When it comes to making the most of a city break, it pays to do a little digging. Guidebooks and Channel-hopping friends can be helpful, but nothing beats a little insider knowledge. From friendly cafés to that blink-and-you’d-miss-it shop, a little chat with someone in the know can lead you to real neighbourhood gems. And no one knows a city better than a hotel concierge, whether you’re in the market for sold-out cabaret ticket or the lowdown on the latest restaurant launches.
A stone’s throw from the Champ de Mars and the golden dome of Invalides, Hôtel Le Cinq Codet has all the trappings of a luxe Parisian stay. We caught up with head concierge Nicolas Maimbourg to pick his brains on what to see, eat and do in the 7th arrondissement. Spot that pin featuring crossed golden keys on his lapel? Nicolas is a member of the prestigious Clefs d’Or programme – a distinction for the world’s top concierges – so you know you’re in good hands.
Here are his hot picks.
Once a 1930s telephone exchange, this chic hotel has been artfully converted, making the most of its ocean-liner curves and enormous windows. As a Left Bank pied-à-terre, it takes some beating – especially with concierge Nicolas’s advice for a breezy stay. After a day’s sightseeing, retreat to the soothing third-floor spa, or sip a precision-mixed martini on the jungly ground-floor patio.
The fashion crowd’s on first-name terms with Victoire de Villiers’ handbags, from the chic, circular Kasimir to the pyramid-shaped Cleo. The pared-back lines and geometric shapes are inspired by modern art, while the quality’s impeccable: the whole range is made in France. This flagship store is equally stylish, with its pastel-painted walls, playful displays and occasional limited editions.
In a city of world-class fromageries, this is one of the standouts. Small and discreet from the outside, it’s stocked with some of France’s finest cheeses, from ash-layered morbier to herb-marinated goat’s cheeses. If in doubt, go for the superb walnut brie, or a hunk of the aged mimolette. Staff are friendly and full of advice – and will vacuum-pack pungent take-home purchases.
This award-winning chocolatier is fanatical about cocoa beans, showcased in his signature ‘grands crus’ selection box. The bars spiked with salted caramel have a cult following. Stock up on tins of truffles or chocolate pearls: they make for an ideal present. The pâtisserie counter’s equally enticing, with its stellar pear tarts, handsome monts-blancs and chocolate ganache-filled macarons.
Take your time at this neighbourhood bookstore, set up by the dashing Olivier Gallais. Staff picks come with heartfelt, handwritten recommendations, while local authors drop by for low-key book signings. It’s hip enough to have an Instagram account, but also formidably well-stocked, whether you’re honing your French with a graphic novel or looking for a classic read.
Clued-up locals head to this neighbourhood bistro for cosy dinners inspired by the Basque Country. Waiters joke with regulars in the narrow dining room, whose tiled floor and red banquettes have a sweetly old-school vibe. Dishes are simply plated, but utterly self-assured; chef-patron Thierry Dufroux used to work for Alain Ducasse. Just save room for dessert: the chocolate soufflé is superb.
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