wine bar

Drink Up! Our Top 5 Wine Bars in Paris

When F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in Paris, he was known for downing an entire bottle of wine – before dinner! These Paris wine bars are perfect for partaking in one of France’s favorite past times (and grabbing a bite to eat, too).

1. Ô-Chateau

The owners of Ô-Chateau got their start giving English-language wine tasting classes in Paris. Their wine bar is all about choice: more than 50 wines by the glass await you in this bar not far from the Louvre, and the knowledgeable sommeliers are more than happy to help you make your selection.

Ô-Chateau – 66, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1st arrondissement

2. Frenchie Bar A Vins

Famously rich, French food often relies upon an accompanying glass of wine to add a welcome touch of acidity and balance. There’s no better place to see this in action than Frenchie Bar à Vins, the wine bar outpost of the famous restaurant just across the street. Here, creative small plates are the perfect pair for an assortment of ever-changing wine choices from across the country (and across the world).

The wine bar doesn’t take reservations, which makes it easier to get into than the restaurant, but be sure to get here early: it fills up fast!

Frenchie Bar à Vins – 6, rue du Nil, 2nd arrondissement

3. La Vache dans les Vignes

This haven for wine and cheese lovers isn’t technically a wine bar, but rather a specialty store that’s also known for its cheese plates. Choose your wine (by the bottle or by the glass) and the number of cheeses you’d like, and your server will pick the wedges that work best with your selection. The owners specialize in selecting wines and cheeses from small producers, so prepare yourself for some pleasant surprises.

La Vache dans les Vignes – 46, quai de Jemmapes, 10th arrondissement

4. Le Garde-robe

Natural wine has been a growing trend in France in the past few years: these wines have no added sulfites and are often described as “alive” by those who love them. Discover them yourself at le Garde-Robe, which specializes in these vins vivants: the staff here is extremely knowledgeable and will be more than happy to guide you in your selection of a bottle and a cheese or charcuterie board to sample along with it.

Le Garde-Robe – 41, rue de l’Arbre-Sec, 1st arrondissement

5. Le Barav’

Part wine bar, part restaurant, le Barav’ has something for everyone. The short-and-sweet menu includes classic cheese and charcuterie boards as well as a few little snacks to share highlighting only the best French ingredients: roasted cheese with honey, beef carpaccio, croque monsieur, steak tartare, and a special plat du jour that’s always changing. A regular selection of wines by the glass and an enormous 250-reference cellar will keep you coming back for more.

Le Barav’ – 6 Rue Charles-François Dupuis, 3rd arrondissement

If you want to learn even more about French wine, let us be your (very enthusiastic) guides: our Best Bites of Paris tour is a great way to learn more about wine and terroir.

claude monet - impression, soleil levant

5 Off-the-Beaten Path Museums in Paris to Keep Warm this January

While some would say that very little holds a candle to the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, these behemoths of Paris’ museumscape are far from the only spots you can take in the city’s art, history, and culture. Here are just five of the dozens of museums in Paris that we think are worth a second glance.

1. Musée Marmottan

If you’ve been to the Orsay and the nearby Orangerie to see Claude Monet’s famous waterlilies, then the Marmottan should be your next stop. This former private home in the 16th arrondissement is home to the world’s largest collection of Monet paintings (and over 300 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in all). It also houses Marmottan family’s collection of Napoleonic era art and furniture, giving you a small glimpse at what it might have been like to live in Paris in the 19th century.

2. Musée Jacquemart-André

Another small private home, this time in Paris’ 8th arrondissement, the Jacquemart-André is as much a discovery of this gorgeous mansion as of the collections housed within. Visitors tour through the formal state apartments, the informal apartments, the private apartments of the André family, the winter garden, and the Italian museum, which houses collections of 15th and 16th century Italian sculpture and paintings, including works by Donatello, Botticelli, and Bellini.

3. Musée des Egouts

Yep, you read that right: this museum is devoted to the sewer system of Paris. The history of Paris is inextricably linked to the river Seine, which was once the sewer through the city. When Napoleon began building the sewer system, it modernized the city exponentially. This (slightly smelly) museum takes you through these developments, from ancient times to the present.

4. Memorial de la Shoah

Founded in 2005, the Shoah memorial houses several exhibits dedicated to the plight of the Jewish people of France, many of whom lived in the Marais, where the museum is located. The museum is home notably to the Wall of Names, listing the approximately 76,000 Jewish people deported from France during the war.

5. Espace Dalí

Located up in beautiful Montmartre, this museum features over 300 original pieces from Surrealist master Salvador Dalí. Each year, the museum houses a new temporary exhibit, and it also displays modern works from local artists in tandem with Dalí’s masterpieces.

 

galette des rois

The Low-Down on French King Cake (And Where to Find it in Paris!)

France may no longer have a king, but we do have King Cake, a traditional dessert you’ll find in pastry shops all over the country just in time for Epiphany on January 6th.

While King Cake, or galette des rois, was once a Catholic tradition associated with the arrival of the three wise men at the birthplace of Jesus, in secular France, the cake has become more of a celebration of the New Year: you’ll find galettes on French tables from the beginning of January through to the end of February – and with it, an intriguing tradition.

What Is King Cake?

Unlike in New Orleans, where King Cake is made with a brioche dough and brightly colored icing, in France, galette is a combination of buttery puff pastry and frangipane, a sweetened almond-based paste similar to marzipan.

Most galettes are big enough to share, though you’ll also find individual portioned ones, as well as galettes with added flavors, like pistachio, coconut, or chocolate.

How Do You Eat a King Cake?

King Cake is not eaten like other pastries: there is a ritual involved in galettes, and it begins with the youngest member of the party getting under the table.

You see, each King Cake contains a fève: in the past, a fava bean was used, though most modern galettes contain instead a porcelain trinket, hidden in one of the pieces. Once the youngest member of the party is under the table, the galette is sliced, and as the slicer points to each piece, the names of the other members of the party are called out from under the table, assigning each slice to a diner.

Once each person has his or her slice, it’s time to dig in, but attention! The fève can be hard on the teeth if you’re not expecting it. The person with the fève in his or her slice gets to be king (or queen) of the day, sporting a golden paper crown that is sold with the galette itself.

Where Can I Try one?

While galettes are sold in nearly every pastry shop in the capital, there are a few that are noteworthy.

Pierre Hermé, for example, is a master not only of the macaron but of the galette: his version is available in plain, chocolate, and ispahan varieties (the last is a fruity combination of rose, raspberry, and litchi.) The unique spiral design of the top of the galette is reflected in the abstract shape of the fève within.

Benoit Castel is another favorite this year: his inverted puff pastry is crisper and lighter than most, and his traditional filling is elevated thanks to Madagascar vanilla. The fèves were produced in collaboration with le Coq Toqué, a producer of artisanal Normandy apple cider: some Kings will also win a bottle of the cider for a very regal tasting indeed!

Discovered any other delicious galettes in Paris? Tell us about your favorites in the comments or on Facebook.

Image care of Steph Gray

fireworks

3 Ways to Have a Perfect New Year’s Eve in Paris

Spending New Year’s Eve in Paris? Aside from learning how to count down backwards in French (trois, deux, un…), you’ll want to keep your eye on some of the chicest ways to celebrate in the capital. Here are just three places you might find us on New Year’s Eve!

1. Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris on the River Seine

The Seine is the river floating through Paris, separating the city into the Rives Gauche and Droite. This New Year’s Eve, why not let it be your guide?

This New Year’s Eve boat party takes place on a classic Parisian péniche, docked not far from the central Ile Saint Louis, one of the two islands in the center of the city. The boat boasts not only a dance floor but a huge covered terrace from which you’ll get one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the city. Just be sure to book in advance: this party is sure to fill up.

2. A Spectacular Fireworks Show

If fireworks are more your style, the place to be at midnight is the Champs-Elysées. The city of Paris projects a light show on the imposing Arc de Triomphe before unleashing a spectacular fireworks show at midnight.

Of course, if standing out in the cold on the Champs-Elysées doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, you can easily pop a bottle of bubbly and enjoy the spectacle from your hotel room: BFMTV (channel 30) broadcasts the show live.

3. The Early Bird Special

If you want to take advantage of the spectacle of New Year’s Eve in Paris without having to stay up super late, a tour bus of Paris’ various illuminations may be more your style. This Paris by Night tour departs at 5, 6, and 7pm, and for an hour and a half, it will guide you through some of Paris’ most beautiful monuments, all lit up for the end-of-year festivities.

This tour is the perfect way to add a special-occasion flair to your New Year’s Even in Paris while also making sure you get home in time to get a good night’s rest – so you’re ready to explore the city on the first day of 2018!

yule log - buche de noel

Parisian Christmas Foods: Uncovering Festive French Faves

In France, Christmas dinner is often defined by rich, gourmet foods: from caviar to foie gras to a special cake designed just for Christmas, the French know how to do holiday meals up right.

Unlike many American families, who opt for a buffet-style Christmas dinner, the French Christmas meal is usually served in courses.

oysters

Appetizers or hors d’oeuvres may either be fish- or meat-based. The former is more popular with religious families, as Christmas dinner is usually served on the 24th (Christmas Eve) rather than the 25th (Christmas Day), and Catholic tradition demands a fish-based Christmas Eve dinner.

That said, religious or not, many French families choose to enjoy oysters, smoked salmon, or even caviar for this first bite of the Christmas meal.

foie gras

Many other families opt for escargots instead, and nearly every family will serve foie gras: in fact, one poll shows that 76 percent of French people couldn’t imagine a Christmas dinner without it.

For the main dish, turkey is a popular choice, though capon and Guinea hen are also common, served with chestnuts, potato gratin, or mashed potatoes. The main is followed by a cheese course and then dessert: the classic bûche de Noël.

It’s perhaps no surprise that in such a pastry-minded society, there’s a cake designed just for Christmas. The bûche or Yule log is a genoise cake filled with buttercream and often decorated to look like an actual log, complete with marzipan or meringue mushrooms. You’ll find some version of this cake in nearly every pastry shop in Paris, with some of the more elaborate going for upwards of 100 euros a cake.

clementines

Of course, some French people opt for something a bit simpler (and easier to digest): a clementine.

christmas market in paris

5 Festive Activities to Celebrate the Holidays in Paris

If you’re in Paris for the holidays, you’re in luck! The City of Light does it up right in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and there are lots of ways that you can get in on the celebrations.

1. Go to A Christmas Market

Christmas markets are a tradition that you’ll find all over Europe, and Paris plays host to over a dozen options. A full list of the Christmas markets that will be open in Paris this season is available here, but be sure to check out some of our favorites:

  • The new Christmas market at Les Halles has just become the biggest in Paris, with 70 individual cabins selling goods from all over the world. Families with children will love meeting “Père Noël” here.
  • Montmartre is one of Paris’ most picturesque neighborhoods, and when it’s all decked out for Christmas, it’s even prettier! Montmartre is home to two different Christmas markets: one by the Abbesses métro stop and the other just below the Sacré Coeur Basilica. Take an afternoon to stroll through both.
eiffel tower

Image care of Majunznk

2. Go Skating at the Eiffel Tower

Paris isn’t known for white Christmases, but the city does its part to make up for the lack of snow with artificial skating rinks. Usually, the Eiffel Tower puts a patinoire on the first floor of the tower, but this year, big changes are afoot.

While the first story of the tower is still home to a winter wonderland, complete with a family of giant (3-meter-tall) penguins and a Cocoa Corner, the skating rink is located on the ground, within the Champ de Mars Christmas village, making it accessible whether or not you decide to climb to the top of the tower. Entry into the village is free, and it costs 6 euro to access the rink (skate rentals included!)

Champs elysées

Image care of David Monniaux

3. Take a Ride Up the Grande Roue

The Grande Roue or Ferris Wheel overlooking Concorde has graced Paris for years, but due to ongoing negotiation problems, it’s possible that this will be the last year you can get this view over Paris. While the roue is open day and night, consider timing your trip to coincide with the Eiffel Tower’s nightly shimmering lights, which  sparkle every hour on the hour for five minutes. There’s perhaps no better way to take in the City of Light lit up in all her splendor.

galeries lafayette

4. Check Out the Decorations at the Grands Magasins

Paris’ department stores do things right for the holidays, with window displays and interior holiday decorations galore. The Bon Marché (24 rue de Sèvres) and Printemps (64 boulevard Haussmann) are both good options, but our absolute favorite is the Galeries Lafayette (40 boulevard Haussmann), complete with a tree stretching towards the 19th century ceiling and a rooftop view (just take the escalators all the way to the top – no purchase needed!) over the city.

notre dame

Image care of Theud-Bald

5. See the Christmas Tree by Notre Dame

Paris may not rival New York’s Rockefeller Center in terms of tree size, but the sapin on the parvis in front of Notre Dame Cathedral is nothing to spit at. Pay it a visit one evening to see it all lit up, and then enjoy one of the regular free concerts taking place at the cathedral itself in the days leading up to Christmas.

Top image care of Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

arc de triomphe

Top 5 Delicious Treats for Warming up in Paris

vin chaud - mulled wine

Image care of Jameson Fink

Winter has arrived in Paris, and that means lots of twinkle lights, Christmas markets, and, yes, rapidly falling temperatures. Luckily, Paris has just the thing to take the chill off.

1. Vin Chaud

Vin chaud is called mulled wine in English (a better term, in our humble opinion, than the direct translation of “hot wine”). A combination of red wine, fruit, and warm spices, vin chaud can be found at nearly every outdoor Christmas market in Paris. But if you want to try a truly exquisite version of this wintertime classic, head over to Chez Georges, a bistro and wine bar that cooks up our fave vin chaud in the capital.

Chez Georges – 11, rue des Canettes, 6th arrondissement

angelina hot chocolate

Image care of Angelina

2. Hot Chocolate

If you’d like a warm beverage with a bit less of a kick than vin chaud, you’re in luck: Paris, as home to some of the best pastries in the world, is also home to some of the best hot chocolate. There’s no contest for our favorite: the exquisite African hot chocolate at Angelina. The legendary cocoa here is served with a side dish of unsweetened whipped cream – ostensibly to temper the nearly impossible richness of the brew. If you’re traveling with friends, consider ordering one African and one white hot chocolate – the latter is served with a chocolate whipped cream instead.

Angelina – 226, rue de Rivoli, 1st arrondissement

fondue savoyarde

Image care of Varaine

3. Fondue and Raclette

These two Alpine specialties are classics of après-ski or after-ski dining: the former is a bubbling cauldron of melted cheese and a touch of white wine into which you dip croutons of crusty, day-old baguette. When you order the latter, meanwhile, you’ll be brought an apparatus featuring a half-wheel of melty raclette cheese which you heat and scrape (racler, in French) over a plate of potatoes, cured meat, and pickles. To satisfy all of your cheesiest dreams, Le Brasier is the place to go.

Le Brasier – 58, Avenue des Ternes, 17th arrondissement

french onion soup

4. French Onion Soup

French onion soup was originally invented in the Paris Les Halles market: market vendors would throw a hodgepodge of leftover veg into a pot and cook it up for a nighttime snack. While Les Halles has since shuttered (and Parisian markets these days take place during the daylight hours), you can still find excellent soupe à l’oignon in Paris.

A perfect French onion soup is a labor of love, with deeply caramelized onions and a rich beef broth topped with a generous handful of gruyère cheese before being gratinéed under the broiler. While some still seek it out at holdover restaurant Au Pied de Cochon, located a stone’s throw from where Les Halles once stood, we prefer the slightly less touristy dining room (and even better soup) at Bistrot des Vosges.

Bistrot des Vosges – 31 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 4th arrondissement

roasted chestnuts

5. Roasted Chestnuts

If you want to warm up but you don’t want to slow down, Paris has a solution! For just a few euros, nearly every street corner affords the opportunity to get your hands on a paper cone of freshly roasted chestnuts, which you can snack on as you walk to your next adventure. Bon appétit!

paris

Meet Your Paris Uncovered Guides

The brains (and the brawn) behind Paris Uncovered are Randa and Emily: two American expats who fell head-over-heels in love with the city and decided to make it their permanent home.

We’ve made a career out of showing visitors to Paris the ins and outs of our adopted home via walking tours, but we have a few little tips and tricks to share with you via this blog, too! So without further ado, it’s time to meet your guides.

RandA

When and why did you first move to Paris?

Having had short stints living abroad in Lyon and London, I fell in love with the experience of discovering a new city and culture. While I loved my years discovering Chicago, I was ready to explore another city and tackle a new challenge. In January 2011, I dove head first into my next chapter: studying at the Sorbonne, making new friends from around the world and attempting to master the French language!

What’s your favorite Paris neighborhood?

The Marais (both north and south) has always been a favorite and continues to be thanks to its blend of old and new Paris. You have it all: gorgeous views of gardens, medieval-to-renaissance-to-haussmannien architecture, cozy cafes and innovative restaurants. Whether you want to wander, shop or sit and people-watch: it’s perfect for any mood! A close runner-up would be the canal district -excellent for a long meandering walk.

What’s your favorite period of French history to discover?

I’ve always been intrigued by the French Revolution and it’s many cultural implications. When you dig beyond the famous “let them eat cake!” and “off with your head!” phrases, you find a story about human rights and the human spirit that has impacted France (and maybe, the world) in many ways beyond the guillotine. Although, the guillotine certainly makes for a dramatic element to that part of history!

What’s your favorite thing to eat in Paris?

It’s so hard to choose! The first to pop into my head: either a croissant aux amandes or jambon-beurre. A croissant aux amandes is a croissant that’s filled with almond paste, covered in almonds, then baked and covered in powdered sugar (its honesty more dessert than breakfast!) A jambon-beurre sandwich is the edible form of “less is more”: a slice of ham and smear of butter on a crunchy baguette. Both can be found at nearly any boulangerie, but they are not all created equal, so be careful!

What’s one thing you wish visitors to Paris knew about Parisians?

Pride in our city and culture is a universal trait around the world – and Parisians are no different. Showing your appreciation for their city, culture and language can help you make friends fast. A simple “bonjour” when greeting someone, and a “merci” to thank them can go a long way!

Emily

When and why did you first move to Paris?

I first moved here in 2007, and it was a total accident. I had been studying abroad in Cannes, and when push came to shove, I wanted to stay. There was no way for me to transfer my university credits to the French system, so I moved to Paris to attend the American University here, thinking I’d stay 18 months to finish my degree. That was eleven years ago.

What’s your favorite Paris neighborhood?

There are so many that are close to my heart: in fact, wandering Paris’ neighborhoods was one of the things that convinced me that I wanted to make the city my permanent home. I spend a lot of time in the 5th and 6th, where my favorite bookstores are located, but I have a lofty dream of someday living in Montmartre. When I’m not giving tours with Paris Uncovered, I’m also a food journalist, which means that these days, I spend a lot of time in the 10th and 11th, around République, where many of the innovative restaurants are.

What’s your favorite period of French history to discover?

I kind of feel obliged to say the 19th century, because that’s the period I specialized in when I was getting my Master’s degree at the Sorbonne. I love the post-revolutionary period and the way in which the French tried, failed, and tried again to create a sustainable republic. I think this period, wrought with difficulty, shows us a lot about what defines the French as a people.

That said, I’m also very interested in Les Années Folles (the “crazy” years, also known as the Roaring Twenties) and the Occupation of Paris and the French Resistance during World War II. I think what I love so much about French history (or history in general!) is that it’s just a chain of cause and effect, so if you delve deep enough, all periods of history are linked in one way or another (and there’s no better place to see how and why than Paris).

What’s your favorite thing to eat in Paris?

I’m a huge cheese lover – give me your smelliest piece, and I’m sold! But I’m also loving the return to truly artisanal bread these days. I have a few favorite addresses in the city for hand-made, slow-fermented bread (which goes very well with cheese, I must say!)

Other than that, I’m really digging the small plates revolution that has (finally) come to Paris. Market-driven menus are my jam, and there are a lot of them popping up in the capital.

What’s one thing you wish visitors to Paris knew about Parisians?

That the “rude” stereotype is a total misunderstanding! I come from New York, and I know that we’re painted as brusque and kind of mean, but both New Yorkers and Parisians love their city and want to help you out – we just want to be asked politely and appropriately. In the case of Parisians, that means starting every interaction with “Bonjour ! Parlez-vous anglais ?” (Hello! Do you speak English?) Most Parisians do, and when they hear that you’re trying (and that you’ve started your sentence with bonjour), they’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction.