Chic and Cheap Sleeps
With hundreds of years of practice under its belt, Paris has perfected the art of the auberge. If you feel like channeling Marie Antoinette's decadence, check into the Hotel Athenee, a luxury hotel inspired by 18th Century opera. Opulence and elegance are woven into every stitch of the hotel's rooms, from the velvet and taffeta furnishings seen above to the marble and porcelain of the Red Bar downstairs.
La Maison Champs Elysees, the first hotel designed by Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela, gives French luxury a postmodern spin within a 19th Century mansion. Stark white public spaces are broken by the blazing red of the Bar du Nuit and the deep, dark leather and woods of the Black Cigar Bar. The rooms themselves are sparse and utilitarian without the spartan edge, while the Blind Bar brings back the night shades with gold and black interior fit for a downtown King.
Another upscale hotel, Hotel Sezz, also dresses itself in blacks and reds in its La Grande Dame bar. The rooms are toned down slightly, adding gray and glass bathroom walls to the mix, giving guests a modern, masculine space in which to sprawl for a few nights. And the Four Seasons George V celebrates the art deco movement we last saw in Miami.
Want to save some money for eating cake? Little Palace Hotel in the Temple district is both budget-friendly -- about 125 Euros a night if you look online -- and convenient. Dozens of galleries, shops and cafes are within walking distance. Back at the hotel, the recently refurbished rooms abound with natural light and bursts of color. Balcony views are best for couples looking for a romantic stay, but singles too will get plenty of play out of the hotel's comfortable, welcoming atmosphere.
Le Pavillon Nation (pictured) is the youngest and most modern of the properties in the Les Hotels de Paris group's wide stable. Red, mauve and white are the go-to colors in the rooms at this spot in the Bercy district, while deep black is offset by white orchids in the lobby. With rooms for as low as 99 euros, this no frills spot is definitely high on the list for those with low balances. And there's definitely a memorable stay to be had at the floral-saturated Hotel des Grandes Ecoles, a former boarding house in the city's Latin District. Don't let the bucolic atmosphere put you off, though, this spot's within walking distance to the 5th, where some of Paris' best nightlife awaits.
A collaboration between interior design icon Philippe Starck and the founders of Club Med, Mama Shelter is another hotspot go-to for travelers hoping to keep a hold on hard-earned euros. Definitely created with younger travelers in mind, this dependable roadhouse has unlimited in-room movies and an on-site pizzeria for those tired of foie gras and frog's legs. If you stay here, try to check out some of the local music at Fleche d'Or.
Frugal travelers should also have success booking a room at the exceptionally charming Hotel Chopin in a refurbished 1846 arcade or the Hotel du Nord on the West side of the Canal Saint-Martin makes you feel right at home, as if you're visiting a friend.
The rooms, letting for about EUR70 a night and furnished from local flea markets, are refreshingly uncomplicated, while the location -- right across the canal from scores of shops and cafes -- remains one of the city's most convenient, especially if you rent on of the hotel's bikes.
A Sip Along The Seine, And Elsewhere
For an open air night above the Seine, head to Concorde Atlantique, a venue known as much for its wedding receptions as for featuring emerging electronic music stars. Dancing can be done down below on a long, narrow dance floor ready made for getting to know the locals.
Further south, Le Mix brings the city's cutest gays and straights together for an unadulterated good time, whole a more pointedly gay time is found Friday and Saturday nights at Le Tango, where the troupe La Boite a Frissons, The Thrill Box, puts on weekly dance parties that draw an eclectic crowd..
And gay travelers can't go to Paris without checking out Le Cox, a bar whose name needs no translation. Butch guys and deep bass are roll deep in this popular local spot. Le Depot offers a similar experience day or night. Two levels of dance floor are open 23-hours a day, though most visitors are there for the expansive back room complex. Raidd is popular for those looking to be absolutely soaked in sound, while Or ditch the duds entirely at L'Impact, a divey, dank and dirty spot where clothing and inhibitions are left at the door.
But costumes, or lack thereof, are definitely part of the appeal at the mixed bar Le Folie's Pigalle (pictured), a former cinema now known for its awesome, international beats and trans-friendly atmosphere. Fashion also plays a role at Le Regine (pictured at top), a the glittering nightspot where the well-heeled party during fashion week It's tough to get past the velvet rope, so if you don't feel like dealing with all the drama but still want to rub shoulders with Paris' beautiful elite, upscale Cafe Etienne Marcel caters to a equally chic crowd.
If you want just as much creative energy without the pretense, Le Duplex in the Temple district caters to the arts scene, providing a comfortable, jazz-infused backdrop to conversations on any number of topics, from the latest l'enfant terrible to the merits of Paris-based, Miami-born singer Uffie. Another casual night can be spent picking at sea bass and drinking wine at the decidedly Parisian La Palette.
The Origin of Cuisine
And Le China, an institution behind the Bastille, also serves high-priced cocktails and a mysterious ambiance perfect for a traveler hoping to set the mood for an adventurous night that we suggest you end at the voodoo-flavored dive bar Baron Samedi.
There's a reason why the French word "cuisine" is known the world over.
Of course the conventional cafe is the city's trademark, and Angelina at Galeries Lafayette is an exemplar example of why: black-and-white tiles and simple wooden and leather chairs provide the structure, and the wide array of coffee, tea and carefully crafted deserted the flavor, it's the chic clientele who provide the Parisian flair as rest after a day of shopping. The equally upscale extras at the previously mentioned Cafe Etienne Marcel help initiate tourists into Paris' culinary culture during the day, while the nightlife scene gives a taste how the City of Light's lavender set spend their downtime. All-day breakfast at Coquelicot (pictured at top) is perfect for the morning after.
If you want to sample the city's melting pot, try the Mediterranean menu at les Tablettes de Jean-Louis Nomicos , where chef Jean-Louis Nomicos offers traditional fare like lamb confit and veal with a contemporary twist. The mushroom cappuccino scallops or parmesan and black truffle macaroni and cheese, for example.
Moroccan hot spot Chez Omar specializes in chic couscous that manages to stay popular in famously fickle Paris, while France's history with Laos is evident at the ever-expanding and very touristy Lao Lane Xang. The toasted rice salad and spicy dried beef are always reliable choices. And if you're willing to wait in the well-earned line, try the Cambodian dishes at Le Cambodge.
Particularly adventurous, and wealthy, eaters may want to check out the "molecular cooking" at Pierre Gagnaire and Chez Lena et Mimile, both of which feature innovative menus shaped by the philosophy of chemist and gastronomical guru Herve This. Another sumptuous and upscale meal can be had at the seafood-centric Vagenende. A classic and beloved bistro in St-Germain-des-Pres, the traditional menu includes a delicious Chateaubriand steak and fish souffle.
Hip Club isn't a club, but it is hip. A gallery with a cafe downstairs, this Asian fusion joint presents excellent sushi and beef Carpaccio that's a perfect addition to an afternoon strolling around Opera Garnier. And since Paris is for lovers, save some euros for dinner at the always-astounding Epicure at Le Bristol in Champs-Elysees.
The menu at this world-renowned restaurant includes frog's legs, juniper-soaked duck and irresistible langoustines with caviar, all of which go nicely with its cream-soaked crispy pancake or origami chocolate deserts.
Out and About in Gay Paris
Fashion is a national pastime in France. Everywhere you turn, there's a new shop or labyrinthine bazaar to explore.
While there are Paris-based lines like Christian Dior and Lanvin, we suggest you spend just as much time exploring menswear boutiques like JoJo or the gay-owned shop Jacenko, both of which have all the essential for a traveler who may have forgotten a stitch or two.
If you want to dive deep into Paris' vintage clothing scene, Espace Kiliwatch should be put at the top of your list, right above Madelios, where even the least fashion-forward men will find a perfect fit amidst the complex's 53,000 square feet of men's shops. And Lieu Commun (pictured above) is a truly one-of-a-kind retailer that gives shoppers a carefully-curated selection of menswear, contemporary design and electronic music.
If you've made your way to Lieu Commun, you're in the Marais District, a historic neighborhood recently revived by a bustling market place.
While there, stop into Jouannault for some fresh sechon de Pays or Gruy're, and then pick up a book at Le Livre Penseur. Even if you can't read French, the used hardbacks double as wonderful objects de art for your place back home. Speaking of home, freshen yours up with some candles and potpourri from the lesbian-owned L'Artisan Parfumeur and spice up your next meal with an assortment of seasonings from L'Epicerie de Bruno.
While shopping is all well and good, it would be a shame if you visited Paris and didn't explore at least a few of its world-class museums and galleries.
Obviously you should try to get into the Louvre, but if you want a less overrun art lesson, the Musee Picasso and the Rodin Museum are essential viewing for those hoping to get more well-acquainted with those artists.
More contemporary artists meanwhile are always on view at Galerie Yvon Lambert , Galerie Baumet Sultana and Galerie La Ferronnerie.
The Maison de Balzac is a memorial to the literary great, and the Pere Lachaise Cemetery is the spot for those looking to see the final resting places for some of the country's most famous cultural icons and some expats, too.
Back among the land of the living, spend an afternoon relaxing in the le Parc Bercy, le Parc Andre Citroen or any of the city's other fine parks.
The Luxembourg Gardens are a good go-to, as is the bank of the Seine, scene to more than a few romantic strolls, at least one of which we hope you take while in the City of Light.