I’ve lived in Paris for 34 years. I arrived here from Burgundy in 1979 for a school programme and never left. Now I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, despite the weather. What I love about Paris is that it’s a very cultural, social city, but it’s also very low key – there’s nothing in-your-face about it. Perhaps that makes it a bit provincial compared to New York, but I like the way people behave here. It’s highly civilised and the geography means that it’s easy to find your way around. Twenty arrondissements unwind from the centre of the city like the pattern on a snail’s shell. It strikes a careful balance; the past is maintained while the place itself feels modern. And, of course, it has a great deal of romance.
Paris is best explored on foot. The Canal Saint-Martin area on the border of the 10th and 19th is a very charming and quiet spot where you can walk along the waterway. Then you have more thoroughly traversed areas such as Saint‑Germain or Ile de la Cité and Ile Saint-Louis, which are very touristy but still wonderful. There are always new parts of Paris to discover. For example, the 12th arrondissement, where I’ve lived for the past 10 years, used to be dedicated to wooden-furniture-makers, so there are many old workshops that have slowly been transformed into private houses. Lots of artists, architects and actors live here in an ethnically mixed community. It’s very French and lively.
A lot of people come to Paris for the restaurant scene. For dinner, the latest craze is Monsieur Bleu in the Palais de Tokyo. It’s the work of an architect called Joseph Dirand, who has designed stores for Chloé and Balmain. The restaurant faces the river and there’s a lovely terrace outside where the young congregate. I’d suggest sitting inside, where it’s all green marble, green velvet banquettes, mirror and white stucco; it’s a very modern, sexy place. The food is delicious French bistro fare: roast chicken, beef fillet and oysters.
For something completely different, you could try Cibus on Rue Molière, a tiny, highly intimate Italian restaurant. The food is fresh and simple, not too elaborate: linguine, risotto, pasta with truffle. But book ahead – it only seats 15 people. An excellent lunch choice is Hanawa, a Japanese restaurant that’s just around the corner from my office. It does great sushi and teppanyaki in really minimalist surroundings.
I never stay in hotels here, obviously, but I always recommend that visitors try L’Hotel. It’s a beautiful little building with an incredible circular atrium, and each room has slightly different – very sumptuous – decor. So you might stay in a suite with lots of mirrored glass, or ornate wallpaper, or a royal canopy over your bed. It’s quite a chic, discreet spot.
The Ritz has closed for refurbishment – it opens again later next year – so for opulent luxury right now I would recommend Le Meurice. The bar, Bar 228, is especially stylish; it’s dark, wood-panelled and quite English-looking, with large leather armchairs and lots of quiet corners. Definitely try a Bourbon Sour, a drink I discovered in London. I’m not very good with whiskey, but when it comes like this, I like it. Le Bristol is also a truly classic Paris address. It’s a very elegant hotel in a great location and the garden is lovely during the summer. Le Bar du Bristol has just been renovated, with exotic taxidermy and leopard-print seating, in addition to a bartender poached from the Ritz’s Bar Hemingway.
Nightlife in Paris is glamorous. You might head to Le Mathi’s for a late-night drink – it’s a small, red-velvet den – or go dancing at Le Baron or Chez Raspoutine. The latter is a very fun, theatrical, Russian-themed nightclub. For a slightly calmer evening, you could always visit the Etoile Pagode cinema on Rue de Babylone, just a few steps from Yves Saint Laurent’s former home. It’s housed in a Japanese pagoda and has a screening room fitted with embroidered oriental panels. It was restored some years ago and shows independent films.
Daytime in Paris is for culture. If you’ve already seen the main sights, head to the Jeu de Paume gallery. It’s a contemporary art space that often shows the work of photographers, including Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, which I like a great deal. I find larger museums exhausting and Jeu de Paume is not too big. Similarly, the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain – a place halfway between a museum and a gallery – is a “must” experience for Paris. The building was designed by Jean Nouvel and looks like a glasshouse. It’s surrounded by a beautiful, naturalistic garden and to me this is somehow emblematic of Paris; the garden and the architecture are in total harmony.
Then there’s the Palais de Tokyo, another contemporary museum. The programme might be a bit hectic sometimes, but that’s because it has a very young approach. We are doing a Roger Vivier exhibition there from October 2. A particularly exciting date on the calendar is the reopening of the Galliera Museum of Fashion this autumn, with an exhibition about the designer Azzedine Alaïa. The Galliera’s director, Olivier Saillard, is a friend of mine and someone whose work as a curator I greatly admire. The building is 19th-century Italianate and looks like a beautiful patisserie.
For commercial galleries, Thaddaeus Ropac is the name to know. He has two contemporary-art spaces in Paris, one of which is a huge warehouse complex in Pantin just beyond the Périphérique at the edge of the city. He’s like the Jay Jopling of Paris. I prefer the smaller-scale Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in the Marais, probably my favourite area in the whole city. My partner, Hervé, has his interiors shop, Galerie Van Der Straeten, there, where he sells furniture of his own design, using bronze and lacquered wood in a way you’ve never seen before. In the same area is an excellent bookstore, Comptoir d’Image, for photography books by Irving Penn or Helmut Newton.
I’m not a very good clothes shopper as I’m impatient and buy things quickly, but anyone coming to Paris should, of course, visit the Parisian designers. My favourites are Lanvin, Saint Laurent and Charvet, where I buy my underwear; it’s expensive but wonderful. And you must visit a French perfumer, ideally Serge Lutens’ boutique. Choosing a scent there is a very participatory experience; I like the fact that you have to search for what suits you. Rick Owens, an American living in Paris, has a wonderful store at the Palais Royal; along with the clothes, you might consider buying a bronze or piece of the furniture he designs. And if you have the urge to buy beautiful flowers, you can get the best from Rambert Rigaud in Saint-Germain. He’s young, charming and great looking, which makes the whole experience that much better. He used to work at Dior, so he has a brilliant eye.
Of course, Paris flea markets are the best in the world. Spend a Sunday morning at the Paul Bert and Serpette areas at the Marché aux Puces, or Porte des Vanves – though if you visit Vanves any later than 7am, there’s nothing left. It’s best to go to the markets when you’re not looking for anything in particular – then you’ll inevitably find something amazing. However, if you want a specific piece, head to the auction house Drouot, where real treasures are to be found.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a true Paris weekend without a walk in one of the city’s gorgeous parks. There are plenty to discover. The Jardin du Luxembourg is lovely but can be crowded on the weekend. An excellent alternative is the Jardin des Plantes, Paris’s Kew Gardens. It’s almost 400 years old and features incredible plants and flowers, as well as greenhouses. It’s beautifully designed over a huge area of land, right in the middle of the city – the perfect place to spend a bright autumn afternoon.