12 must do's in Paris
The City of Light, the City of Love, the city with a certain je ne sais quoi. There may be no place more adored on the planet, than Paris. You could spend a lifetime exploring it. Here is a shortlist of 12 quintessential Parisian must-do experiences that won’t break your budget.
1. Stroll the original “High Line”
Years before New York City opened the popular High Line park on a former railway track, Paris had the Coulée verte. Fragrant with roses and lavender, the park extends along the former Vincennes railway viaduct from the Bastille to the Jardin de Reuilly in the 12th arrondissement, continuing all the way to the Bois de Vincennes.
2. Discover street art in the Butte-aux-Cailles
You’ll find a village-like ambiance in the hilltop neighborhood of Butte-aux-Cailles, a closely guarded secret among residents. The leafy cobblestoned alleyways are abuzz with cafés, and the Art Nouveau public swimming pool. A wander through the quarter will reveal some of the city’s most enticing street art, like the witty stencil pin-ups created by Paris icon Miss.Tic.
3. Climb the Eiffel Tower
Skip the line and take the stairs to the first (330 steps) or second level (670 steps). From these points, you can take the elevator up to the next level where you’ll only wait minutes rather than hours. Stair tickets are just €7. It will be one of the best experiences of your trip—and you get to burn off your morning pain au chocolat.
4. Sample chocolate mousse at Chocolat Chapon
Stepping inside rock-star chocolatier Patrice Chapon’s St. Germain shop is like entering a chocolate universe with beautifully packaged treats. But the most innovative thing of all is the Bar à Mousses, where you can sample five different decadent mousses, each made from a single origin chocolate. You can buy a cone to eat on the spot or take away a container.
5. Go window-shopping
Tucked away behind the Louvre and the busy Rue Saint-Honoré is the Palais Royal. Inside this protected historic landmark, is a tranquil garden flanked by boutiques. The place is also a favorite shopping address for in-the-know Parisians. Great for window shopping.
6. Picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens
None of the city’s parks encapsulate the Parisian art de Vivre better than the Luxembourg Gardens where leisure-loving Parisians come to revel in the sunshine. Pick up picnic provisions at the nearby Raspail street market (Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays) and stake your claim to one of the green chairs.
7. Shop the “grands magasins”
The city’s grands magasins (department stores) are legendary shopping emporiums. It’s a retail triumvirate: Galeries Lafayette, Printemps (both have rooftop terraces with a sweeping view over the city), and Le Bon Marché. These stores are “musts” on the sightseeing circuit because of the exquisite architectural details, not to mention the glorious food selection at Lafayette Gourmet and La Grande Epicerie.
8. Swim in a Parisian pool
There’s a long-time tradition of swimming in the French capital with a public piscine on every corner—many in historical monuments. The Piscine Josephine Baker, with its retractable roof, is a glass-covered pool which floats on the Seine, anchored off the Quai François Mauriac.
9. Watch the sunset at Sacré-Cœur
Join the throngs to watch the sunset from the steps below the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre. In a city full of Instagrammable moments, this is one of the best spots to go gaga over the vistas. Local musicians pluck guitars on the steps, and if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of soccer star Iya Traoré performing his freestyle tricks.
10. Taste a real butter croissant
Every corner boulangerie entices passers-by with the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the streets. Nothing is more quintessentially Parisian than a croissant “au beurre”—a flaky, buttery icon of the petit déjeuner.
11. Sample cheeses at Androuët
Situated behind the Panthéon in the 5th arrondissement, the rue Mouffetard is an ancient market street brimming with treats. At the foot of rue Mouffetard, you’ll find Androuët, the master cheesemonger. The selection is mouth-watering, and you can get a crash course in French cheeses.
12. Eat Berthillon ice cream
The smaller of the Seine’s islands is a miniature Paris. The main artery, rue Saint-Louis en Île, boasts one of the best ice cream parlors in the city, Berthillon’s, the salted butter caramel flavor is famously delicious.
The grandeur of Paris is inspiring but what you’ll love most about the city is its intimacy. Its “quarters” are like a patchwork of villages, and while it’s one of the world’s major metropolises—with all of the culture and facilities that go with it—there’s a real sense of community at the local shops, markets, and cafes that remain unchanged.
Text: Cindy-Lou Dale
Photos: Cindy-Lou Dale and istockphoto.com