Travel Savvy To Paris

Indy’s new nonstop flight to the City of Lights goes on sale this week. Here’s how to avoid looking like a first-time tourist.

Whether you’ve been to Paris already or want to seem like you have on your first trip, you could use some savvier picks for places to stay, eat, shop, and visit.

The Hotel
Not: A chain near the Opera House
Instead: Hotel L’Antoine in the Bastille

Christian Lacroix designed the interiors at this boutique hotel. At around 110 Euro per night if you prepay, it’s extremely affordable for Paris, and it’s a big step up from your generic 2.5- or 3-star hotel, of which there are thousands. The style is a mix of designer flair and Parisian charm, dominated by big, bold wallpaper and tile patterns in rooms with tall double windows opening to Juliet balconies. There’s also air conditioning, large showers, and an elevator—Ugly American luxuries we make no apologies for. The hotel is located in the Bastille, a busy Right Bank neighborhood, on a side street with a bunch of boutiques and restaurants, and it’s a half-block from a Metro station. The Marais, our pick for the coolest Paris neighborhood, is adjacent and walkable. 

The Neighborhood
Not: The Latin Quarter
Instead: The Marais

The arty Latin Quarter on the Left Bank is a quintessential European historic district with winding stone streets. But it’s not the only one. Less touristy is The Marais (muh-RAY), a quiet tangle of brick rues, bistros, chocolate shops, and fashion boutiques. Get lost on your way to Marché des Enfants Rouges, a buzzing food market with lunch stalls serving a variety of ethnic food.

The Attraction
Not: Museums
Instead: Gardens

We’re not seriously suggesting you skip the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, and the Musée d’Orsay, three of the largest and most famous art museums in the world, but those are giant tourist magnets—pick one (they each cover a different time period). But do while away a few hours in the lovely outdoor parks strewn throughout the city, such as the Jardin des Tuileries, where you can sit in reclined green chairs by a pond and gaze upon the elegant architecture ringing the park.

The Cool Street
Not: Champs-Élysées
Instead: Rue Crémieux

The famous boulevard might be unavoidable, but seek out the smaller Rue Crémieux for its rows of brightly painted homes.

The View
Not: The Eiffel Tower
Instead: Rooftop at Printemps

It’s better to look at the Eiffel Tower than from it. For a less-crowded vista, go the cafe atop Printemps, one of Paris’s lauded department stores. From the large outdoor patio, you have a close-up view of penthouses and architectural details—as well as the city’s most famous landmark.

The Shop
Not: Chanel
Instead: Antoine & Lili

You can’t miss this trio of stores painted dandelion, lime, and raspberry. They sell decor, children’s clothing, and women’s fashion from France.

The Restaurant
Not: The Indiana Cafe
Instead: Le Mary Celeste

Paris has no shortage of great places to eat and drink, and Le Mary Celeste rightfully belongs near the top of that list. Thanks to a relaxed vibe, artful cocktails, and locally sourced meat and produce, foodies appreciate the comfort of the lively-but-down-to-earth atmosphere without skipping out on the singular experience of French dining. Time your visit right, and you can get fresh oysters to throw back with the grappa-based Ahha Kapehna. Reservations aren’t required, but are helpful.

The Famous Cafe
Not: Les Deux Magots, Hemingway’s
Instead: Café des Deux Moulins, Amélie‘s

The “two windmills,” where the hit French movie Amélie was filmed, has all the brass Art Deco trim you want from a Parisian coffeehouse—and perhaps an upturned nose when your waiter realizes you’re sightseeing.

The Impossibly Arty Bookshop
Not: Shakespeare and Company
Instead: 0fr.

If you love PrintText in SoBro, check out the shop that inspired it: 0fr., an avant-garde room piled with contemporary fashion and art magazines. You might feel out of place, but chances are no one will even notice you. At least brush the croissant crumbs off your sweater first.

The Daytrip
Not: Versailles
Instead: Beaune

If you’re looking for an abundance of wine, head to Beaune (pronounced bone), nestled east of Paris in the center of Burgundy, about two hours by train. Oenophiles can choose from vineyard tours, winery visits, many caves du vin, and cooking classes. Burgundy has a service that collects all the wine you buy at vineyards and ships it home to you, something that’s not available in Bordeaux. The historic town has a classic old quarter, too, anchored by the Hospices de Beaune, famous for its resplendently tiled roof.

The High-Speed Train to Provence
Not: The TGV
Instead: Ouigo

Just as Europe has a bunch of discount airlines, budget train service is also a thing. We can vouch for Ouigo, which costs about $20 per person roundtrip to go to the south of France. It’s just as convenient and comfortable as the TGV, which might cost a couple of hundred dollars for the same trip, and both are owned by the French national rail company. The trade-off is convenience: The TGV leaves from Paris, but Ouigo departs from a station half an hour outside the city. To get there, you take the regional RER train and connect at the Euro Disney stop. But it’s easy. You can handle a little adventure, right?