A stress-free guide to Paris – off the beaten track


The city of love.

Paris is known for being one of the most romantic places on earth. You automatically think of long walks along the river Seine or of all the love locks on one of the multitudes of bridges. Since you will probably not be the only one who decided to spend a long weekend in Paris, the masses of tourists can turn a relaxing getaway into a nightmare of queuing up and trying not to get lost in the crowd.

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But don’t be afraid – this blog post will guide you stress-free through Paris and you won’t miss a thing.

The preparation.

When leaving for a city trip, preparation is everything. But since you probably do not really feel like buying hundreds of city guides, I suggest you watch the award-winning movie Paris je t’aime.

Just lean back and enjoy some first impressions of the 18 different arrondissements (quarters) in Paris. The movie consists of 18 short stories and when you are actually there, you will most probably recognize some places and buildings from the different movie scenes. 

Le petit dej’ et le café. 

Whether you are staying in a hotel, an Airbnb flat or a hostel, don’t worry about additionally booking breakfast. Try one boulangerie (bakery) a day and enjoy tasty coffee and crispy viennoiserie (croissants, pain au chocolat, brioche, choquettes etc.)  for less than 3€. But be aware of the coffee culture. If you order un café, s’il vous plaît, you will most probably get a strong but very tasty espresso.

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So if you want a big cup of coffee you should rather order a café allongé (=Americano). Just keep in mind the following types of coffee and you will pass as a coffee expert:

un café (=espresso) – un doublé (=two shots of espresso) – une Noisette (=espresso and steamed milk)  un grand crème (=coffee with lots of milk or cream) et un café gourmand (espresso + four little desserts) 

La bouffe (food).

Besides the amazing coffee culture, France is worldwide known for its bonne cuisine. In France, food and eating can actually be defined as a social activity. During lunchtime it is not uncommon to order a full course meal – completed by a café Gourmand. By the way, every meal is accompanied by a carafe d’eau (a bottle of free tap water). 

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But now let the sightseeing begin. 

You can easily reach all the main tourist attractions like e.g. la tour Eiffel, l’Arc de Triomphe, la Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris or Montmartre and Sacre Coeur by hopping on and off one of the numerous red tourist buses.

thumb_IMG_2220_1024But the individuality and charm of Paris lies in between these main spots. So let the walking begin!

day 1_axe historique

On your first day you may want to get a little overview of the city by walking along the l’Axe Historique. Start at the l’Arc de Triomphe and try to get on top for une panorama magnifique. Then, walk along the famous Champs Elysées and faire la leche vitrine. 

thumb_IMG_1728_1024It can be pretty crowded on the Champs Elysées so instead of going shopping, rather explore some of the exhibitions in the Petit Palais or the Grand Palais. After having passed the Place de la Concorde and the Obelisque du Luxor you enter the beautiful Jardin de Tuileries (+l’Orangerie). You should have a little picnic or une petite sieste in one of the stylish green parc-chairs before going to the end of this architectural masterpiece: the enormous and famous Pyramide et Musée du Louvre.

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As soon as it is dark, walk along le Quai du Seine towards la Tour Eiffel and enjoy the city at nighttime – btw every full hour la Tour Eiffel is sparkling.

day 2_shakespeare et notre dame de paris.

On the second day take le métro to the île de la cité. You will be impressed by the famous cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris which was already built approximately 800 years ago. If you look closely enough you might also discover le Point Zéro des Routes de France.

Then, cross the river Seine côté sud and stop by at Shakespeare Book Company for a cup of coffee and some English literature. After this little refreshment, walk towards the Panthéon which is right next to the prestigious Université La Sorbonne. Inside the Panthéon you will find the Foucault pendulum which pretty impressively proves the earth’s rotation around its own axis.
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After this long day of walking, look for one of numerous crêpe shops, grab a crêpe salée/sucrée and get some rest in the Jardin de Luxembourg. In case you still have energy left, don’t miss out on dancing Salsa, Bachata, Tango, Folk or Rock’n’Roll. During summer time you always find people dancing at the Quai St. Bernhard right next to the river Seine. 

day 3_ museums et la tour eiffel.

Paris is a city full of cultural treasures. Close to the Tour Eiffel you find a tremendous choice of museums. Pick two or three from the list below and enjoy an interactive and inspiring trip into history, art or architecture. 

Musée d’Orsay (art, sculptures, photographies) –  Musée Rodin (sculptures) – Hôtel des Invalides (military and history) – Musée Quai Branly (non-european art) – Palais de Chaillot: Musée de l’Homme (anthropology), Musée de la Marine – Musée de l’ArchitecturePalais de Tokyo (contemporary art) – Musée de l’Art Moderne de Paris (modern art) 

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If you decide to monter la Tour Eiffel try to be there at around 9 AM. And don’t be lazy; take les escaliers (stairs). You will not only be one of the first people on top of the Eiffel Tower but you will feel like you’ve just successfully climbed a mountain.

day 4_pompidou et marais.

Not far from the gigantic shopping center Chatelet Les Halles, you will notice a very uncommon building: Le centre Pompidou. This museum, which also houses a public library, is characterized by its exterior escalators, the enormous colored tubing and its panoramic view over Paris. 

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But since you might be a little hungry now, let’s walk past the little square in front of the museum towards the quarter Marais. Once there, you should definitely try les falafels at Mi Va Mi , des crêpes at la Droguerie or des galettes in la Cidrerie du Marais. And if you still have some money left in your shopping budget, profitez-bien in one of the numerous chic and stylish boutiques in le Marais. 

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Another five minutes further east, enjoy un café at the royal square Place des Vosges before you take le metro at la Place de la Bastille to la Bibliothèque Francois Mitterand. In the midst of this national library, you will come across a wild forest in the city center. 

day 5_canal st martin et philarmonie.

Le cimetière du Père Lachaise is the first park cemetery in the world. When you walk along the alleys you might recognize some names of well-known authors or artists. Despite a great many visitors, it is a calm and peaceful place where you can leave all the stress and noise behind you. 
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Totally relaxed, start the walk along the Canal St. Martin towards le Parc de la Vilette. En route you will pass the vegan boutique Carmen Ragosta mode et cuisine, where you can enjoy a homemade vegan meal or buy unique vêtements (clothes)

In the Parc de la Vilette take up l’ascenseur on top of le toit (roof) de la Philharmonie de Paris for another panoramic view over Paris

day 6_montmartre et recyclerie. 

Your personalized city trip is now slowly coming to an end. Nevertheless, there is still a lot planned for today. Take le metro to la porte de Clignancourt in order to prove your bargaining skills at les marché aux Puces. You can either get something to eat at the market or walk to la Recyclerie which is an eco-friendly cafe (a former train station) with a vegetable garden and a hen house.

Eventually, you’re brought to the last stop on this city-tour: Montmartre and la Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre. On your 1.5 km walk up the hill, you will pass charming, colorful houses and even a vineyard in the midst of Paris. On top, enjoy one last panoramic view over Paris and absorb the city’s energy. 

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My personal love declaration.

There are certainly a lot more things to explore and a native Parisien may have a completely different perspective on what to do and where to go. But from a “long-term tourist” to a “tourist-to-be” I leave you with this: Take my love declaration and make the most out of your time in Paris.

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© Photo credit goes to Christiane Hilmer, thanks for spotting things I would never discover.

Liked this post? Read more about Eli’s experience in Paris.

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