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11 Stunning Architectural Marvels in Paris You Shouldn’t Miss

This self-guided tour explores the historic architecture of Paris and comes with a side of tasty treats.

You don’t have to enter a single museum or art gallery in Paris to explore the city’s rich culture, history, and vibrant art scene. Walking around the City of Light, Parisians are treated to a metropolis beaming with awe-inspiring architecture. Many are well-known, like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Grand Palais, and the Arc de Triomphe, but others are unassuming, waiting to be discovered.

In a city that is home to more than 44,000 restaurants, many of these eateries come with a storied past and are housed in historical buildings. After recently reading Paris in Turmoil by Eric Hazan, I jumped on a high-speed train to Paris, curious to find out if the Paris I knew had b become unrecognizable. Can you still find pockets of surprises not frequented by tourists like myself? The short answer is: oui!

Despite its constant developments (following revolutions, urbanization, and globalization), Paris still houses historical shops and buildings, known as Maisons, which continue to operate like they once had decades prior. Whether you find yourself traipsing from one boulangerie to another, staying in a hotel where literary greats once wrote or shopping in a historical department store—these Parisian stalwarts are both historic and architectural marvels worth seeing for yourself.

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A la Mere de Famille

WHERE: 35 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009 Paris, France

If you love old-school candy shops, you must visit La Mere de Famille. Head to the original Faubourg Montmartre flagship store, a Parisian landmark with a green and gold facade that draws you in and invites you to indulge in sweet treats. Dating back to 1761, the store in the 9th arrondissement started as a simple grocery store, but in 1856, the owners turned it into a confectionary store due to the democratization of sugar in Paris. The original facade still stands with minor renovations by multiple owners, and it is one of the rare candy shops in Paris that is also an official historical monument. The current owners, the Dolfi family, now have the next generation running the show with a commitment to carrying on the history and legacy of the oldest chocolate factory in Paris.

INSIDER TIPBe sure to choose the petit beurre, a house tradition. You also can’t go wrong with the chocolate pralines and chewy nougat.


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WHERE: 51 Rue Montorgueil, 75002 Paris, France

The pedestrian street, rue Montorgueil, can be incredibly overwhelming on weekends thanks to tourists who frequent this eclectic neighborhood in the 2nd arrondissement. But, braving the crowds might be worth it to visit one of the city’s best bakeries: Stohrer. Taking you back to 1730, Nicolas Stohrer was one of Paris’ defining pastry chefs who had been brought to the city by the daughter of the King of France XV because of her love of sweets. Stohrer opened his first and only pastry shop in 1730, which still stands today on rue Montorgueil. Although no longer run by the same family, it is still a family business run by the Dolfi family (yes, the same family running A la Mere de Famille), who are known as royalty when it comes to France’s fine confectionery. Very little has changed here over the decades; cakes are still handmade from scratch, and there are still lines out the door no matter what day of the week you visit.

INSIDER TIPBe sure to get the Baba au Rhum, the original creation by Stohrer.  


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Alfred Sommier Hotel

WHERE: 20 Rue de l'Arcade, 75008 Paris, France

The Alfred Sommier Maison was not always a hotel, but something clicked in the mind of the 5th-generation scion, Richard de Warren, during the pandemic, which encouraged him to turn his Parisian family Maison into a hotel. Dating back to the 19th century, the current luxury hotel, Alfred Sommier Residence, was once a sugar refinery in Paris where horse and carriage would enter the now hotel entrance carrying large amounts of sugar for processing. A former residence recently opened up at what Richard calls “Hotel Particulier” and is now open to the public and feels like you are staying in a friend’s house in Paris. The restaurant, Les Caryatides, in the hotel’s conservatory, is a great place to sit, relax, and enjoy newly interpreted French classics with a twist by chef Edouard Ogier.


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WHERE: 51 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, France

There are not many fromageries run by women in Paris but one of the few that also happens to be considered one of the best in the city. Sitting in a concrete jungle of commercial retailers, the 7th arrondissement is really only worth the trip because of Barthelemy, where cheese expert (affineur in French) Nicole Barthelemy and her formidable cheese-loving family still sell the best hand-selected cheeses from all over France. The shop front is stark and bare, but inside, customers are treated to gorgeously ripe chevre, aged Comte, and tres bien Ossau-Iraty.

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Pavillon de la Reine

WHERE: 28 Pl. des Vosges, 75003 Paris, France

Pavillion de la Reine is located in the Places de Vosges, the oldest square in Paris. On weekends, the entire square, which retail shops flank, is flooded with tourists but Parisians still love visiting with their families. One of the perfect places to escape the crowds is the historical residence and hotel, Pavillon de la Reine. The architecture is characteristic of early 17th-century Paris, and the square has more pre-revolutionary buildings and streets left intact than on any other street in the city. The outside is gorgeous, but as a hotel guest, you can enjoy the sumptuous private garden courtyard and sip on your favorite Parisian cocktail before heading into the hotel restaurant, Anne, and enjoying a seasonal menu by Chef Mathieu Pacaud. If you can afford it, the signature Suite de la Reine has a handcrafted chandelier, a 17th-century fireplace, and original Versailles parquet flooring, which makes it hard to leave the room, even in Paris.


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Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain & Spa

WHERE: 5 Rue du Pré aux Clercs, 75007 Paris, France

One of the newest hotels to the Chevalier family collection is Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain and Spa. Located in the 7th arrondissement, literary lovers will want to stay in this newly renovated hotel that dates back to 1642 because of the famous authors who graced the very rooms you eat, sleep and relax in. If you love your literary authors of the 20th century, you will find it pleasurable to sit in the very same room where James Joyce perhaps envisaged his masterpiece, Dubliners, and finished his last pages of Ulysses. Or perhaps you will marvel in the fact that American poet T. S Eliot wrote some of his finest pieces in this seemingly mythical place. As an ode to the literary greats of the hotel, the history of the hotel has been maintained with tasteful designer furnishings.

INSIDER TIPCheck out the old staircase.

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WHERE: 68 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris, France

If you are like me and tend to stay away from the insanely popular and overcrowded Champs Elysee, you might have missed an opportunity to visit one of France’s most celebrated perfume houses. Founded in 1828, Guerlain is an international brand and can be found all around the world, but it is the original Maison located on Rue de Paix, where perfume lovers gravitate towards when in Paris. Perfume aside, the Guerlain Maison was built by Charles Mewes, who built Paris Ritz. The art nouveau structure is now recognized as a historical monument and protected by French preservation laws. In 2013, the house underwent renovations to celebrate its 100th anniversary but what still remains is the carved stone and sculpted metal—hallmarks of the Belle Epoque style.

INSIDER TIPTreatments are available in the Maison’s exclusive Institut Guerlain, a beauty spa that offers made-to-measure treatments.

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Galerie Lafayette

WHERE: 40 Bd Haussmann, 75009 Paris, France

It is hard not to turn into a shopaholic when in Paris. Even if you are trying to break a bad habit, you really must give in to temptation and visit the historical Galerie Lafayette. The department store dates back to 1893 and has always been a place for shopping and spending money, with the original owners wanting to create a “luxury bazaar” in the 19th century. Because of this dream, the golden light and majestic dome were created, which makes up the great Art Nouveau hall of the Galeries Lafayette department store. Most recently, the basement of the department store has been transformed into a place of wellness and refuge, with signature massages on offer for people needing to stop, recharge, and relax. Fun fact: Lafayette Haussmann is the most visited monument in Paris, second to the Eiffel Tower.

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Le Scribe, Opera

WHERE: 1 Rue Scribe, 75009 Paris, France

Located a short 3-minute walk from Galerie Lafayette, you will find a true Paris icon that not many know about. Now a luxury Sofitel hotel, Le Scribe was once home to the prestigious Jockey Club in Paris, where movers and shakers gathered, sipped old-fashioned cocktails, and talked business while smoking cigars. However, the most notable event that marks the Haussman building (created by French civil engineer Georges-Eugene Haussmann) as iconic is that the building is known as the place that “liberated” Paris. In 1940, the hotel came under attack and was the headquarters for Nazi propagandists until the Allies successfully liberated the city. This was the place where thousands of journalists gathered to write, type, and broadcast the news from the hotel’s rooftop that Paris was liberated! Tres Gallant!

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Le Petit Retro

WHERE: 5 Rue Mesnil, 75116 Paris, France

If you can’t go to Le Chiberta near Paris’ major shopping street Champs Elysees, you really must make the pilgrimage to one of Paris’ oldest and last standing original bistros: Le Petit Retro. Under the watchful eye of celebrity chef Guy Savoy and young chef Irwin Durand (also the chef at La Chiberta), the restaurant in the 16th-arrondissement is considered one of the last true Parisian bistros. Listed as a historical monument, the walls and ceilings of the house are decorated with earthenware tiles and floral motifs typical of Art Nouveau.

INSIDER TIPThe most decadent choux pastry with a super-rich chocolate ganache sauce waits for you at this Paris landmark.


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Louvre Post Office

WHERE: 50 Rue du Louvre, 75001 Paris, France

A post office that is worthy of a detour? Well, in Paris, anything goes. Inaugurated in 1888, the Hotel des Poste de Paris in the heart of the Halles District was renovated entirely during the second empire and was the key in modernizing Paris, according to many historians. Earlier in 2022, the Louvre Post Office opened after 9 years of renovations, which now sees the historical and iconic venue still a working post office by day but by night an entertainment district with a hotel, restaurants, and bars. The main attraction is the boutique hotel, Madame Reve but more importantly, the restaurant, La Plume, which is the hottest place to dine in Paris at the moment with a panoramic rooftop bar offering excellent views of the city, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur, Saint-Eustache church, Montparnasse Tower, and the Pompidou Center.

INSIDER TIPThe menu is French and Japanese fusion. I recommend ordering the lobster donburi.