Laura Dowling’s Top 7 Things to Do in Paris

The renowned American floral designer shares her Paris favorites, including gardens, flowers, museums, cafés, and boutiques
A French-style bouquet of peach and purple blooms sits on an outdoor table at a cafe in Paris
A quintessentially French-style bouquet, photographed at a chic Parisian café on the Right Bank, is well-positioned as we watch the amusing sidewalk scene unfold around us, led by a cadre of dapper waiters.

When I’m in Paris on vacances des fleurs (that is, my travels focused on flowers), a big part of the joy is enhancing the experience with inspiration from all over the city. From public gardens in bloom to off-the-beaten-path museums, dining spots favored by locals, and boutiques for the discerning fashionista, here are some of my favorite things to do and places to see in Paris.

1 | Take a Floral Design Class

Flower School Catherine Muller: Whether you are a fleur dilettante dabbling in flowers or a serious professional fleuriste, a flower class with Catherine Muller is a gift of inspiration. Check out for a full list of classes and educational opportunities.

Close up of hands tying a wide periwinkle blue ribbon around a bunch of flowers that is bright purple violets on one half, and white flowers on the other half
Learn how to hand-tie a classic bouquet and other floral arts at a French flower school. Violet and muscari bouquet by Catherine Muller

L’Ecole des Fleuristes de Paris: For 70 years, this school has trained hundreds of professional fleuristes in floral design à la française. Contact Martine Soulier at for custom courses tailored to your needs and timeline.

Insider Tip: Many elite Parisian florists, including Stephane Chappelle, Eric Chauvin, Anne Vitchen, and Clarisse Beraud, offer flower classes for one-on-one training and small groups. Contact your favorite fleuriste for more details.

2 | Stroll the Gardens

Jardin du Palais Royal: With the delightful black-and-white stripes of Colonnes de Buren and a surrounding gallery of shops and restaurants, this lovely jardin of garden roses and topiaries of lime and chestnut trees is a constant source of inspiration only a short stroll from the Louvre. (2 Galerie de Montpensier, 75001 Paris)

Paris statue: Le Charmeur de Serpent
At Jardin du Palais Royal, a pigeon perches on the iconic “Le Charmeur de Serpent” by Martial Thabard circa 1875. Propped beside it is a pastel bouquet of roses, lilac, and clematis.
Laura Dowling bouquet at Colonnes de Buren, Paris
A white bouquet tied with a wide yellow ribbon complements the bold stripes of Colonnes de Buren.

Jardin du Luxembourg: In every season, this oasis in the heart of Paris delights with colorful plantings and beautiful blooms. Be sure to check out la fontaine Médicis for a lovely respite from the bustling fray of city life. (Rue de Médicis – Rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris)

Promenade Plantée: Similar to the High Line in New York City, this 3-mile scenic walk along an abandoned viaduct and rail line is awash in the botanical beauty of arched trellises draped with climbing roses, colorful perennial flower beds, and dozens of varieties of flowering trees including cherry, linden, plum, and hazelnut. Strategically placed benches along the way invite extended contemplation and lingering. The trail begins at Opera Bastille and ends at Bois de Vincennes.

3 | Explore Museums Off the Beaten Path

Paris is home to some of the most spectacular museums in the world, and it’s always a good idea to put the well-known destinations (the Louvre, Museum d’Orsay, and the Rodin Museum) on your travel to-do list. But for an equally unforgettable experience, check out these smaller, less-known museums that are full of charm and inspiration.

The Parisian history-filled halls of Musée Carnevalet, featuring stained glass windows and intricate ironwork street signs
Photo courtesy of Musée Carnevalet

Musée Carnevalet, in the heart of the Marais historic district, is devoted to the history of Paris. It houses one of the most spectacular collections of art, maps, and antiques in the city. It closed for renovation in 2016, but is re-opening in 2020!

Musée Baccarat: A glittering gem of a museum, Musée Baccarat features a collection of crystal dating back to the early 19th century and a spectacular ballroom that rivals Versailles. Make a reservation for lunch at the lovely café, where a delectable menu is served on bone china with Baccarat crystal. (16th arrondissement at 11 place des États-Unis, Paris)

Laura Dowling bouquet on a Parisian carousel pigeon
A charming bouquet of pale lavender and pink garden roses with carnations and astilbe in antique hues matches the whimsical vintage style of a children’s carousel at Musée des Arts Forains, or Fairground Museum.

Musée des Arts Forains: A magical collection of vintage Parisian circus arts and artifacts awaits visitors at this museum in the trendy wine-making quarter of Bercy. Save time for shopping in the nearby Bercy Village.

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature is a charming private museum of hunting and nature. Located in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, it is scheduled to re-open in 2020.

4 | Relish the Best Views

A rooftop cafe table surrounded flowering and green shrubs, with a view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance
Photo courtesy of Hotel Raphael

The Rooftop at Hotel Raphael: In warm weather, sip a glass of bubbly on this secret rooftop garden while admiring extraordinary views of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Sacré Cœur.

Terrass Restaurant & Bar is a fun place to meet for a breathtaking view of the city from Montmarte

5 | Enjoy Flowers in Situ

Stop by these three Parisian hotels to admire the work of some of the city’s most celebrated floral designers (even if you’re not staying there), and plan a day trip to the Loire Valley for the last item on this list.

Four Seasons Hotel Georges V:  When American celebrity florist Jeff Leatham landed at the Hotel Georges V in 1994, he caused a sensation with his striking contemporary designs. Stop by the hotel to see his latest trendsetting displays while grabbing a posh cup of coffee.

Le Bristol Hotel: The hotel’s head florist, Philippe Guillot, creates bounteous floral arrangements in every room, specializing in grand floral focal points that complement the visual splendor of this iconic hotel.

Flowers of Ritz Hotel Paris
At Ritz Paris' Salon Proust, Anne Vitchen's signature arrangement features roses, peonies, and a floating layer of gloriosa lilies.
Chateau near Paris
Flowers in situ at Château de Chenonceau. Photo ©Didier Ronflard

Hotel Ritz Paris: Chief Fleuriste Anne Vitchen never fails to inspire visitors with her gorgeous creations featuring lush and lively seasonal blooms. Schedule afternoon tea in the Salon Proust for a bird’s-eye view of her signature classic rose bouquet.

Château de Chenonceau: This romantic Renaissance châteaux in the Loire Valley sparkles with inspiring floral décor, with magnificent arrangements in every room. Visit the surrounding gardens for more inspiration in the French style. See more châteaux of the Loire Valley

6 | Dine Like a Local

A visit to Paris is always an adventure in high-style French gastronomy, and Michelin-starred restaurants are in abundant supply. But you can come across delectable dining experiences tucked away in neighborhoods, too. My chic Parisian friend, a chef at the Élysée Palace, is my inside source for trendy places to eat beyond the well-worn tourist path.

Paris restaurants: interior Le CasseNoix
Photo courtesy of Le CasseNoix

Le CasseNoix: The chef at this fabulous café, a former cook at the Élysées Palace, conjures up seasonal prix fixe meals served in a warm and welcoming setting.

Ferdi: Featuring a wonderful mix of Venezuelan and Parisian cuisine, this small café in the 1st arrondisement is a favorite among trendy fashionistas. Book ahead online to secure a spot at this ever-popular hot spot.

Paris restaurants: Le Relais de l’Entrecôte
Steak frites. Photo courtesy of Le Relais de l’Entrecôte

Le Relais de l’Entrecôte: The steak frites with secret mustard sauce are famous, drawing tourists and locals alike night after night. Flower lovers will appreciate the huge bouquet of fresh flowers that towers over diners in the center of the room.

7 | Shop, Bien sûr!

1950s vintage little black dress on a dress stand in front of a storefront window
Find Didier Ludot's original vintage shop as well as La Petite Robe Noire at Palais Royal. Photo via Instagram @didierludot

Paris is the shopping capital of the world, full of vintage treasures and trendy designs. Here are a few of my current favorite finds:

Dépôt Vente Luxe: A luxury consignment boutique with top brands (Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and Dior) at good prices.

Boutique Olibrius: A little jewel in the Marais with a mix of inspiring small objects for the home and the discerning fashionista.

La Petite Robe Noire: Offering quintessential French style with a vintage flair, this well-curated collection of chic little black dresses is one of two shops by Didier Ludot at the Palais Royal.

By Laura Dowling | Edited by Terri Robertson | Photography by Erik Kvalsvik

Read Next: Flowering Paris

At work on her new book, Bouquets, Laura Dowling returns to the City of Light to revisit the place where she first fell in love with flowers and to reconnect with the Parisian florists who have inspired her style. Read more.

Book cover for Bouquets, by Laura Dowling. Subtitle: with How-To Tutorials