Never leave Paris without having done this


A stay in Paris is always too short. Over the years, I have become an expert in making any visit to this city as Parisian as it can get even if time is limited. These are the 10 things I just have to do before leaving Paris. Do you see any of your Parisian habits among them ?

1. Buy a souvenir. And not a tourist-one but a very Parisian object. A bijou, a notebook, a wallet. There are so many small shops with very nice so-french brands (try the Haut Marais, the 75009 and around Place des Abesses for example). They will hopefully one day replace the plastic – crap souvenir shops. Like this computer pocket made by Maison Baluchon, my friend Perrine offered herself for a hard day of work. Could not think of a better way to keep Paris top of mind after your stay.


2. Drink coffee on a terrace.  And I try to go back to the same places to get acquainted with other regular visitors and the people working there. Even when it’s freezing cold and raining. A terrace is not just for sunny days. It’s a tradition the Parisians love even though they do not smoke as much as they used to do.  I took this picture last Saturday at Le Nemours, Place Colette. I must have spent several years of my life there if I added up all café’s, lunches and diners.


Photo: Renée Koudstaal

3. Sit on a bench and watch people walking by (which is not doing nothing)

These are the lyrics of one of my favourite songs called Mistral Gagnant from
Renaud. (“Ah, m’asseoir sur un banc, cinq minutes avec toi, et regarder les gens
tant qu’y en a:). Also sung by Vanessa Paradis with Maxime le Forestier but let’s stick
to the authentic one. Just watch Parisians living their life, observing them, make your mind wander around, build up a stock of memories to take with you.

4.  Drink champaign in a chic hotel bar. During my  last stay I drank a coupe with some dear friends, just around the corner of my apartment, in the hotel La Reserve which has been elected as the best hotel in the world,   by Condé Nast Traveller. (Congratulations Didier Le Calvez and your team!) Luxury should be part of daily life, which is one of the many life lessons you just have to obey in Paris. Let’s not complain. And absolutely pay a visit to La Reserve, it’s simply breathtaking.


Photo: Renée Koudstaal

5. Have a manicure

Manicured nails are a basic of the Parisian style. The best manicure is actually the one you don’t see. Don’t think its a waste of time. I just sit down, relax and try to listen to what all the Parisians around me are talking about. Three options: the luxury salons where you have to book, an Asian salon where you can just walk in (quality can be really good) or the at home (or hotel or air bnb) manicure that you can book à la Parisienne through the app Simone.

6. Buy French magazines

Have you ever seen the wide choice of magazines you can buy at the kiosques in Paris ? Only problem is that they are heavy and I have difficulty in throwing them away. I either read them on a terrace or I bring them home which makes my Paris trip last even longer. Read what Parisians read, so don’t miss out on the Elle Cuisine, Milk, Marie-Claire, the brand new L’Petit Mardi (written by 16 to 19 years old Parisians) but also the free magazine you will find in restaurants and shops called le Bonbon. Even if you don’t read French (which is a shame !:), get inspired, since inspiration lasts.


7. Go to a pharmacy

French pharmacies can be real life savers when you are ill. Good advice and so many medicine available, for some it sounds like paradise, others think it’s crazy. Anyway, it’s absolutely impossible for me not to go there. To complete my stock of medicine (how can we live without Spasfon, Doliprane Rhume or Biafine???) but mainly also to buy products to pamper myself and my family like creams, cleansers, bath gel for my baby, …

Photo: Renée Koudstaal

8. Do a style scan at a department store

Its not about buying, but again about inspiration. I always do a one hour scan by walking through a Grand Magasin. Which one depends on your taste. For chic I advice Le Bon Marché (in this picture), for daily I would advice Lafayette and for men style I recommend the Printemps Homme. If your time is really limited try the BHV at Louvre Rivoli, which has been completely updated recently.

Photo: Renée Koudstaal

9. Go to the cinema

Preferably to see a French movie. (If you speak French don’t miss Le Sens de la Fête, all about French humour and a wedding in a 17th century castle…). Pick a nice area with restaurants nearby to make it a full night out. Did you know that the Grand Palais has a MK2 cinema and a very nice restaurant ? Check out all movies and cinemas in Paris on Allociné.

10. Visit a market

Even if I don’t need anything, I enjoy the whole setting, including the discussions between the visitors and the merchants, I never come home without a new recipe or product I want to try.  Buy a newspaper and have a café au lait in the brasserie nearby. I like the markets on Rue Cler, the market Président Wilson and Rue Montorgueil (not a real market but great atmosphere and many very good food shops) , but you can check all markets per neighbourhood here. 

Last but not least: book your next trip to Paris before leaving, a golden rule and for me the only way to make it somehow bearable to go. Bye Paris, I will be back.

Do you have any other particular Parisian habits ?

Text & most of the pictures by Renée Koudstaal

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Comments 2

  1. Josephine says on 21st November 2017

    Love love love this list. Am already listening to the song for the third time… and can’t wait to book my next trip to your city.

  2. renee says on 21st November 2017

    Thank you Josephine! And let me know whether you have found any other must do’s during your next stay. Oh, and I forgot, do drop by the Grande Epicerie if you have time…

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