Clickbait is in the eye of the beholder. For me, if a headline includes the word ‘Paris’ or the phrase ‘French girl’ my cursor is all over it. Super obvious statement: I was beyond excited to visit Paris for the first time this past December and see the city that so many of my most-loved films, novels, and television shows have turned into a destination that occupies my daydreams and has me calculating how far I can extend my credit limit. I’m happy to report back that the city lives up to everything I’d imagined — and that there’s more than one way to take it in. To help you plan (or just daydream about) a future flight to France, let’s revisit our favourite cool, fictional French girls to see how they’d live it up in the City of Light.
Marie Antoinette (As Played By Kirsten Dunst)
I know, I know. Marie Antoinette was a real person but she wasn’t terribly popular in Paris (the French Revolution-era rumour mill was vicious). Sofia Coppola’s version of the French Dauphine was a little sunnier — think: pastel-coloured Converse high tops, macarons for breakfast, and the constant sound of champagne corks popping. Marie Antoinette (who was quite smart and generous) never actually said ‘Let them eat cake’ but you definitely should because this is a city that knows how to do pastry better than anywhere else.
Where to stay: The Saint James is the only hotel in Paris actually housed in a former French Chateau and it’s truly fit for royalty. Suites overlook the chateau gardens where cozy heated gazebos prove the perfect place for a glass of bubbly all year round.
What to eat and drink: Order the famously rich Mont Blanc from Angelina’s Rue de Rivoli Tearoom and pair it with a cup or their dark, spicy hot chocolate. To sip on later? Veuve Clicquot Rosé champagne, naturally, from Marie Antoinette’s signature coupe glass.
Where to shop: Visit jewellery shop Monsieur Paris — I’m obsessed with their nod to the Dauphine’s eventual successor, the gorgeous Joséphine pendant.
What to see: Versailles, duh. Marie Antoinette’s former home is a mere 20 minutes away by taxi.
Paris pulled me in very young thanks to the mega-charming Madeline books by writer/illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans. Madeline’s adventures across Paris made convent school living look like non-stop fun and chic AF (I mean, those hats). Everyday at half past nine, Madeline and her girl gang would leave their home for a typically Parisien day in the city — one that’s still appealing now (if you leave the nun at home).
Where to stay: In a former 17th-century convent, of course. The Saint-Paul Hotel in Le Marais is quaint, inexpensive, and in the coolest neighbourhood in Paris.
What to eat and drink: The character’s namesake cookie is a great place to start but you can’t survive on Madelines alone. Check out Le Dindon en Laisse (also in Le Marais) for a hearty, typically French meal (and an excellent and affordable French wine list) or the super popular L’As du Fallafel for quick and amazing Middle Eastern takeout.
Where to shop: Every well-read school girl or former school girl will fall in love with Left Bank indie bookshop, Shakespeare and Company. Their warm-weather outdoor author events are the best way to discover your fave new writer.
What to see: With a museum pass from the Paris Tourist office, have as many wholesome, nun-approved educational experiences that you can fit into two days — leaving the nights free to… indulge.
If Wes Anderson made French films they’d look like Amélie, with a precise amount of quirk and an insane level of symmetry. Amélie Poulain is artsy, shy but mischievous, and searching for her soulmate (because this is Paris, and who isn’t?) But maybe it’s the city itself that’s her true love — or is that just too cute?
Where to stay: I dare you to not to fall hard for Grands Boulevards hotel, with its perfect decor (think blush pink velvet sofas and canopied beds). If you’re a morning person, breakfast in their enclosed atrium is incredible. If not, the hotel has the most adorable ‘Do not disturb’ signs.
What to eat and drink: This is Paris, which means it’s perfectly acceptable to live on cheese, baguettes, and vin de table (that’s French for cheap but decent wine). La Grande Epicerie sells all of the above in a tres chic indoor market that puts Whole Foods to shame.
Where to shop: Waitressing doesn’t do much more than pay the basic bills so if you’re on a budget like Amélie’s check out “les puces” — Parisien outdoor flea markets selling vintage clothing, mid-century antiques, old books and artwork, and other second-hand gems. St-Ouen has one of the city’s largest but there’s a lovely one in Port de Vanves, too.
What to see: Wander around Amélie’s Montmartre neighbourhood to take in the streets where Dali and Picasso once lived before heading to the Louvre to see her fragile bff’s beloved Renoirs.
Did anyone ever want to be the cool French girl more than Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw? Carrie got to briefly live out her Parisien fantasy when she moved to the city with her much older, much more pretentious art scene boyfriend. Most of her time there was spent shopping (do!) and crying (skip it) while wearing fabulous couture dresses (if it’s in your closet, pack it).
Where to stay: On a dreamy little side street near the Champs-Élysées is the Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg where I had the best balcony view of my entire time in Paris. I could see Lanvin. I could see Hermès (both out my window and in the bathroom where the label provided the hotel’s bath and body products).
What to eat and drink: Famous French patisserie Laduree is much too close for comfort for anyone with a macaron addiction. Walk it off by heading to Café de Flore where Carrie would go in search of fellow Fashion Week street stars on their lunch breaks.
Where to shop: Dior, Chanel, and Yves St. Laurent are all within walking distance. If you don’t feel like making a purchase that rivals your student loan debt, so is & Other Stories.
What to see: If you must cry, the Musée Rodin is the place to do it. The gardens are quiet and everyone will believe you when you say you’re simply moved by the sculptor’s unmatched genius.