I’ve been really lucky to spend a lot of time in Paris over the years while visiting my grandparents. I absolutely love just wandering the streets, spotting interesting things that you may miss if you just stick to the tourist traps. Having recently visited again over Easter, I thought I should write down a few of my favourite things to do while I’m there (outside all the museums!).
Stroll through the Jardin du Luxembourg
Located between Saint-Germain-des-Prés (a favourite area of mine to go walking) and the Latin Quarter, the Jardin do Luxembourg is a lovely mix of art and horticulture. I’d only ever been through during the winter, but this year I was lucky enough to walk through during Spring and it was nothing short of divine (in my opinion). Gorgeous flowers everywhere, sculptures aplenty, people chilling out in the sun or going for a jog. There’s really something about having a tranquil spot in the middle of chaos.
Bringing this back to food – there are a few cafes and plenty of space to sit down and eat if you decide to put together a little picnic.
Gyros in St Michel
I can’t remember who took me here the first time, but whenever I’m in Paris (and I have time), I always go for lunch. It doesn’t look like much, but the gyros are tasty, cheap and very filling.
Maison de Gyros: 26 Rue de la Huchette, 75005 Paris
While you’re in the area, you can see the Notre Dame and the Fontaine Saint-Michel.
Tea and lemon meringue in Le Marais
One day, my cousin promised me the biggest lemon meringue tart I’d ever seen and took me to a funky little cafe called Le Loir dans La Théière (which translates to ‘the dormouse in the teapot’, cute huh!) in the Jewish Quarter (Le Marais) and I was not disappointed. Every time I’ve been it has been very busy and there is often a queue to get a table. Don’t let that put you off though; if you’re in a small party they usually get you seated pretty quickly and it’s so worth it for the tart!
They serve other things too, but I can’t comment because every time I go I order the same thing. So naughty of me!
Le Loir dans La Théière: 3 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France
Window shopping in Les Halles
Les Halles has changed significantly since my first visit back in 2004, when it was a shopping quarter with what seemed like a few buildings and a lot of random shops attached in some way to the Metro/RER station below ground. It’s still a shopping quarter, but now it’s massive and a little less random, with big brand names having set up shop in the extension they have built. However, my favourite part of visiting Les Halles has always been wandering down the smaller streets to visit the random shops selling everything from vintage clothing to art. I may have bought more than one pair of shoes from shops at Les Halles because some of them have excellent bargains.
There’s also plenty of food options, including brasseries, fast food and the all-important crêperies.
Nearby you’ll find Centre Pompidou – the home of a huge library and the Musée National d’Art Moderne. I haven’t actually visited, but I’ve been told it’s excellent.
Explore the flower market on Île de la Cité
This is a bit random, but every time I pass through here I can’t help but poke my head into the various shops selling flowers and other greenery. It’s in between Les Halles and St Michel, so it’s an easy stop on your way. Not all the little shops are open during winter, but in spring, it was magical. Flowers of all types and colours make you want to buy, buy, buy!
Marché aux fleurs: Place Louis Lépine, Quai de la Corse, 75004 Paris
Browse the books at Shakespeare and Company
I’m not the only person to include this on my list, but I do love walking into the shop and breathing in the delicious smell of musty paper. It’s a popular spot, but worth a visit. I don’t really need to say anymore.
Shakespeare and Company: 37 rue de la Bûcherie 75005 Paris
Explore the unknown in the Paris Catacombs
I went on my own the first time. Music in my ears, I wandered quietly around the labyrinth of bones that were moved to their current position in the late 1700s from various graveyards in Paris. Despite it seeming impossible that the remains of millions of people have been stacked and positioned in the catacombs, when you get there you’ll believe it.
If you’re into archaeology, the Crypte Archeologique du Parvis Notre Dame is also worth a visit.
Bask in the decadence that is Versailles
I’ve been to the Château de Versailles many times because it’s hard to get sick of something so beautiful. The only reason I’m ever disappointed is if the garden is closed. Unfortunately, I’ve been unlucky the last two visits.
Versailles started off as a hunting lodge. King Louis XIII loved the area so much he built a basic lodge that would allow him to stay overnight when he went hunting in the forest. By the time his son, Louis XIV came along, it had already been upgraded. Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, would go on to turn the hunting lodge into one of the most beautiful palaces in the country. A lot of this may mean nothing to you because you don’t recognise the names or numbers, but you will probably know the name Marie-Antoinette and her husband King Louis XVI, and their roles in the French Revolution. But that’s a story for a different blog, I think!
I recommend planning in advance where you’d like to go because not everything on this list will be open every day of the week and opening hours tend to be different depending on the season.
I hope you love my picks as much as I do.