Standing proud at the western end of the Champs-Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe is a beacon for selfie-snappers of all stripes. Since its completion in 1836, the grandly neo-classical, 50-foot-stone arch has become a symbol of the city. 12 broad avenues fan out from here. Strike out to the Bois de Boulogne to the west, the Louvre to the east, or the Seine and its scattering of museums to the south. It pays to linger a while in the neighbourhood, too, whether you’re in the market for a culture hit, a critic-pleasing lunch or a bit of retail therapy. We followed two Londoners – one planner and one flâneur – as they got lost around the Arc de Triomphe for a day. Here’s what they found.
Art-deco opulence meets high-tech retail at this slick, recently opened department store. Ask any member of staff for a free style consultation, or check the digi-hangers to see what sizes are in stock. The first floor’s stocked with hip homegrown labels like Rouje. The basement food court’s also worth a detour: try the cult biang biang noodles at Zhao, then drop by Stohrer for a decadent dessert.
Chef Manon Fleury’s won stellar reviews with this small, unassuming bistro, set just off the Champs-Elysées. Its menu may be pared-back, but every dish delivers, from leeks with confit egg-yolk to pink grapefruit panna cotta. If every table’s occupied, squeeze in at the zinc bar, or come back in the evening for wine and moreish small plates. One note of caution: it’s only open on weekdays.
This stately hôtel particulier was once YSL’s headquarters. Now, it’s an evocative museum showcasing his work, from exquisitely cut tuxedos to opulent brocade coats. A smaller gallery hosts changing exhibitions, while his book-lined studio remains just as he left it. There are swatches pinned on the wall and half-finished sketches on the desk – along with a pair of his iconic horn-rimmed specs.
The best thing about this neighbourhood is Parc Monceau. It’s full of crumbling follies – including a scaled-down Egyptian pyramid.
It’s hard to resist this polished, white-tiled pâtisserie, whose glass and marble counter is full of magnificent cakes. Lignac likes to add his own twist to the classics: try the glossy baba au rhum, topped with a decadent swirl of cream. His signature pastry, the Equinoxe, is a deep grey space-age creation, filled with bourbon vanilla mousse and a salted caramel centre.
Billed as an ‘anti-museum’, this maverick address stages a succession of experimental exhibitions. Look out for its carte blanche installations, imagined by a single artist – like Tomás Saraceno, who filled the space with spiderwebs. Its restaurants, meanwhile, are destinations in their right: head to Monsieur Bleu for Eiffel-Tower views, or Les Grands Verres for first-class cocktails.
Set aside at least an afternoon for this monumental museum, the Palais de Tokyo’s next-door neighbour. There’s no entry fee for its terrific permanent collection, which runs from Bonnard and Picasso to Daniel Buren and Peter Doig. Don’t miss two early versions of Matisse’s La Danse, or the dazzling La Fée Electricité – a luminously lovely, 30-foot fresco by Raoul Dufy.