12 Essential Parisian Experiences
One of the world’s most visited cities, Paris is packed with museums and galleries, stunning architecture and famous sights, but what makes the city so special is its atmosphere. The places, people and experiences that give you a feel of the real Paris and an insight into this fascinating city.
So here are 12 essential Parisian experiences to try out on your next trip to the City of Light:
1. Watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle over a cocktail
The Eiffel might be Paris’ most famous tower, but for a panoramic view that includes the city’s most recognisable landmark, head to the Montparnasse Tower instead. For the price of a cocktail in its 56th-floor Ceil de Paris bar, you get a prime view of the city after dark and the tower as it sparkles with light on the hour.
2. Drink hot chocolate in a Left Bank café
Follow in the foosteps of the writers, artists and philosphers of a hundred years ago to one of the Left Bank’s cafés. Try Les Deux Magots where Satre used to debate the meaning of life and Hemingway worked on his lastest novel. Or visit the Café de Flore for one of their deliciously rich hot chocolates.
3. Take a walk through a cemetery
For an oasis of peace among the city bustle, visit one of Paris’s ornate cemeteries. Built in the 1900s, the most famous is Père-Lachaise, where big names like Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried. But there are others in Montparanasse and Montmarte, each full of gardens, decorative tombs and statues.
4. Picnic by the river on a summer evening
During the long warm summer evenings, join the locals on the banks of the Seine. Grab some picnic supplies – cheese, ham, bread and wine – from the supermarket and bag yourself a spot along the riverside. It’s Paris’ biggest bargain night out, where the party goes on well into the night.
5. Visit the Louvre by night
Avoid the daytime crowds by visiting the Louvre after hours. There’s late-night opening at the museum until 9.45pm on Wednesday and Friday nights. Or just take an evening wander through the illuminated buildings and glowing glass pyramids for some great night-time photography.
6. Go window-shopping in Faubourg St Honore
Paris’ most fashionable street, Faubourg St Honore is home to luxury French fashion brands like Hermès and Lanvin, as well as being the headquarters of French Vogue. Even if the designer shops are a bit out of your budget, the street’s window-shopping and people-watching is priceless.
7. Discover the secrets of the Metro
Paris’ Metro stations are more than just a way of getting around. You can find classic Art Noveau style at Cité and Abbesses, and artworks on the platform at Louvre-Rivoli and Varenne. Or for something different, visit Arts et Métiers where copper walls and portholes transform it into a steampunk-inspired submarine.
8. Feast on maracons from Ladureé
You might find newer and trendier macaron-makers around Paris, but for the classics head to Ladureé. They sell 15,000 of their light and airy macarons each day, with a different selection of flavours available each season. Grab a box of six to take away from one of their pretty, pastel-hued stores.
9. Sail down the Seine
Sightsee the easy way on a boat trip along the Seine that takes you past city landmarks like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. You can take a dinner or Champagne cruise, but for a budget boat trip try the Batobus, a hop-on, hop-off service you can use to get around the city.
10. Eat steak frites in a traditional brasserie
Whether your tastes are for street stall falafel or Michelin-starred dining, you won’t go hungry in Paris. But for a traditional Parisian experience look for an old-fashioned side street brasserie. Dig into French onion soup, steak frites and crème brûlée along washed down with a carafe of house wine.
11. Go underground
Deep below the city streets you’ll find some of Paris’ more unusual attractions. The creepy underground tunnels of the catacombe are stacked with the skeletons of six million Parisians. Or if that’s not strange enough, you can even tour the city’s 1800s sewer system at the Musée des Égouts.
12. Visit the original High Line
Long before New York had the High Line, Paris had the Promenade Plantée. The former Vincennes elevated railway line has been turned into an elevated public park. It runs from the Viaduc des Arts, where galleries and crafts shops fill the railway arches, and runs 1.5km to the Bois de Vincennes forest.