Paris Is Back! Here's What's New and Amazing and Unmissable
“Paris is always a good idea,” said someone (though not Audrey Hepburn, as is commonly misquoted), and never has this been truer. The city is thriving with a slew of exciting hotel openings, new museums, and vibrant restaurants, as well as a wide array of stunning art and fashion exhibitions that celebrate the city’s rich cultural heritage.
With a smart system of antigen testing and masking protocols in place, visitors to the French capital can feel relatively safe exploring all that is new and wonderful — and that which has been out of reach since the pandemic began. There is a palpable energy here now, so book your trip with confidence and get ready to stroll the Seine, sip champagne overlooking the rooftops, or do whatever else might entice.
The 411 on Covid Rules and Testing
The United States has France on its Level 4 - Do Not Travel list, and as of December 18, UK citizens cannot enter France without an essential reason to do so. (Needless to say, checking out the new Bourse museum in Paris does not count as essential.) UK citizens who do make it to France must then quarantine for 48 hours, then take a negative PCR or antigen test to be released. Starting December 4, all vaccinated travelers older than 12 who are not EU citizens, regardless of nationality, must be able to show proof of a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 24 hours of travel (reduced from 48), along with proof of their vaccination status, and a sworn statement certifying they don't have Covid-19 symptoms and have not had contact with anyone with Covid. Starting December 15, everyone aged 65 or older will need to have a booster to get a health pass (see below); starting January 15, everyone aged 18 and older will need a booster. The sworn statement, along with other travel rules and regulations, can be found here. The United States is on an amber list, so be sure to click on the tab in the middle. There are no restrictions for leaving France. Here's more info.
The French require proof of vaccination for everyone aged 12 and up for entry to most public spaces, including bars, restaurants, cinemas, and shopping centers. Vaccinated Americans can get the equivalent of the "pass sanitaire" (the health pass or the Green Pass) at French pharmacies — bring your passport and original paper vaccination certificate/card. If you need a test before you leave France, these same pharmacies are a great place to get tested. Results for antigen tests are sent within 24 hours (and can be less than an hour, though you'll want to let the pharmacy staff know if you're in a hurry); PCR& test results can take up to 48 hours. Here's more info and a directory of French pharmacies.
Hôtel Madame Rêve
Set in the 19th-century Louvre post office building in the chic 1st arrondissement, this design-led 82-room property is attracting visitors in search of stunning views and the Japanese-inspired cuisine of noted restaurateur/hotelier Laurent Taïeb at La Plume. Spare yet luxurious spaces, a verdant sky garden, and a location near the Tuileries, La Samarataine, and the Bourse du Commerce make this an unexpected five-star addition to the Right Bank.
Cheval Blanc Paris
When LVMH Hotels set out to transform the iconic Seine-facing building of La Samaritaine into its first city outpost and a n'est plus ultra Parisian hotel, they recruited flamboyant American architect Peter Marino for the job. And, wow, has he delivered, starting with the double-height lobby featuring two original Vik Muniz pieces based on Delaunay paintings of the Eiffel Tower. The 72 rooms and suites, many overlooking Pont Neuf, are awash in every shade of white to cream known to the human eye. The four restaurants are stunners — the cheese cave at Plentitude, the horseshoe bar at Le Tout-Paris, the whimsical table toppers at Langosteria — rivaled only by the sweeping city views from indoor and outdoor tables. Even better views are available to money-is-no-object guests who book the Ravel and Quintessence suites, which can be combined into the seven-bedroom Apartment, which has its own hammam and a pool with views all the way out to Sacré-Coeur. The subterranean pool, the biggest in Paris, is open to all guests and has a video installation that makes you feel like you're swimming in the Seine itself, while the ceilings in the treatment rooms at The Dior Spa twinkle. Like so many lucky stars.
Hotel Grand Powers
The epitome of Hausmann style, the Hotel Grand Powers offers an exquisite escape in the Golden Triangle, mere steps from the Champs Élysées, the shops of Avenue Montaigne, and the twinkling Eiffel Tower in the distance. Under the tasteful auspices of owner Alexandra Marang (the force behind the equally stylish Grand Hotel du Palais Royal), a stay at the Grand Powers feels like a visit with stylish friends, with 50 rooms and suites that offer a secluded, boutique feel. 1920s Parisian elegance combine with Italian design touches and a warmth inspired by British hotels make this a secret that will soon be discovered.
Saint James Paris
Surrounded by lush gardens at the edge of the residential 16th arrondissement, the Saint James is a Parisian oasis, complete with a Spa Guerlain, the best lobby bar on the planet (truly!), and romantic pergolas for outdoor dining in warmer months. With just 22 rooms and 26 suites — all beautifully redone by noted interior designer Laura Gonzalez in 2021 — you’ll find a sumptuous mix of velvets and Versailles parquet alongside thoughtfully placed cashmere throws for added comfort. If you’re looking for off-the-grid luxury, you’ve found French nirvana.
Yes, even more chic! The 32 rooms and one apartment avec terrasse at this bijoux property in the 1st arrondissement offer Zen simplicity with gilded touches. A serene color palette combined with sleek furnishings make this one perfect for an escape from the bustling city beyond. Don’t miss the 70-seat Brasserie Emil for Mediterranean cuisine nor intimate La Coquille d’Or bar: Both draw chic locals, which is always a very good sign.
The Rue de Rivoli hotel recruited the talented young designers at Lally & Berger to refurbish 30 suites overlooking the Tuileries with light colors and playful textiles. This was their first hotel project, but won't be their last. When absolutely nothing but a splurge will do, the new, four-room Belle Etoile Penthouse Suite is the take your-breath-away space from which you can see 18 Parisian monuments from the living and bedrooms and the ample terraces
New Museums and Exhibitions
In case you needed reminding why Paris is such an extraordinary city, look no further than the museum dedicated to its history. First opened in 1880, the museum, which is spread across two Marais mansions and the garden between them, has been stunningly restored in the last four years. Visitors are greeted by a collection of very charming vintage shop signs — to ease into what unfolds as a near overwhelming and exhausting chronology of the cultural, artistic, and social history of Paris, seen through paintings and objects as well as spaces — the Wendel mansion ballroom, Fouquet's Art Nouveau jewelry shop, Gertrude Stein's study, Marcel Proust's bedroom — all recreated here in full glory.
Bourse de Commerce - Pinault Collection
Since its heralded opening in May 2021, the Bourse has attracted art lovers, architecture aficionados, and gourmands alike — all of whom are drawn to a museum that has been two decades in the making. Housed in the former grain exchange and reimagined by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, the new Bourse is a fusion of neoclassicism and minimalist concrete focused on a stunning, vast rotunda. (The inaugural work in the rotunda is striking Urs Fischer installation with a loose travel theme that will be melting until it closes on January 30.) The works of art — some 40,000 pieces thoughtfully amassed by collector François Pinault — are displayed in concentric galleries and include contemporary artists such as Kerry James Marshall, David Hammons, and Louise Lawler, among others not widely seen in France.
Damien Hirst’s latest series, Cherry Blossoms, on view through January 2, offers a vibrant look at the artist’s large-scale paintings and marks the artist’s first exhibition in France.
A temple dedicated to four centuries of French fashion, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris at Palais Galleria, has had a substantial makeover to make it worthy of its collection of more than 200,000 pieces — clothes, accessories, photos, prints, and drawings. See a preview through their online galleries. Chanel sponsored the refurbishment of the vaulted cellar into the high-tech exhibition space Salles Gabrielle Chanel.
Thierry Mugler, Couturissime at Musée des Arts Décoratifs
This colorful exhibition is devoted to the creative work of fashion pioneer and runway bad boy Thierry Mugler, who made ready-to-wear, haute couture, and stage costumes for the likes of Jerry Hall and Madonna. With photographs, costumes, video (Mugler directed George Michael’s “Too Funky”), this show shines a light on the creative genius whose futuristic, elegant work has spanned five decades. Through April 24, 2022.
Chef Mory Sacko — the youngest chef to be awarded a Michelin star in 2021 — fuses French, Japanese, and African flavors at this serene Montparnasse gem. Aesthetically pleasing presentations include a starter of grilled mango with smoked pepper and basil, sole seasoned with togarashi shichimi, and lovage, followed by chocolate ganache made with smoked salt and wasabi ice cream.
Plénitude at Hotel Cheval Blanc
Everything you’ve heard about Cheval Blanc is true. The rooms are stunning, the spa is over the top, and the cuisine multi-Michelin star in the making. If you’re lucky enough to score a table at chef Arnaud Donckele’s (holder of three Michelin stars) light-filled Plénitude, the “Symphony” menu — in six seasonal “acts” or courses — will surprise and delight (395€).
Technically opened in 2019 but closed due to Covid, Marsan is chef Hélène Darroze (of London’s Connaught fame) two-Michelin-star spot that pays homage to her Basque roots. A soothing room in neutral tones sets the stage for a menu of oysters with caviar and glazed beans; tandoori lobster with mustard, citrus, carrot mousseline, and Lampong pepper; and a dessert of Etchelecu farm strawberries with matcha tea.
Old-world Parisian palace glamour meets updated French cuisine at La Galerie at Hotel Georges V in the heart of the Golden Triangle. Chef Alan Traudon used the Covid closure to reinvent menus: onion soup, the Niçoise salad, and ratatouille, to name but a few of the classic, creative dishes. A croque monsieur made from 36-month matured Comté is the perfect post-shopping pick-me-up, and the stunning florals at the hotel are always worth a detour.
Israeli chef Assaf Granit also launched in 2019 but, given Covid, let’s call this one new, too. Inventive tasting menus begin with Granit’s signature dish of haminados egg infused with black tea, covered in a sesame foam with a caper jus and garnished with a spoonful of caviar. The dishes are composed in front of you, in a convivial, open-kitchen setting.
Halle aux Grains
The casual-yet-refined restaurant concept by Michelin-starred chefs Michel and Sébastien Bras occupies the third floor of Bourse de Commerce. The name, "hall of grains" is a nod to the building's former use. Come when you're flagging from looking at all that artwork, or simply to take in stunning views of Saint Eustache church and the Centre Pompidou pair, which nicely complement inventive dishes that are an homage to French terroir.
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Pavia Rosati contributed to this article.