WHERE TO STAY
Situated on Rue Saint-Honoré, smack bang in the shimmery centre of the French capital’s exclusive, ultra-stylish 1st arrondissement, the Mandarin Oriental Paris is a fashion aficionado’s dream. Designer boutiques, high end jewellers and perennial places of interest like the Tuileries gardens, Louvre and Palais Garnier flank its perimeters, but stepping through the doors to the breezy lobby - with its hanging Swarovski crystal butterfly ornaments, sumptuous velvet sofas and floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking a verdant courtyard, it’s easy to forget the hustle and bustle of the outside world entirely.
The palatial 1930s building houses some of the most spacious rooms and suites in Paris, which are characterised by French designer Sybille de Margerie’s contemporary aesthetic that fuses French sophistication with oriental grandeur: think rich, jewel-toned cushions and throws; sleek, lacquered woods; haute couture-inspired artworks and ornate vases filled with freshly-cut camellias. An air of tranquility pervades the entire hotel, from the lush greenery of the courtyard garden (delightful year-round thanks to heaters and partial covering) to the oasis of calm that is the softly-lit, mosaic-tiled 900 square metre spa. Even the enormous all-white bathrooms, with their walk-in showers, freestanding tubs and bespoke Diptyque toiletries, exude a special sort of serenity that one would more likely associate with a remote tropical island than the centre of a heaving metropolis.
To further the escapist experience, a visit to Sur Mesure, renowned chef Thierry Marx’s two Michelin starred restaurant, is a must. The space is immediately transportive: with an all-white colour scheme, swathes of pleated fabrics draping the walls and intimate cocoon-like alcoves, it offers an experience that feels akin to dining in clouds. Marx’s menu, an innovative exercise in molecular gastronomy, intends to illicit a profound response from each diner, with dishes that showcase his technical expertise - from the famous ‘broken egg’ with black truffle to flamed Miyazaki Wagyu beef with roasted and smoked pepper. Other dining options include Marx’s Camelia, for a modern take on traditional French cuisine; the super sleek Bar 8 and the health-focused Honoré.
WHAT TO DO
It’s impossible to be bored in Paris. The city is alive, steeped in rich heritage and pulsing with an unparalleled artistic spirit. World-class museums, gastronomic sensations and beautifully landscaped parks and gardens comprise the core points of appeal, and while a weekend certainly doesn’t provide ample time to soak it all in, it’s perfect for a sufficient dose of sensual stimulation.
Gallery hopping in Paris is an obvious choice of activity, but for good reason. Forget dodging selfie sticks at overcrowded tourist traps like The Louvre and opt instead to explore some of the smaller, more underrated galleries. Our favourites include the spectacular contemporary art haven that is the Palais de Tokyo; the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, with its impressive fashion collection, recently reopened after a 2.5 million euro renovation.
Walking is the best way to get a sense for the city. Take the time to stroll leisurely from place to place, getting lost in charming cobblestone streets like Rue des Barres in the Marais and Montmartre’s Rue de l’Abreuvoir, and ambling through gorgeous green spaces such as Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Plantes and Parc des Buttes Chaumont.
When your legs tire, take refuge in one of the city’s many legendary drinking dens. Of course, a trip to Paris isn’t complete without ample time spent sipping fine wines and sampling various fromages. Ô Chateau, housed in a former 17th century private home, is just the spot to do so. The renowned wine bar has been named the best in Paris, thanks to its extensive, carefully curated wine list and elegant food pairings. If it’s cocktails you’re after, hole up in Harry’s New York Bar, a drinking institution where Hemingway and Sartre were known to frequent and the supposed birthplace of the Bloody Mary and Sidecar.
WHAT TO WEAR
A weekend in the world’s most elegant city calls for suitably stylish garb. Parisians, famous for their nonchalant approach to dressing, tend to abide by a less-is-more principle: it’s not so much what they wear as how they wear it - attitude is everything. Channel this and endeavour to keep things simple by investing in high quality staples that can form the basis of multiple outfits. You can’t go wrong with the classics in a pared-back colour palette of neutrals and navy: a reliable pair of single-pleated trousers, a luxurious cashmere knit and a vintage-style overcoat comprise a versatile daytime uniform. Come evening time, swap sleek sneakers for classic Derbys and don a smart single-breasted jacket. Keep accessories minimal but classic: think refined jewellery, a cashmere scarf and elegant leather luggage.