July Column, Place de la Bastille
A guest post by Matt Davids
As a city, Paris is notorious in terms of traffic and holds a reputation as one of the toughest cities to drive around in Europe. This is often typical of such historic cities and it more than makes up for this by providing a decent underground train network (Metro), as well as wide pavements for walking, cycling and roller-skating, and plenty of excuses to want to take your time and explore on foot.
There are several approaches to walking around Paris that are dependent on the type of traveller you are. For experienced visitors to the city, you can use your prior knowledge, French skills and the handy help of the many metro stations nearby to figure out where you are. Ambling along in this way, without a specific map helps facilitate the discovery of new side streets and shortcuts and travelling on a whim, guided by a loose sense of knowing where you’re going, and the many distractive sights, sounds and smells along the way.
For those less experienced, there are plenty of maps both print and online to help you get around and perhaps plan your route before you leave. Furthermore, booking an escorted tour is an excellent option if you’re a newbie to Paris or want to supplement previous trips with a little extra knowledge. These can be themed as well, so if you’re interested in a certain period of French history such as the French Revolution or WWll then go for one of these options.
Great locations around Paris for ambling around:
Due to its layout, with the Seine winding its way from East to West, a standard walking route can take in all the most famous parts of Paris, either as an action packed morning, or stretched out leisurely throughout the day, with walking time between 3 and 4 hours a good guide. For a few suggestions, or a less demanding stroll, the following areas are great places to focus:
The Marais is a district in Paris very much a part of the city’s history. Full of buildings that were built by Parisian aristocrats as well as many dating back to the 16th century, it has an amazing historic feel as well as fashionable restaurants and a strong art scene. These buildings, as well as immaculately kept outdoor areas make this one of the most expensive places in Paris to live, and it is conveniently close to many museums, including the Carnavalet Museum which reveals the history of Paris.
The Montmartre District is another area that is well represented by the art scene. Spending a few hours strolling around the Place du Tertre which is a square where artists paint and sell their works is delightful, and there is also the Montmartre Cemetery which is a popular tourist attraction and the resting place of famous artists. There’s also the Moulin Rouge, a cabaret that needs no introduction.
Les Bouquinistes, Paris
For an authentic cultural experience, the Bouquinistes along the river Seine are stands that sell books, photos and various other unique souvenirs for tourists, that having been around since the 16th century consequently offer an authentic location for purchasing a little something to take home. Hours can be whiled away strolling amongst these with the River Seine as your backdrop, conveniently located in the Latin District which is home to Notre Dame, has a strong student presence and many winding, charming streets.
To orientate yourself generally with Paris, then make your way to the square in front of the Notre Dame, which has a bronze plaque which represents the point to which all distances in France are measured. From here, the Eiffel Tower is to the West and the Place de la Bastille, a square where the July Column stands lies to the East. Zigzagging between these two points will take you across Paris, allowing you to see the Louvre, Notre Dame, Champs Elysees, Parc du Champ de Mars, Parc Luxembourg and many other tourist sites, whilst discovering the little hidden delights along the way that you would miss on the Metro or tour bus.
About our guest blogger:
Matt is a frequent traveller who has just returned from travelling round the world. He plans this summer to explore much of Europe, starting in Paris and finishing with his Greece holidays.
We love to have posts written by our CobbleStay guests and other travel experts. Feel free to share your insights about Paris and travel with us. You can send your ideas to Cassie at Community@CobbleStay.com