Travel Black Book: CEO Series

Travel Black Book: Creative capital of the world

The artistic and eclectic offerings of Paris never fail to charm this intrepid entrepreneur who has his own furniture brand

Who: Singaporean Saurabh Mangla, 37, CEO and Creative Head of furniture brand Ipse Ipsa Ipsum

Favourite destination: Paris, the creative capital of the world, which I have visited innumerable times since 2002.

It's the centre of the universe for design, where creativity is in the air. I like to walk the streets, visit the museums, go to the local restaurants and always order the local wine.

Beyond the touristy side of Paris is an eclectic and avant-garde side, which is still accessible for the ordinary traveller if you know where to look.

SEE

My favourite museum in Paris is the Museum of Decorative Arts (www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/en/museums/musee-des-arts-decoratifs) located near the Louvre on Rue De Rivoli. The small, focused museum showcases a selection of about 6,000 objects - a fraction of the 150,000 objects in its collection - which document the French art of living from the Middle Ages to the present day.

The craftsmanship on display is amazing - from chairs and tables to doll's houses and beautifully carved wood writing desks.

I think that, in the future, this museum will become a centre of learning for the history of design because of the treasures it holds.

  • GETTING THERE

  • Singapore Airlines and Air France offer daily direct flights to Paris.

  • TIPS

    • Ideally, take three days to explore the city.

    • For people who want to explore the city better, I recommend reading Secret Paris by Jacques Garance and Maud Ratton. This unconventional guide book takes its readers to the truly hidden spots and points out overlooked details around Paris, such as a Chinese temple in a parking space and a real Breton lighthouse near Montparnasse.

    • Go off the beaten path. There is a lot more to Paris than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Take your time to discover it.

    • Be a bit more alert when exploring alternative areas around Paris. Sometimes, we take safety for granted in Singapore.

I am particularly impressed by the pieces shown in the rooms dedicated to the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s - most of which are so relevant and on trend with the tastes and styles of today - and the work of iconic Irish architect and furniture designer Eileen Gray, who was a pioneer of the Modern Movement.

The Triode Gallery (www.triodedesign.com/en) is my favourite gallery and furniture store in Paris. It's where I go for an introduction to the work of young talents at affordable prices. There is always something new to look forward to as it always has some upcoming young talent on show.

The Baccarat Museum (www.baccarat.com/en/lob-museums-article) in the 16th arrondissement is a hidden gem. It's an old mansion which has been converted to a museum of some of the Baccarat company's finest hand-cut crystal.

Take a stroll through Cour Du Bel Air, the passages off Rue Du Faubourg Saint-Aintoine, which is like a rural village in the heart of Paris. There are beautiful artisan shops, cobbled streets and a beautiful bookshop, L'Arbre a Lettres (arbrealettres.com).

EAT

For breakfast, I go to Eggs & Co (www.eggsandco.fr), where the eggs with salmon is really good.

For lunch, the Cafe Le Jardin Du Petit Palais (www.petitpalais.paris.fr/en/petit-palais/cafe-restaurant) is a peaceful sanctuary in the heart of the Petit Palais fine art museum and a refreshing change from the tourist traps along the Champs-Elysees.

It serves good food and is normally full of locals. I love to sit there and watch the people and the ducks take off and land in the small pond nearby. I go there for its excellent housemade carrot and coriander soup, a savoury tarte and its €1 (S$1.60) mini desserts. Lunch will cost around €20.

While in Paris, I always visit L'Alcazar (www.alcazar.fr), a restaurant in the Latin quarter where you must try the escargot a la Bourguignon, which are snails cooked in the perfect amount of garlic-herb butter. A meal here will cost €30 to €50 a person, including wine.

SHOP

I could spend hours in the Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen (www.marcheauxpuces-saintouen.com/). It is in the north of Paris and one of the biggest flea markets in Europe, if not the world. More than 3,000 vendors can be found in the 7ha space, which attracts around 180,000 people every weekend.

But it's not just a flea market in the sense of an open-air market with people selling broken goods. There are boutiques and covered stalls, each with its own identity, selling antiques, silverware, furniture, lighting, sculpture, old books and maps, or semi-precious stones.

I usually break for lunch at Le Cafe Paul Bert (www.paulbert-serpette.com/en/le-cafe-paul-bert), one of the market's historic landmarks which opened there in 1958. The fish is amazing. I particularly like its sardines with mayo, as well as steak in red wine sauce and the famous souffle Grand Marnier. A meal there will cost around €50.

If you fancy going to an auction, you should try the Drouot (www.drouot.com), one of the city's most renowned auction houses where more than 500,000 objects go under the hammer every year.

Paris is also known for its covered shopping halls and Galerie Vivienne (galerie-vivienne.com) is one of the most beautiful - with elegant wrought-iron architecture, mosaics, statues and chic boutiques. This is where designer Jean-Paul Gaultier opened his first and flagship store. Stop by fabric emporium Wolff & Descourtis for refined fabrics and Les Caves Legrand (caves-legrand.com), the best wine store I have ever seen.

My favourite souvenir from Paris is tea from Palais des Thes (us.palaisdesthes.com/en_us/). It surprises people because everyone knows the French for their coffee, but the shop at Rue Vieille du Temple sells beautifully packed teas for €10 to €20 and they make great gifts.

PLAY

Maison et Objet (www.maison-objet.com/en/paris) is the Oscars of interior design and you can't miss it if you are interested in anything related to product design or interiors. This is where you go to see the newest innovations and trends in decoration, design, furniture, accessories, textiles, fragrances, tableware and more.

If you have a day to spare, head to the Palace of Versailles (en.chateauversailles.fr), which is about an hour outside the city by public transport. There, you can admire five centuries of French history in its manicured gardens, stunning rooms, halls and lodges, and 6,000 works of art spread across the 800ha property.

STAY

For me, hotels are about unique experiences and Mama Shelter (www.mamashelter.com/en) gives you just that. Its 172 rooms are simple and contemporary, and were designed by famed French designer Philippe Starck.

It has a popular restaurant and bar, and one of the best rooftop terraces in the city. The rooms, which start at around €119 a night for a spacious double room, are quite affordable compared with other similar Parisian hotels.

If I am looking for an apartment to rent, I usually use the website Welcome2France.com.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 15, 2017, with the headline 'Creative capital of the world'. Print Edition | Subscribe