Jet to the French capital this month to join the super-chic for Paris Fashion Week, catch a romantic opera, visit an art fair – and ensconce yourself in a Marais café for a Mardi-Gras-day crêpe
‘I love Paris in the springtime’ goes the famous Cole Porter song, and strolling through Paris in March as winter draws to an end and the budding flowers reveal the promise of a warmer season to come, you can’t help but see why the French capital is the stuff of songs at this time of year. Here are our top picks of what to do in the City of Light this month, to make you fall in love with Paris just as much as Mr Porter.
The Centre Pompidou, home to Europe’s largest contemporary and modern art collection, is presenting a not-to-be-missed retrospective of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s oeuvre this spring (12 February to 9 June), showing more than 500 works that established ‘the eye of the century’ as a key figure of modernity. On display are Cartier-Bresson’s most iconic images, as well as his less-well-known photo reportages and forays into the world of film.
The 4 March is Mardi Gras, traditionally celebrated in English-speaking countries as Pancake Day, and although the French version of the gourmet feast takes place earlier in the year, any excuse to devour a crêpe in the country from which they originate is valid. Marais crêperie Breizh Café, on rue Vieille du Temple, is arguably the capital’s best, serving seasonal fillings (such as scallops, cream and leeks) in its savoury buckwheat galettes, while deliciously sweet crêpes for dessert feature salted caramel and vanilla ice cream, all to be washed down with traditional Breton cider. Cancale oysters, in season at this time of year, are also on the menu.
A romantic trip to Paris wouldn’t be complete without an opulent evening at the opera, and what better performance to see than Puccini’s La Bohème? A moving love story set in Paris, about a young man and woman. From 15 March, the Italian masterpiece will be performed at Paris’s strikingly modern Opéra Bastille, with iconic scenes, including the lovers’ moonlight duet and the brightly lit grand café, evoking the eternally bohemian Paris that awaits you outside.
Leggy models and impeccably dressed fashion editors invade the French capital at this time of year as Paris Fashion Week gets underway (until 5 March), with most of the action taking place in the Jardin des Tuileries – a sashay away from Mandarin Oriental, Paris. Take inspiration for the new season and kit yourself out in spring/summer threads with a spot of shopping in the picturesque Jardins du Palais Royal around the corner. Combine a springtime stroll through the trees, with forays into luxury French boutiques such as Pierre Hardy and Didier Ludot. Or on a fine day after shopping, relax with a coffee in the pretty inner garden at Mandarin Oriental, Paris, where alfresco lunch and dinner from the Camélia restaurant is served from April.
Art lovers visiting Paris are spoilt for choice in March, with not one but two art fairs dedicated to drawing taking place in the capital at the end of the month: established galleries from around the world will be showing more than 1,000 works at the historical setting of Palais Brongniart for the Salon du Dessin (26 to 31 March); and contemporary pieces from up-and-coming international galleries will be on display at the newly reopened, glass-roofed Carreau du Temple for Drawing Now Paris (26 to 30 March). Both are great events at which to pick up a unique piece – a perfect souvenir to bring back from a city steeped in art and culture.
Londoner Kim Laidlaw has lived in Paris for almost a decade and writes for magazines, websites and travel guides