It’s one thing to visit Paris as a tourist, as nearly 15 million people do every year. But the real magic happens when you have the time to simply inhabit the city, to meander its side streets and find the places normally reserved for in-the-know Parisians. To help fuel your wanderlust for the 2,000-year-old French capital, we’ve asked a few HEC Paris MBA students to share their favorite outposts, discovered during their 16-month-long studies in France:
Best place to study: Bibliothèque Mazarine, 23 Quai de Conti, 6th Arrondisement
History: Originating from the private collection of Cardinal Mazarin, France’s oldest public library is known for saving many of the books confiscated during the French Revolution. The grand reading room dates from the 17th-century, when it was designed by King Louis XIV’s preferred architect, Louis Le Vau.
When: Weekdays before or during exam weeks
Recommended by Ysabella Poblete, MBA ’18: “The library is well lit from its gilded lamps, massive windows, and imposing chandeliers. The classic wooden chairs and tables are so comfortable you won’t notice that you’ve been sitting there for hours. Not to mention the WIFI is ultrafast and reliable. The library is located near Rue de Seine, which houses charming cafés and art galleries giving you the perfect place to wander aimlessly if you need a break from studying.”
Favorite Garden: Jardin du Luxembourg, Rue de Médicis, 6th Arrondisement
History: These well-manicured, 25 hectares of land, commissioned by Queen Marie de Medici in 1612, feature classically styled English and French gardens, a geometric forest, and an orchard with nearly forgotten varieties of apples.
Recommended by Intan Elfarani, MBA ’18: “I love the setting, because in Jakarta, there aren’t any big and beautiful spaces like this. The first time I sat in one of the benches in front of Luxembourg Palace was in the winter, and parts of the park were still green. It was so good for my eyes. Now with the sunny weather, the park is really beautiful. My French is super-basic, but occasionally I’ll speak with the older ladies walking their dogs. They are always really nice. Paris is great, because there are so many different cultures of people.”
Coffeeshop: 5 Pailles, 79 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 10th Arrondisement
History: Though it opened at the beginning of 2017, Vogue has already named this coffeehouse one of the “New Paris Spots to Check Out.” The magazine heralded its “curated interior design, fresh fragrant beans and perfect latte art.”
When: Late-afternoon goûter
Recommended by Melinda Aulie, MBA ’18: “It’s more than the delicious lattés or the rosemary-orange tea cake. Owners Ege and Emre have created a home away from home for me in Paris. The shop’s pastry selection is incredible—they are always introducing new ones—but I prefer the chocolate chip cookies, which are as good as the ones you can get in the United States.”
Wine Bar: L’Arrière Cour, 9 Rue Biot, 17th Arrondisement
History: In the three months since its opening, L’Arrière Cour has earned a reputation for yummy cocktails and a wide selection of wines. To accompany drinks such as the Pop Colada (rum infused with popcorn, vanilla liqueur, crème of coco and pineapple juice), chef Raphael Garnier has created a menu which features mini plates such as sea-bream ceviche and squid stuffed with mushrooms and pine nuts.
When: You need a break from the hustle and bustle of Paris
Recommended by Martin Dion, MBA ’17: “Secreted away at the end of a courtyard on rue Biot, L’Arriére Cour is one of the 17th arrondissement’s best finds. Its entrance is hidden—to enter, you must go through a porte cochère (carriage entrance). A candle-lit path leads to this charming, quiet space which features a fountain, a winter garden and plenty of creative cocktails and appetizers. If you go, ask for François or Félicien, and tell them Martin sent you.”
Favorite exhibit: 5th floor of the Musée d’Orsay, 1 Rue de la Lègion d’Honneur, 7th Arrondisement
History: When Impressionism emerged as an art movement in the late 19th century, the French critics scoffed at it. “A wallpaper pattern is more highly finished than this seascape,” was one critique of Claude Monet’s early work
When: With friends
Recommended by Allison Scott, MBA ’17: “I went to the Musée d’Orsay when I was 18, during my first visit to Paris. It’s still my favorite museum, partially because of the building’s beautiful architecture and natural light. Every time I have friends in town, I take them to the Fifth Floor to see the Impressionist paintings. At the end, we’ll always guess which ones are the other’s favorites. There is a painting that I love there, by Manet, of a pale lady with dark hair and dark eyes lounging on a sofa. Her face is amazing; I could look at it for hours.”