THE 50 BEST: THE INSIDE GUIDE TO THE BEST OF PARIS

There's no city in the world quite like Paris in the spring. And, of course, it's never been easier to get there. This week, Vivienne Heller guides you round the Paris you know and the Paris you'll be glad to discover
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
1

RODIN MUSEUM

Of all Paris's many fabulous museums, the Rodin is a favourite as much for its beautiful setting as its contents. The artist was invited to live in this house on the understanding he would leave his work to the state on his death. Now his bronzes take centre stage in rooms bedecked with paintings by Van Gogh and Monet, while others are dotted around the garden. "It's not too big, so you have the satisfaction of having `done' it properly," says Kate Sanderson.

Where: Hotel Biron, 77 rue de Varenne, 75007 (00 33 47 05 0 34). Metro: Varenne.

How much: FF28; 8-25 year olds and Sunday FF8; under-8s free.

2

GUY SAVOY

"Inventive rather than classic," is how Natasha Edwards describes the haute cuisine of top chef Guy Savoy. "Guy has an amazing ability to bring out flavours," she says, recalling his celebrated lentil and langoustine soup, and cote du veau. The clientele is quirky: Parisians, foreigners attracted by two Michelin stars, and rugby players. This rich mix in a modern-art setting makes Guy Savoy perfect for a "splurge" meal. Where: 8 rue Troyon, 7507 (00 33 43 80 40 6) Metro: Charles de Gaulle. How much: FF600.

3

BEAUMARCHAIS

Beaumarchais offers stylish accommodation in keeping with the eminently cool environs of rue Oberkampf (see also No 34). "It was totally redesigned three years ago," says Sue Nottingham, who adores this hotel's interesting structure. "A silver spiral staircase winds up from the living area, and the interior design is full of marvellous wavy shapes in reds, blues and yellows." This curviness even extends to the headboards, which should ensure a soothing night's sleep after rue Oberkampf's nocturnal charms. Where: 3 rue Oberkampf, 750 (00 33 53 36 86 86). Metro: Filles de Cavalaire/Oberkampf.

How much: double FF450-500.

4

ANGELINA'S

This epitome of a salon de the exudes old-world chic. Perch on gilt-edged chairs beneath huge gilded mirrors, shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Ines de la Fressange and Parisian ladies who lunch. In keeping with the surroundings, dispense with tea and indulge instead in the richest hot chocolate, with whipped cream on the side, for which Angelina's is famous. After all, a girl has to keep her strength up after a hard afternoon's shop on nearby place Vendome. Where: 226 rue de Rivoli, 7500 (00 33 42 60 82 00). Metro: Tuileries. How much: FF36 for a chocolat chaud.

5

LA MAISON DU CHOCOLAT

If heaven is a place on earth, it must surely be La Maison du Chocolat. The sensation of diving headlong into chocolate begins at the door - painted a rich, tantalising brown. Within, an air of quiet reverence reigns, more Tiffany's than Thornton's - all the better to enjoy the irresistible aroma, the sight of row upon row of hand-painted chocolates, miniature petits fours, the fabulous, famous macaroons... Fortunately, the stony-faced staff should stifle any excessive chocoholic urges. Where: 225 rue du Faubourg-St-Honore, 75008 (00 33 42 27 39 44) Metro: Ternes. How much: macaroons from FF20.

6

THE CATACOMBS

"This is great on a wet day," says Kate Sanderson. Dating back to Roman times, the underground catacombs house the bones of around six million bodies, gathered here in the 8th century when Parisian cemeteries became overcrowded. "It's very spooky, with piles of skulls, some marked with the names of famous people. Visitors wander down long tunnels, following signs saying which cemeteries the next group of bones are from. It's eerily lit, and really fires the imagination."

Where: pl Denfert-Rochereau, 7504 (00 33 43 22 47 63). Metro: Denfert-Rochereau.

How much: FF27-FF9; under-7s, over-60s free.

7

RECH, LE BOUQUET DES TERNES

These two fish restaurants are favourites of John Lichfield. The Rech is popular with Parisians. "It can feel like an old people's home," he says. "But that's not a bad recommendation, because they've obviously been coming for years." Le Bouquet is said by Le Monde to be the best restaurant in Paris outside the Michelin Guide. "It's very friendly and informal, and really quite reasonable," John says. Where: Rech, 62 ave des Ternes (00 33 45 72 29 47); Le Bouquet, ave des Ternes (00 33 43 80 5 83). Metro: Ternes.

How much: Rech from FF300; Bouquet from FF200.

8

CARON DE BEAUMARCHAIS

The 8th century is alive and well in this extraordinary hotel. "The father-and-son team who put it together have recreated the tastes, fabrics and style of the time of Beaumarchais," explains Sue Nottingham. "The attention to detail is astonishing." Their industry is evident in everything from the gilded mirrors to the bathroom tiles, but the piece de resistance are framed pages from the first edition of Beaumarchais' Mariage de Figaro. For anyone who likes history, this is a gem.

Where: 2 rue Vieille-du-Temple, 75004 (00 33 42 72 34 2). Metro: Hotel de Ville. How much: rooms FF730-80.

9

STuBLI

Though not the most Francophile of recommendations, the Stubli is a favourite Austrian cafe in the heart of rue Poncelet ("a typical Paris street market", according to John Lichfield). If your stomach turns at the sight of a decapitated porker, pacify it with a brisk salad, a savoury tarte, or one of the divine desserts - apple strudel, plum cake, poppy- seed pastries... Faintly twee, it's also stylish, attracting elegant Parisians for genteel gossip.

Where: rue Poncelet, 7507 (00 33 42 27 8 86). Metro: Ternes.

How much: lunch is around FF70 a head

0

A LA BONNE RENOMMEE

I defy you to resist touching the exquisite garments in this couture equivalent of Aladdin's Cave. A La Bonne Renommee is a sensual haven amid the animated bustle of the Jewish Quarter: sumptuous velvets and rich brocades combine with fine wools to form jackets, cloaks and divine dresses perfect for a bit of Dr Zhivago-style posing. If your purse strings are reining you in, opt for a hat - the one I bought has staved off winter blues for many years. Where: 26 rue Vieille du Temple, 75004 (00 33 42 72 03 86). Metro: St Paul.

How much: hats from around FF650.

POMPIDOU CENTRE

This avant-garde construction was erected in the 970s to a chorus of disapproval. For Kate Sanderson, however, it's wonderful. "Take the escalator for the view from the top. The roofs are one of the fascinating things about Paris; the skyline is so varied, and you get to see things you can't at street level." The inside is closed at present, but dally outside for the buskers: "Everything from fire-eaters to people playing guitars to Peruvian bands. There's a really happy atmosphere." And you can catch the countdown to the millennium on the digital clock in the square.

Where: rue Beaubourg, 75004 (00 33 44 78 2 33). Metro: Chatelet Les Halles.

How much: free.

2

SPOON

Hip hedonists are packing the banquettes at the new venture from super- chef Alain Ducasse (above). His menu, says Natasha Edwards, is basically "a French take on Pacific Rim. Dishes have a Thai preparation or Japanese- type touch, and are very well prepared." John Lichfield singles out the New World wine list as being notable for its rarity in France. "This is the place that people are talking about at the moment," says Natasha; "we'll see how long it lasts." On the evidence of Ducasse's other restaurants - three-star affairs in Monte Carlo and another in Paris - a rosy future seems likely.

Where: 4 rue du Marignan (00 33 40 76 34 44). Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt.

How much: from around FF250.

3

DES GRANDES ECOLES

Pass through big green doors and up a cobbled street to find this charming Latin Quarter hotel. Sue Nottingham recommends it for the "lovely garden, where you can have breakfast outside when it's sunny." Des Grandes Ecoles resembles a country manor, and has around 50 large rooms. It was refurbished a couple of years ago, but the decor is still gilt mirrors, pianos, patterned wallpaper and chandeliers. This "traditional and old-fashioned" style, combined with friendly staff, results in accommodation that Sue sums up as "serene".

Where: 75 rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, 75005 (00 33 43 26 79 23). Metro: Cardinal-Lemoine.

How much: around FF450-490.

4

LA CHAISE AU PLAFOND

No, it's not the hallucinatory after-effects of a heavy night on the town. Those black and white blobs on the ceiling are Friesian cows, just one feature of a quirky cafe that's a Marais favourite. Under the same ownership as two other venues in the street - the cute Petit Fer a Cheval and Le Philosophe - this is, according to Lemisse, a "perfect place to while away the afternoon. Outside, there's a terrace, which is perfect on warm sunny days, and there are heaters for when it gets colder." The relaxed atmosphere attracts a mix of young Parisians and foreigners, who gather for lengthy chats over the usual cafe fare.

Where: 0 rue du Tresor, 75004 (00 33 42 76 03 22). Metro: St-Paul.

How much: moderate - around FF5 for a coffee.

5

ARCHE and MENKES

If you can tear yourself away from the Arc de Triomphe, head up ave de Wagram to place des Ternes, where an unassuming shop promises a treat for your feet. Delicately stitched shoes cut from the finest suede in a rainbow range of colours have leapt straight on to the pages of top French fashion magazines. With soles hand-made for comfort, they offer the perfect casual antidote to Manolo'd-out tootsies. If you prefer cheek to chic, try Menkes, a dance shop in Beaubourg. Here, flamenco shoes mingle with sparkly platforms and stilettos. Where: Arche, 237 rue du Faubourg-St-Honore, 75008 (00 33 42 27 88 46). Metro: Ternes; Menkes, 2 rue Rambuteau (00 33 40 27 9 8). Metro: Rambuteau.

How much: Arche, FF595-950; Menkes, moderate.

6

TOUR MONTPARNASSE

Reviled by many as an eyesore, this 974 skyscraper is a favourite of Kate Sanderson's for its views of Paris. "Take the lift up to the 56th floor, where you can have tea or dinner. There's also a jazz bar in the evenings," she says. "At night it's just spectacular. Sit right by the huge glass windows and see the whole of Paris lit up at your feet." It's also an alternative, queue- free way to see the Eiffel Tower.

Where: 33 av du Mairie, 7505 (00 33 45 38 52 56). Metro: Montparnasse- Bienvenue.

How much: lift to 56th floor: FF42; over-60s FF36; 8-25 year olds FF33; under-7s FF26; under-5s free.

7

AU PETIT MARGUERY

The epitome of a French bistro, Au Petit Marguery, complete with classic red frontage and tiled floor, has been around since early this century. This is the game gourmet's paradise, specialising in wild boar, venison and pheasant. Natasha Edwards adores the old-fashioned waiters. "You get the feeling they're very proud of what they serve. I asked a waiter what lievre [hare] was, and he went into great detail." Particularly good in the autumn and early winter, during the game season, this is, says Natasha, "tradition at its best".

Where: 9 bd du Port-Royal, 7503 (00 33 43 3 58 59). Metro: Les Gobelins.

How much: lunch around FF65, dinner FF220.

8

ESMERALDA

On a small, tree-lined square, this popular hotel, with superb views, is unashamedly eccentric, and has probably changed little since its construction in 640. "There's a small entrance hall with a cat, velvety chairs and big drape curtains," recalls Sue Nottingham. Travellers with delusions of grandeur may baulk at the wooden stairs (no lift), uneven floors and odd furniture, but more adventurous folk will discover a quirky, characterful nook just a stone's throw from Notre Dame. Where: 4 rue St Julien-le-Pauvre, 75005 (00 33 43 54 9 20). Metro: St-Michel/ Maubert-Mutualite.

How much: FF450-490.

9

LES DEUX MAGOTS

The famous symbol of St Germain's heyday, this is "a must for anyone on the intellectual arty Paris trail," says Lemisse. It was here that Left Bank heroes Sartre, Picasso and Hemingway used to hang out, setting a trend for the many pilgrim Americans and aspiring writers who now flock here to soak up the culture with their coffee. Whether you'll find inspiration in the present-day atmosphere is debatable, but it's certainly a classic.

Where: 6 place St-Germain des Pres, 75006 (00 33 45 48 55 25). Metro: St-Germain des Pres. How much: Pricey.

20

URSULE BEAUGESTE

If you fancy something pretty on your arm this season, trade in the toyboy for one of Ann Grand-Clement's exquisite handbags. "Her delicious trademark crocheted designs - some made on old looms - are influenced by a childhood spent abroad," explains Margo Daly. Also coveted are the engraved-leather-and-raffia bags and cloth hats which have made Grand- Clement the darling of international fashion magazines. Despite her fame, she remains "funny and very down to earth", sticking to the Menilmontant scene rather than heading for loftier locations.

Where: 5 rue Oberkampf, 750 (00 33 49 23 02 48). Metro: Oberkampf.

How much: around FF,000.

2

JARDIN DE LUXEMBOURG

With its formal gardens and recreational offerings, the Jardin de Luxembourg is eternally popular with Parisians and visitors alike, and is a particular favourite of Kate Sanderson's. "It's a lovely place; very crowded, and the one place you're almost guaranteed to meet someone you know. There are lots of wrought-iron chairs where you can sit and watch people pass by, and an artificial pond in the middle where you can sail boats." Literary buffs will also draw inspiration from the knowledge that they're strolling in the footsteps of Jean-Paul Sartre, for whom this was a regular haunt. Where: place Auguste-Comte, 75006. Metro: Odeon, RER: Luxembourg. How much: free.

22

LES VINS DES PYRENEES

There's nothing regional about this charming little Marais bistro. Natasha Edwards recommends Les Vins as something of an oasis in a "nice part of town where there aren't that many good restaurants". Bits of flea-market decor - old skis and postcards - and a blackboard menu featuring salads, steaks and fish, combine for an informal ambience that's proved a hit with young Parisians.

Where: 25 rue Beautreillis, 75004 (00 33 42 72 64 94). Metro: Sully Morland.

How much: dinner is around FF50 a head.

23

DE BANVILLE

"This might not be central enough for some," says Sue Nottingham, "but I think it is nice partly because of that." Certainly, anyone with a car will appreciate the easy parking. De Banville's family-run ethos is another draw: "The grandmother started it, her granddaughter now runs it, and I get the feeling they want to keep it personal and intimate." The look is more Italianate than traditional, with warm, rusty colours and plenty of cast iron, a feature particularly of the wonderful top-floor suite, which boasts marvellous views.

Where: 66 bd Berthier, 7507 (00 33 42 67 70 6). Metro: Porte de Champerret/Porte de Clichy.

How much: FF890-,050; suite FF,450.

24

PAUSE CAFE

Lemisse Al-Hafidh suggests you carry on past rue de Lappe, whose bars are becoming increasingly touristy, and head instead for the much hipper rue de Charonne, which is "always busy, always trendy and great fun". The gem here is the Pause Cafe, featured in last year's film Chacun Cherche son Chat. Its 950s-style yellow formica tables have survived recent renovations, and the chrome terrace is a lunchtime magnet for "young, cool trendy types in sunglasses". Lemisse declares this a great spot for people-watching, with mouthwatering tartes an added bonus.

Where: 4 rue de Charonne, 750 (00 33 48 06 80 33). Metro: Ledru-Rollin. How much: moderate - around 2FF for a coffee.

25

LE VIADUC DES ARTS

You'll find few prettier settings for contemporary art than this old railway viaduct, every arch of which houses a different craft shop. "Practically the entire north side of the street is dedicated to an extremely high standard of skilled workmanship and craft," says Margo Daly. "Walk the length of the viaduct for a show of ceramics, tapestry, sculpture and much more." Lemisse Al-Hafidh agrees: "This is not your mass-produced stuff. It's great for browsing, though not especially cheap." Courting couples should steer their partners to Cecile et Jeanne at number 49 (00 33 43 4 24 24), whose innovative jewellery might inspire a fitting conclusion to a romantic weekend.

Where: 9-29 av Daumesnil, 7502. Metro: Bastille/Gare de Lyon.

26

A WALK THROUGH THE SEWERS

Join the three million baguettes that pass daily into Paris's sewers. Built in the 9th century, they feature in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, and are recommended by Kate Sanderson. "They don't smell too bad," she says. "You cross little bridges, and are told how the sewers work and how they clean them. If you've seen or read Les Miserables, you can imagine Valjean and Javert crawling around down here. I think I saw one or two rats." Less adventurous visitors should content themselves with the introductory film and museum. Where: 93 quai d'Orsay, 75007 (00 33 47 05 0 29). Metro: Alma-Marceau.

How much: FF25; students, under-6s FF20.

27

BRASSERIE DE L'ISLE ST-LOUIS

"The old-fashioned Alsatian food - choucroute garni, ham hock, steaks - is not fantastic," admits Natasha Edwards, "but the atmosphere here is great" - mostly as a result of the cafe's policy of squashing together a hotchpotch of people at wooden tables laden with tankards of Alsatian beer. "Customers range from rugby players to old ladies who live on the isle coming here with their grandchildren, tourists from all over the world, families, couples...," says Natasha. Great entertainment at a reasonable price. Where: 55 quai de Bourbon, 7504 (00 33 43 54 02 59). Metro: Pont Marie. How much: around FF50 a head.

28

D'ANGLETERRE

At the edge of St Germain, this hotel exudes low-key elegance. "It's a little bit old-fashioned," says Sue Nottingham, "what I think of as a typical Parisian hotel." Somewhat atypical, however, is its history: it was once the British Embassy, and as such played a diplomatic role in the American War of Independence. Now visitors can relax in the stately living room, complete with grand piano, before indulging delusions of grandeur by mincing up the sweeping listed staircase with its trompe l'il banisters. Where: 44 rue Jacob, 75006 (00 33 42 60 34 72). Metro: St-Germain des Pres. How much: doubles FF700-,200.

29

WEB BAR

Once a silversmith's atelier, this venue is sparkling again in its new role as an Internet cafe. "I keep seeing it on television, and it was recently used in a film," says Lemisse Al-Hafidh. But the Web Bar is not just for cyberfans. Creative, multilevel use of a "pretty big, very light, very airy space" attracts an effortlessly hip clientele to a varied arts programme of exhibitions, poetry and philosophy nights, and live music gigs. Log on for a list of forthcoming events, and you're guaranteed to be hooked.

Where: 32 rue de Picardie, 75003 (00 33 42 72 57 47; webbar@webbar.fr; http://www.webbar.fr). Metro: Republique. How much: affordable - around 9FF for a coffee.

30

LA COMTESSE DU BARRY

Celebrated foodstores Fauchon and Hediard, in place de la Madeleine, make for some tantalising browsing, but to buy, you're better off visiting the less expensive La Comtesse du Barry. "You can get your foie gras (above), magret du canard, and all sorts of strange jams," says Lemisse Al-Hafidh. "They're prepared in tins and all packaged up, so they're easily transportable and great for presents." She particularly recommends the hampers - what better way to add international glamour to a picnic?

Where: 3 rue Taitbout, 75009 (00 33 47 70 2 0). Metro: Chaussee- d'Antin.

How much: affordable.

3

RUES DE BUCI & ST-ANDRE-DES-ARTS

Just off place St Michel, bustling rue de Buci is one of Kate's favourite places for a stroll. "It's a little street market with fish and fruit stalls; a feast of colour and activity. People sit outside in cafes or in darkened restaurants where the waiters make you feel special and you can eat fish and fresh moules." (Try the restaurant Arbuci.) Better at night is rue de Buci's extension, rue St-Andre-des-Arts. "There's a spirit of fun here in the evening, with lots of street artists, creperies and interesting shops." And when you've overdosed on people-watching, wander down to the Pont Neuf to lose yourself in sublime views of the Seine.

Where: Metro: Mabillon.

How much: free.

32

LA COUPOLE

La Coupole, like Quaglino's, which it allegedly inspired, receives its fair share of criticism. "Yet," says Natasha Edwards, "it's always fun, and great for people-watching." This Montparnasse mainstay opened in 927 as a big Art Deco brasserie. Despite old-guard reservations, renovation in the 980s has not diminshed it. "It's completely OTT," says Lemisse Al-Hafidh, "with a huge, gaudy statue in the middle." And if you can't afford dinner, she recommends tea, a swish affair patronised by old Parisian ladies in their hats.

Where: 02 bd du Montparnasse, 7504 (00 33 43 20 4 20). Metro: Vavin.

How much: around FF70 a head.

33

DELAMBRE

"I must have a bit of a cast-iron fixation," confesses Sue Nottingham, who swoons over the curvy bedhead rails and lampstands of this Montparnasse retreat. "The whole thing meshes into a really nice feel," she adds, recalling precious views of a tree-filled courtyard from the rooms - one with a private terrace, another a suite that would be ideal for families. Most thrilling for culture vultures is the fact that Andre Breton lived here in the 920s. Where: 35 rue Delambre, 7504 (00 33 43 20 66 3). Metro: Vavin/Edgar Quinet. How much: doubles FF700-,200.

34

CAFE CHARBON

As the Bastille's rue de Lappe becomes too touristy to be cutting-edge cool, those in the know are heading for rue Oberkampf - just one street with bar after bar. "Cafe Charbon is the bar that started it all off several years ago, and it's still the place to go," says Lemisse Al-Hafidh. The only downsides to this restored turn-of-the-century dance hall, complete with huge mirrors, chandeliers and red leather banquetted booths, are the Turkish-style loos. "Women have to queue up past men having a pee - but you all end up talking and laughing," says Lemisse.

Where: 09 rue Oberkampf, 750 (00 33 43 57 55 3). Metro: Menilmontant.

How much: Plats du jour FF40-60.

35

ARCHIVES DE LA PRESSE

News junkies will be lost for words in this press emporium piled high with old French newspapers and magazines. The window displays feature old articles corresponding to the current month. Last May, for instance, brought to life the student riots of 968. Inside, you're free to browse at will. "It's fascinating," says Margo Daly, who finds the vintage editions of Vogue give an absorbing insight into the vagaries of the French fashion scene.

Where: 5 rue des Archives, 75003 (00 33 42 72 63 93). Metro: Rambuteau. Mon-Sat 0.30am-7pm.

How much: moderate.

36

LA VOIE TRIOMPHALE

Stretching from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre, the Triumphant Way takes in several prime Paris sights. Ascend Napoleon's arch for a breathtaking view of the route, before heading up the Champs-Elysees, the busiest of the 2 roads off the Etoile. Visit the Renault showrooms en route for coffee and a small but fascinating transport museum. Check out exhibitions at the Grand and Petit Palais on the Round- Point, before admiring the Obelisk on place de la Concorde, Paris's largest square. Continue up through the pretty Jardin des Tuileries into the Louvre courtyard for the final say in this passage of kings and presidents: Mitterand's magical glass pyramid.

Where: metro Charles de Gaulle-Etoile.

37

L'EBAUCHOIR

Starving artists can find an unpretentious haven in L'Ebauchoir, a budget eaterie near the Bastille. Natasha Edwards pronounces its bistro fare "great value, especially the FF66 lunch menu". A convivial local clientele of journalists, film folk and other fashionable creatures meet in a spacious venue that allows plenty of room for artistic temperaments.

Where: 43 rue de Citeaux, 7502 (00 33 43 42 49 3). Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny.

How much: around FF30 a head.

38

CHOPIN

Chopin shares a 9th-century glass-roofed passage with a hotchpotch of quirky little booksellers, printers and old-fashioned toy shops. Expect a friendly welcome from staff in a reception cosy with big leather Chesterfields. "It's a bit fusty and higgledy-piggledy," admits Sue Nottingham, "but what the rooms lack in modernity they make up for in colour - on the curtains, walls and bedspreads." And the orange and lemon-yellow breakfast room can't fail to catapult you into a sunny disposition.

Where: 46 passage Jouffroy, 75009 (00 33 47 70 58 0). Metro: Montmartre.

How much: doubles FF450-490.

39

LA FLECHE D'OR

This former railway station house, once part of the train line, La Ceinture, that used to circle Paris, now attracts a relaxed, arty crowd for an eclectic programme of events. "There's always something on: live bands, poetry readings, people showing their films of the area," says Lemisse Al-Hafidh. The conservatory overlooking the river is a charming place to read the papers at the weekend, while tango classes are a popular Sunday diversion with young Parisians. Apparently there's more beer sold here than anywhere else in the city.

Where: 02bis rue de Bagnolet, 75020 (00 33 43 72 04 23). Metro: Alexandre-Dumas.

How much: moderate - around FF5 for a coffee

40

NOMADES

Young blades should beat a path to Nomades to kit themselves out for the Place d'Italie rollerskating fiesta. Policed by game gendarmes on wheels, up to 0,000 people flock here every Friday evening for a circuit of the city. "It's suitable for anyone - it doesn't matter what age you are," says Margo Daly. "This is a roller-blading mecca," she adds, "the place to go for buying and hiring equipment, with a bar out back where you can find out what's going on." Where: 37 bd Bourdon, 75004 (00 33 44 54 07 44). Metro: Bastille. How much: skate hire FF50 weekdays, FF60 weekends; both plus a FF,000 deposit.

4

PERE LACHAISE

"Anyone who's anyone - was anyone - is buried here," says Kate Sanderson. Maps show the way round the thousands of tombs along the wide, tree-lined avenues. One you can't miss is that of Jim Morrison, buried in 97, where ageing fans maintain a vigil. Others worth noting are Moliere's, Oscar Wilde's and Proust's, though Kate's favourite is that of Edith Piaf: "I always have to pay homage to her because I love her music." Far

from being macabre, the cemetery is an atmospheric spot for a weekend wander.

Where: bd de Menilmontant, 75020 (00 33 43 70 70 33). Metro: Pere Lachaise.

How much: free.

42

CHEZ CASIMIR

Near the Gare du Nord, Chez Casimir is an ideal refuelling stop for Eurostar arrivals. This bistro offshoot of Thierry Breton's more formal Chez Michel two doors down features "inexpensive but very good cooking." Natasha Edwards adds: "The menu changes all the time according to what's in season, and has quite a lot of Breton influences." What you can rely on, however, is the year-round presence of delicious tarts, stews and regional desserts. Where: 6 rue Belzunce, 7500 (00 33 48 78 28 80). Metro: Gare du Nord. How much: budget.

43

PAVILLON DE LA REINE

Set back from the exquisite place des Vosges, this ivy-clad hotel, floodlit at night, is "absolutely superb", according to Sue Nottingham. It oozes old-fashioned luxury, from its lush fabrics, wood-panelling and tapestry to the four-poster beds in many of the rooms. "One thing I really liked were the antique chests in all the rooms," says Sue. "It's obvious that someone has gone out and looked for them; they're not from some formula furniture chain." Unashamedly romantic, the Pavillon is the perfect retreat for romantic couples with a queen's ransom to spare.

Where: 28 place des Vosges, 75003 (00 33 40 29 9 9). Metro: Bastille. How much: FF,200-,900.

44

CLOSERIE DES LILAS

This chic Left Bank cocktail bar was founded in the mid-800s as a guinguette (dancehall), and still attracts a cultured crowd. "Its famous clientele includes artists, writers and politicians - you might see a few famous faces," says Lemisse Al-Hafidh. "This is traditional cafe-style Paris, but with cocktails," she adds.

Where: 7 bd du Montparnasse, 75006 (00 33 40 5 34 50). Metro: Vavin.

How much: pricey - around FF20 for a coffee.

45

MARCHE AUX PUCES CLIGNANCOURT

This huge fleamarket is divided into 0 sections dedicated to different sorts of merchandise: from the smallest, Marche Paul Bert, featuring decorative pieces such as old books, to the Marche Biron, displaying expensive antiques, and the Marche des Rosiers with its range of more affordable goods. "This is the original flea market," declares John Lichfield. "It's terrific - absolutely vast, covering acres and acres. You can get everything here from a Picasso to a single shoe. It starts off very expensive and gets more broken down the further you wander. That, of course, is the best bit." Where: Metro: Porte de Clignancourt. Mon, Sat and Sun 5am-6pm.

How much: varies.

46

ILE ST LOUIS

This is one spot in Paris where you won't feel duty-bound to sightsee. Possessing none of the monumental draws of its larger neighbour, the Ile de la Cite (home to Notre Dame), here you can wander at will along narrow streets and admire the ravishing architecture of some of the city's most exclusive residences. "This is the place to go on a Sunday," suggests Kate Sanderson. "There are often buskers, which slows the pace down, and little antique and gadgety-type boutiques." The Ile's greatest draw is M. Berthillon on the main street; buy a sensational ice-cream here and stroll over to the quais for quiet contemplation of the Seine.

Where: Metro: Pont Mairie.

How much: free.

47

THOUMIEUX

Halfway between the Eiffel Tower and Invalides, Thoumieux offers what John Lichfield considers some of the nicest mid-range food in Paris: "This is a place I'm very fond of, though the heavy southwestern food might not appeal to everyone. It's quite big and very busy, and looks like it hasn't been redecorated since 99." It is here the French politicians and civil servants come at lunchtime, which, says John, "is a good recommendation". And if you've overdosed on robust dishes such as cassoulet, you can rent a room and sleep off the excess.

Where: 75 rue Ste-Dominique, 7507 (00 33 47 05 49 75). Metro: Invalides/La Tour-Maubourg.

How much: lunch from pounds 8.

48

PERGOLESE

Between the Etoile and the Bois de Boulogne, Pergolese is very modern and, according to Sue Nottingham, in a way more luxurious than Delanbre and Beaumarchais (see Nos 33 & 3). Styled by an interior designer, it features Philippe Starck furniture, and an extraordinary breakfast room with "little grey tables and bright seats on wheels, like ultra-modern wheelchairs". The "cheeky" furniture and unusual decor is toned down in the bedrooms. "These are in paler colours; lots of grey and wood. Different materials and shapes blend into something quite relaxing." Where: 3 rue Pergolese, 7506 (00 33 53 64 04 04). Metro: Porte Maillot.

How much: doubles FF,400-,800.

49

LA MOSQUEE DE PARIS

After whiling away an afternoon in the adjacent authentic hammam, idle a little longer over mint tea and baklava in a mosaic courtyard filled with fig trees, a fountain and cats. This tranquil cafe is an exquisite spot to regain your composure - though be prepared for culture shock when you hit the street afterwards. Where: 39 rue Geoffroy-St-Hillaire, 75005 (00 33 43 3 38 20). Metro: Censier-Daubenton. How much: affordable - around FF0 for a coffee.

50

THE-TROC

The French regard comics as more an art form than an adolescent craze, though The-Troc maintains a childlike devotion to The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, a cult strip from the Seventies. "The owner is a friend of the American author, Gilbert Shelton, who lives down the road and comes in a lot," explains Margo Daly. As well as T-shirts and posters, there's a range of teas and teapots, records, jewellery and assorted junk. If bric-a-brac leaves you cold, slink into the adjoining "hippyish tea room" for some board-gaming.

Where: 52 rue Jean-Pierre-Timbaud, 750 (00 33 43 55 54 80). Metro: Parmentier.

How much: tea-room - around 9FF for a coffee

Comments