Interview with Sonia Papet, Head Concierge at Le Bristol Paris

What makes Paris so special?

Paris is special because of its history, culture, gastronomy, architecture and the art of living that the city inspires. There is so much to see and do. As head concierge at one of the city’s Palace hotels, Paris is my canvas.

 

Many cities have history, culture, gastronomy, architecture and art de vivre. How do parisians do it differently?

French culture is about the monarchy, the famous French Kings, the Revolution… and also gastronomy! French Haute Cuisine has been registered on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list since 2010. Gastronomy is an art that has been shaped by French culture and perfected by the Parisian way of life: visits to the food markets in the various ‘villages’ within Paris (St-Germain-des-Pres, Montmartre, the Marais…) It is still common to see a beret-wearing cyclist heading home with a baguette under arm.

What is the very best thing about Paris?

There are so many ‘best things’ about Paris, it’s impossible to choose just one. Eric Frechon’s cuisine tops my list. Chef Frechon has been the head of Le Bristol Paris kitchens for 20 years. No one does French cuisine the way he does. He uses the best products to create dishes the way a designer would craft a haute couture dress. Getting lost in Paris is also wonderful. You really feel like you’re in a classic French film when you stroll through the narrow winding streets and cobblestone paths.

Which neighbourhood would you recommend getting lost in?

It can’t really be considered a neighbourhood because they are dotted all over the city, but the covered passages are the best places to go on a rainy day in Paris. I particularly like La Galerie Vivienne, where you can taste delicious wines at the Legrand cellar.

Is there anything you don’t like about Paris?

If anything, it’s having to share the city. Paris is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, and it can feel crowded from time to time. As Head Concierge at Le Bristol Paris, I try to make our guests feel like they have the city to themselves. I often secure exclusive private visits to museums or attractions so that the magic of Paris can be theirs alone for a moment.

How do visitors get insider knowledge on what to see and do?

Paris is constantly evolving. It seems like there is always a new museum, exhibition, restaurant or event that gets a lot of press, but it’s difficult to know if it is worth the trip or not. My job is to know all about what’s on in order to provide our guests with a unique experience in the City of Light. A few exciting things that are happening at the moment are the Opera Garnier’s 350th anniversary gala and the Courtauld exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation. My recommendation is to check in with your concierge to find out what is truly worth seeing.

What is the first thing you do for guests who have never been to Paris before?

With my first-time guests, the first thing I do is offer them a Le Bristol Paris map of the city. It is honestly one of the most useful things to have when visiting Paris for the first time. The map was created by our team to present the city at her best. Secondly, I give them my must-see and do list so that they can enjoy their days to the fullest. And I remind the ladies to wear their most comfortable Repetto flats. My Paris recommendations mean guests may be on their feet for a while!

What is the ideal day for a first-time visitor in Paris?

My ideal day recommendation would go something like this:

Breakfast at Epicure, where they serve bottomless Pain Vivant sourdough bread and, of course, French pastries

Hire a classic car like a 2CV (or a Mercedes Berline for a more comfortable ride) to discover the must-see monuments and areas of Paris

Stop in Montmartre for a climb up to the Sacre Coeur to see the most beautiful view overlooking the city

Lunch at one the iconic Saint-Germain-des-Pres brasseries– Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots

Get a sightseeing cruise after lunch to discover the beauty of Paris from La Seine

Visit the Eiffel Tower at twilight. Have your Concierge book your visit ahead of time if you’d like to have a glass of champagne at the top level

And for the perfect end to a beautiful day, dinner at Girafe, on their breath-taking terrace overlooking the Eiffel Tower.

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