With its cobblestone streets and street side cafes and quaint shop window display, Paris simply oozes old-world charm. And for luxury travellers, it’s a city that’s also at the cutting edge fashion, art and culinary scenes. Here’s what this traditional and trend-setting city has to offer the traveller who appreciates the finer things in life...
Paris is one of the world’s major fashion capitals, so it’s a great place to grab some of this season's hottest items. However, while the window displays can grind fashionistas to a grinding halt, try not to spend too much time drooling over the display. Watching window shoppers is one of native Parisians’ favourite spectator sports – they refer to it as lèche-vitrine, or "licking the windows".
Haussmann Boulevard houses the city’s dizzying amount of department stores, however for the crème de la crème of designer fashion, shoppers will want to head a few blocks down to Louvre-Tuileries and Faubourg Saint-Honore. Stop at Didier Ludot for haute couture fashion by designers like Givenchy and Dior. For those that plan on spending time on the beach in the South of France later, pay a visit to Eres to see why French girls always look so good on the beach. However, the absolute first stop for any fashionista should be Colette. This large boutique offers the best choice in the season's hottest new fashions from both local French and international designers. It plays host to labels such as Pucci, Lucien Pellat-Finet, Veronque Branquinho and Mari, but that is just a small selection of what they have to offer.
Of course, with high fashion, there is also a demand for some of the best cosmetics in the world. The most popular stop is Sephora's original French store on Champs Elysees. This 1,500 square-metre-store squeezes in 12,000 cosmetics and perfumes of the highest quality. For a more "only in Paris" cosmetic experience, head down to Shu Uemura on St-Germain Boulevard. French models swear by its cleansing oils. It also hosts a huge range of colours that those in the know may recognize on runways around the world.
Paris isn't all fashion and cosmetics, however. It is also famed for their wine and chocolate. Those with a serious sweet tooth should be sure to visit Debauve & Gallais, which was founded by two former chemists. It became a royal chocolate purveyor in the 1800s and the rich flavour of its ganache, truffles and pistols have persevered throughout the ages. For wines, head to La Derniere Goutte. This shop houses the choice selection of wine from all over the country. The staff is eager to make recommendations for any palate, and there are wine tastings every Saturday to help shoppers make the more difficult choices.
Experience Private Paris
There is a lot to see in Paris and a lot of ways to do it. However, the discerning traveller doesn't want to rub elbows with a bunch of tourists equipped with fanny packs and cameras permanently glued to their faces. The luxurious city of Paris can appreciate that their finest travellers have a desire for a little privacy, so many tour operators cater to those individuals.
As Paris is dripping with old world charm, one of the best ways to see the city is in an old world way. In front of the Eiffel Tower, true romantics can book a private horse and carriage ride for up to four people. Guests can just sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city as it passes them by with the rhythmic clip-clop of horse hooves. The tour takes guests past the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, sown Champs Elysees and past the Trocadero. The ride concludes back where it started at the base of the Eiffel Tower and includes a bottle of complimentary champagne.
Alternatively, guests can view the magnificent city on a private cruise down the Seine River. The magical evening begins with hotel pick up by a luxurious town car before disembarking from the foot of the Eiffel Tower on a scenic, relaxing cruise. This hour long tour takes guests past Notre Dame Cathedral, Musee d'Orsay and under the beautifully illuminated bridges of the city. The tour concludes with a private three-course French dinner with complimentary wine at Les Ombres Restaurant, located on the roof of Musee du Quai Branly. This rooftop restaurant gives panoramic views of the city as well as the iconic Eiffel Tower.
Finally, a trip to Paris wouldn't be complete without attending at least one wine tasting. Grand Cru is considered to host the most comprehensive and exquisite wine tastings in a private setting. During this two-hour wine tasting, guests spend their time enhancing their wine knowledge in this beautifully renovated wine cellar in central Paris. Private parties spend their time sampling six exquisite and rare vintages from the cellar. The wines are served with some of the best French cheeses to compliment each vintage’s unique taste and aroma.
Feast In The Gastronomic Capital Of The World
Paris chefs have always been considered to have some of the best culinary minds in the world. When it comes to fine dining, chefs aspire to be admitted to any one of the culinary institutes in France. However, recently, French chefs have been breaking through the bond of stale tradition and following their own culinary passions. These passions, combined with French technique, have breathed new life into one of the world's greatest food cities.
In a city that is home to some of the best restaurants in the world, Guy Savoy is considered to be the best of the best. The restaurant's namesake and head chef Guy Savoy has decorated his eatery with the finest dark African wood, luxurious leather and cream coloured marble to create the most intimate eating experiences. The walls are adorned with fine pieces of art that were handpicked from the chef's own collection.
The Guy Savoy is renowned for its haute cuisine, such as artichoke soup with black truffles, veal kidneys in mustard spiced jus and innovative mille-fueille. The best part of the Guy Savoy is its policy on dainty portions. If a waiter sees diners revelling in a particular dish, they are always quick to offer a second helping to assure that diners leave with their bellies full and palates satisfied. The best restaurant in Paris is also home to the best wine selection in Paris.
Across town at Hiramatsu, chef Hajime Nakagawa is serving up French cuisine with subtle Japanese influences that creates interesting new flavours on classic French staples. Signature dishes include lamb chops with onion jam and thyme and truffle infused jus, pot-au-feu of oysters with foie gras and black truffles, and succulent roasted Iberian pig. The helpful sommeliers are always quick to guide diners through their collection of 1,000 different wines.
The True Definition of A Luxury Hotel
Travellers who have enjoyed luxury hotels in other cities hardly know the meaning of the luxury until they have been pampered by a French hotel.
Sitting on the most expensive avenue in Paris, surrounded by luxury shops, stands the grand Hotel Plaza Athenee. This historic hotel, built in 191, recently had its image boosted by serving as the backdrop in one of the final episodes of the show Sex and the City, which has sent Paris visitors clamouring for rooms.
Each stay at the Hotel Plaza Athenee is guaranteed to be different with the variety decoration within the rooms. The rooms have been redone in Regency, Louis XVI, or Art Deco styles that frequently draw repeat visits from glittering celebrities. Most rooms are treated with Eiffel Tower views and a visit to the in-house Dior spa is complimentary for all guests.
Down by the Louvre and the rich boutiques on that side of town lays the Hotel Meurice. Since 1835, this hotel has welcomed the presence of royalty and celebrities alike such as the Duchess of Windsor and Salvador Dali. The Hotel Meurice served as the first Palace hotel in Paris and it continues to please its guests with exemplary service, style and views of the Paris skyline. The bathrooms are all made of polished marble and feature deep bathtubs and designer toiletries.