September 2018 NYT Recommendations Along the Seine
A knockout view over Paris doesn’t have to involve intolerable lines, exorbitant ticket sums or visiting the Eiffel Tower. The Ballon de Paris is a tethered helium balloon (adults, 12 euros, or about $14) that elevates you 450 feet above the modernist Parc André Citroën, affording a commanding perspective on the city’s celebrated boulevards and monuments — including Gustave Eiffel’s nearby namesake tower. Return to Earth next door with a sundowner cocktail or glass of wine (5 euros) at La Javelle, a carnivalesque Seine-side sprawl of food trucks, concert stages and open-air bars — including a moored party barge — interspersed with garlands of colored lights and thrift-store furniture.
From the cod in the “Thai broth” appetizer to the tapioca dessert with coconut milk, a tropical breeze blows through the kitchen of RadioEat, which also serves a dish that features a banana leaf bursting with dense boneless chicken nuggets braised in caramel sauce and a lush tiramisù with blood orange with toasted pistachio nuts. (Other worthy concoctions include crunchy asparagus in a zesty, white sauce of Gorgonzola cheese and a thick, flavorful tuna steak atop smoky chargrilled leeks.) The tall windows overlooking the Seine and Bir Hakeim bridge (recognizable to fans of the film “Last Tango in Paris”) satisfy any hunger for views, while concerts in the building’s auditorium and studios help slake your thirst for live music. A three-course dinner for two costs around 100 euros.
A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM
Like a fun house for cultivated grown-ups, the Palais de Tokyo is full of wonder and diversion. Aesthetes and bibliophiles can chase their pleasures until midnight in exhibition halls brimming with contemporary art exhibitions (admission, 12 euros) and a bookstore packed with tomes and magazines devoted to art, design, architecture, fashion and much besides. Drinks can be enjoyed in the fashionable Monsieur Bleu restaurant or Les Grands Verres, a vast industrial-chic restaurant-bar that moves outside into the colonnaded courtyard in warm weather. The more playful creations include Frozaaay (a slushy blend of rosé wine and watermelon juice; 12 euros) and the One Night in Paris cocktail (gin, grapefruit liqueur, sparkling wine, hibiscus; 12 euros). If you want to add D.J.s and throbbing music to the mix, finish with a decadent splash in the Yoyo nightclub.
NIGHTTIME PALACE INTRIGUE
Gratuit, which means “free,” is a word seldom heard in pricey Paris — until you enter the neo-Classical Petit Palais. Built for the Universal Exposition of 1900, the museum houses a wide-ranging (and free) collection of European art, from Grecian urns to Flemish religious scenes. Gustave and Gustave (Doré and Moreau) make impressive cameos — the former with a shimmering painting of the ascension of Christ, the latter with a dark, apocalyptic landscape called “Arion” — as does the gloppy glory of the Impressionists, including Seine views by Monet and Camille Pissarro. Splashes of Post-Impressionism (Cézanne nature scenes), Romanticism (dark landscapes from Gericault) and sculpture (a disfigured torso by Rodin) round out the mix.
FOOD OF THE GODS
You can finally sport your Roman toga or Egyptian ankh at Minipalais, where arches, columns, classical statues and mosaics of Pharaonic scenes decorate the vast outdoor terrace. Niched in the Grand Palais — an even more expansive exhibition space built for the 1900 Universal Exposition — the restaurant offers a Continental journey via dishes like gazpacho, grilled octopus and penne with chorizo. To move from surf to turf, the salmon appetizer is smoked and lightly cooked for a delicate roasted flavor — enlivened by egg mousseline — before a well-browned chicken breast arrives on fat white asparagus and topped by a tissue-thin slice of white Italian lardo. Lunch for two costs around 100 euros.
With massive, famous museums like the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay almost next door, the smaller and more discreet Musée de l’Orangerierisks being overlooked. What it lacks in size, however, the 19th-century former greenhouse makes up for in concentrated artistic power. The marquee attractions are Monet’s waterlily paintings, but the collection of Post-Impressionism is staggering. Heavyweights like Henri Rousseau, André Derain and Maurice Utrillo have rooms of their own, while several super-heavyweights are represented by multiple canvases: Modigliani’s narrow female portrait sitters; Matisse’s lounging Orientalist odalisques; and Picasso’s brooding, dark nudes. Admission, 9 euros.
ORCHIDS AND ICE CREAM
The Seine’s prime shopping trail leads past the stalls of thebouquinistes — vintage book sellers — and through the history-rich islands, Île de la Cité and Île St.-Louis. You can create your own Louvre at La Reine Margot, a museum-like shop selling art and objects from Classical Greece, ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire and beyond — as well as archaeological-cool jewelry by contemporary creators. Then you can create your own garden at the Marché aux Fleurs. Operating since 1830, the market is a horticultural haven of rare orchids, sculptural cactuses, floral soaps, fruit jams and much besides. Finally, cross Pont St.-Louis bridge and meander through the fashionable streets (Charles Baudelaire and the Rothschilds are former residents) to Upper Concept Store, a cafe-boutique devoted to independent international designers. The long line down the street is for Berthillon, the city’s most beloved ice-cream parlor.
SHELLS AND SCALES
Eating fish from the Seine is discouraged. Eating fish alongside the Seine, however, is a must, thanks to Le Vent d’Armor, which opened in 2016. A hideaway of fine-tuned seafood dishes, the tiny restaurant is helmed by Nicolas Tribet, a former cook in France’s presidential palace. The understated, elegant décor provides a nonintrusive backdrop for the menu, whose starters might include razor clams in butter or a deep-fried soft-shell crab with a creamy wasabi emulsion. Main courses might feature bass in a cumin-lemon “tagine” sauce or langoustine meat bathed in a creamy concoction of shell broth, butter and truffle slices — a sublime meeting of sea, dairy and forest. A three-course dinner for two costs about 120 euros.
FIND YOUR (PÉ)NICHE
Another vocabulary lesson: péniche. It means barge, and in Paris it typically refers to a docked party boat where locals spend festive nights fueled by live music (sometimes) and chilled wine (de rigueur). Each has its distinctive music, crowd and view. Overlooking Île St.-Louis, Péniche Marcounet is a narrow, century-old vessel with neo-industrial touches and a roster of jazz bands. In warm weather, the bourgeois-bohemian crowds spill out onto makeshift packing-crate benches along the quay and order pitchers of chardonnay (12 euros). Next door, a more professional clientele fills the refined blonde-wood interior and outdoor couches of Les Maquereaux. Variations on the Moscow Mule and gin-and-tonic are the specialties, including a cognac and tonic (11 euros).
SUNDAY IN THE PARK
Urban Paris falls away in the Jardin des Plantes, a venerable reserve of lawns, tall trees, flower beds and stately old buildings. Joggers, picnickers and more exotic species abound, including some 170 in the zoo — purportedly the second-oldest in the world — around 900 in the “bee houses,” and hundreds, perhaps thousands, more in the large greenhouses. Built on a cathedral scale, the most impressive one enfolds a misty, dense junglelike world where paths lead among all manner of African, Asian and South American specimens — including banana trees, teak trees, spice plants and hanging vines — as well as water pools and ersatz caves. Greenhouse admission, 7 euros.
For your last glance at the French capital, soar above the city — virtually, this time — at Pavillon de l’Arsenal. Dedicated to Paris architecture and urbanization, the exhibition space features an interactive 400-square-foot digital map of Paris from above (created with Google Earth technology) that captures every street and structure, allowing you to scroll, pan, rise and zoom around town with a touch of the master panel. Then travel through Paris history by walking the circumference of the ground floor, where illustrated timelines (enlivened by flat-screen displays and touch-screen panels) take you from the medieval period until today, with homage to the groundbreaking contributions of Le Corbusier and other architects. Better still, this institution is also free.
The architect-designer Ora Ito and the artist Daniel Buren collaborated on the 106-room Yooma Urban Lodge (51 Quai de Grenelle, 33-1-44-09-00-13; in September, doubles from 114 euros), a colorful, retro-futuristic hotel that opened last year. In addition to a restaurant, bar and gym, the hotel provides many family-friendly bonuses, from six-person rooms to special baby washrooms and bottle warmers.
Moored next to theCité de la Mode et du Design exhibition center (and night life haven), the streamlined and chic 58-room Off Paris Seine (86 Quai d’Austerlitz; 33-1-44-06-62-66; offparisseine.com; double rooms in September from 233 euros) is a floating hotel with a popular bar-restaurant.
Other NYT Hotel Recommendations
- L’Hotel – located down the narrow streets of the Left Bank it exudes the bohemian spirit of St. German-des-Pres. 20 room hotel, tucked into rue des Beau Arts, delivers a theatrical brand of opulence along with an interesting history.Rates start at 390 euros.
- Hotel Particulier – In Montmartre, on quaint Avenue Junot away from the tourist traps, this is the former home of the Hermes family that was transformed into a quirky hotel with five suites. Rates start at 390 euros.
- Hotel Providence – located in the 10th Arrondissement (the Brooklyn of Paris) on rue Rene Boulanger, right between two of the most trendy neighborhoods (Haut Marais & Canal St-Martin). Formerly a brothel, it now draws a fashionable clientele to its 18 rooms that feel like a stylish friend’s pied-a-terre. Rates start at 160 euros.