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City Guide: Paris

Have you been to Paris (or do you live there)? For our next city guide, we’re touring the City of Lights with Morgane Sézalory, the founder of the cool-girl French clothing brand Sézane. Here, she reveals the best view of the city and how to not look like a tourist (and we share a few of our favorites, too)…

Morgane Sézalory: Our family moved to Paris when I was five. This is where I feel at home. Every time I come back from traveling, I find the city beautiful, small and calm. It’s perfect.

WHERE TO EAT

Liberté Patisserie Boulangerie is an industrial-style bakery with cement walls, fluorescent light pendants and vintage bread racks in the 10th arrondissement. There’s also an open laboratory, so you can see the magic behind their buttery croissants and chocolate chip madeleines.

Septime in the 11th arrondissement serves modern French cuisine in a relaxed farmhouse-style room. The menu focuses on seasonal ingredients — like marinated asparagus with orange slices, or milk-fed veal with salty trout eggs. Book dinner reservations weeks in advance, or come in at lunchtime for a better chance of getting a table. If you’re in the mood for seafood, check out Septime’s more casual sister restaurant, Clamato.

L’As du Fallafel in the Marais has the best sandwiches. [Ed note: The New York Times calls it “the falafel destination in Paris, indeed in Europe.”] The falafel is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. It’s served with creamy hummus, roasted eggplant and shredded cabbage inside soft pita — then drenched in a tahini sauce. Cash only.

Joanna’s two cents:

The bright Melbourne-inspired cafe Holybelly (10th), with music blasting, makes it worth taking a quick break from French food. We loved the fluffy scrambled eggs with two sides (options included pan-fried haloumi cheese and roasted garlic mushrooms) but they’re also famous for their bacon pancakes with homemade Bourbon butter. They’re open for breakfast and lunch, and be prepared for a short wait.

Our favorite dinner was at Chez Janou on a quiet corner in the 3rd arrondissement. The friendly staff greets you with a smile, as you join locals ranging from lanky teenagers to older couples in thick sweaters. We loved the warm, glowing room, with vintage advertising posters hung crookedly on the walls. Enjoy classic dishes (think: French onion soup, scallop risotto and beef stew), and end your meal with a scoop of chocolate mousse from the huge communal bowl.

WHERE TO HANG

Musée Rodin in the 7th arrondissement is a stunning 18th-century mansion and sculpture garden dedicated to the works of Auguste Rodin. If you’re short on time, opt to see the gardens only, which house eight of Rodin’s pieces — including The Thinker — among rose bushes. Bonus: It’s half the ticket price.

Take time to walk along the banks of the Seine, the river that flows through the heart of Paris. It borders 10 arrondissements, and it’s a nice way to see the city. If you’re hungry, have a picnic of cheese, bread and wine along the banks.

Walk through the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg. Afterward, if you need a midday pick-me-up, stop by the nearby Bread & Roses in the 6th arrondissement. I’m crazy in love with their tarte provencale (a cheesy vegetable tart).

If you’re with kids, explore the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution in the 5th arrondissement. It has more than 7,000 preserved animals in a glass-domed 19th-century hall. The sound effects are really clever! Also, the nearby Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie Comparée, also in the 5th, has more than 600 animal skeletons, including a rhino, a hedgehog and an enormous whale.

Explore the Centre Georges Pompidou, in the 4th arrondissement. Ride the dizzying exterior escalators to see Europe’s largest collection of modern art — from Matisse to Andy Warhol. Rooftop admission is included in admission, so go upstairs to see a panoramic view of the city.

The Musée d’Orsay (7th arrondissement, opposite the Tuileries Gardens) is housed in an old train station (built to greet visitors at the 1900 World’s Fair) and showcases paintings, sculptures, photography and architecture. You’ll find pieces by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Van Gogh.

Joanna’s two cents:

One evening, I took a winding bike ride along the Seine, in view of the sparkling Eiffel Tower, pinching myself the whole way. It’s easy to rent wheels through Paris’s shared bike system, Vélib’. Bike stations are all around the city; you just use a credit card to rent one, and then return it to any other station. Such a fun, freeing way to explore the city!

WHERE TO SHOP

Come visit L’Appartement Sézane! The brick-and-mortar store, in the 2nd arrondissement, lets you try on pretty pieces — like dresses, jeans and shoes — and place orders for delivery (free anywhere in the city in 48 hours). If you’d like to take something away immediately, stop by the neighboring La Librairie, our second physical shop dedicated to books, coffee and leather bags.

If you’re craving Parisian chocolate, or if you need a gift to bring home, pop by À la Mère de Famille. This charming shop has multiple locations around the city. Try the assorted box to experience the chocolatier in all its glory, or stock up on their almond-paste recipe.

Merci, located in the heart of the Marais, is an eclectic design store. You can find things like blush-colored linen towels, tiny hoop earrings, and lamps made from recycled pickle jars. Afterward, enjoy an espresso in the café, with used French books lining the walls.

Astier de Villatte in the 1st arrondissement is a wonderful housewares shop, known for its white glazed pottery and scented candles. (Their “Anchorage” version smells of citrus, magnolia, moss and musk.) You can also find John Derian decoupage plates and paperweights.

Le Bon Marché in the 6th arrondissement was the very first department store in the world. In 1858, founders Aristide and Marguerite Boucicaut wanted to create the “kind of store that would thrill all the senses.” Here you’ll find high-end fashion, beauty, furniture and home accessories. Get lost on the four huge floors, and ride the iconic escalator.

Joanna’s two cents:

Deyrolle, a 186-year-old taxidermy shop in the 7th arrondissement, feels straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. There are two floors, but the top floor is the magical one — you’ll wind through beautiful animals, including polar bears, ostriches and colorful butterflies. Good to note: No animals were killed for the store; they came from zoos or parks, where they died of illness or old age.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Thoumieux in the 7th arrondissement is run by beloved chef Jean François Piège. There’s a great restaurant and bakery, of course, and the rooms have amazing wallpaper!

Hotel Particulier Montmartre is the best secret hotel. Tucked inside a little garden in Montmartre, the hotel is full of luxurious rooms and suites.

If you’d prefer to rent an apartment, check out onefinestay. They have lovely homes that are stocked for travelers (with extra chargers, beauty products, neighborhood guides, even a local cell phone). Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Marais are two fun neighborhoods to consider. (Joanna’s note: Stella and I stayed here and adored it.)

FINAL TIPS

If you want to walk around, don’t be afraid to wear sneakers!