It long ago stopped being easy to say anything “new” while writing about the City of Light. And as a first-timer, you truly must do the sightseeing highlights. The Eiffel Tower. The Louvre. The Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysées. And so forth. But Paris is truly one of those cities that merits a return visit (indeed, multiple return visits), and I recently came back from one in which I was aiming to enjoy it as much like a local as possible. I strolled – a lot – and along the way discovered the corners where the locals themselves go to relax and let their hair down.
When it really comes down to it, one of the best ways to get a feel for la Ville Lumière is to sit at its sidewalk cafés and watch the world go by – elegant ladies in hats crossing the streets, a newspaper delivery guy stopping by to say hello… And if you’ve arrived at your café after strolling from the Musée d’Orsay to Rue de Seine, as I did on a Sunday afternoon, passing between the majestic buildings of Haussman‘s Paris, with blue portals and half-open windows, it’s an especially impressive experience. Right there on Rue du Seine is one of my favourite cafés, La Palette, or if you like you can continue to Boulevard St. Germain ands its iconic Café de Flore.
Few cities in the world can boast such a variety of such splendid gardens! Many are quite centrally located and you can have a leisurely ramble to experience them all. Parisians of all ages and walks of life just love to linger in sprawling Jardins de Luxemburg and Les Tuileries, to read, chat, or sunbathe, alone or in groups, at the many chairs and benches scattered throughout the grounds. Bring a good book, and your camera, pull up a seat, and join them!
In the Parisian summer, the sunshine lingers till late, and strolling along the River Seine is one of the true delights of rambling in this elegant city, rewarding all day long but especially around sunset, with its magical interplay of light and shadows. You’ll find couples, singles, and groups of friends hanging out on the embankments relaxing and chatting – or maybe having sunset cocktails at Flow, alongside the ornte Alexandre III Bridge. Another lovely choice is boarding one of the famous bâteaux mouches for a cruise – dinner and drinks optional – on the likes of the Rosa Bonheur.
One of my favourite routes is from the Place de la Bastille on the Right Bank to the Place des Vosges and continuing through the narrow streets and lanes of the mediaeval quarter, the Marais, now packed with cute boutiques and cafés. Keep walking along streets like Rues des Francs Bourgeois and Rue des Rosiers to discover charming little corners and patios like the gardens of the Hôtel de Lamoignon and Hôtel de Sully.
La Tour Eiffel
Sure, it’s a touristy stalwart. But even without braving the lines to go up this world-famous landmark, you’ll also find that Parisiens love to come to the Champs de Mars below to hang out on the grass, sometimes with a picnic. No better place to go with a bottle of Champagne to watch the “blue hour” of dusk descend over Paris and watch the tower – and the city – start to light up for the evening. C’est magique!