For the first time ever, I'm sharing my favourite bakery in Paris.
If you told me that I could be in Paris next month, next week, or even tomorrow, I wouldn't even have to make a list - I'd immediately know all the special places I'd want to re-visit for the umpteenth time. There's just something about Paris that makes you want to create your own special memories and discover the little places that feel like they're entirely your own - even if you're not the only person there. I once swore I would NEVER share the details of my favourite Parisian bakery but after many requests I've been convinced to do so, along with a few others gems. Please let me know if you enjoy them as much as I do!
The Bookstore and the Bard
Shakespeare and Co is hardly a hidden gem - it's actually known as the best and the most popular bookstore in the world! But I'm always amazed by how many people go to Paris one, two, even several times and have never heard about it. This bookstore stocks all English books, has an English speaking staff, and has hosted some of the most notable English literary luminaries of our time. And yet it's utterly unpretentious. In fact, you can even live there in exchange for your labor, provided you're willing to sleep in the little alcoves tucked between the stacks. (This may just be my ultimate travel dream....) Best of all, it's mere steps from Notre Dame, so there's no excuse not to visit, even if you're only in town for a few short days.
The Bakery, The Bar, and The Beef Fried Rice
Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau is my favorite street in Paris. It's just minutes from the Louvre and is at the centre of all the action. There is a great hostel, the BVJ, that serves delicious baguette and large bowls of chocolat chaud for breakfast and might just be the best located hostel in town (yep, book ahead). But whether or not you stay at BVJ, there are still some great little nooks to check out. At #3 Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau is a rather non-descript Chinese takeout restaurant that is the perfect fix for when you're craving something other than bread and cheese and are homesick for fried rice and chicken balls. You could do far, far worse for food this close to the Louvre.
At #4 Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau is a bar called De Voltaire a Rousseau. It's tiny, it serves glasses of local beer on the cheap, and has a very limited menu of omelettes and a few other humble, yet classic dishes. This is the perfect place to hang out when you want few tourists, even less pretention, and a hearty dose of local gossip if you can strike up conversation.
And at #6 is La Coulear des Bles. Is it the best bakery in Paris? Probably not. Does it have any particular claim to fame? Again, no. But it's MINE. I had been to Paris half a dozen times before I ever ate an actual meal -the plight of a most frugal backpacker. But this place kept me going with their humble offerings of baguette and madelines, both of which are solid taste winners if you ask me. It's another great choice for simple, affordable fare in the centre of Paris - and there's just something about it that has heart. For those visiting Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau for the first time, note that the street has two segments - you will want the lower segment closest to the Louvre.
The Best Budget Sandwich
During my first visit to Paris, I lived and died by the cheap eats section of my Let's Go guidebook - and I'm glad that I did because that's how I discovered Cosi. This tiny sandwich shop is neatly tucked away between St Germain and the Musee d'Orsay and has been my go-to spot for ridiculously delicious sandwiches on the cheap for nearly 15 years.
The best thing about Cosi is the bread. A cross between pita bread and focaccia, their bread is a thin, durable, fluffy, hot, buttery pocket to stuff a whole host of ingredients. You can build your own but order from their chalkboard menu of popular combos. On my last visit, I got tandoori turkey and coleslaw and it was delicious. There's a great selection of ingredients for vegetarians to play around with, like salad greens, ricotta cheese, nuts, and fresh or marinated veggies, and if you order your sandwich with nothing more than double cheddar cheese it may just be the closest thing Paris has to a grilled cheese sandwich. Seating is upstairs and the surrounding neighbourhood is a fun place for apres-sandwich stroll.
Paris has a clean, safe, efficient Metro system for navigating the city and you can also easily explore by foot or by bike. Accommodation choices are endless but I'm still searching for perfect Parisian go-to spot. My last hotel, L'Academie, was good but not great. Finally, don't discount local advice. Parisians love their city and are so proud of it. Brush off your high school French and don't hesitate to ask for specific recommendations.
Tell me about YOUR Paris! Where are your favourite spots?
Looking for more Parisian inspiration? Hopefully these posts will help!
Hotel Review: Paris' Hotel Academie
Madelines, Metros, and Memories of Paris
Paris: Day 2&3 of Our Round The World Trip
Budget Friendly City of Lights for First Timers
Secrets of the Louvre for Savvy Travellers
Exploring Paris by Bike