This comes as no surprise: Paris is incredible! And spending a day with a local guide is a fabulous way to begin to uncover the charms of the City of Light. So to celebrate the joie de vivre we all feel when visiting the French capital, we’ve put together a list of our five favourite activities to do on a trip to Paris - when we're ready to really savour the city, and go beyond sightseeing.
1. Hop on a Velib bike and ride along the banks of the Seine. Glide past the city’s grandest landmarks – the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, and start to get familiar with the city’s layout. The bike lanes along the river make the ride safe and pleasant. (To learn more about how to use the city’s free bike system as a tourist, read our earlier blog entry: Velib and the Tourist: a love story.)
2. Go to one of the city’s many markets and purchase: fresh fruit, a baguette, some jambon or a roast chicken and a bottle of wine. Head to the nearest park and savour. Rue Cler is particularly popular because of its proximity to the Eiffel Tower and the grassy Champ de Mars, which is full of picnicking couples and groups. Rue Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement is another lively spot, and if you’re lucky you’ll stumble upon some afternoon dancing in the street – the joie de vivre in action!
3. Go in search of the perfectly Parisian sidewalk café (St Germain des Pres in the 6th has some – but not all! – of the best. Ask your guide for recommendations!) Order a café au lait and pain au chocolat and engage in the fine art of people watching.
4. Pick a neighbourhood and explore it on foot without a planned route. Duck into courtyards that pique your curiosity, take a left or a right without a sense of where it will lead you. The Marais, the quiet west side of Montmartre (around Lamarck-Caulaincourt metro), and the pedestrianized areas around Rue Montorgueil in the 2nd are some of our favourites.
5. Leave the “single digit” arrondissements to explore outside of the tourist zone. The Batignolles neighbourhood in the 17th, Edith Piaf’s old stomping grounds of Belleville in the 20th, and the striking Buttes Chaumont park in the 19th will all give you a taste of Paris away from the throngs of tourists. (A tip: go for sunset at Buttes Chaumont for golden views of the sun setting over Sacre Coeur.)
If you’re one of the ToursByLocals travelers headed to Paris this spring, summer or fall, have a wonderful time; we’ll try not to be too jealous.