Tips on what to do alone in Paris?
My husband just found out that he has to go to Paris for work soon and is taking me with him!! This will be my first trip to Europe and I'm so excited it will be FRANCE :) However, I will be "alone" for three days during the day while he's working. I want to have adventures in the city and plan on getting a Paris Visite ticket for unlimited travel on the Metro and buses. Does anyone have any tips for interesting things to do and see that aren't main tourist attractions? Merci beaucoup.
Instead of métro and bus, use Vélib as much as you can: Vélib is a public bicycle renting system. Vélib stations are all over Paris, and you'll see places and streets you won't see using public transport. And it's often much faster. I am in Paris twice a month on average, and if weather permits this is my only means of transport.
Paris has so much to offer that any decent tourist guide will have more good suggestions than you could do in three days. It might be helpful if you tell us a bit more about what interests you. And where your hotel is.
Those bike schemes are usually good.
Also a guided bike tour is a very nice way to see the city. I've not used this group but I found them when I was researching what to do for myself before. They have three types of itineraries including an "Unusual Paris" one. Another benefit for someone that wants to practice their French is that you can just sign up for a French language tour and have the opportunity (they do English and other languages too in case you are not confident enough).
There's a very famous ice cream place:-
Thank you for that suggestion! As for interests, I want to see unusual things that most tourists don't see :)
The highlight of my last trip was climbing up to the bell tower at Notre Dame Cathedral, but you have to be okay with hundreds of stairs (the friends I was traveling with were not crazy about the idea, so I went by myself). I've also heard that the old Garnier Opera House hosts a very interesting tour; I haven't taken it myself but a friend told me about it and it's on my must-do list for next time. If you get some nice weather, a long walk through Pere Lachaise Cemetery is really interesting. I also enjoyed the catacombs, but I'm the horror-movie type and some people are just grossed out or too claustrophobic to consider going down there. My father's wife said the pictures I took gave her nightmares! Have a wonderful trip, whatever you choose to do with your time.
Thank you for the suggestions! I've got to know - are there spiders in the catacombs?
I didn't see any spiders. The one thing that did surprise me is that although they do guided tours, you aren't required to join an official tour, so you're pretty much on your own down there (it's well-marked, you can't get lost). I went on a weekday in May when visitors were few and far between and seriously, I think I saw just four other living persons down there the whole time... talk about atmosphere!
Wonderful. It depends on your interest of course. I like to walk and see the city, there is a lot of walking in Paris and it can be very exhausting, but the city is wonderful. I like to walk in Marais and have lunch in one of the cafes, the Bastille is near by, but not so pretty. The area around Notre Dame is beautiful. I like to have chocolate in Laduree or Angelinas. I like to visit the big department stores, especially Gallery Lafayette, from the cafeteria you can see the whole city. There are tons of museums, the opera is cheap, many beautiful churches everywhere, plenty of things to do. Have a great trip.
The department stores are wonderful! You feel like you're stepping into the 19th century when you go inside. And I loved that I saw so many people with their dogs in the shops; dogs are everywhere and it's perfectly acceptable. I stopped at a sidewalk cafe for lunch and the two young men at the next table asked me if I minded if they smoked... I told them (in French of course) that I had no problem with it. I had to laugh when their cute little dog then proceeded to take a nap with his head resting on my foot... I didn't mind that either, but for them to be so thoughtful to ask about the smoke and then I ended up with their puppy's head on my foot for an hour while I was eating just struck me as funny.
And I like that you can try the cosmetics and ask for a sample, not a lot of pressure to buy since the French tend to try first. Did you think the french are as elegant and chic as they are supposed to be? I think I saw more chic people in New York, London or Barcelona than in Paris.
Cheese. Chocolate. Champagne. What more does a girl need?!
But, seriously, it all depends on your personal interests. Pretty much the only thing you can't do in Paris is lie on the beach.
If the weather is nice, just walk around, aimlessly, and take it all in. Costs nothing :)
Is your husband meeting up with people who actually live in Paris? If so, they'd be a great source of info regarding non-touristy things to do and see.
Enjoy your trip :)
You have Paris Plages during the summer, so you can lie on the beach if you don't mind doing so on the riverbanks ! (-:
I cannot recommend highly enough making use of Rick Steves' travel books, especially for Paris. I have used his work as my guide for two trips to Paris, including one by myself. As he recommends, the bus route #69 is a great orientation to the city, taking you past every major sight. Be sure to follow his tips, like entering the Louvre through the underground entrance first thing in the morning and going directly to Venus de Milo; my wife and I had her to ourselves for a good 10 minutes. Be sure to take the trip to Montmartre (but be street smart while there!) and look down over the city from the steps of the Sacré-Cœur. Check CouchSurfing.com to find a Parisian who is willing to meet up with you to show you a few local cafés and bars and allow you to practice your French! Don't miss the Left Bank: walk through the old Roman streets. Those are just a few things off the top of my head -- enjoy!!!
He beat me to it. Since you're going to get a pass for the Metro and busses, definitely ride the route #69.
Thank you for your suggestions! I actually have that guide book in my cart on Amazon lol
Paris is wonderful on your own. You can do whatever you want. I've spent many happy hours there and can offer many suggestions but let me know what you like. I like museums, gardens, bookstores, and walking around aimlessly looking in shop windows and everything else.
Thank you :) I don't really know what I want to do, just things that are unusual that most tourists wouldn't do. I do plan on walking around a lot and simply taking it all in. I definitely want to check out a bookstore or two. Any good ones you suggest?
Here are some of my favorite places that are a bit off the beaten path:
Walk along the Canal St Martin and Belleville (the quais along the seine are also very nice but more typical). Buttes-Chaumont is a nice park. Belleville has apparently become trendy since the last time I was there, but I expect that most tourists still stick to the center of Paris. http://www.hostelworld.com/blog/paris-like-a-local-exploring-canal-saint-martin-and-belleville/159039
Music museum in Parc de la Villette. I love this museum. You start at the top floor and work your way down 4 floors. It took about 4 hours the last time I was there and was worth an entire afternoon. You can get narration headset in English, French, and several other languages. The staff was very nice and I was asked repeatedly what I thought of the museum and if I liked it. I always buy a museum pass and take some time to go to several that are less well known, but this is my favorite. http://www.parispass.com/paris-attractions/Museum-of-Music.html
These are not exactly off the beaten path but I like anyway:
Rue de Cherche-Midi - Just a very pretty street and I enjoy looking in the windows at all the shoes
Jardin du Luxembourg - One of my favorite places on the planet. There has always been something unexpected that I find: an exhibit of aerial photos on the fence surrounding, a concert of people with funny hats playing music in a gazebo complete with an older parisian woman in the audience who befriended me, children playing, firemen running in the morning
Museums - Louvre - but only for an hour or two at the most (get a museum pass to go through the side entrance) and I often head straight for the Vermeers. Musée d'Orsay - impressionists inside a beautiful repurposed train station. There are many, many others.
Mariage Frères - Make a reservation at this tea salon for the afternoon, but sometimes you can just slip in with only one person. Skip lunch here but have tea and amazing desserts. There are plenty of other tea salons as well.
Here are some touristy places that I usually avoid:
Any restaurant near any tourist trap especially if the menu is in English
Champs-Élysée - crowded and filled with tourists and fast-food restaurants.
Rue de Rivoli - filled with schlocky tourist shops- with the exception of the side entrance to the Louvre
Eiffel tower- crowded with long waits- it's nicer to look at from afar
McDonalds - with the exception of the restroom
Montmarte - I might go again sometime, but the "artists" in the square are really quite annoying
In addition, here are some links:
I studied in a town about an hour outside of Paris near Versailles for an academic year and lived in Belleville for a month last September. My favorite things is being a flâneur (wanderer) and picnicking on the quais of the Seine or the Champs de Mars with friends when the weather is nice. I'll add this to what Elizabeth26136 said for the off the beaten path neighborhoods she described:
If you go to Canal St. Martin, definitely go to the Du Pain et des Idées (between République and the canal): http://dupainetdesidees.com/en/ Get the pain des amis, a smoky quarter loaf of bread, along with the pistachio escargot, which is what they are most famous for, and whatever else strikes your fancy. Anthony Bourdain got the pain et des amis on his Paris Layover episode and ate it along the Canal St. Martin.
There is a nice, not at all touristy courtyard in the Hôpital St. Louis (1 Avenue Claude Vellefaux, 75010 Paris) in that neighborhood also. A writer of one of the secret or hidden Paris guidebooks describes it as a hidden version of the Place des Vosges in the Marais. It definitely has a similar style, but it is in a functioning hospital, so there were quite a few workers, patients, children, etc. when I visited.
Belleville is a mixture of hipster and ethnic-- definitely a very colorful neighborhood and not touristy. It is home to Paris' second Chinatown. If you continue up the hill, there is the smallish Parc de Belleville, where you might find some grapevines and can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Buttes-Chaumont is nice and much bigger.
I also agree with what SharnaPax wrote below.
- The Marais is also my favorite neighborhood in Paris, and I love, love, love L'as du Falafel. It is probably one of, if not the most, famous falafel store in the world. You'll see a lot of tourists trying to eat this massive sandwich on the street. My insider tip is to get the falafel to go, walk down Rue de Rossiers a little bit, and enjoy your falafel on a park bench in the small Jardin des Rossiers on the left. There are grape vines, other plants, and remnants of Paris' 13th century wall. Another option, if you can resist the falafel and it doesn't get too messy, is to take it to Place des Vosges. I agree with guidebooks that call it the quaintest square in Paris.
Rue de Montparnasse (near the station) is famous for its crêperies. Many say that Crêperie Josselin is the best. Galettes are savory ones made out of buckwheat flour. Have a cider to go along with it! I was always too stuffed from the galette to try any of the dessert ones.
Consider seeing the one-man comedy show How to Become Parisian in One Hour? You might want to check out some clips on youtube.
Many museums are free on the first Sunday of the month, but the lines are very, very long. Many museums are closed on Monday. There are so many museums in Paris, so it really depends on what you are interested in.
Coulée-Verte/Promenade Plantée is the original Highline of New York. It starts near the Bastille and continues to the Perpherique on an old rail line. The part closest to the Bastille is the Viaduct des Arts with artisans below the prominade. It was a setting in 'Before Sunset'.
Palace de Versailles- the number one day trip so very tourist, if you decide you have the time to make one. The park is a very popular location for Versailles residents to picnic on Sunday. If you are not interested in the Palace and want to beat the crowds, then you can go on Monday for the gardens and the park (another picnic!) when the Palace is closed. You probably want to see the palace though!
As this is your first visit to Paris, I think you should still see the main touristy sites though! I've never been up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but I have admired it plenty of times up close from Trocadero and seeing the nightly light show while picnicking many times at Champs de Mars.
But now the cranky old guy who owned it is gone. What was his name? George? I think his daughter owns it now.
Do you read French? There are tons of bookstores in the 6th and also all the booksellers along the Seine. In the past, I've gone to WH Smith for new British books that are not out yet in the US. However, I walk through the Tuileries Garden, then cut over, since I hate the Rue de Rivoli. I'm going soon also and plan to explore as many bookshops as possible, including this one: http://www.berkeleybooksofparis.com/
Thank you, that's a great idea to fill part of one day and learn a bit of the food culture!!
Here's a lingot. Someone suggested a cooking class and I might try it.
As told in others post, you can take a walk anywhere in Paris, but I have a trick... Use google earth to fly over Paris and find places you want to visit. There are a lot of small gardens or parks behind the big houses in the center of Paris and you can find them this way !!
Another thing, try the Catacombes, there are no spiders (because no flies, I should say no any life...) and it's a real touching experience to see all theses bones and feel their souls all around.
Merci Elizabeth ! Once you found an interesting point, you can use google street to wander around and prepare your trip.
It depends on what days you're there. Here's a bunch of random suggestions in no particular order: I like to walk through the markets. They pop up all over the city, and if you walk around in the morning you'll probably run into one, especially on the weekends. There is a nice permanent one on the Rue Mouffetard, and a really big Sunday one at Bastille. I love the Marais, and it's a good place to go on a Sunday because it's the Jewish quarter so everything is open. The Marais also has the best falafel - L'As du Falafel on the Rue des Rosiers. To get a really good baguette at a bakery, make sure you ask for a "baguette de tradition" rather than an ordinary baguette. I suggest you look up the best bakeries if you're into croissants and so forth, because there are a lot of stale margarine croissants out there. The best macarons are at Laduree, on the Rue Bonaparte. It's touristy but still worth a visit. Somebody mentioned the Parc Buttes-Chaumont, and I agree, it's really pretty and you get a gorgeous view over the city without having to fight the crowds the way you do in Montmartre. You also get to see Belleville that way; it's an interesting working-class neighborhood and off the beaten track. My favorite museum is the Rodin museum in the 7th arrondissement, especially if the weather is nice, because many of the sculptures are outside in the garden. I also strongly recommend just wandering around, especially on the east side of Paris, both the right bank and the left bank. I really like the 4th, 5th, 10th and 11th arrondissements. The nice thing about Paris is that there's very little sprawl, so you can pretty much just wander, and if you end up in a really touristy area you can just walk until you find an area you like better.
The Rodin museum is also a nice place to have lunch while you are there.
Try this. The Coulée verte René-Dumont or Promenade plantée (French for tree-lined walkway) or the Coulée verte (French for green course) is a 4.7 km (2.9 mi) elevated linear park built on top of obsolete railway infrastructure in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, France. It was inaugurated in 1993. http://europeforvisitors.com/paris/articles/viaduc-des-arts.htm
You also can visit the "international universitary city" (correct?) witch is made with a lot of different houses for students. Each of them are symbolic of their original country, and it is a place to meet a lot of students from everywhere in the world. You can also eat at the student restaurant for a few money... the "cité internationale des étudiants" is the south of Paris, in the 14th.
That's an excellent suggestion about eating at the student restaurant, and I'm going to remember that next time I go. I'm not much of a "foodie" and am always looking for something quick, simple and inexpensive to eat when traveling; I hate ending up at McDonald's just because it's there and I'm starving. The University restaurant would be a whole lot more interesting and I'm sure the food is better!
Yes it is. and you can found a lot of this kind of restaurants everywhere in the french cities. You have to pay a little bit more than students, but it is very cheap, at least. And correct ;)
Hello, Miadyl I live in Britany, but i go sometimes in Paris for fun. If you are found of arts, you can walk around Beaubourg center, in the 3th arrondissement(in english???) . Here, there are a lot of galeries wich are free to visit. You enter in one of them, and take a free plan witch explains where the other one are. It is a good way to see a lot of art, and meet some people, without paying ;)
Arrondissement could be translated as district. It seems like quite a Parisian word though and most people will probably know what you mean. Most large cities seem to have their own way of identifying areas. For example in Dublin you might say you live in Tallaght (area name based on the old village that got swallowed up) or you could say you live in Dublin 24 (but never district 24, they are called postal areas but people rarely call them by name). Sometimes one way is more specific than another so people use ways as it suits them. "I live in Harold's Cross" is more specific than "I live in D6". "I live in D2" tells people you live near the city centre south of the river but doesn't go in to too much detail. Unlike this comment which has gone in to WAY more detail than I intended. :)
Paris does not have any culinary specialty. Paris has always been the center of gravitation where all regions and all nations cumulate, and food is delivered for consumption. All other parts of France have their speciality, their recipe.
If there is one thing special to Paris, and it's nothing special really, than it's a "sandwich fromage jambon". A piece of pillowy bread, called baguette before transformation, with cheese and ham. THE Paris culinary speciality. Worse it is, more authentic it is.
But for a quick snack to eat, look out for Paul's. Paul is a chain of bakeries, you find them at every corner in France, but their sandwiches are not too bad. Even their 'jambon fromage'.
I have had the fromage jambon and croque monsieur at Epcot but I'm definitely looking forward to trying them FRESH in France, thanks!
Try steak tartare from someplace that looks decent if you're feeling adventurous. It's my go-to dish. I thought it was a Parisian speciality, but I could be mistaken after reading Skippero's comments.
cjs78000 is definitely right: If you feel adventurous try a steak tartare avec un oeuf frais, oignons, câpres ... un délice.
My favorite restaurant for this is Restaurant Le Trumilou, 84 Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville right at the border of the Seine (although you have no view on the river from within the restaurant). Excellent food, very attentive personal, good price, many locals. Right around the corner you have rue du Pont Louis-Philippe with some very nice and special shops. All that is just around the corner from rue Saint-Paul and Village Saint-Paul, another shopping paradise.
Bon voyage!! This blog post may help: http://enchanted-france.blogspot.com/…/have-enjoyable-trip-… also browse through the blog: Polly-Vous Francais? You will find some interesting posts on Paris.
Day trip to Monet's garden in Giverny - absolutely gorgeous. Easily doable in a day from Paris and very beautiful. Renoir's house and garden in Monmartre are also really interesting. Have an awesome time :)
MiaDyl, my wife did the same when I did a Paris business trip a year ago. The problem with the Metro is that you're underground and won't get a chance to see all the wonderful little parts of Paris on side streets and between the tourist attractions. If you are in good shape and your hotel is anywhere near the center of the city I would recommend walking. If you get tired you can grab a pedicab, just be sure to negotiate the price and keep track of where you're going--they like to "get lost" when they think you don't know where you're going so that they can make more money.
We really liked the Montparnaisse tower, it gives you a beautiful view of the city including the Eiffel Tower and it generally isn't crowded.
Paris is amazing! Im going there closer to Christmas and I cant wait. I also used to live there for a bit, and on my days off I took daytrips around France. My favourite trip was to Luxemburg. There are direct trains from Paris to Luxemburg. Its only a (I think) 2h journey and you get to see some country side too. So you don't have to stay in Paris. There are many opportunities :)v Just an idea :)