Good coffee in Paris. 6: Blackburn Coffee

Unlike other new-ish cafés, Blackburn Coffee is not located in one of the hip parts of the city. Although not too far from the Canal St Martin,  it sits on the rue du Faubourg St Martin in the 10th arrondissement, probably soon to be newly fashionable, but currently in a bit of a no man’s land. This is perhaps what gives it the special, cosy atmosphere that I so enjoyed.

Blackburn Coffee seems to be a café where local people come to meet friends, it’s not only  occupied by quiet types working on their Macbooks, but is also filled with laughter, along with great coffee and delicious home cooked food and cakes. It’s well worth a detour, you’ll get a warm welcome and you may even get to discover a new part of the city…

  • Blackburn Coffee, 52 rue du Faubourg St Martin, 75010  metro: Chateau d’Eau

open Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 – 21:00

website (in English)

Good coffee in Paris. 5: Strada café

Strada Café has been open since 2014, and serves up a wide range of excellent coffee, wonderful home made cakes, breakfasts, sandwiches and salads. The atmosphere is very relaxed, the free wifi means it’s a great place to while away a few hours, and the service is friendly and laid back. The one we went to is on rue Monge in the heart of the Latin Quarter, there is also one in the Marais.

  • Strada Café, 24 rue Monge, 75006 Paris. metro: Cardinal Lemoine

Open Mon-Fri 8:00 – 18:30, Sat & Sun 10:00 – 18:30

Strada Café website in English

Shakespeare and Company

It’s impossible to write about places to visit in Paris without talking about Shakespeare and Company. It’s a landmark, a piece of literary and Parisian history, an institution, a place of pilgrimage for young writers and literature lovers from all over the world, and now with the recent opening of their new café, a wonderful place to hang out and enjoy good food and great books.

The original Shakespeare and Company was founded in 1919 by an American, Sylvia Beach, on the rue de l’Odeon in the 6th arrondissement. Selling English language books, her shop became a meeting place for the writers of the ‘Lost Generation’ who flocked to Paris in the 1920s – Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, TS Eliot, Ezra Pound and many more, including perhaps most famously James Joyce, whose Ulysses she published for the first time in 1922 – nobody was prepared to publish it at the time. The shop you see today was opened in 1951 by another American, Geroge Whitman, and it also quickly became a mecca for writers of the Beat Generation such as Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs. In fact over 30,000 aspiring writers, or ‘Tumbleweeds’ as they are known, have stayed there over the years, the bookshop provides them with a free room in return for helping around the shop and reading a book a day! Don’t miss the motto above the door: ‘Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise’.

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More recently, George Whitman’s dream of opening a literary café in the building next door, has been realised by his daughter Sylvia Beach Whitman, who now runs the bookshop. The café was opened in partnership with the popular Bob’s Bake Shop, serving mainly vegetarian food, good coffee, and George’s special recipe lemon pie.

It’s hard to do justice to such a fascinating and historic place as Shakespeare & Company in a short blog post. If you are interested in learning more about it I recommend you read this Vanity Fair article or check out the history section on the bookshop’s website. A great book I can also highly recommend is ‘Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation – A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties’ by Noel Riley Fitch.

Better still, drop in when you are in Paris, lose yourself amongst the thousands of books and the many rooms and corridors of the shop, or attend a poetry reading or a talk by a writer – you’ll soon feel the magic of this very special place.

  • Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, 37 rue de la Bucherie, 75005 Paris.  metro: St Michel

The main shop is open daily 10:00 – 23:00. The café is open Mon-Fri 9:30 – 19:00, Sat and Sun 9:30 – 20:00

Shakespeare & Company website

Good coffee in Paris. 4: Fondation Café

This tiny café serves up not only a fantastic cup of coffee, but also a delicious selection of cakes and a tasty avocado on toast, complete with chili powder and salt. The decor is minimalist (check out the 2 beautiful Jean Prouvé Potence lights), the coffee machine being the main attraction, and with 3 small tables inside and just a few more outside, you can also get your coffee to go if you can’t find a seat. Opened in 2013 by an Australian barista who had previously worked at Ten Belles, the café has recently changed hands, but continues to attract a non-stop stream of customers and rave reviews for the quality of the cofféé and the warm welcome.

  • Fondation Café, 16 rue Dupetit Thouars, 75003 Paris.  metro: Temple

Open 8:00 – 18:00 weekdays and 9:00 – 18:00 weekends

Fondation café Facebook page

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Good coffee in Paris. 3: Coutume Café

Coutume Café was one of the first – if not the first – of the new wave of speciality coffee bars to open in Paris, and is still one of the best. They roast the coffee on the premises and have a wide choice of brewing methods. The space is light and airy, more New York perhaps than Paris – it was a designed by Cut Architecture – and the clientele is eclectic and relaxed. They also serve delicious food, their Sunday brunches are always packed, and you can also enjoy light, healthy lunches and wonderful cakes.

Located in the 7th arrondissement, it’s the perfect place for a stop after some shopping at the nearby Bon Marché department store, and a is just short walk from the Invalides and the Rodin Museum. If you like good coffee, make sure you drop in and try one here.

Coutume is run by the same team that run Coutume Instituutti in the 5th arrondissement, and supplies roasted coffee beans to many cafés and restaurants across Paris.

  • Coutume Café, 47 rue de Babylone, 75007 Paris. metro: Saint François Xavier

Open Mon-Fri 08:00 – 18:00 and weekends 09:00 – 18:00.

Facebook page

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La Grande Mosquée de Paris

The Grande Mosquée de Paris in the Latin Quarter was built from 1922 to 1926, initially to honor the 100 000 muslims from the French colonial empire who fell fighting for France in World War I. Constructed in the Hispano-Moorish style after the el-Qaraouiyyin mosque in Fez (one of the most ancient in the world) it is dominated by a spectacular 33m high square minaret – inspired by the Zitouna mosque in Tunisia – and is set around a beautiful central patio that is also reminiscent of the Alhambra in Granada. It serves as both a place of religious worship, a centre of Islamic culture and as a place of learning – it is home to a historic library and an Islamic school, and is an important symbol of Franco-Arab friendship.

It is the oldest mosque in France, and you can visit it with or without a guide (entry is 3€). It has been built and since restored by craftsmen from North Africa, and the traditional workmanship, particularly in the tiling and woodwork is extraordinarily beautiful. Note that entrance to the prayer rooms is restricted to Muslim visitors only.

From the rue Geoffrey St Hilaire you can enter two beautiful courtyards, where you can order a sweet pastry or a lokoum (Turkish delight) and then sit under the shade of a tree and wait for the waiters to pass by with trays of delicious hot mint tea. Sipping the sweet tea, smelling the jasmine blossoms on the trees and listening to the birds singing, you are a world away from the bustle of the city outside.

There is also a women only hammam and a restaurant serving typical North African food.

Café Grande Mosquée de Paris

  • Grande Mosquée de Paris, 2 Place Puits de l’Ermite, 75005. metro: Place Monge or Censier Daubenton

Mosque: open daily except Fridays, 9:00-12:00 and 14:00-18:00

Tea room and restaurant: open daily 12:00 – midnight

Good coffee in Paris. 2: Coutume Instituutti

This laid back café is housed inside the sleek and beautiful Finnish Institute in the 5th arrondissement. Not only does it serve wonderful coffee (check out their Facebook page for news about their speciality and seasonal brews) but also delicious traditional Finnish cakes and pastries. It’s bright, spacious and relaxed, the long tables are shared, it’s a great place to work (although look for the the notices on the tables, some are computer free spaces!) plays cool music and holds temporary exhibitions and evening concerts too.

  • Coutume Instituutti, 60 rue des Ecoles, 75005. metro: Odeon

NOTE! The café is currently closed as the Finnish institute is using the space to build KOTI, a 5 month pop up celebrating 100 years of Finnish independance.

Open Tues – Sat 9:00 – 18:00 and Sun 10:00 – 18:00

Good coffee in Paris. 1: Ten Belles

Gone are the days when it’s impossible to get a decent coffee in Paris. Café culture is something that is so French, it was always hard to understand why the coffee was so terrible, and why the locals – who care so much about their food and wine – never seemed to mind.  Now a burgeoning coffee scene is ensuring that sitting on a café terrace in Paris can be even more of a pleasure than before. Ten Belles is one of the best amongst the new style cafés that have popped up around the city in the past couple of years. The coffee beans are roasted in Paris at the Belleville Brulerie, and you can get cakes, soups and sandwiches too.

The coffee changes with the seasons, and the food and drinks can be taken out, an especially good thing as the café is almost always packed, and the beautiful and now uber fashionable Canal Saint Martin is right nearby. If you want more picnic food, drop into the lovely grocery shop Myrthe right next door.

  • Ten Belles, 10 rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010 Paris. metro: Jacques Bonsergent

Open daily 9:00 – 5:00pm.

Ten Belles Facebook page

The Palais Royal in spring

The Palais Royal is one of my favourite places in Paris. I’ve already blogged about it here, in fact I love it so much it was my first ever post, but I couldn’t resist a few more photos after a rainy visit today. There is something very special about this hidden park. It’s tranquil, beautiful and a world away from the crowded streets just outside. If the sun shines you can get a coffee at Café Kitsuné and sit on a bench amongst the flowers listening to the fountains. If you are dodging April showers as we did today you can wander under the arches and enjoy window shopping in the small boutiques, more of which open each time I go there.

It’s always a pleasure to pop in there and enjoy the peace and beauty of these wonderful gardens, whatever the weather.

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  • Palais Royal, 75001 Paris. metro: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre (exit at Place Colette)

Les Grands Voisins

In the 14th arrondissement, the Hopital Saint Vincent de Paul has been closed since 2011. In a few years this old maternity hospital – parts of which date back to the 17th century – will become a vast eco-quarter. In the meantime, three associations have transformed it into a shared space where people live, create, work and form a community that supports itself and each other.

Les Grands Voisins provides a home for those in need, a space for artists and artisans to create and work, a meeting space for associations and clubs to provide classes, cultural activities and much more.  It relies on its residents to take care of it and of each other – old hospital furniture is reused and recycled, plants and bees thrive in the gardens and the space is open to the public to come and participate, meet the residents, and join the community effort. It’s a different way of living in the heart of the city.

During a visit you can find all kinds of treasures – amongst them a second hand shop selling everything from books to vintage crockery, a potter making beautiful, delicate bowls, teapots and lights, and a wonderful plant nursery and concept store that also runs workshops – Mama Petula

The lingerie – the old laundry – is now a café and meeting place, also hosting debates and concerts. A board on the wall lists the activities for the week: yoga, qi gong, community barbecues, workshops and more. The atmosphere is friendly, joyful and convivial, it’s a breath of fresh air in a city where such community spirit and generosity can sometimes seem hard to find.

600 people live at Les Grands Voisins, 300 work there in over 70 associations, workshops and companies. Eighty students still study at the midwifery school. This weekend they participated in the 48 Hours of Urban Agriculture that was taking place across the city. There is always something going on and visitors are welcome. Take some time to stop in and support this impressive community before the hospital is torn down and disappears.

  • Les Grands Voisins, Hôpital Saint Vincent de Paul, 82 avenue Denfert Rochereau, 75014. metro: Denfert Rochereau

Open Wed-Sat 10:00 – 23:00. Sun 10:00 – 21:00

Les Grands Voisins Facebook page

 

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Rosa Bonheur sur Seine

I recently discovered what I think is going to be my new favourite café/bar in Paris. Rosa Bonheur in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is already a firm fixture both during the day for well priced, simple food and at night as a bar and ‘guingette’. Now you can enjoy the same home cooking and atmosphere on the banks of the Seine, just by the beautiful Pont Alexandre III. The café is on a barge moored on the riverside, and on the river bank they also have a wood fired oven where they make pizzas and a take away tapas bar, with plenty of tables to sit and enjoy. At night there is music and dancing, they have a choir, petanque in the summer…. check out their Facebook page for upcoming events.

Not only is the atmosphere laid back and relaxed, the views from the window are spectacular. My favourite thing (apart of course from the delicious and huge slices of cake)? A traditional ‘baby foot’ with a twist – all female players!

  • Rosa Bonheur sur Seine, Quai d’Orsay, Pont des Invalides, 75007 Paris. metro: Invalides

Open Monday – Sunday, 12:00 – 1:30am (midnight on Sunday) Opening hours change depending on the season, check the website below.

Rosa Bonheur website

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A walk around the Canal St Martin

The area around the Canal St Martin in the 10th arrondissement is a fantastic place to wander around on a sunny day. The canal, with it’s 4.5km of water shaded by 100 year old trees and overlooked by locks and iron bridges, was inaugurated in 1825 and used for maritime transport, but is now quiet and peaceful. Over the past few years it has become one of the more fashionable areas of the city – try a cold pressed juice at Bob’s Juice Bar, enjoy delicious British fish and chips at The Sunken Chip, feast on good food and great coffee at Holybelly and Ten Belles, or browse for gorgeous art and design books at Artazart. If you’re there in the early evening, enjoy an aperitif and some people watching on the terrace at Chez Prune. Or if you fancy a taste of the country life in the heart of the city, pick up some amazing bread and pastries at Du Pain et des Idees or bring a picnic and relax by the side of the canal.

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Lunch in the Marais: the Swedish Institute café

The Marais is a beautiful part of the city to spend a day. One of the few areas that was not destroyed and rebuilt under Haussmann’s redesign of the city in the mid-19th century, it still retains the charm and history of the narrow streets of old Paris.

There are plenty of wonderful places to eat. I recently discovered one that is perfect for a sandwich and a cake, and is also extremely good value – something that can’t be said for many places in the area. The Café Suedois is housed in the Swedish Institute, and boasts a tiny café sitting in a beautiful cobblestone courtyard typical of the ‘hotel particuliers’, or grand old mansions of the Marais. The sandwiches are open faced Swedish style, which makes a very welcome change from a baguette now and again, the cakes and typical Swedish baked goods are homemade and delicious. Throw in some free wifi, and I could happily spend hours here.

The Swedish Institute also hosts many art shows and concerts, as well as offering Swedish lessons. Check out their website for upcoming events (it’s only in French or Swedish though I’m afraid!).

  • Le Café Suédois (in thé Institut Suédois), 11 rue Payenne, 75003 Paris. metro: St Paul or Chemin Vert

Open Tues-Sun, midday to 6PM

Rose Bakery

Much as I love French pastries, sometimes it’s really nice to have a taste of home. Rose Bakery has managed the seemingly impossible and seduced the Parisians with their British cakes, lunches and brunches. It was the carrot cake that initially made them popular, and people keep coming back for the fresh, organic, homemade food and juices. All the ingredients are sourced locally and change with the seasons, or even daily depending on what is delivered. The kitchenware is handmade and comes from a cooperative in Norfolk. The food is simple, fresh and delicious.

Part café, part grocery shop, you can eat in or take away. Weekend brunches and lunch times are especially popular, go early if you want to be sure to find a table. The atmosphere is relaxed and laid back and the decor minimalist.

There are now 3 Rose Bakeries in Paris, the original one here on rue des Martyrs, one in the Marais and one inside the Bon Marché department store. They are also a great place to pick up English teabags, Marigold bouillon (which I have not managed to find anywhere else in Paris) and some great recipe books.

  • 46 rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris. metro: St Georges
  • 30 rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris. metro: Filles du Calvaire
  • le Bon Marché, 24 rue de Sevres, 75007 Paris. metro Sevres Babylone

Passage des Panoramas

I seem to be spending a lot of time in the covered passages around Paris at the moment, but as the days get shorter and colder they are lovely places to escape the chill. Recently I discovered the Passage des Panoramas, and was lucky enough that it was lunchtime, as it’s packed full with cafés and restaurants and is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat.

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Built in 1800, the Passage des Panoramas is the oldest of the covered passages in Paris. Like many of the others it feels like a tiny village hidden within the city. There’s a great choice of restaurants, many of them with tables spilling out into the passageway. It’s lively and full of atmosphere. And the food is pretty good too!

There’s a gluten free restaurant, grocery shop and take away – NoGlu – quite rare in France, that also has a bakery opposite. Of course we couldn’t resist a cake, or two…

There are also several shops to browse. If you’re nearby and it’s around lunch or tea time, drop in for a visit and something to eat, and then pop over to the Passage des Princes just nearby, especially if you have children, as it’s full of toy shops.

  • Passage des Panoramas, 11 Boulevard Montmartre / 158 Boulevard Montmartre / 10 rue St Marc / 38 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris. metro: Grands Boulevards

Open daily 06:00 – midnight.

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Tea time at Angelina

Angelina is a Parisian institution that has been around since 1903.

A beautiful Belle Epoque tea room, Angelina was opened by a confectioner and named after his daughter in law. The decoration inside the tea room has not changed to this day. It quickly became the fashionable place to be seen. Coco Chanel was a regular, she always sat at table number 10 by the mirror and legend has it she came every day for the hot chocolate. Marcel Proust was also often to be seen here, as were many of the great French couturiers.

It is not to be missed by anybody who takes their cakes and pastries seriously.

However my favourite thing at Angelina, and one of the things that has made it most famous, is the hot chocolate, known as l’Africain. It’s so thick you almost need a spoon to drink it, it’s beautifully rich and comes with a pot of whipped cream for even more indulgence. The recipe is a closely guarded secret, as is that of it’s other iconic treat, the Mont Blanc, a ball of meringue covered in cream and chestnut purée.

Be prepared to stand in line for the tea room on busy days, however it’s well worth the wait. There is also a beautiful shop selling all of their cakes to go, as well as bottles of the famous hot chocolate. Otherwise, you can skip the line and go straight into the shop, buy a cup of the hot chocolate and take it into the Tuileries just over the road to enjoy on a chair in the sunshine.

  • Angelina, 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris

Angelina

Angelina can also be found in the Louvre, the Palace and Petit Trianon at Versailles, and the Luxembourg Gardens.

An art gallery and café at the foot of Montmartre – La Halle Saint Pierre

Montmartre can be pretty crowded, especially in the summer, tourists and hawkers are everywhere and sometimes it can feel a bit too much. However, it’s a beautiful part of the city and not to be missed, and it’s not because the Place du Tertre is crowded that you can’t find a quiet place frequented by locals where you can relax and feel a bit more like a local yourself. Try La Halle Saint Pierre, it’s just a stone’s throw away.

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The Halle is a wonderful example of a 19th century metallic ‘Balthard’ building, and used to be a market, then a school. Now it’s home to a contemporary art gallery. As well as hosting a permanent collection of Naive art, it also hosts temporary exhibitions, concerts, lectures and conferences, and houses a great café and a fantastic bookshop.

Pop in for a coffee or lunch whilst you’re in the area, it’s a perfect antidote to the crowds outside, and could be just what you need before or after climbing the ‘Butte’.

Open daily 11.00 – 6.00

  • Halle Saint Pierre, 2 rue Ronsard, 75018 Paris, metro Anvers or Barbes Rochechouart

Halle Saint Pierre website

The mythical cafés of St Germain des Près

St Germain des Près is a part of Paris that evokes all kinds of images – jazz and be bop clubs swinging, Aragon, Apollinaire, Breton and and the Surrealist painters hanging out at the Deux Magots, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and the Paris intellectuals working in the Café de Flore….Picasso, Man Ray and Hemingway were also regulars of the area, Boris Vian even wrote a guide to the area in 1950 called ‘Le Manuel de St Germain des Près’

Nowadays the cafés and a few of the jazz clubs are still there, and St Germain des Près is a beautiful place to hang out in.

The famous triangle of cafés still exists. Brasserie Lipp is a favourite of politicians, journalists and editors. De Gaulle and Pompidou used to lunch here, Ben Barka was arrested here.

Jean Paul Sartre wrote of the Café Flore “Simone de Beauvoir and I more or less set up house at the Flore. We worked from 9am until noon, then we went out to lunch. At 2 we came back and talked with our friends till 4, when we got down to work again till 8. And after dinner people came to see us by appointment. It may seem strange, all this, but the Flore was like home to us…”

Les Deux Magots is where Ernest Hemingway used to be a regular, he reminisces about drinking here as a young writer receiving rejection slips in ‘A Moveable feast’, and in ‘The Sun also Rises’ this is where Jake Barnes meets up with Lady Brett.

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Nowadays you probably won’t find many struggling artists or writers in St Germain des Près, especially when you consider how much it now costs for a coffee in these particular cafés! But it’s a lively and fascinating place, great for shopping, meeting people or just relaxing for an afternoon. Bring a book by Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Hemingway or Boris Vian; there are many cafés to choose from so pick an outdoor table or one by the window, and indulge in one of the Parisian’s favourite pastimes – people watching.

  • Metro: St Germain des Près

The Parc des Buttes Chaumont and Rosa Bonheur

The Buttes Chaumont is one of the largest parks in Paris and also the steepest – it’s built on the old quarries of Belleville. Inaugurated in 1867 – Napolean III decided to give some fresh air and green space to the people of Paris – it’s a very popular park amongst Parisians, great for running, picnicking, or just relaxing and reading a book. The park is planted with many different types of trees, and is big enough to feel like you are really escaping the city. You can also enjoy a lake with a restaurant located in a restored 19th century pavilion (the 5 pavilions in the park were all opened in 1868) Le Pavillon du Lac – check out their website if you can read French, on Sundays in the summer they organize dances, parties and concerts – a waterfall (with an amazing fake grotto underneath!) and a belvedere with great views across the city.

If you’re visiting the Buttes Chaumont in the afternoon, stop at  Rosa Bonheur and enjoy a drink and some delicious tapas. Named after a 19th century artist, this bar/café – also located in one of the original park pavilions – transforms itself in the evenings into a guingette – a traditional French dance hall, and is a current favourite of the Parisians. On a summer evening the line can stretch out of the park! This time of year though it’s quiet and relaxed in the afternoons and the food and drink is very reasonably priced.

  • Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 1 rue de Botzaris, 75019 Paris. Open Oct – April 07:00 – 20:00, 1 May – 31 Aug 07:00 – 22:00, Sept 07:00 – 21:00
  • Rosa Bonheur. Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 2 allée de la Cascade, 75019 Paris. Open Wed – Fri midday to midnight, Sat & Sun 10:00 to midnight
  • Metro: Botzaris

Weekend mornings at the flea markets of St Ouen

The flea markets in the north of Paris, at St Ouen, are a real treasure trove, and a wonderful place to spend a few hours on a weekend morning.

Divided into 15 different markets: Paul Bert, Serpette, Biron and many more, each is like a small village. You can wander down alleyways full of small stalls and shops, with cafés serving great brunches and lunches, and find some amazing treasures.

If you want to furnish your home, you can choose between pieces from all eras, including many beautiful antiques and iconic designer pieces:

If you are a vintage clothes fan, I especially recommend Chez Sarah, an incredible shop where you will find everything from ribbons and feathers to vintage couture. There are also many other stalls selling clothes and jewellery.

You can find anything and everything here!

If you want to have lunch or brunch, there are many lovely cafés to choose from.

There is a great atmosphere here, it’s fun to browse and fantastic for shopping. Events are often held, such as jazz weekends or themed visits. Go along on a weekend morning and check out their website to see what is going on.

Marché aux Puces St Ouen

Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 10:00 – 17:30.

Take Metro line 4 to Porte de Clignancourt. Cross the peripherique (ring road) and you’re there. Follow signs to Marché Paul Bert to get to the better parts of the market, don’t be put off by the stalls you see when you first get there.

The Cour des Senteurs at Versailles

A short walk away from the Palace of Versailles there is a courtyard tucked away that is well worth a detour. Due to the presence of the royal court here Versailles has always been home to a tradition of luxury, and in particular perfume making for the Kings and courtiers. The Cour des Senteurs opened recently and is now home to a traditional, family owned luxury glove maker, the gorgeous French perfumer and candle maker Diptyque, Guerlain and a café by Le Notre: it’s a little haven of peace and tranquility away from the crowds at the chateau.

Go through to the end of the courtyard and along the passageway and you find yourself in a beautiful garden. Designed around over 200 plants and essences used in perfumes, you also have a wonderful view over the old town of Versailles, and can continue your walk as far as the King’s vegetable garden, still in use today and still producing an amazing array of fruit and vegetables.

Diptyque have produced a special set of candles for their shop here, jasmine, green mint and roses – burned together they apparently smell just like the gardens of Versailles!

If you have an hour or so free after visiting the palace, especially in the crowds of high summer, I highly recommend you come down here and enjoy a few moments of quiet and relaxation.

  • Cour des Senteurs, rue de la Chancellerie, 78000 Versailles

Le Marché des Enfants Rouges

Created in 1615 under Louis XIII, the Marché des Enfants Rouges is the oldest market in Paris. It was named after the orphans from the nearby orphanage – dressed in red as a sign of charity, and was set up to feed the new neighbourhood of the Marais.

Today it is a small but vibrant and diverse covered market. Saved by locals in 2000 who petitioned vigorously to have it reopened, it now houses various stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meats, bread and flowers, but also an eclectic range of eateries, always busy at lunchtime and a wonderful place to grab some lunch and sit on the terraces amongst the market stalls. I went on a Sunday, and had a choice of Japanese, Italian, Lebanese, Moroccan, farmers burgers, brunch, traditional French bistro fare, crepes or charcuterie and cheese plates from a wine bar. The atmosphere is lively and local, the setting picturesque (the market is now a listed historic monument) and the food delicious.

The market is located in the top end of the Marais, or ‘Haut Marais’, now even more fashionable and still less known to tourists than the lower end. A visit and lunch in the market followed by a stroll down through the lively southern end of the Marais is a great way to spend a day.

Open daily 8:30 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 19:30. Sunday 8:30 – 14:00. Closed Mondays.

  • Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39 rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris. Métro: Arts et Metiers
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A hidden oasis – the gardens of the Palais Royal

Just a stone’s throw away from the crowds at the Louvre, there’s a hidden paradise – tranquil gardens surrounded by chic boutiques and cafés. It feels like a well-kept secret, frequented by fashionable locals, petanque players and those like me just looking for a quiet spot to sip a coffee in the sunshine.

Exit the metro at Palais Royal onto Place Colette.

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Slip through the archway, past Daniel Buren’s columns, then head through the covered arcades…

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and you find yourself in the gardens of the Palais Royal. Former palace of the young Louis XIV and once home to Colette, these beautiful gardens are surrounded by elegant galleries: café terraces spill out into the sunshine, whilst the quiet arcades are now home to Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney and a host of other artisan boutiques.

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I love to grab a coffee and a slice of carrot cake or a cold pressed juice from one of the tiny cafés in the arcades, and find a shady bench under the clipped trees.

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Then I check out the vintage couture dresses at Didier Ludot.

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Why don’t you pop in for a stroll in the sunshine? You’ll find yourself coming back again and again.

Just don’t tell everybody…

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  • Enter through Place Colette or 8 rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris. Metro: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre