Where Experts Go in Paris
It’s no secret that Paris is a favorite city for design lovers—and for good reason.
It’s no secret that Paris is a favorite city for design lovers—and for good reason. It’s long served as a hub for artists from Europe and beyond, gathering in the cafes of Montmartre and the salons of the left bank. The French capital is filled with awe-inspiring architecture from 16th-century Renaissance styles through its Art Deco heyday to the iconic Haussmannian apartments of the 19th century. Today it’s still rife with specialty crafters using old-world techniques at marquetry, boiserie, metalwork, and more; the famous flea markets are worth a trip all on their own. This week, the city is especially brimming with design as it hosts the biannual Paris Design Week, timed to the famous Maison&Objet trade fair, one of the largest expositions of furniture and design in the world.
So, the question for the aesthete headed to Paris is: Where, exactly, to begin? We’ve tapped a few of our most trusted Paris sources—both local designers and passionate Francophiles who are frequent visitors—to outline the shops, hotels, restaurants, sites, and museums most worth a visit. (And yes, while sites like the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower are must-dos for first timers, our list focuses on some less-known destinations).
Where to Stay
Nestled in the famous arts district, Hotel Panache offers warm, modern accommodations that don’t feel out of place in this historic neighborhood. It’s the go-to for Milanese designer Cristina Celestino, a frequent Paris visitor who this year has been named Designer of the Year by the Maison&Objet fair.
“Located in the highly prized Golden Triangle since 1920, the Grand Powers is the quintessential Parisian chic,” says its designer, architect Arnaud Behzadi. “Its visitors are immersed in a decor that blends Haussmanian details of the 20s and modernity, with a warm atmosphere.” The 50 rooms are divided into floors by color, making for irresistible photo ops.
Rayman Boozer, who frequents Paris for both work and fun, describes this hotel as “heavenly lodging hidden within Place de Voges.” Its traditional stone façade gives way to modern interiors by designer Didier Benderli of Kérylos Intérieurs. Its quiet decadence, Boozer says, makes it “a favorite of celebrities or anyone looking for a private getaway.”
“The Raphael is the last great Parisian palace that has kept the charm of the beginning of the century,” says Daniel Bismut of architecture and design firm Bismut & Bismut. “I love its bar, its atmosphere, its cocktails and the meetings that can be made there.” The five-star hotel comprises 47 rooms and 36 suites, decorated in a traditional Parisian style with views overlooking the Arc de Triomphe.
If you want to go all out, there’s no better place than the Crillon, says Philippe Courtois of Ateliers de France, a group of 2,000 French artisans across 40 companies creating handcrafted decorative work. “Everybody knows this iconic place on the Place de la Concorde, which was recently completely redesigned by a pool of different talented interior designers.” If you can’t justify the nightly rates, he advises, “think about having a simple drink at night or even a breakfast in the morning…they are simply amazing.”
Where to Eat
The first restaurant by Top Chef France-winner Gabsi opened this past spring and is a wonderland for the taste buds and eyes. Architect Arnaud Behzadi worked closely with Gabsi to imagine a multi-textural space with materials that pay homage to the location and the unconventional menu. “The decor is inspired by boat cabins and the codes of the Parisian brasserie (terrazzo, varnished wood), but above all by the chef’s cuisine and favorite ingredients,” Behzadi explains. Eagle-eyed eaters will notice elements of the chef’s signature dishes reflected in the sumptuous surroundings.
Though its fare is Italian, you’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant with a more Parisian setting than LouLou, which is situated square in the Palais Royal. “The terrace, in the middle of the Louvre, is simply amazing and a magical mix of history and charm,” says Courtois. LouLou’s interior designer, Joseph Dirand, tapped Ateliers de France to produce a series of decorative panels in crackled glazes for the restaurant. “It gives a very warm feeling and antique touch,” says Courtois. Clearly, it’s a hit—LouLou is a favorite of Boozer’s, too.
Want to eat like Ina Garten à Paris? Book a seat at this supper club in a private apartment just off the Palais Royal, which the Barefoot Contessa herself visited this spring and raved about on Instagram. Founded by a husband and wife duo when their restaurant closed during Covid, the 22-seat establishment offers a tasting menu of fresh and inspired foods—and a sure way to meet new friends.
“Right off the Place de la Concorde, breakfast at Cafe Lapérouse is a great idea,” says New York designer Keith Carroll, a self-professed Francophile. The second outpost of the iconic French café just opened in the courtyard of the Hôtel de la Marine (more on that below!). “It’s a beautifully designed space by Cordélia de Castellane, the artistic director of Dior Maison. Located in the entry courtyard of the amazingly restored Hotel de la Marine—a must see.”
Just outside Bismut & Bismut’s studio is this picturesque eatery with a mustard-yellow façade, tile roof, and lace curtains that look more like the French countryside than its capital. “I really love the little room upstairs; it looks like an old-fashioned Parisian living room and I can have a quiet lunch with my clients,” reveals partner Eric Schmitt.
Boozer calls this Marais eatery “the perfect blend of romance and cool vibes.” With its splashy wallpaper and mixed patterns, it’s no surprise it delights the so-called Color Guru, who argues that it’s “an equally great choice for the foodie, mixologist, or social butterfly in your life.”
Behzadi calls this restaurant-concept shop “a totally hybrid place.” It’s “a vegan café-resto with a hippie chic grocery store where you can find multicolored linen shirts a few steps away from a selection of tea and spices,” he explains. “The vegan burger followed by the cheesecake are worth the trip.”
“My go-to spot to refresh and recharge in the late afternoon with a few glasses of champagne is always Hotel Costes,” says Carroll. “It never disappoints and you never tire of taking in the sumptuous interiors by Jacques Garcia. The fashion crowd is always there during fashion week….great people watching!”
“It is an extraordinary universe that mixes all the periods and styles into a decor of its own.”
Where to Shop
Open since 1838, Paris’s most famous department store is beloved for a reason: “The best department store in the world—period,” says Boozer. “And a spectacular food court on top of excellent shopping!” Find everything from clothing capsule collections to French foods between its soaring ceilings (connected by iconic escalators).
A relative newcomer, this Parisian jewel box opened just around the corner from the Jardin du Luxembourg in 2020. Montagut’s hand-painted porcelain—many bearing cheeky takes on traditional French motifs—are displayed on antique cabinets and chests alongside collected vintage items, decor, and quirky oddities that make the perfect souvenir (on my own last trip, I picked up: a Christmas ornament of Claude Monet, a hand-painted glass, a porcelain ashtray, a baguette-shaped pencil, and a copy of Montagut’s book Timeless Paris).
Another favorite of Boozer’s is the Parisian outpost of the beloved British store founded by Joseph Conran, which occupies an historical building on the stylish Rue du Bac. “It’s a classic not to be overlooked,” he says.
Celestino always makes time for this haven of rare books about art, architecture, and design, where tomes are stacked on every surface
To any ceramics lover, entering Eric Goujou’s boutique is like stepping into paradise. The shopkeeper keeps his business stocked with tableware from around France, made from over 30 artisans. You’re going to need a bigger suitcase after leaving.
You’ve no doubt heard of Paris’s famous marches aux puces, where stalls spread for miles with vendors selling everything from pottery to fine antique furniture. In the most famous flea market town, Saint Ouen (just north of Paris proper), Paul Bert Serpette is one of the most reputable marchés, with vendors specializing in midcentury furniture, 19th-century antiques, wrought-iron outdoor furniture, lithographs, and much more. “It’s a place that reminds me of the Paris of the past,” says Behzadi. “Everything, the objects, the smells, the baguettes sweetened with red wine…it is an extraordinary universe that mixes all the periods and styles into a decor of its own.”
“I always stop by Michèle Aragon’s shop at 21 rue Jacob for beautiful and unique antique textiles and tabletop pieces,” says Carroll. “In addition to the textiles, she has some fantastic handblown glassware that catches my eye.”
“Down the street, Rock the Kasbah is a unique little shop filled with handmade pieces from Tunisian craftsmen of natural materials such as palm fiber and olive wood,” says Carroll. “They offer a wide variety of items from pillows, lighting and furnishings to accessories and tabletop.”
Bismut loves this store “for its amazing chocolates (those of the last kings of France, the best in Paris), its façade, and its decoration by Percier and Fontaine in 1819.” Overall, he says, it’s “a stunning Parisian store.”
What to Do
While a trip out to Versailles is certainly well worth it if you have the time, there’s another treasure trove of 18th-century architecture right in the heart of Paris—and it’s only recently been opened to the public. Built between 1757 and 1774 by architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the hotel particular is one of the finest examples of 18th century French design. It originally served as the headquarters of the royal garde-meuble, the office that furnished all royal properties—as a result, it got pick of the very best furniture and decor. After the French Revolution, it became the office of the French Navy, which worked here until 2015, when work began to take down the offices and cubicles that were covering the exquisite walls and ceilings and restore the building to its original glory.
“Of course interior design is simply stunning but the interesting point is that restoration has been done tastefully under Joseph Achkar and Michel Charrière,” says Courtois, whose Ateliers de France managed much of the project, including plasterwork, decorative painting, and boiserie. “The choice has been to remove all the different coats of paint that have been applied over the years, but keep some traces of each. It gives to everything a fantastic look. They call it the “weight of time”
For a look at a more modern side of Parisian architecture, take a cue from Celestino and visit the onetime home of Le Corbusier. The space, which opened to the public in 2018, spans the top two floors of the Molitor Building, which Le Corbusier designed along with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret in the 1930s, and which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Once the personal home of Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine, this building near the Jardin de Luxembourg is now a museum where admission (besides special exhibitions) is free. “I like it for its discreet and intimate side and its small garden where everyone can find an inspiration,” says Bismut, who recommends visiting on weekday morning to avoid crowds (save Mondays, when it’s closed).
For another breathtaking collection set in exquisite surroundings, visit the collection of Auguste Renoir at the Hôtel Biron, the artist’s onetime studio and now namesake museum. Tour Rodin’s sculptures—plus works by the likes of Van Gogh and Renoir—inside, then stroll the lush gardens, whose tall hedges belie its location in a bustling city.
Since founding their first space (in an old carpenter’s workshop; hence the name) in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood in 2006, Julien Lombrail and Loic Le Gaillard have been dedicated to bridging the gap between furniture and fine art. At their Paris location, the duo “presents very specialized exhibitions of artists’ furniture; this is where my next solo show called Mytho will take place, for which I have diverted mythology to make an odyssey in my own way,” says Schmitt. (Mytho opens September 8).
A veritable grand dame of the collectible design world, Anne Sophie Duval opened her eponymous gallery on the Seine in 1972 and quickly made a name for herself buying and selling Art Deco gems as well as other 20th-century finds. Following Duval’s death in 2008, her daughter Julie has taken over what Schmitt describes as “a very welcoming place.”
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