One of the most sophisticated, charming, cultured, ancient yet modern cities in the world. Once the city that started revolutions; that gave birth to liberty, equality and fraternity; with its architecture moulded by history, it is now a multicultural, buzzing world capital.
This city has everything. If you are obsessed by fashion, Paris is still at centre stage of world fashion; if you are in love, Paris is the “city of love”; if you want to party – well, there is nowhere better.
Also, it is ridiculously easy to get to from UK, and pretty easy to have a stopover from anywhere else in the world, so it is perfect for a weekend away.
So, you have booked a weekend trip to Paris (or longer). What are you going to do?
Let me give you a list. Not of the “once in a life-time destinations” like seeing the Mona Lisa, climbing the Eiffel Tower, going to see Notre Dame. No – you already know this otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this post. Although I do recommend going to the Eiffel tower when you can, to get gorgeous romantic shots like this one.
This list is of things to do is much more serendipitous. Leaving a bit to chance (what major exhibitions will be visiting when you happen to be there?) and playing things by ear. But this is what I love. Being a bit unplanned and spontaneous but knowing enough not to get lost.
So, here’s a list of 10 things to do in Paris. Or at least my own list. So look down it, check out some of the things I suggest, and then make your own.
Ten more things to do in Paris.
- Paris invented the restaurant. And in Paris restaurants are good. I don’t mean just the push the boat out places but just good food places. You can eat anything, from good bourgeois food in traditional neighbourhood bistros to food from any country you name. You can try lots of fusion food as well as eat in bistros specialising in single dishes like chicken. Two of my newest finds are the Restaurant L’ami Jean with its simple rustic atmostphere. Their signature award winning dish is their pork belly, cavier lentils, marinated scallops and apple. If you can then please try their 7 course tasting menu. Go for the ‘picked by the chef option’ and pray very very hard that you end up with the amazing strawberry and olive oil pudding. Alternatively visit Le Bagnard, which has got to be one of my favourite ever eating places. This warm and cosy spot is run by the enthusiastic Yoni Saada. The concept is simple street food from the South of `France with more flavours from the Mediterranean. Try one of their Pan Bagnats. So, so good.
- Relax and talk. Paris invented café culture. Take advantage of it. It doesn’t have to be in the Champs–Elysées but any café will be perfect for you to sit, watch the world go by, and put the world to rights over coffee or an aperitif or two. Do feel free to try the most indulgent hot chocolate made with real chocolate at the Deux Mageux Cafe whilst seeking out the two statues the café was named after. Hey, if it was good enough for Earnest Hemmingway then it is good enough for us all.
- Wander around. Paris invented the flaneur. The person who wanders around observing society – otherwise known as people-watching. But don’t just people watch – soak up all that Parisian architecture, look for one of a kind doors and keep an eye on all the interesting street art that populates the place. You really can easily spend 2 or 3 days wandering about in a state of wow, I looooooooove this, and this, and this, and this…….
- Visit other places – the places less visited. Like the Grand Mosque of Paris. Or the Cimetière de Montmartre. Or the catacombs – ancient quarries (where do you think all the fine buildings got their stone from after all?) which tunnel under what is a lot of modern Paris. These are an early example of environmental management. To be specific, Paris in the 18th Century had a big problem with graveyards. They were completely full. So full, that they were a health hazard. So, in 1786 they started moving bones from the Cemetery des Innocents (near what is now Les Halles) to the old quarries. Which became renamed the catacombs to follow Rome’s rather more ancient ones. Go. Seriously. They retain a lot of majesty and actually have quite a spiritual quality – they are certainly a good place to reflect on your mortality.
- Sample the bars – after the thoughts of mortality in the catacombs, cheer yourself up by having a quick cognac in a bar round the corner, and think of life in a different way by going to:
- An art gallery or museum – there are some world-beating exhibitions on this year, from Rubens at the Musee du Luxembourg to Gaugin at the Grand Palais, or modern ones such as David Hockney and Anselem Kiefer or landmark art shows Fiac and Art Paris Art Fair.
- Have a picnic – go to a market and pick up some cheese, a freshly baked baguette, some rilletes or pate, croissants, fresh fruits – yes please to figs and apricots, and have a picnic somewhere in the sun. Maybe on the banks of the Seine? Maybe in a square? Maybe in the Buttes Chaumont or the Bois de Bolougne? Or a hidden spot in the Jardin des Tuileries. Do remember to grab some French wine, a blanket and maybe a book or two. Then you are good to go.
- Go for a bike ride. Paris was one of the first cities to have a city-wide bike hire scheme – the internationally famous velib (these inspired London’s Boris bikes). With more than 20,000 bikes and rental starting at only €1,70 per day there is no excuse not to. Bikes are a good way to see stunning sights, beautiful green parks, hidden treasures or to find quite spot if you need to. Plus, the health benefits of biking only make this a win win. Go on, try one and see Paris in a whole new way.
- Treasure hunt around Paris. Geocaching is about seeking out carefully hidden geocache (containers) using GPS-enabled devices. If you find yourself a cache, it usually contains a logbook to record your visit and “treasure,” that you can swap. You will visit places you would never have visited, you will probably bump into people you would never have met and much, much more. Please read Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary Palais de Justice including her meeting with the most helpful policeman in France, and being smuggled into the Palais de Justice. Lucky her.
- See sports – Paris hosts a huge range of sporting events with something for everyone. For example, you could watch the French Open, which is one of the world’s five grand slam tennis matches. Or maybe you can see Paris Eiffel jumping in action. Or off course you can check out the Tour de France which finishes here.
So much of Paris still to do, so little time and so very exciting.