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Paris is its own universe. There is so much charm and so many interesting attractions that it is simply overwhelming for the time-strapped visitor. You have to focus your energies on small areas or risk being stretched too far.
The 6th arrondissement is a glorious focal point. There’s enough of this in this bustling bohemian enclave to satisfy weeks of walking exploration. Apparently at the end of every alley and behind every corner is a lovely boutique or a lovely cafe or a wonderful restaurant. It’s hard to go wrong in Paris. It’s almost impossible to go wrong in the 6th arrondissement.
There are twenty boroughs, or administrative districts, dividing the French capital. Located in the center of the south bank of the Seine, otherwise known as the left bank (or Rive Gauche), the 6th is the site of enough Parisian institutions to make it important – the Odeon theater, the Saint-Germain abbey, the Saint-Sulpice church – but not too many to be stifled by stunned tourists or horns. Several famous universities, such as Panthéon-Assas, give it a learned and friendly atmosphere for students. Historically, it has been a haunt of artists, writers and intellectuals, such as Jean-Paul Sarte, Ernest Hemingway and Simone de Beauvoir.
With numerous cathedrals and abbeys, including Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the oldest church in Paris, as well as the diocese of Paris, the 6th has the reputation of being one of the most culturally conservative districts of the capital. ; Moulin Rouge is not. It has also become a premier shopping center, with stores like Prada, Max Mara, Sonia Rykiel and the upscale Le Bon Marché department store, as well as plenty of fine boutiques and antique shops, all within easy walking distance. one of the other. A district of walking and wonder.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a cozy and charming neighborhood in the 6th arrondissement, is perhaps best illustrated in the Relais Christine. This charming five-star property with stunning wallpaper is housed in a renovated 16th-century mansion. It is an oasis of classic Parisian elegance and exceptional service. Located in a small quiet lane opposite an arthouse theater and not far from the Seine, it is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group. In the art-filled lobby, have a drink in the abundantly stocked ‘honor bar’, a self-service affair, or browse the daily Le Monde in the airy, ivy-spotted courtyard. Although many great cafes linger nearby, don’t skip the buffet breakfast, one of the best in Paris.
For something bigger but just as stylish, there’s the Hotel Lutetia, which takes up half a block. He has a long history. Opened in 1910, the Lutèce sheltered Russians fleeing the communist revolution, occupants of the Gestapo, survivors of the Shoah and even Charles de Gaulle. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The little Prince, frequented the place, as did James Joyce, who would have played the piano at the Joséphine bar. A recent renovation added a pool and spa in the basement. For those who like their hotels a little more modern, there is, just across the Seine, the unmissable Mandarin Oriental Paris, which is surrounded by some of the most upscale shops in Paris.
A stone’s throw from the imposing Saint-Sulpice Cathedral, where Pauline Pfeiffer, Hemingway’s second wife, attended services, is Le Comptoir du Relais, a small bistro dating from the 1930s attached to the Hotel Relais Saint-Germain. Overlooking the lively Odeon district, this is the delightful estate of celebrity chef Yves Camdeborde, which offers an ever-changing menu on weeknights and more casual brasserie-style meals on weekends and lunch.
For a more experimental dining experience, venture into the Michelin-starred PILGRIM, where chef Terumitsu Saito serves new French dishes that are as aesthetically inventive, with bright arrangements, like origami, as they are satisfying, like the exquisite beef tartare. with smoked potato. Lots of gold glitter, edible flowers and moss. Allow about two hours to complete the menu.
La Société is that kind of reliable and chic place to soak up the chic and well-cultivated soul of Saint-Germain. Popular with locals and tourists alike, this is the French classic: steak and fries, steak tartare, fish in butter, lots of wine. Always bustling with customers, with plenty of seating inside and out – all in white marble and white tablecloth. The servers, in fact, are very friendly.
Cocktails are to be enjoyed at Tiger, a trendy, well-lit haunt with a tropical twist and over 100 types of gin. The specialty here is the gin and tonic, offered with a homemade tonic. South Asian-inspired tapas are also available. The Gatsby, with its roaring twenties, art deco atmosphere, is a more classic Paris, and tiny too. Order The Chaplin, which consists of two varieties of rum, mashed blueberries, lemon juice and chestnut syrup.
The 6th is the absolute embodiment of picturesque Paris and as such is best explored on foot. A fun option is a self-guided tour of the cafe, where you can people-watch, sample pastries, and exercise in equal measure.
The world’s first café, Le Procope, opened in the 6th arrondissement in 1686, and since then the area has grown into the city’s café hub. From Le Procope, walk down Boulevard Saint-Germain to Deux Magots, another literary pilgrimage site, so rich in history that the French literary establishment gave it its name. From there it’s a short walk to Café de Flore, where French celebrities tend to congregate, then a longer walk to La Closerie des Lilas, the historic haunt of F. Scott Fitzgerald , Paul Verlaine and Hemingway.
On the Chemin des Lilas, you pass the Jardin du Luxembourg, an architectural and horticultural getaway that is much visited but well worth it. The 17th-century park, a popular hangout, is a verdant oasis amid the urban clutter, a great place to sit and watch the toy sailboats on the octagonal pond or dive into a book. For one of them, go to the famous Shakespeare and Company, an English bookstore-café; check the website for the author’s events. Along the way, venture along the Seine to browse the green cabins of booksellers, vendors peddling old posters, maps and second-hand books.
The writer was hosted by Mandarin Oriental and Relais Christine