 54, the likes of Bowie, Warhol, and Jagger et al. partied until dawn at the legendary Les Bains Douches nightclub through the 1980s and early 1990s. And while the storied property enjoyed a major renovation (thanks to filmmaker-turned-hotelier owner Jean-Pierre Marois) and reopened in 2015 as the now suitably boutique Hotel Les Bains, its notorious nightclub and infamous swimming pool remain.
Hotel Les Bains
Slightly smaller and located in the basement, guests can still swim – skinny dip even – if the mood strikes most, though, prefer simply posing for photos alongside it. Open from midnight to 6 a.m. Thursday to Saturday, the Club at Les Bains regularly hosts famous DJs, cabaret stars, and music makers, including Jarvis Cocker, Hannah Faith, and French music label Kitsuné.
Hotel Les Bains
Vestiges from France’s former colonial presence in North Africa, hammams can be found dotted discreetly across the capital. Whether going for a simple steam session or a scrub followed by a facial or massage, then lingering over mint tea and Middle Eastern pastries, it’s a superb way to experience this timeless bien être or well-being ritual beloved by Parisian women.
Aux Bains Montorgueil
Perhaps the most authentic Hamman is tucked quietly inside the Grande Mosquée de Paris in the Latin Quarter. There’s an adjoining salon de thé here with a pretty tiled courtyard and porphyry fountain. While at the one-time word of mouth only Aux Bains Montorgueil in the 2nd arrondissement, any of the Moroccan rituals are heavenly.
The enchanting Hammam Les Cent Ciels (the hundred skies) is the epitome of opulence and Eastern splendor; another noteworthy mention goes to La Sultane de Saba, which has three spas across the city, each with opulent oriental-style décor and age-old traditional treatments.