12 Hours in Paris

Three and a half years ago, I followed my friend Adam’s lead and imagined what I would do if I was given just Twelve Hours in Paris.

I still stand by the choices I made then. But, prompted by reader Patricia’s recent comment on that post, I thought it would be fun to revisit that theme now, and dream up another ideal Parisian day, featuring shops and restaurants that have opened in the meantime.

My twelve hours in Paris, 2012 edition, will begin in late morning with a croissant from Gontran Cherrier’s bakery, which I think is one of the best in Paris, extra flaky and extra good. I will also buy a half loaf of his rye and red miso bread, so good I won’t mind schlepping it around with me all day.

I will then spend a couple of leisurely hours walking up and around the Montmartre hill, which remains full of secrets even when you’ve lived in the neighborhood for many years. I will climb up staircases and down cobblestoned streets, check out the vineyard, peek into courtyards (and tiptoe in for a closer look if the gate happened to be open), and enjoy the village-y quiet and the greenery.

Hopping onto the metro or catching a Vélib’, I will go and have lunch at Bob’s Kitchen, the vegetarian restaurant where I cooked for a short while last year. I will order the day’s veggie stew, the satisfying mix of grains, legumes, roasted vegetables, and crudités I lunched on day in, day out during my stint there. I might also get one of their irresistible maki (garnished with avocado, mango, and daikon radish) to share.

After that, depending on my mood and the weather, I will either go and sit in the Square du Temple park to enjoy the sunshine and a good book, or retreat to one of the nearby museums — perhaps the Musée des Arts et Métiers or the Centre Pompidou.

If I feel like a treat in the middle of the afternoon, I will go and have a cup of tea and a fresher-than-fresh pastry at Jacques Genin‘s: he specializes in rejuvenating French classics, and his salon de thé is a bright and comfortable haven. He also crafts exquisite chocolates, smooth caramels, and delicate pâtes de fruit, so I might get a box of one or the other for later consumption, or as a gift.

After that, I will take some time to walk around the Haut Marais neighborhood, explore the little streets and their designer boutiques, and drop by Première Pression Provence for some olive oil and Poilâne for a bag of punition cookies. I’ll walk up to Merci on Boulevard Beaumarchais to see what’s new in their kitchenware (downstairs) and dinnerware (upstairs) selection.

I will then rest my tired legs at Candelaria, a cocktail bar that’s “hidden” behind an unmarked door at the back of a tiny taqueria, before heading to dinner at Septime, where I would sit back and delight in Bertrand Grébaut’s vibrant and intuitive cuisine.

My twelve hours will likely be up by the end of the meal, and I will be exhausted, but well fed and happy with the feeling that I’d have made the most of my time in Paris.

What would you do with twelve hours in Paris? And how about twelve hours in the city you know or like best?


Gontran Cherrier Boulanger, 22 rue Caulaincourt, 75018 Paris, M° Blanche. Closed on Wednesdays.
Bob’s Kitchen, 74 rue des Gravilliers, 75003 Paris, M° Arts et Métiers. Open daily.
Centre Pompidou, place Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris, M° Rambuteau. Closed on Tuesdays.
Musée des Arts et Métiers, 60 rue Réaumur, 75003 Paris, M° Arts et Métiers. Closed on Mondays.
Jacques Genin, 133 rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris, M° Filles du Calvaire. Closed on Mondays.
Première Pression Provence, 35 rue Charlot, 75003 Paris, M° Filles du Calvaire. Closed on Mondays.
Poilâne, 38 rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris, M° Filles du Calvaire. Closed on Mondays.
Merci, 111 boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, M° Saint-Sébastien-Froissard. Closed on Sundays.
Candelaria, 52 rue de Saintonge, 75003 Paris, M° Filles du Calvaire. Open daily.
Septime, 80 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris, +33 (0)1 43 67 38 29, M° . Closed on Saturdays and Sundays; no lunch service on Mondays.

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