Part of the allure of Paris comes from the history that runs deep throughout its cobblestoned streets, like those of the Montorgueil neighbourhood. Located between the 1st and 2nd arrondissements (districts), there’s no better way to spend a day than enjoying the shops, cafés, and restaurants all around.
Historically, the Montorgueil quartier was built around its namesake street, which ran directly from Les Halles, Paris’s historic food market, which has been moved to the city suburbs.
Depicted in Monet’s 1878 painting The Rue Montorgueil on display at the Musée d’Orsay, the street is just as bustling as it was then, with food stalls, cheese shops, and a number of iconic Parisian cafés. Enjoy an espresso while you watch the people go by at L’Escargot, a traditional café founded in 1875.
Or stop in for a moment of relaxation at the luxurious Nuxe Spa with its signature Radiance Escape treatment, perfect for warmer days.
As far back as the 12th century, the nearby Les Halles was the central food market of Paris, even referred to as the ‘Belly of Paris’ by novelist Emile Zola, where farmers from far and wide would come to sell their goods. However, in 1971 the market was demolished and replaced by a modern-day shopping mall.
In 2016, Les Halles underwent a serious transformation by architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti who brought new life and design to the shopping centre. Head there for lunch, and sample modern French brasserie fare at Michelin starred chef Alain Ducasse’s Champeaux restaurant, or for shopping at high-end stores like L’Exception, which also has a café.
One of the most magical transformations of the Montorgueil neighbourhood can be seen on Rue du Nil. Once known as the ‘Cour des Miracles’ or the Alley of Miracles, it was here that the daytime beggars around Les Halles would seek refuge at night, miraculously cured of whatever ailed them during the day.
Now considered one of the city’s top destinations for foodies, Rue du Nil’s transformation began in 2005 when French chef Gregory Marchand took a leap of faith and opened Frenchie restaurant – infusing new life into the Parisia food scene that has developed over the last 12 years. Over time, Frenchie expanded along the cobblestoned alleyway to a wine bar where small plates and stellar wines draw a loyal crowd, followed by Frenchie To-Go, where you can sample American-inspired fare like lobster rolls or pulled-pork sandwiches, and last but not least, Frenchie Caviste, a wine shop with a charm as rich as the labels it carries.
Soon after the Frenchie empire began to spread along the street, Terroirs d’Avenir followed suit and its owners opened a series of farm-to-table, fresh, seasonal shops carrying the finest vegetables, fish, cheese, meats and now homemade breads. Frenchie is a modern-day version of what once could be found at the Les Halles food market back in the 19th century.
A fashionable newcomer to the neighbourhood, Sézane has, in a very short amount of time, created a cult-like following, both in France and beyond. Originally an e-commerce shop, the brand has now opened the Sézane Apartment, an impeccably-designed concept store centred around the lifestyle of parisienne, stocking everything from the brand’s latest collection of printed silk dresses and chunky knits, perfect staple pieces for any wardrobe alongside shoes, candles, cards, and perfume.
Next door, at the Sézane Café, browse the shelves of perfectly curated photo books and novels nestled in between leather goods and accessories as you enjoy an espresso freshly brewed by the in-house barista.
And for men, head to the lesser known Octobre Editions boutique where you’ll truly feel at home as crackly records play throughout the timber and leather boutique stocked with the finest tweed jackets, craftsman footwear and elegant cashmere sweaters.
Some would say the Montorgueil neighbourhood represents the new face of Paris, bridging refined taste and innovative concepts, together with a rich history of artisanal skills. So, as you explore the city this summer, be sure to save at least half a day to explore the bustling area.