One of the city's least visited districts, the 16th arrondissement's Passy neighbourhood is more often associated with pompous bourgeois living rather than retro Parisian charm. Big erreur.
Once a wine-growing village on the outskirts of Paris favoured by aristocrats for its thermal waters and scenic vantage points over the Seine, Passy still retains enchanting fragments of its bucolic past as well as offering idiosyncratic museums, verdant spaces and shops and eateries aplenty. In short, don't pass up on Passy.
Start your visit near Passy metro. Take the Rue des Eaux passageway (so named after the therapeutic waters of a hot mineral spring that once flowed there) to the gorgeous colonnaded walkway of Bir Hakim Bridge (instantly recognizable from films such as Last Tango in Paris or Inception). On the way, look for the cloistered entrance to one of Paris' most unusual museums, the Musée des Vins. Set in limestone quarries dating back to the 13th century and today dedicated to all things oenological, the museum was once the cellars of a wine-growing monastery located on the fertile Passy slopes.
From Bir Hakim, enjoy stellar views towards the Eiffel Tower before taking a stroll along the leafy walkway of the Ile aux Cygnes to the Statue of Liberty's 11,5 meter sibling, which faces westwards towards big sister.
Now head to Hotel de Lamballe, the last remaining vestige of the grand "hôtel particulier" mansions that once overlooked the riverbanks here. Converted to a private asylum in the 19th century (Guy de Maupassant died here), it is is today home to the Turkish embassy. Next walk up to the Maison de Balzac museum via cobblestoned Rue Berton (an lovely, time-capsule country lane which was the scene of many a quick getaway by the debt-ridden author from irate creditors). Almost opposite the museum, at the corner of Rue Singer, look for a plaque marking the spot where Benjamin Franklin lived for 8 years (and from where he carried out his lightening conductor experiments).
Double back to cobblestoned Rue de l'Anonciation and its atmospheric food market (special mention for the lovely Japanese teas and pastries of Sazanaka at no 9 as well as for the scrumptious meringue desserts of Aux Merveilleux de Fred at no 29).
From here walk south to Jardins de Ranelagh. With a playground, toy kiosk, puppet theatre, swings, pony rides and a charming retro carousel (Wednesdays, weekends and school holidays), these gardens are great for little feet. Children will also enjoy discovering the garden's unique nature trail, a left-to-nature green corridor on what was once the railway tracks of the Petite Ceinture (Little Belt) line which encircled Paris. The trail starts at La Gare, Passy's listed train station, its ticket office and platforms today housing a café/restaurant.
At Ranelagh you will also find the Musée Marmottan Monet. Intimate, airy and feeling more like a private home than a museum, this elegant mansion houses the world's largest collection of Monets as well as paintings by Morisot, Renoir and Sisley. Monet & friends can be found on the ground and lower ground levels; look out for "Impression: Soleil Levant", the work that gave the Impressionist movement its name. A word of warning: given the museum's small size, a goodly chunk of the permanent collection goes into storage during temporary exhibitions; check ahead before visiting to avoid disappointment.
Head back to Passy Metro via the shop-lined Rue de Passy, stopping for a photo app at pretty as a picture Impasse des Carrières.
Tombstone tourists can detour up to Cimetière de Passy, the final resting place of historic figures such as Édouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré and George Mandel.
Passy Village Addresses
- La Réserve, 3 Avenue d'Eylau, 75016- The Paris offshoot of the eponymous luxury group isn't a hotel as such but rather a take-no-prisoners, knock-out private residence offering 10 luxuriously sleek apartments with bull's-eye views towards the Eiffel Tower, an ever-present yet unobtrusive five-star service and all the mod-cons a traveller needs.
- Astrance, 4 Rue Beethoven, 75016- If you're looking to experience three-star Michelin dining at its most innovative and radiant, this discreet 25-seat restaurant is the place to come to. Of course, you'll need to sell a kidney to afford the prices (which are nevertheless reasonable when compared to other Parisian 3-stars, especially at lunch) but the occasion will be more than worth it. Book eons ahead.
- La Causerie, 31 Rue Vital, 75016- Rebooted by a young and enthusiastic team, this neighborhood old-faithful offers updated traditional bistro cuisine using the best of locally sourced products.
- Settebello, 9 Rue Duban, 75016- An adorably authentic Italian cuisine in the heart of Passy.
- Kura, 56 Rue de Boulainvilliers, 75016- A serene space where delicately imaginative Japanese fusion cooking is prepared nightly behind the open counter. Lunch is a more relaxed à la carte affair (there is also a bento annexe next door).
- Yamazaki, 6 Chaussée de La Muette, 75016 - Japanese influenced cakes and pastries to eat in or take away. Special mention for light as air chiffon cakes (another most excellent Japanese inspired salon de thé: Sazanaka, 9 Rue de l'Annonciation, 75016 Paris .
- Thé Cool, 10 Rue Jean Bologne, 75016- A cosy haunt for Passy's ladies who lunch (with corresponding healthy/low calorie menu options).
- Pascal Le Glacier, 17 rue Bois Le Vent- An ice-cream maker as discreet as he is passionate (only Evian water will do for his creations!) and some of Paris' best artisanal ice-cream.