Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the 6th arrondissement of Paris, is located just on the Left Bank, skirting the edges of Jardin de Luxembourg.
This is the boho-chic centre of Paris. It is the spiritual home of specialist bookshops, galleries, candle shops and a roll-call of fashion houses like Isabel Marant, Agnès b, high-street fashion as well as smaller, quirkier labels. On the weekend make like a local and grab the newspapers and relax on the lawns in Luxembourg Gardens and admire the rows of pleached plane trees and clean, impeccably-dressed French kids chasing toy boats in the ponds.
On Sundays, head to the organic markets on Boulevarde Raspail (from 9ish till 2ish – French people are not early risers!). Don’t have breakfast pre-market as you’ll need to sample the fresh crêpes, tarts, pastries and perhaps something gamey and slow-roasted on a rotisserie along with the chicken fat-roasted potatoes. Of course, you can secure all your seasonal fresh produce here as well as artisanal cheeses, but make sure you sample them first and ask the stallholder where the cheese is from, and how it is made.
For eating out, Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots are still the most popular cafés for celeb-spotting but the coffee is expensive (€4) and pretty ordinary. Chances are there will be elbow-room only as it is always packed with tourists. Ladurée – home of the macaron – is always busy with devotees lining up for gift-packs but step beyond the crowds inside the tearooms and while away the time among white cane furniture, maroon velvet curtains and fancy silverware.
There are endless cafés and bistros in and around Boulevard Saint Germain; book ahead for the famous, but expensive, Le Comptoir du Relais, or just duck next door to the standing-room only Champagne bar L’Avante Comptoir and grab half a dozen oysters or an artichoke with dipping olive oil and vinegar. La Cremerie has a snappy owner, but the long international wine list by the glass and cheese selections compensate.
Best food souvenir
Anything from the stores on Rue Jacob! There are queues all day outside Ladurée for their famous macaroons. A little further along the street is the Gien pottery warehouse where you can pick up iconic bright patterned china and tableware, and a shop across the way sells vintage damask tablecloths and serviettes. For those who are obsessed with developing the perfect potager (kitchen garden), La Maison Rustique is an entire bookshop devoted to gardening and landscaping.
Where to stay
Hôtel Jean Bart (9 Rue Jean Bart, 75006, +33 1 45 48 29 13) is perhaps the best kept secret in Paris. One block from Jardin du Luxembourg, close to Rennes metro and in the heart of St Germain. Hôtel Jean Bart is more pension-like in character and the owners do not speak great English … put it down to a quirky travel experience. Don’t expect fancy, but for €60 in this location, who cares? Shame on you if you are stuck in your hotel room!
For those looking for something a bit more upmarket, you cannot beat Hôtel de l'Abbaye Saint-Germain. Prices start at €295, but it’s so worth it for the conservatory with red stripey canvas covers, the chic courtyard and the chintzy rooms swathed with striped wallpaper and layers of damask. It’s an oooh la la Paris moment!
Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard; A Family In Paris: Stories of Food, Life and Adventure by Jane Paech; Paris Tango by Carla Coulson.
Read Rachel Khoo’s guide to Paris, rounding up her best food finds from all over the city.