Paris: Le Marais and Les Halles
SEE Musée Carnavalet
23 rue de Sévigné, 01/44-59-58-58, paris.fr/musees/musee_carnavalet
Composed of two beautiful Renaissance mansions situated amid manicured gardens, the museum charts the history of Paris through the belle epoque (late 1800s to WWI) and the present day. Paintings, sculptures, Neolithic archeological finds, and maps. Free.
SEE Place des Vosges
Tidy early-17th-century row houses surround a grassy square. Their stately, formal elegance epitomizes architecture in the Marais, much of which was built for aristocrats. Businesses under the arcade, which wraps around the square, provide opportunities for splurging on clothes and art.
EAT Au Petit Fer à Cheval
30 rue Vieille du Temple, 01/42-72-47-47, cafeine.com
The kitchen at the "Little Horseshoe" (named for its U-shaped bar) keeps cooking until 1 a.m. It has a deserved reputation for moderately priced, robust French cuisine (the duck confit in particular). Weathered white tiles, chipped mirrors, and old wooden subway seats provide charm.
EAT Brasserie Louis Philippe
66 quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 01/42-72-29-42
Unpretentious, unrenovated fin de siècle decor-faded mirrors, tiles, ironwork, and a wood-and-leather spiral staircase. Order a steak in pepper or blue-cheese sauce.
EAT Minh Chau
10 rue de la Verrerie, 01/42-71-13-30
One of the Marais's cheapest, friendliest restaurants, which is why it's usually packed. Refuel with such Vietnamese staples as spring and imperial rolls wrapped in mint leaves, and sautéed beef and onions over rice.
EAT Sacha Finkelsztajn
27 rue des Rosiers, 01/42-72-78-91, laboutiquejaune.com
A landmark bakery in the Jewish part of the Marais offering Yiddish goodies like fresh bread with poppy seeds and lemon cheesecake. It even has free samples. Unoccupied stools are rare, so consider a picnic on the grass at the nearby Place des Vosges.
13 rue des Archives, 01/42-71-69-69
The wall along the sidewalk at this minimalist café slides open in warm weather, providing a breezy view of life in the fashionable Marais. While away the hours in one of the comfortable armchairs.
DRINK La Belle Hortense
31 rue Vieille du Temple, 01/48-04-71-60, cafeine.com
A diminutive bookstore-bar that triples as a gallery and quadruples as a wineshop; it also occasionally holds literary events.
25 rue du Roi de Sicile, 06/13-25-82-78
The walls are red, and 1920s-style Soviet Constructivist posters hang from the walls, but what really sets this bar apart are the inexpensive cocktails in a neighborhood that isn't. Rotating photograph exhibitions, too.
SHOP Blaq Out
52 rue Charlot, 01/42-77-88-18, blaqout.com
For DVDs of documentary, indie, and auteur films the chain stores can't be bothered with. The friendly employees enjoy guessing your tastes and suggesting titles (even if they don't carry them). The shop stocks discs in different languages and hosts public get-togethers with directors and actors.
12 rue de la Grande-Truanderie, 01/42-36-19-91
Affordable vintage garb from decades past. French Navy pantaloons, Hawaiian flower-print shirts, and leather slacks are easy finds, but rarities-say, a strapless raffia clutch-do crop up.
PLAY Forum des Images
Forum des Halles, down the Porte St-Eustache stairs located in place Carrée, 01/44-76-62-00, forumdesimages.net Paris's largest vidéothèque screens more than 6,500 films shot in the capital (Breathless, Last Tango in Paris, etc.). Movie lovers select the film they want from a database, and then enjoy their choice on miniscreens designed for three or four viewers. The collection, dating from 1896, is touted as the "memory of Paris." E5.50 for two hours of viewing.
PLAY Les Bains
7 rue du Bourg l'Abbé, 01/48-87-01-80
Dress über-hip and wipe off the smile for the detached cool look needed to get into this club. (Warning: Lines and wait times can sometimes test one's patience.) The institution suffered somewhat from a botched 2004 renovation, but it's still frequented by such aristocrats as Madonna, Brad Pitt, and Diddy, who once commandeered the turntables to wild cheering. Autograph-hunting deemed gauche.