If you’re a regular reader of Bruised Passports, then you would know that the two of us can often be found hunting for hidden, offbeat gems with the resolve of Generals. But there is one city that seems to cloud our minds and melt our hearts, a city where mainstream suddenly becomes appealing – it’s gay ol’ Paree.
Paris is where clichés converge to make magic happen. Call us jaded romantics but Paris is made for walks by the Seine, devouring a crumbly baguette out of a brown paper bag, running ones fingertips along the walls of the Sacré-Cœur – it oozes poetry and it makes us poetic *le sigh*
Unsurprisingly our list of things to do in Paris is a mix of the clichés and hidden gems. What can we say, that’s how we like our Paris :-). Here’s presenting what we feel are the top things do in Paris :-
#1 Paris Panorama from the Montparnasse Tower
What’s better than a panorama of Paris from the top of the Eiffel tower? A panorama of Paris WITH the Eiffel Tower in it. It’s something of a ritual to go atop the Eiffel on visiting Paris, but it’s the view from the Montparnasse Tower, one of Europe’s tallest buildings, that is a stunner.
What’s more, there are no queues and tickets cost half as much. We suggest visiting the Montparnasse Tower at night- the sight of Paris skyline, with lights twinkling all over the place, is unforgettable.
Closest Metro Station: Bienvenüe Montparnasse (Line 4)
More information here
#2 The Louvre at Night
Viewing the Mona Lisa after queueing up at the Louvre for hours might leave you a tad disgruntled. We don’t blame you, the crowds are a bit of a mood-killer.
If you want to fall in love with the Louvre, re-visit the museums’ facade at night, when the crowds have dissipated. There’s never more than a dozen people around, especially in winter. Squash your noses against the Louvre’s famous pyramid to peer inside or take a romantic walk to the distant sounds of cellists and violists playing in the compound of the Louvre.
Closest Metro Station: Louvre Rivoli (Line 1)
#3 La Promenade Plantée
Roughly translated as The Green Walkway, La Promenade Plantée is a three mile long elevated green space, built atop an abandoned railway-line. The path is enveloped by trees and shrubs and is perfect for a run on a hot summer’s day. If you’re in the mood for a picnic, go for an amble along the Promenade Plantée till you reach Jardin De Reuilly – a ‘hidden’ garden in the middle of Paris.
Closest Metro Station: Bastille (Lines 1, 5, and 8)
#4 Defunct railway tracks of La Petite Ceinture
Whilst on the subject of abandoned railway tracks, you must visit the tracks of La Petite Ceinture (The small belt) if you like your cities with a generous dose of quirk. They’re located in the 11th arrondissement, a bit of a trek from Central Paris, but they’re well worth it – – this was definitely one of the quirkiest things we did in Paris. The tracks of the orbital railway, abandoned since 1934, are now covered with overgrown weeds and bright flowers while its walls are masked with graffiti.
Closest Metro Station: Alexandre Dumas (Line 2)
For directions and details refer to our article on La Petite Ceinture.
#5 Pere Lachaise Cemetery
A cemetery might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of a Top 10 ‘things to do’ list, but Pere Lachaise is special. It is one of the most intriguing cemeteries in the world. We first went there to pay homage to Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, both of whom are buried there. We went expecting macabre graves but fell in love with its cobbled paths guarded by dozens of trees. Pere Lachaise is hauntingly beautiful, especially during fall. Take a look:
Closest Metro Station: Philippe Auguste (Line 2)
#6 Sacré-Cœur at night
Sacré-Cœur, Paris’ most famous Church is an amazing sight to behold any time of day, but it is truly special late at night. The basilica is lit, and the steps leading to it are choc-a-bloc with revellers, especially in the summer. Unlike the Louvre, this isn’t the place for a romantic walk – instead get a few beers, find yourself a spot on the steps, and sing along with street musicians well into the night.
Closest Metro Station: Abbessess (Line 12)
#7 Offbeat viewing points for Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower grounds are crowded with thousands of people but some of our favourite places to view the Eiffel Tower don’t have more than a handful of people at the best of times. The Bir Hakeim Bridge and the terrace of Saint Jacques Tower are two great places to view the Eiffel Tower in all its glory without being heckled by hundreds of people. But our favourite place is the Haussman Buildings close to Passy Village. You won’t find anyone here – just take a snack or drink along and stare as you watch the sun set over The Eiffel Tower. You’ll love every bit of it.
#8 Take a Secret Food Tour in Paris
We’ve taken a fair few food tours in Paris but the one we really enjoyed is the Secret Montmartre Food Tour. The food tour starts in Montmartre, one of my favourite areas in Paris. Think of the tour as a flash course in Parisian dining culture. It also gives guests an opportunity to sample a variety of baguettes, half a dozen delicious cheeses, French wine, and luscious meats. But that’s not all. You can also sample an array of French desserts – macarons, chocolates, crépes – you name it. We loved the way our guide – PJ – would dole out nuggets of information about French culinary history with a huge grin on his face – highly recommended.
#9 Le Marais
Bohemian Le Marais is one of Paris’ most fashionable areas and an LGBT hotspot. Spend an afternoon absorbing the exciting mish-mash of Parisian boulangeries, Jewish restaurants, independent boutiques, cutting-edge art galleries, and crooked lanes full of surprises in Le Marais. Rue St. Antoine and Rue des Rosiers are two of our favourite streets in the area.
Closest Metro Station: St. Paul (Line 1)
The coolest neighbourhoods of Paris, including Le Marais and Montmartre, are becoming more popular and pricier by the day.
Enter Belleville – Paris’ working-class cosmopolitan neighbourhood. The array of cultures here is dizzying to say the least – chinese supermarkets and african stores hob nob with Tunisian restaurants and French cafés. Belleville is somewhat of a local secret and you will find few tourists here. It lacks the finesse of Montmartre or La Marais. Belleville is gritty-cool, increasingly populated by bobos (as Parisians like to call their bourgeois-bohèmes) and artists. We owe this find to one of our closest friends who happens to be Parisian (Hey Etienne if you’re reading 🙂 )
Spend an afternoon exploring the quirky Rue Denoyez, a lane crammed with graffiti, street-art, and murals, followed by a drink at the legendary Café Aux Folies (an Edith Piaf favourite) and you’ll understand why we love this whimsical neighbourhood so much.
Closest Metro Station: Belleville (Lines 2 and 11)
#11 Place Du Tertre
Montmartre is the mecca of twentieth-century Modernism, so it is very special to Savi because she is a Picasso and Gertrude Stein obsessive. At the Place Du Tertre, a little square in Montmartre, artists fawn over their easels to this date. Wander around as you observe them painting scenes from Parisian life and portraits under the shade of leafy trees.
A word of warning. Avoid Place Du Tertre like the plague during summer months. It is crowded and crammed with make-shift restaurants. Instead, head to the neighbouring Emile Goudeau Square, which houses La Bateau Lavoir, famed in art history as Picasso’s studio from 1904-1909 and the birthplace of Cubism.
Closest Metro Station: Abbessess (Line 12)
#12 Picnic by the Seine
This one is for all the jaded romantics out there – a picnic by the Seine, overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Of all the things to do in Paris, this is one which is by far the most touristy, but a must – after all, it’s amazing for a reason 🙂
Judge all you want, but there really isn’t anything better than the sight of Paris at sunset, bathed in luminescent peach light. Wait for it to get dark. The Eiffel comes alive with a light show as the clock strikes the hour. We like to think of the tiny lights twinkling all over the Eiffel Tower as elves hell-bent on drizzling romance all around 🙂
Closest Metro Station: Trocadero (Lines 6 and 9)
#13 Take a day trip
If you, like us, love road trips then just rent a car (we use Economy Bookings) and head out for a day trip. This will give you a taste of the French countryside. Pick and drop off your car at the Charles De Gaulle Airport so you can avoid the crazy traffic and expensive parking in downtown paris. There are lots of options for day trips in the area including the little town of Chartres, Chantilly, and Lille. But one of our favourites is the Reims area, the birthplace of Champagne. Just drop by a vineyard or choose a café overlooking the cathedral in the city centre and spend a languorous afternoon under the French sun.
That’s it. Our Top 13 things to do in Paris. The city is just across the channel from UK and we might visit it frequently, but the romance never wavers. It unravels its magic, note by note, just like a glass of full-bodied wine.
FURTHER READING AND TIPS FOR PARIS
- If you feel like stepping out of the city for a day, make sure you do a day trip to the town and Palace of Versailles. You’ll love it.
- Looking for a place to stay in Paris? If you are interested in staying at hotels, have a look at all options compared in one place. If you are looking for an apartment rental, check out apartments on AirBnB (you’ll get a discount if you book your first apartment using this link :-)) for some ideas.
- You HAVE to visit these places to enjoy some cheap and delicious food: Our favourite places to eat in Paris!
- While in Paris, the best way to explore the city is The Paris Pass (use code JULY6 for 10% discount on 6-day passes and 6% on 3 and 4 day passes)