When I moved to Paris in 2014, I envisioned myself watching models parade down the runway in the latest Chanel getups beneath the dome of the Grand Palais during Fashion Week. But a Parisian friend soon told me that unless I received an invitation or I was an accredited member of the media, there was no hope of getting inside the shows. I later learned there are plenty of ways for visitors to take part in the magic surrounding Paris Fashion Week, a sentiment echoed by Marissa Cox, a Paris-based influencer and founder of the fashion and lifestyle website Rue Rodier.
“It’s a fun time to visit if you love people-watching,” says Cox, who can be found crisscrossing the city to get to various shows during Fashion Week. “There’s a real sense of excitement in the air.”
Of course, travelers should note a few downsides of visiting the City of Light during its multiple fashion weeks (Menswear, Haute Couture, and Womenswear all take place biannually), including hard-to-snag restaurant reservations and scarce availability at the best hotels in Paris. Still, a little planning can result in a very memorable trip. Here’s how to experience the best of the French capital during Fashion Week, according to a seasoned sartorial expert.
Hang out in the 1st arrondissement
Paris’s 1st arrondissement, home to the Louvre, the Tuileries Garden, and the Palais Royal, is the beating heart of every Fashion Week. Industry-only expositions take place in tents along the western side of the Tuileries, but outside the venues, the streets of this lively district become runways in themselves. Throughout Paris Fashion Week, models and fashionistas in eye-catching ensembles parade through the Tuileries and the Palais Royal hoping to catch the attention of photographers. “The city erupts into a hub for the world’s most stylish people,” Cox says.
After you’ve gotten your fix of street style-spotting, stop into the Meurice hotel’s new pastry shop, La Pâtisserie du Meurice par Cédric Grolet. The pastel-hued shop serves exquisite pastries that are almost too pretty to snack on, such as the Noisette, a gilded hazelnut-shaped pastry filled with praline and caramel.
Stake out the shows Finding out where specific shows will take place has become slightly more difficult—for security purposes—since the 2015 attacks in Paris. The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode encourages fashion brands not to communicate the exact locations of their events to the general public.
But schedules can be found online, and “major brands typically take over the same venues each season,” Cox explains. For example, Chanel shows usually take place at the Grand Palais, and Dior displays are normally shown at the Musée Rodin. This means it’s also a good idea to check show schedules before visiting these attractions during Paris Fashion Week—it’s possible they may be closed to the public.
To catch a pre-show spectacle, plan to arrive outside the venue about an hour before the show is set to begin. If you stick around until after the show, models and celebrities often come outside to be photographed, so you can catch a glimpse of what they were wearing.
Related 5 Tips for a Stress-Free Visit to the Louvre
Head to the hottest bars and restaurants
For more prime Paris Fashion Week ogling, go to the spots most frequented by the jet set. Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel’s Les Ambassadeurs bar has quickly become a fashion favorite since opening in 2017. A-listers like Nina Garcia, Olivia Culpo, and Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert have been spotted in the 18th-century-inspired digs listening to live jazz, sipping champagne, and enjoying impressive views of Place de la Concorde.
Located just a stone’s throw from the Champs-Élysées, La Maison du Caviar is another classic Fashion Week favorite. Thanks to a recent renovation by esteemed design studio Oitoemponto, a table at the prestigious restaurant, which specializes in caviar and smoked fish, may be more sought after than ever.
Other Paris Fashion Week hot spots around the city include the trendy Derrière, L’Avenue, and Hotel Amour, plus the haute couture–inspired cocktail lounge at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, where a swath of deep blue fabric swirls above a transparent bar carved from a single block of resin. Related The Best New Restaurants in Paris Right Now
Book a fashion-themed museum visit
In October 2017, the Yves Saint Laurent Museum opened in the same building where the legendary fashion designer created his haute couture collections for nearly 30 years. The museum’s thoughtful exhibition spaces showcase Saint Laurent’s creative genius through a rotating retrospective that includes archives of his fashion illustrations and designs. From $12
“Another appropriate museum to visit during Paris Fashion Week is the Musée des Arts Décoratifs [MAD],” Cox says. Located in the Louvre complex, the newly renovated museum exhibits costumes, accessories, and textiles spanning from the Middle Ages and Renaissance Gothic styles to contemporary design movements, including art deco and modernism. From $13 Shop, shop, shop
Of course, Paris Fashion Week is an ideal time to take inspiration from the fashion-forward men and women strolling between shows. “The streets are filled with an array of colorful outfits, which is a noticeable change from the Parisian uniform that often comes in muted tones of black, navy, and gray,” Cox says.
In the upscale St-Germain-des-Prés area, Cox recommends popping into luxury boutiques along Rue St-Honoré. Next, head to one of her favorite shops, Merci. The concept store, located off a charming courtyard in the trendy Marais neighborhood, is set up like a department store with sections featuring the latest design-forward furniture, kitchen supplies, linens, and men’s and women’s clothing. With its many flea markets, boutique shops, and world-famous designer stores, Paris is a year-round hub for style—but exploring the city during Fashion Week offers just another excuse to add a little oomph to your wardrobe.