You don’t have to be a Le Cordon Bleu-level chef to appreciate Julia Child’s Paris. The bonne vivante, who taught the world how to cook French cuisine (or at least just appreciate it more), loved all aspects of her years in Paris, a city that showed her how to savour life in full.
Much of the post-war Paris that Julia knew has disappeared, but some of her favourite destinations remain, and are classic must-visits for anyone wanting to take their Parisian holiday to a satisfying new level.
Hôtel Pont Royal
This is where Julia and Paul Child holed up on arriving in Paris in November 1948. Treat yourself to a night, or just to a cocktail in the cosy, wood-lined bar that once attracted the likes of Albert Camus and Françoise Sagan, and where you can very much imagine Julia relishing a martini.
The Childs stayed at the hotel for about a month, before moving into a nearby apartment; it’s at 81 Rue de l’Université (Julia’s famous ‘Roo de Loo’) if you feel like making a pilgrimage.
5-7, Rue Montalembert 75007
Les Deux Magots
The Childs came to this legendary café for one of their first Parisian breakfasts; they sat en terrasse enjoying a ‘Complet,’ served with a satisfying side of people-watching. You can still order the breakfast package (albeit in Euros not Francs), and while the clothes and hairstyles of passers-by have changed, the voyeurism to be had here is as fun as ever.
6, Place Saint-Germain des Prés 75006
Le BHV Marais
This department store, known in Julia’s day as Le Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville, was where she went to stock up on ‘pails, dishpans, soap rack, funnel, light plugs, wire, bulbs and garbage cans,’ as well as numerous other home essentials, such as a stove. It’s still the go-to for all sorts of random odds and ends — and ovens, too. The store might have fancied itself up somewhat these days, with chic homeware and fashion offerings in the mix, but the trusty bricolage department lives on, for all your home DIY needs.
52, Rue de Rivoli 75004
The ‘olive-oilery,’ as Julia called it, has lived here since 1822, and has long been a favourite of gourmand Parisians, who adore the aromatic selection of extra virgin oils. Recently renovated, the store is no longer the olde-worlde boutique that Julia once admired — but its oils would surely still win her nod of approval.
23, Rue de Rivoli 75004
Update: Sadly, À l’Olivier has closed its Paris store. For a great selection of olive oils, head to La Grande Épicerie at Le Bon Marché.
Les Puces de Saint-Ouen
Julia Child journeyed to the famous fleamarkets to track down her ultimate mortar and pestle, with which to make quenelles de brochet. Whether you’re looking for something for the kitchen, for the living room, or for your wardrobe, you’ll find it at this wonderfully sprawling market, just north of the Porte de Clignancourt métro station. Go on a weekend, devoting at least half a day to the adventure, and make sure not to miss Marché Vernaison and Marché Paul Bert Serpette, both of which you can enter along Rue des Rosiers.
Julia and her fellow Cordon Bleu students often traipsed to Les Halles for lessons in ingredients. The inner city markets were sadly demolished in 1971 (making way for a large shopping centre and entertainment complex), but one of the most popular market restaurants, Au Pied de Cochon (6, Rue Coquillière 75001) is as lively as ever.
This is where Julia, Paul and friends found themselves at three o’clock one morning, after a night out on the town; as the market workers set up in the dawning light, Julia and co sat down to a traditional onion soup, which you can still order, and at any time of the day or night.
If you’re at Les Halles during the daytime, you can visit another much-loved address of Julia’s: E. Dehillerin (18-20, Rue Coquillière 75001), the cult cookware boutique that had Julia ‘thunderstruck’ by the ‘infinite number of wondrous gadgets, tools, implements and gewgaws,’ and soon a committed ‘copper freak.’
Julia and Paul wined and dined all over town. They were big fans of mid-priced bistrots and brasseries, but also loved to splash out at such storied institutions as La Tour d’Argent and Le Grand Véfour.
For Julia’s fortieth birthday, they celebrated at Lapérouse, a Belle Époque restaurant nestled in a glittering jewel box of a seventeenth-century townhouse; the restaurant has recently been renovated but the ambience remains gloriously hedonistic, and a perfect choice for special nights out.
51, Quai des Grands Augustins 75006