If you have had a chance to check out my Right Bank Guide to Paris, you know you’re about to dive into quite a bit of information. I’ll be sharing all of the components of a trip that I think about when I travel, including great food, approachable work spaces, and of course, where to take ‘gram-worthy photos.
WHY VISIT THE LEFT BANK OF PARIS?
South of the Seine you find the Left Bank, usually referred to as the “cultural” side of the city. It is historically known to be home to intellectuals, artists, professors, and musicians. Today, it encapsulates the soul of the city, and it reminds me of the Paris you read about it books. When I go to Paris, I always try to stay on both sides of the river because while I love the trendy, international vibes of the Right Bank, I can’t help but feel truly transported to a different world when I’m walking down the winding streets of the Latin Quarter, grabbing snacks at Marché couvert Saint-Germain, or posting up with a book near La Sorbonne University.
A first-time visitor may want to spend more time in the Right Bank, as that is where a lot of the popular sites are situated, but the Left Bank is where you go to feel like you’re in Paris.
WHERE TO STAY
Hôtel & Spa La Belle Juliette
Situated in the 7th arrondissement, this quaint hotel sits on the quiet rue du Cherche-Midi. On my latest trip, I was traveling with a friend, and we thought we would stay in one of their suites. It was important for us to have room for all of our luggage, a dedicated nook to work, and a spacious bathroom. La Belle Juliette checked all of the boxes, and then some. Their location makes you feel like a local, and it’s a bit more of a relaxed stay – I would certainly recommend this property for the business traveler if you aren’t relegated to meetings solely on the Right Bank. Even so, Ubers are so cheap in Paris, that getting to a meeting wouldn’t be too much of a hassle.
One of the best perks is the breakfast that was included with our stay. Buffet style and built for the international guest, you’d be hard-pressed to not find something you would like to start your day with. Don’t get me wrong, there is something romantic about heading to a cafe and grabbing a coffee (tea for me) and croissant, but breakfast in your hotel is a great way to fuel up for a full day. My days in Paris are usually jam-packed, so having the option to just run downstairs and stuff my face before heading out the door is ideal.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to unplug on your trip, they also have a spa, including a cute little swimming pool with massage jets. I didn’t get a chance to go for a swim on my stay there, but I would stay again to have this little oasis to unwind.
WHERE TO EAT
I am hungry just thinking of the list of restaurants below. From ceviche to souffles, you can’t go wrong with this curated list below. Are there countless more options? Of course! But, these are the standouts.
Les Botanistes (€€)
Tucked away on a quiet street in Saint Germain, this small, family-owned restaurant featuring a menu on a chalkboard up on the wall serves up friendly and approachable French fare. Stop in for either lunch or dinner, and get everything you would expect from an intimate French bistro on the left bank.
Le Recamier (€€€€)
How can you not visit a place that is famous for their souffles?! Whether your preferences lean savory or sweet, there is something for everyone on this menu. Staff can be hit or miss here, but that is the same with most of Paris’ popular restaurants, and you shouldn’t let that prevent you from pulling the trigger on this culinary experience.
Cafe Constant (€€)
Dine here for lunch after a late morning visit to the Eiffel Tower (it’s a five minute walk). Each weekday offers a lunch time 3 course menu of the day for 24€ or 17€ for 2 courses, and they delivery classic French fare. Don’t leave without trying the eggs mimosa or oyster tartare.
L’avant Comptoir De La Mer (€€€)
One of the many gems from Yves Camdeborde, this popular locale transports you to the seaside with ceviche, oysters, and refreshing glasses of wine; many, many glasses. This will likely be one of your favorite meals sur la Rive Gauche, not just because the food is tasty, but the patrons are friendly, and always up to toast to a fun night.
L’Ami Jean (€€€€)
Trained by Yves Camdeborde (the chef of the previous restaurant), Stephane Jego shares his culinary prowess in a cozy atmosphere. Reservations are a must, and the menu is ever changing, but one constant you can expect here is friendly service, and damn good food. This spot is surely one of the stars of the 7th.
WHERE TO DRINK
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love a good cocktail. Things on this side of the river are generally more casual, but that doesn’t mean the drinks are any less delicious. While you can normally find me out on the Right Bank for a night out, there are a few gems on this side of the river that quench my thirst.
Do you like gin as much as I do? Then you’re in luck. This cocktail bar specializes in the botanical spirit, likely carrying your favorite label. If you’re looking to post up with a date or a few friends, the vibe in here is just right. Cascading greenery makes the scene a bit more casual, and feels especially appropriate when the weather warms up.
Chez Nous (€)
An unpretentious wine bar is the perfect place to escape after a long day no matter what city you’re in. Chez Nous serves as a watering hole for locals, and fills up quick when the sun goes down. Don’t go if you want to be treated with all the pomp and circumstance of trendy wine bars. Instead, pull up a seat if you want to catch up with friends and unwind, and try a variety of different glasses throughout the night.
Le Caveau de la Huchette (€€)
Gotta love a good jazz bar. Stepping into this Latin Quarter institution reminds me a bit of the jazz club scene from The Talented Mr. Ripley. Yes, it is a bit touristy, and definitely crowded, but if you’re with the right crowd, who isn’t afraid to dance, you’re in store for a good time. There is a cover charge to get in, and this isn’t a place I would plan on ending my night, but it’s a good way to get in the “swing of things”.
Castor Club (€€)
If I had a grandfather who wore polished bomber jackets and made his own maraschino cherries, this bar is what I would imagine his man cave to look like: a speakeasy vibe with lots of exposed wood, eccentric finishes, paired with good music. The bar is open until 4AM Thursday through Saturday, so if you’re looking for the ultimate left bank, late night hang… this is it.
WHAT TO DO
Walk down Rue Mouffetard
Situated in the 5th, this is one of Paris’s oldest and liveliest market streets. The cobblestone lined rue is quintessentially français and features a lovely fruit and vegetable market, along with plenty of shops with other tasty things worth stopping in for. Grab crepes at Aup ’Tit Grec, tarts at Le Maison des Tartes, and of course, the cheese from Veron at no. 105, rue Mouffetard.
Visit the Saint Etienne Du Mont Church
Near the Panthéon (another spot worth stopping into by the way), you will find this church dating back to the 15th century. I don’t normally recommend visiting churches, but there’s something about this one that pulls you in. Not sure if it is the mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, the storied past, or epic stained glass windows. Also of note, the church houses the shrine of Sainte-Geneviève, Paris’ Patron Saint.
Browse at Shakespeare & Company Bookshop
When this place opened in 1951, it became a destination for ex-pats living in France. Not only is this bookshop super photogenic, but it houses one of the best curated collection for anglophone readers in Paris. You’ll find the most popular new releases as well as all the classics; including some rare books. Not sure if this is still true, but Shakespeare & Company offers young writers and artists a place to sleep at night if they’ve nowhere else to go. They have hosted over 30,000 people! As many fancy hotels that I’ve stayed in, it’s kind of on my bucket list to crash here for an evening or two.
Grab a cappuccino at Cafe de Flore
This spot moves off of the ‘Where to Eat’ list and on to the ‘What to Do’ list because sitting outside and drinking your caffeinated beverage of choice at Cafe de Flore is not just a culinary experience, but a French one. Grab a bottle of Château Latour, crack open a book, or settle in with friends (of course seated outside), and enjoy. It’s spot like this that make Paris the magical city it is.
Shop in the 6th
Money burning a hole in your pocket? Paris will take care of that for you real quick. The seasoned traveler should grab a must-have bag from L/Uniform, or for a special someone, pick up something that sparkles from Marie Hélène de Taillac. The Kooples also has a store on Rue de Seine, which is a great spot to pick up a cute number for a night out. Or, if you have friends with little ones, a trip to Bonpoint is perfect for a birthday or special occasion. My girl Paula is obsessed, and while I don’t have kids… I can see why she loves this line. If you’re looking to elevate your closet and really do some damage to your bank account, don’t miss APC, Isabelle Marant, and the massive Hermès on Rue de Sèvres.
BEST SPOTS FOR WORKING REMOTE
If you’re like me, travel is intertwined with work, and finding a reprieve to sit down and crank through emails for a few hours is necessary to keep my company running like well-oiled machine. On the left bank, pickings are slim, and most spots don’t have WiFi, or will kick you out after an hour on your laptop. However, there are a couple of places that charge a small fee and can serve as your office away from home during your next visit.
If you’re looking to have an especially productive work day, this spot allows you to hunker down. For 5€ an hour, you get free WiFi, drinks, and snacks. The only bummer is there is no proper lunch, meaning you will need to leave for a more substantial bite to eat and risk losing your seat for the day.
Does 5€ per hour seem a little steep? Well, you’re in luck, there are cheaper options. La Permanence is 1€ per hour from 6AM – 2PM. There are no fancy coffee machines or pastries, but it has desk space, lockers, and is filled with fellow freelances looking to get some serious work done. An added bonus, this spot is open 24 hours a day, so night owls can enjoy a dedicated spot to work and not worry about getting kicked out.
Anticafé Station F
I mentioned Anticafé Beaubourg in my Right Bank blog post, so there’s no surprise that the Station F location made it on to the list. It will cost you 5€ an hour, or around 24€ per day, but if you plan on staying locally, it may be worth snagging a monthly membership. In the hub of so many startups, you’re bound to meet a few other folks worth striking up a conversation with, and if you’d rather keep to yourself, stock up on snacks and work away.
MY FAVORITE PHOTO SPOTS
5 Rue de Buci, 75006 Paris, France
Pinterest famous for having abundant flower installations, this restaurant is an Instagrammer’s dream. When I last visited, I did sit down for lunch, which wasn’t knock-your-socks-off delish, but they did have a few good standbys and lots of veggie options. The other good news – this restaurant doesn’t sit on a busy street, meaning getting that perfect shot isn’t painstakingly difficult.
The Champs de Mars
2 Allée Adrienne Lecouvreur, 75007 Paris
Known as the largest green space in the city, this park is where you can find countless locals and tourists alike laying out blankets, drinking wine, and gazing at the Iron Lady. If you do choose to sit and relax here, prepare to be hounded by people hawking cheap chachkies and bottles of crappy wine. If you are here just to take photos, get their early for unobstructed shots and no crowds.
77 Rue Galande, 75005 Paris
Sitting at this charming cafe in the heart of the Latin Quarter makes you feel like you’re smack dab in the middle of a Parisian postcard. The unique architecture stands out in the neighborhood meaning facade photos for days! Before you leave, grab a box filled with a timeless pastry: choux à la crème.
223 Rue de l’université 75007, Paris
One of my favorite perspectives of the Eiffel Tower is from the side streets. The above address is frequented by all the Instagram influncers, and for good reason… it is one of the best up close viewpoints. Pro tip: Prepare to have your photographer squat down low, or even lay down to get that perfect shot.
Place Saint Michel
75013 Place Saint-Michel, 75006 Paris
Here, you’ll find tourists snapping endless shots of the iconic St. Michel fountain and the Notre Dame, just across the Seine River on the opposite bank. There are plenty of different compositions to be had at this address, but it gets crowded early and quickly. Much like anywhere else in Paris, avoid the crowds by getting there early.
Pont Alexandre III
Pont Alexandre III, 75008 Paris
This ornate, and historic, French monument connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with the Invalides and Eiffel Tower. It is arguably one of Paris’ most beautiful bridges, and is home to Art Nouveau nymphs, winged horses and cherubs which are also found at both ends of the bridge. The blue-green color is an extra special touch, making it one of my favorite places to photograph in the city.
Whew! If you’ve made it through this entire post – bravo! There was a lot of research, walking, and conferring with locals that went into building this guide. If you think I missed something that is a must-see sur la Rive Gauche (which I am apt to do), please leave it in the comments below!