My favourite things to do in Paris

I’ve been really lucky to spend a lot of time in Paris over the years while visiting my grandparents. I absolutely love just wandering the streets, spotting interesting things that you may miss if you just stick to the tourist traps. Having recently visited again over Easter, I thought I should write down a few of my favourite things to do while I’m there (outside all the museums!).

Stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg

Located between Saint-Germain-des-Prés (a favourite area of mine to go walking) and the Latin Quarter, the Jardin do Luxembourg is a lovely mix of art and horticulture. I’d only ever been through during the winter, but this year I was lucky enough to walk through during Spring and it was nothing short of divine (in my opinion). Gorgeous flowers everywhere, sculptures aplenty, people chilling out in the sun or going for a jog. There’s really something about having a tranquil spot in the middle of chaos.

Bringing this back to food – there are a few cafes and plenty of space to sit down and eat if you decide to put together a little picnic.

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Gyros in St Michel

I can’t remember who took me here the first time, but whenever I’m in Paris (and I have time), I always go for lunch. It doesn’t look like much, but the gyros are tasty, cheap and very filling.

Maison de Gyros: 26 Rue de la Huchette, 75005 Paris

While you’re in the area, you can see the Notre Dame and the Fontaine Saint-Michel.

Gyros is St Michel, Paris

Tea and lemon meringue in Le Marais

One day, my cousin promised me the biggest lemon meringue tart I’d ever seen and took me to a funky little cafe called Le Loir dans La Théière (which translates to ‘the dormouse in the teapot’, cute huh!) in the Jewish Quarter (Le Marais) and I was not disappointed. Every time I’ve been it has been very busy and there is often a queue to get a table. Don’t let that put you off though; if you’re in a small party they usually get you seated pretty quickly and it’s so worth it for the tart!

They serve other things too, but I can’t comment because every time I go I order the same thing. So naughty of me!

Le Loir dans La Théière: 3 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France

Le Loir dans La Théière, Paris

Window shopping in Les Halles

Les Halles has changed significantly since my first visit back in 2004, when it was a shopping quarter with what seemed like a few buildings and a lot of random shops attached in some way to the Metro/RER station below ground. It’s still a shopping quarter, but now it’s massive and a little less random, with big brand names having set up shop in the extension they have built. However, my favourite part of visiting Les Halles has always been wandering down the smaller streets to visit the random shops selling everything from vintage clothing to art.  I may have bought more than one pair of shoes from shops at Les Halles because some of them have excellent bargains.

There’s also plenty of food options, including brasseries, fast food and the all-important crêperies.

Nearby you’ll find Centre Pompidou – the home of a huge library and the Musée National d’Art Moderne. I haven’t actually visited, but I’ve been told it’s excellent.

Explore the flower market on Île de la Cité

This is a bit random, but every time I pass through here I can’t help but poke my head into the various shops selling flowers and other greenery. It’s in between Les Halles and St Michel, so it’s an easy stop on your way. Not all the little shops are open during winter, but in spring, it was magical. Flowers of all types and colours make you want to buy, buy, buy!

Marché aux fleurs: Place Louis Lépine, Quai de la Corse, 75004 Paris

Browse the books at Shakespeare and Company

I’m not the only person to include this on my list, but I do love walking into the shop and breathing in the delicious smell of musty paper. It’s a popular spot, but worth a visit. I don’t really need to say anymore.

Shakespeare and Company: 37 rue de la Bûcherie 75005 Paris

Explore the unknown in the Paris Catacombs

I went on my own the first time. Music in my ears, I wandered quietly around the labyrinth of bones that were moved to their current position in the late 1700s from various graveyards in Paris. Despite it seeming impossible that the remains of millions of people have been stacked and positioned in the catacombs, when you get there you’ll believe it.

If you’re into archaeology, the Crypte Archeologique du Parvis Notre Dame is also worth a visit.

Paris Catacombs

Bask in the decadence that is Versailles

I’ve been to the Château de Versailles many times because it’s hard to get sick of something so beautiful. The only reason I’m ever disappointed is if the garden is closed. Unfortunately, I’ve been unlucky the last two visits.

Versailles started off as a hunting lodge. King Louis XIII loved the area so much he built a basic lodge that would allow him to stay overnight when he went hunting in the forest. By the time his son, Louis XIV came along, it had already been upgraded. Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, would go on to turn the hunting lodge into one of the most beautiful palaces in the country. A lot of this may mean nothing to you because you don’t recognise the names or numbers, but you will probably know the name Marie-Antoinette and her husband King Louis XVI, and their roles in the French Revolution. But that’s a story for a different blog, I think!

Paris Versailles

Paris Versailles

I recommend planning in advance where you’d like to go because not everything on this list will be open every day of the week and opening hours tend to be different depending on the season.

I hope you love my picks as much as I do.

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Be there or be square: Bristol’s Square Kitchen

Before we got to Bristol, we had booked an AirBnB in Berkeley Square (pronounced Bark-ley for my Australian audience). I had no idea what the area would be like and just hoped for the best. Luckily, it’s lovely little square in Clifton, a beautiful part of Bristol. On arrival, one of the first things I noticed were the restaurants in close proximity. Particularly, the aptly named Square Kitchen, part of the The Square Club.

When old meets new

Berkeley Square was laid out and built in the late 1700s, so it’s made up of beautiful Georgian buildings (which I love). However, when you walk into the Square Club it’s a very different feel, and in fact a pleasant contrast from the outside. Modern art adorns the exposed brick walls, and the furnishings are a mix of old meets new. You don’t feel like you’ve walked into a stuffy fine dining restaurant, but you still know you’re going to get some excellent food.

We began our evening with a cocktail in the underground bar. The Square Kitchen’s extensive drinks menu won’t leave you without choice and it took me a while to decide on what to get. In the end I chose a Caribbean Cosmo at £7.50. It was a sweet tipple, that really made you feel like you were at the beach.

Classic fare

We were then taken upstairs to the dining room where we were treated to a little amuse bouche of ham hock terrine with piccalilli. It’s one of those dishes I usually associate with old-fashioned food, but it was surprisingly light to eat (not just because of the portion size) and the piccalilli picked it up and stopped it from being just a boring piece of ham.


Head Chef Kyle Jordaan aims for a menu that focuses on seasonal ingredients and for good reason: when fruit and vegetables are in season, they taste better, and he makes the most of that.

My first course was deep-fried goats cheese, pickled beetroot carpaccio, garden peas and cider reduction at £6.50. For the price it was excellent. Personally, I get a bit confused when a menu says ‘carpaccio’ if there is no meat involved as carpaccio is thinly sliced raw meat with a vinaigrette, but I just went with it because I really like goats cheese.  It was a surprisingly rich dish – too much gorgeous creamy goats cheese is actually not as easy to eat as it sounds!  In fact, I’d perhaps recommend sharing it with someone because of the richness. Based on what my fellow diners ordered, I think the options are varied enough to have something different and go halves.

For the main, I chose my usual – pork belly. It was served with crispy squid, globe artichoke, white polenta, crispy capers, aioli and gremolata for £15.50. Overall, it was a nice dish, but I did miss the crispy crackling. It was obvious a lot of love went into the dish as each element was cooked really well. I also had some food envy when the assiette of lamb came out though as it really looked like it made the most of the different cuts and their various textures.

A sweet finish

Sadly, we came to the end of our meal. But not so sadly, that meant dessert. At the time we dined at Square Kitchen I was going through a rhubarb phase, so I couldn’t pass up the poached rhubarb, vanilla panna cotta, rhubarb consomme, almond clusters at £6.20. It was my favourite dish of the night – soft poached rhubarb that wasn’t too sweet, thin and chewy rhubarb straps (I assume dehydrated), sweet and luscious rhubarb soup and a creamy vanilla panna cotta to round it all out.  I was actually disappointed that the bowl had such a large lip because it stopped me from drinking the rhubarb – perhaps they do it on purpose.

A couple of my fellow diners chose the chocolate bomb and none of us were disappointed when the waiter came up with a perfect sphere of chocolate and proceeded to pour warm caramel over it to melt it. I do love a bit of showmanship!

Chef Kyle is taking some stunning ingredients and turning them in to excellent dishes. I can highly recommend making a booking and going for a celebratory meal in the modern meets historical atmosphere or perhaps a Sunday lunch with a few friends.

Details:
Square Kitchen at the Square Club
Opening hours: Mon–Sat: Breakfast, 7–9:30am; Lunch, 12–3pm; Dinner, 6–9:30pm | Sun: 12-4pm
Address: 15 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1HB, UK
Phone: 0117 921 0455
Web: thesquareclub.com

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