Visiting the Palais Royal

Just across the street from the Lou­vre is the just as classy, but slight­ly less con­gest­ed, court­yard of the Palais Royal. 

Built in the mid-17th cen­tu­ry and passed down through the roy­al House of Orleans, it of course has that typ­i­cal­ly Parisian, rich his­to­ry of the­ater, pub­lic min­gling, and gen­er­al fanci­ness, like so much of this town. 

Oh, and once upon a time, it was also grand cen­tral sta­tion for ‘beau­coup’ open-air pros­ti­tu­tion, so much so, that King Louis the 9th, the biggest wet-blan­ket of all the Louis­es in France (and name­sake of St. Louis, Mis­souri, which is also a lot more fun that IX ever was), who after hav­ing enough of hear­ing all the mur­mur­ings of the lat­est in hook­er news over Catholic Mass at the Sainte-Chapelle, decreed an out­right ban on pros­ti­tu­tion and pimp­ing. But his homies were like, « Nah dawg, isn’t that a bit much, » (ask­ing for a friend, kind of stuff). 

So Louis IX set­tled for push­ing them out of the sight of prop­er soci­ety to the edge of the city on spe­cial streets with­in Paris. But by the time he was gone, the world’s old­est pro­fes­sion (besides Tour Guid­ing) had re-staked its claim on the good real estate in town, the arcades of the Palais Royal.

Today, the Palais Roy­al is a beau­ti­ful­ly restored com­plex includ­ing gov­ern­ment offices, a sculp­ture gar­den, restau­rants, the­atre spaces, lux­u­ry stores, and a gen­er­al chill vibe. It feels Parisian rather than touristy, even though it has it’s fair share of vis­i­tors (and prob­a­bly hook­ers, let’s be hon­est, but I would imag­ine they are the high-end sort so they are more like­ly com­pan­ions to lone­ly Lau­rents din­ing at le Grand Vefour rather than flash­ing decol­letage invit­ing­ly at passers-by. For that, vis­it Rue Tra­cy. That street is a ver­i­ta­ble cleav­age contest). 

The main court­yard (and main attrac­tion) of the Palais Roy­al fea­tures the Buren Columns; black-and-white striped col­umn sculp­tures of vary­ing heights. And yes, you can walk on/climb/take pho­tos on them. Just ask all of Insta­gram. Just don’t try to sell your­self there, or do as pros­ti­tu­tion was legal­ized recent­ly. Now only being a john is a crime… seriously. 

The gar­den inside the Palais Roy­al (free to enter btw) is a great pow­er-down spot after vis­it­ing the Lou­vre. It asks noth­ing of you except that you bask in the sun on a green Parisian park chair. You can snag a crepe from Le Mus­cade (also they have lots of gluten-free stuff as they are from Brit­tany, home of buck­wheat every­thing. I rec­om­mend the salt­ed caramel crepe) and a take­away cof­fee from Cafe Kit­sune. Kick back under the shade of the rows of oh-so-French­ly man­i­cured trees, reset your mind while nosh­ing in the foot­steps of the roy­als, or just kill time before your reser­va­tion at le Grand Vefour. 

When you are refreshed and ready for your next bout of Parisian beau­ty, his­to­ry, and archi­tec­ture, make your way to the Gal­lerie Vivi­enne, one of Paris’ most beau­ti­ful cov­ered pas­sages, for a glass of wine at LeGrand Filles & Fils. 

Then, on to retail ther­a­py on Rue St. Hon­ore. This is where posh Paris hides the good stuff like the Dior and the Chanel. They don’t have shops on bustling Rue de Riv­o­li, but instead on the qui­eter, more exclu­sive Rue St. Honore. 

This is a neigh­bor­hood of two dis­tinct iden­ti­ties, as French as it gets: sev­er­al books’ worth of his­to­ry and haute cou­ture on one hand and Japan­ese influ­ence on the other. 

If you were able to claim a reser­va­tion at Le Grand Vefour, then there you are. But if your bud­get is what we call, “I have more taste than mon­ey” then head to Sap­poro or Sap­poro 2. The din­ing rooms aren’t the most charm­ing, so snag a seat at the bar so you can watch the Japan­ese chefs hard at work. Dive into some of the most deli­cious ramen soup you have ever tried for most­ly under 10€. It’s one of the best sit-down val­ues in Paris and it’s prox­im­i­ty to The Lou­vre makes it a great place to have an inex­pen­sive lunch where you can sit down semi-comfortably. 

Skip dessert at Sap­poro but don’t REALLY skip dessert (you’re in Paris). Try some Japan­ese influ­enced pas­tries at Aki Café, choco­lates from Jean-Paul Hevin (try the “pomme de terre” a choco­late ganache “pota­to” wrapped inside a fon­dant “peel”), or salt­ed caramel mac­arons from Pierre Herme, the Picas­so of Pastry. 

Restau­rant Palau roy­al also has an amaz­ing terrace.

Address: 8 Rue de Mont­pen­si­er, 75001

Metro: Palais-Royale-Musée-du-Lou­vre (lines 1 or 7) 

Neigh­bor­hood: 1st arrondisse­ment, Palais Roy­al area

Near­by: Lou­vre, Tui­leries

Open­ing times: From 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. everyday

How to book tick­ets to Palais Royal

You don’t need to, it’s free

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