Best Things To See and Do in Paris (on your second visit)
My first trip to Paris was a rush. I raced to glimpse all of the city's essential sights in just five short days. I adored every chaotic moment as I traipsed from palace to museum to arch on my whirlwind, self-guided tour.
But I wanted something different from my second visit to Paris. Seven years older, with slightly more weight to my wallet and many of the unmissable sights already stored firmly in fond memories, I felt free to explore places I’d never heard of and to seek out the plethora of unique experiences Paris has to offer.
I didn’t think I could fall more in love with Paris but my second visit proved me wrong. During my second dazzling trip to the City of Lights, I visited some world-renowned museums, sampled far more than the recommended daily intake of pastries, familiarised myself with Paris's ever-trendy jazz scene, lovingly explored the beautiful streets of La Marais and found myself sitting here writing a second love letter to Paris.
Underground Jazz at Cafe du 38 Riv
Descend into Cafe du 38 Riv, the subterranean jazz bar in the heart of La Marais, for a truly Parisian jazz experience. It’s unassuming at street level but descend the darkened stairwell of its 12th century vaulted cellar and you will find yourself immersed in the sound of energetic piano, drums and double bass. It’s a compact space with just a few seats placed in front of the band and a cozy bar tucked into the far left corner of the cellar. A jam session at this underground jazz cafe is an intimate experience you won’t want to miss.
Walking around La Marais and Sentier
A first trip to Paris will see many visitors explore Montmartre and the 1st arrondissement as they make their way around the Sacre Coeur and The Louvre. During a second visit, travellers would do well to home in on La Marais and Sentier to gaze upon some of Paris’s lesser known attractions. From the towering Saint Denis Porte arch and Paris’s shortest street (Rue des Degrees) to the quiet arcade of Passage du Grand-Cerf and the lively cafes and restaurants lining Rue Montorgueil - there’s no quicker way to become acquainted with another side of Paris than by strolling through its quieter neighbourhoods.
Choux pastries at Odette Paris
If you are only to sample one sweet treat in Paris, you had better make it Odette Paris. The very definition of chic, Odette Paris boasts a view of the Notre Dame that is second-to-none and the kind of choux pastry an Instragrammer’s dreams are made of. Light and crisp on the outside, sweet and creamy on the inside and delicately decorated in pastel icing, these moreish desserts will have you wishing for more long after the last bite. Dine in and enjoy the charming art deco interior of Odette Paris or take them away in boxes of 6, 9, 12 or 18.
Reading at Shakespeare and Company
This is not your average bookstore. First opened in 1951 in Paris’s 5th Arrondissement, Shakespeare and Company remains a local institution. Its labyrinthine arrangement of overflowing bookcases, narrow staircases and homely nooks and crannies are the perfect setting for its enormous collection of new and vintage books. More interesting still is the bookstore’s history of hosting authors. Shakespeare and Company has provided beds to over 30,000 travelling writers looking for a night’s accommodation - all they ask for in return is a day’s work in the store and a one-page autobiography.
Waterlilies at Musée de l'Orangerie
A gallery exhibiting impressionist and post-impressionist works from some of the most influential artists of their time, Musée de l’Orangerie is not one to be missed. Among the collection are pieces from the impressionist pioneers, including Renoir, Sisley, Cezanne, Modigliani and Matisse. The star attraction of the gallery, however, is one Claude Monet. On the second floor of the Musée de l'Orangerie are two elliptical rooms exhibiting wall-to-wall paintings of Monet’s world-renowned water lilies. This section of the museum fills out quickly — arrive early to beat the crowd.
Smaller in stature than the Louvre but no less impressive, the Musée d’Orsay celebrates French art from 1848 to 1914. The museum has taken up residence in the enormous halls of the former Beaux-Arts railway station, whose chequered history has seen it transformed into a mailing centre during World War II, a set for an Orson Welles film and the residence for the Renaud-Barrault Theatre Company. Key pieces here include Renoir’s Bal du Moulin de la Galette, Van Gogh’s self portrait, Monet’s Woman with a Parasol and Gustave Courbet’s controversial L’Origine du monde.
French toast at Big Love Cafe
Starting the day with a pain au chocolat in one hand and a café au lait in the other is the time-honoured Parisian approach to breakfast. However, spare a thought for Big Love Cafe before you decide your morning meal. It may be an Italian cafe but it serves up some of the best French toast (pain perdu) in the city. This is trendy brunch with a French/Italian twist and a dining spot to line up for.
Sacre Coeur and the Painters Corner
The imposing Romano-Byzantine basilica sits atop the tallest hill in Montmarte, providing some of the best views of sprawling Paris. On a clear day you can easily spot the Eiffel Tower and the Musée d’Orsay, over 4 kilometres away. Don’t get too carried away with the view though, as the basilica itself is a sight to be seen. 83 metres high and 85 metres long, construction of this monument took almost 40 years, with the basilica finally consecrated in 1919 to mark the end of World War I. Most tourists mill around the front making it crowded even on a quiet day, so be sure to circle the building for a quieter spot to take your photos. While you’re at it, make a few more turns and head toward Place de Tertre. This bustling space is known as ‘The Artist’s Square’ and it is filled to the brim with painters, caricaturists and portraitists.
Duck Confit at Bistrot Victoires
Duck confit is to Paris what the hot dog is to New York — an essential dining experience. Finding a bistro that serves top-quality confit at a reasonable price is the challenging part. After a week of sifting through search results, I settled on Bistrot Victoires. In a somewhat quiet part of town, this unassuming bistro is exactly the kind of experience you hope for in Paris. Beautiful vintage decor, complete with dark wood fittings and gold plated lamps, is matched perfectly to its bustling atmosphere. Then there’s the duck confit. A leg of duck with wonderfully crisp skin and incredibly tender meat is served with delicious fried potato slices and a leafy side salad. Book a table. Now.