The Glassy’s Healthy Guide to Paris
Warning: You may get punched in the face.
I’ve been in Paris for just six hours, and already I’ve been punched in the face by a French woman. Impossibly chic in head-to-toe black, with her shiny blonde hair pulled back tightly in a ponytail, she pulls back her arm and—pow!—I get hit again.
This isn’t an extreme case of the French’s disdain for tourists; instead, I’m 30 minutes into a class at Temple Nobles Art, a boxing studio tucked away in the 1st arrondissement, and jet-lag has gotten the better of my ability to properly bob and weave.
I’ve been in Paris for just six hours, and already I’ve been punched in the face by a French woman.
The last time I was in Paris, it was for a 24-hour layover—during which I gorged on croissant and Cos clothes before heading to Charles de Gaulle for my flight home. The only other time I’d visited the city, I was 19 years old, traveling with my mom, and struck mid-visit with what a doctor later described as “mono-ish”. (“We’ve never seen a virus like this before,” he breathlessly told me when the blood test came in.) My most vivid memories of that trip are of summoning the strength every morning to get out of bed…so I could enjoy a massive mug of chocolat chaud in the hotel restaurant. I’d be lucky if I walked more than 100 steps a day.
If there was a healthy side of Paris, I certainly was in no condition to discover it. And talking to locals during this latest sojourn it quickly becomes clear that if I ever made it out of the hotel, there wouldn’t have been much to find—but that’s all changing.
Temple is one of a handful of impeccably designed studios that dot the city like triumphant arches; from infrared hot yoga spaces accented with cheeky neon signs to spin studios vying to become France’s answer to SoulCycle (see: Dynamo, which bought out competitor chain Let’s Ride late-2017), you’ll find leggings-clad Parisians on boulevards and side streets alike.
“Honestly, it’s only been in the last five years that you hear people say, ‘I’m going to start juicing. I’m going to start detoxing. I’m going to do yoga,'” says Moraima Gaetmank, founder of the sun-filled Pilates spot Studio Kinetique (a mainstay among visiting ballerinas—not to mention fashion editors), when I stop by for a private session the next day. “All of these things are happening now.”
In a city that holds onto its traditions like a prized Chanel bag, it’s one of many signs that Parisians are opening up to—and reimagining—what it means to be healthy. And it goes way beyond workouts, with everything from gluten-free boulangeries to shops selling crystal-infused face serums (instead of micellar water) leading the revolution. Let them eat cake, indeed.
I think about this as I slip off my jacket and boots in the changing room at Ici, a yoga studio-slash-salon just minutes from the Arc de Triumph that serves cups of frothy golden milks to clients post-class; instead of lockers, the wall is lined with books—Jean-Paul Sartre, Andre Hardellet, Thomas Bernhard—and a record player is perched on a stool, with a vinyl copy of Horses waiting to be played. “For me, literature, yoga, community, a good tea…everything is nourishing,” Ici’s founder (who also publishes fashion journal Edwarda) Sam Guelimi tells me. “I like the idea that it’s the kind of space where yogis, writers, they cross.”
But can an American in Paris—particularly one who doesn’t speak a lick of French—survive in a scene not exactly known for being inclusive in a city not exactly known for its welcoming spirit? I wonder this as I tuck into my turmeric tonic, slyly eyeing the well-dressed women and men who slip into Acne coats and fling on APC scarves and make their way out.
“It’s only been in the last five years that you hear people say, ‘I’m going to start juicing. I’m going to start detoxing. I’m going to do yoga.'”
But I’m wrong: At every single studio I visit (and by the end of a week of double workouts, it’s a lot), the friendliness is overwhelming. Teachers give direction in English, and students come up to speak with me after class. At Temple, not a single woman gets angry when I confuse the French words for right and left and land an unexpected hit on her chin. (This happened with alarming frequency, although by the end of class I was excited to have finally mastered la gauche versus droite.)
Ici’s Guelimi sends me to Glow On the Go, a shoebox of a storefront she opened just steps from the Pompidou that serves up adaptogenic lattes with names like Ulysse and Hercule. The 20-something behind the counter that afternoon, who looks like an extra from a Godard film, takes pity on me—I’ve arrived freshly drenched from the freezing rain—and insists on whipping up a warming charcoal latte to go with my avocado mousse.
The narrow space is filled alternately with thick fashion photographer-centric coffee table books and woo-woo apothecary staples like Anima Mundi’s mind-altering tisanes and Sun Potion’s jarred superherbs, and for a moment I forget that I’ve left New York.
“At the end of the day, Parisians are still going to be Parisians, so if they’re choosing between working out or having a drink on a terrace at 6 p.m., everyone’s going to choose the drink.”
Of course, the healthier Paris I encounter is hardly a carbon copy of its American brethren on either coast. I realize this after I’ve made the trek out to Centre Sportif Alain Mimoun, a massive (albeit old) gym complex that’s a $60 Uber ride from Temple, where Paris Run Club is holding its weekly track workout. The group, tonight seven-people strong despite the persistent drizzle, is in the same vein as Bridgerunners, Black Roses, and other run crews that have sprung up in big cities the past decade: Mostly young, mostly creative un-athletes who are just as obsessed with logging miles as they are with getting their hands on the latest limited-edition Nike release.
Several count modeling, photography, and art direction as their day job, and the dress code for PRC’ers is head-to-toe black, lending the members an instant cool factor as they pass other joggers clad in the usual bright pinks and greens. Over his customary post-run burgers and fries, PRC member Maxime Papin (himself a pastry chef at the Canal Saint-Martin patisserie Liberte) admits to me, “We’re still partying and everyone’s smoking.”
I recount this story the next morning to Cassandre Mugnier, who after a five-year stint in New York moved back home to open the airy, succulent-filled Reformation Pilates studio, and she laughs. The simple gold bangles on her arm, which she wore throughout the machine class she just taught, jangle in rhythm.
“At the end of the day, Parisians are still going to be Parisians, so if they’re choosing between working out or having a drink on a terrace at 6 p.m., everyone’s going to choose the drink,” she says. “It’s more about looking and feeling good without putting too much effort into it.”
And so after wandering along the canal and taking in Fauvists works at the Pompidou, I head to a tiny, hole-in-the-wall bistro in the 2nd arrondissement, where the vested-and-bow-tied waiter fills up my wine glass and serves me my steak frites without batting an eyelash at the shiny navy leggings I’m still wearing.
The Glassy Blackbook to Paris, France
Vibe: A smoothie in one hand, a glass of wine in the other, s’il vous plait.
Pack: Anything black, gray, or navy—and a tote bag large enough to carry your workout clothes around in.
Drop-ins: Are usually fine, although you may have trouble getting into the building (as most studio entrances aren’t on street level and require using a code to get through the front door).
Walkability: Arguably the best way to get around, so bring a pair of comfy (but cool) sneakers.
Runability: As long as you keep an eye out for dog merde on the sidewalk (or just head to the Seine), you’ll be fine. DM a local run group (like Paris Run Club) if you’d rather not go out solo.
Cycleability: Paris has been doing the bike sharing thing since 2007, via Velib, and a crop of new options have appeared in the city, including Mobike, Ofo, and oBike. Bike paths—including one that runs along Canal Saint-Martin—cut through the city, and on Sundays the road along the Seine is closed off to cars.
Clean eats: From boulangeries to brasseries, you can now find gluten-free, vegetarian, and even—sacre bleu!—vegan options on menus across the city. Also increasingly popular: grab-and-go juice spots that are a far cry from the more traditional sit-and-linger cafes. If you’re all about organic, look for “bio” (or the white and green “AB” logo) on products.
Supermarket run: If you’re not near a Bio c’ Bon, Biocoop, La Vie Claire, or Naturalia (all health food stores), just look for the “AB” logo (France’s version of USDA-certified organic) on food labels.
Water situ: Eau yes—drinking from the tap is totally fine.
Toiletry pick-up: Just need a bottle of shampoo or forgot your deodorant? Head to a health food store as most have a decent range of natural personal-care products. For something you’ll actually want to take home with you, stop by Buly. And if you’re particular about your beauty products, Oh My Cream stocks everyone from Rahua to Tata Harper.
Make your base: The greatest concentration of cool healthy cafes and studios is in Haut Marais—but if you’re dreaming about running along the Seine every morning, try Bastille (or opt for Canal Saint-Martin for a cooler water-side location).
Top souvenirs: Toothpaste from Buly, a tin of bergamot tea from Madame Freres, a clever slogan tee (in French, natch) from Yuj.
If you eat at one place: Wild & The Moon serves up everything from CBD-spiked nut milks to nourishing, superfood-packed vegan stews—all in a supremely Instagram-friendly environment.
If you work out at one place: Ici, which perfectly captures what the Parisian wellness scene is all about.
If you relax at one place: Book a facial at the Tata Harper treatment room at Le Bristol—which gets you time in the iconic hotel’s super-luxe steam room, too.
Check out the complete Glassy Guide to Paris.