Visiting Paris on your own, whether for business or pleasure, presents the ideal opportunity to check out one of the city’s chicest new hotels. A stay at C.O.Q. (Community of Quality) is kind of like crashing at the apartment of a glamorous friend. This boutique hotel in the 13th arrondissement is cool and sleek and yet still totally welcoming. The Grand Pigalle Hôtel, a self-described ‘bed and beverage’, combines the area’s artistic heritage with its new, hip vibe in a way that doesn’t at all feel nostalgic. The group behind the hotel are also world-famous for their cocktail lounges.
Dining alone is sort of a Parisian specialty. Ever wondered why the seating is only at one side of terrace tables? It’s because dining al fresco is best done with no other company than the rest of the world passing by. Huguette in Saint-Germain-des-Prés is Paris’ answer to a trip to the seaside, the most stylish possible version of a crab shack. Another great restaurant in the neighborhood is Aux Prés, the less famous sister of Le Chardenoux by the Marché d’Aligre. Their owner, Cyril Lignac, presents the French version of The Great British Bake Off.
For cocktails in Saint-Germain, head to the Prescription Cocktail Club, a nondescript bar on the Rue Mazarine. This is the place that got Paris’ cocktail craze going. Up in Pigalle, one of the most exuberant watering holes is Dirty Dick. This tiki bar’s charming name is matched by the colorful décor and the extremely friendly staff. Harry’s New York Bar near Opéra, where the walls are hung with collegiate flags and the drinks are famously strong, is another sound port of call for solo travelers. There’s live music in the piano bar from Tuesday to Saturday and you can sample the original Bloody Mary.
If you’re looking for an interactive art experience, ditch the Louvre and head to 59RIVOLI instead. This former squat now houses 30 studios and you can chat to the artists while you shop for a memento of your trip. The Musée du Quai Branly is one of the less crowded of Paris’ major museums. The subjects of its temporary exhibitions are thought-provoking and wide-ranging and its gardens are a beautiful retreat. If you’re visiting Paris in 2017, add the Centre Pompidou to your list of must-see museums. It’s celebrating its 40th birthday with a year-long calendar of events.
A trip to Paris, however brief, can be just the occasion for perfecting your French cooking skills. There are dozens of schools offering cooking classes, each with its own style and techniques. The École de Cuisine Alain Ducasse runs cooking, pastry, and wine tasting courses and, all importantly, the teaching is done in English. You might have fallen in love with Paris because of how it looks on screen and, while sitting in a dark room might seem like a strange way to spend your precious time here, the city has some amazing cinemas that will really make you feel like a local.
You don’t need to travel far outside central Paris to see a totally different side to the region and to France. The Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen on Paris’ northern edge is reachable by metro on the lines 4 and 13 and even on foot if you’re staying in the 17th or 18th arrondissements. This labyrinthine flea market is open from Saturday to Monday and is filled with incredible antiques and vintage design pieces. There are restaurants, bars, and galleries spread over its 14 distinct areas so you can really make a day of it.
If you’re young, single, and ready to mingle, then the bustling neighborhoods of Pigalle and Canal Saint-Martin are the place to be. You can even stroll the length of the latter, from the futuristically landscaped Parc de la Villette to the restaurants and clubs of Bastille, dropping in and out of bars as you go. For a rather more civilized sort of affair, stick to the Boulevard Saint-Germain (especially if you love to shop) and the streets of the Latin Quarter. There’s a real mix of historical sights and modern goings-on to discover in this part of town.
One of the best ways to see Paris (especially if you’re not traveling in a big group) is by bike. You can buy a one-day ticket for the city’s Vélib’ system for €1.70 (US$1.80) or a seven-day ticket for €8 (US$8.50). You can use as many bikes as you like during these periods and the first 30 minutes of every journey is free. For zipping between, say, 59RIVOLI and the Musée du Quai Branly, this is perfect. For longer journeys, you will incur an additional charge from €1 (US$1.05) for the first half hour to €4 (US$4.30) for the 3rd half hour and beyond.