A showcase for French culture, Paris is the undisputed ambassador for the savoir-faire of the whole of France. Condensed in a single city is a treasure-trove of specialities from many different parts of the country, from Grasse, Reims or Rennes to Bayonne. Take a tour of France without even leaving Paris and discover numerous examples of the incomparable ‘French touch’!
To discover the finest French perfumes, your first stop has to be the Musée Fragonard, a stone’s throw from the Opéra Garnier, where the mysteries of the manufacture of this precious elixir are unveiled.
Bread- and pastry-making
Renowned the world over, French bread and pastry-making offers moments of exquisite delectation. From Pierre Hermé’s rose-raspberry croissant to the Breton speciality of kouign amann made by the Maison Larnicol, not forgetting Ladurée’s macarons, Paris offers a vast range of gourmet specialities for the delight of all visitors with a sweet tooth. As for the French baguette, the choice of high-quality products is just as varied: Eric Kayser and Poilâne or Gontran Cherrier offer a deliciously crisp and crunchy selection.
Some culinary schools, such as that of top chef Alain Ducasse, offer French pastry-making courses.
The minting of coins and medals
On 30 September 2017 the Musée du 11 Conti-Monnaie de Paris reopens after a 5-year renovation programme. The museum comprises the workshops and heritage collections of the Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint) where medals and coins have been minted for nearly 1200 years. More than 150 craftspeople work here, and the exceptional collections feature ancient coins and unique series such as the ‘France by Jean-Paul Gaultier’ or ‘Petit Prince’ collections, which can also be purchased in the museum shop.
At 40 rue de la Roquette, top chef Alain Ducasse and master chocolate-maker Nicolas Berger have opened an authentic factory where chocolate is made in the traditional manner. The only chocolate factory and shop in Paris which roasts its own cocoa beans (sourced from countries all over the world), it offers visitors a rare opportunity to discover the secrets of chocolate-making. In the shop, the full range of Nicolas Berger’s chocolates and bars are on sale … to be savoured without moderation!
Paris’s best-known cabarets celebrate glamour and magic at their legendary dinner shows. Between the French cancan at the Moulin Rouge, the dazzling light shows at the Crazy Horse, the champagne shows at the Paradis Latin built by Gustave Eiffel or the technical prowess of the dancers at the Lido on the Champs-Elysées, you’re spoilt for choice!
Wine and champagne
Wine and champagne are an integral part of the French ‘art de vivre’. Grape varieties and vintage wines come from all four corners of France, but they can all be tasted in Paris. At the Caves du Louvre, visitors can learn the secrets of how the finest wines are made, and Ô château proposes an oenological tour of France. On the other side of the Seine, discover champagne from the ‘terroirs’ of France at Dilletantes, Paris’s house of champagne.
Pottery and porcelain
A number of French cities are renowned for their pottery and porcelain. Located in the centre of the Parc de Saint-Cloud, the Manufacture Royale de Sèvres has been making the most beautiful porcelain in Europe for nearly three hundred years. 90-minute guided tours explain how this exceptional Sèvres porcelain is made.
Christian Louboutin’s red-lacquered soles, Chantal Thomass’chic lingerie, and the elegant haute couture houses of Chanel or Yves Saint-Laurent are some of the ultimate embodiments of French luxury. And in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, fashion-lovers will lose their heads over Laulhère’s famous French berets.
For over four hundred years, the Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins has produced the finest and most magnificent tapestries, following traditional methods. Today, the Manufacture is home to a number of artists who continue to create tapestries which are used to furnish state buildings.
Antique dealers and flea markets
Paris is the city for antique dealers and flea markets, and some of its neighbourhoods are entirely given over to this activity. The best known are the Paul Bert Serpette market in Saint-Ouen, the Puces de Paris, the Marché Malassis, the Carré Rive Gaucheand the Village Saint-Paul in the Marais. And if it’s books that you’re interested in, the 240 second-hand bookstalls along the Seine are a treasure-trove of antique, rare and second-hand books and other curiosities. Bargain-hunters take note!