I’m quickly learning that the best way to discover these European cities is on my own two feet. For this post I recommend you pack some water, a good pair of running shoes folks, and as Kelsey would call them “Emergency Granola Bars”.
I went on a free walking tour throughout the city with Sandeman Walking Tours . These run 3x a day everyday and you tip your tour guide at the end rather than paying up front. Generally speaking these types of tours are better. You avoid the 70 year old guide that has recited the same information so often they can’t be bothered to care anymore. Instead you get someone in their 20s with real love for meeting people, starting conversation and providing historical and CURRENT information about the city & people that live within it.
If you’re looking to wander around the city for a bit, a good place to start is St. Michel Fountain. This is right near île de la Cité which is the 1st arrondissement (so very central). In the area near the fountain you will find a ton of food. If you’re facing St. Michel cross the street to your left. If you continue down the side street there are vendors from everywhere, not just parisien food. If you walk away from the fountain (so facing the other way) and turn right you can head towards île de la Cité and there you’ll find Notre Dame. The line up is always huge so don’t be discouraged. It’s free to go inside, it’s just a security check and moves relatively quickly.
If you’re facing Notre Dame and take the side street to your left in your opposite direction you will pass Paris’s oldest hospital (on right once you’re walking) and then once you continue you will come across a massive flower market. It runs everyday, except on Saturdays it is pet market. With the market on your right you are also facing St.Chapelle chapel which is the church with the most extensive collection of stained glass windows. It is said to be very beautiful inside.
If you walk through the flower market and turn left you will be headed down a street that will take you towards Point Neuf and then you can follow it this way to the Louvre. Behind the Louvre there are massive gardens and if you walk through those and turn right you will come to a carnival area and turning right through there will take you to the art institute which is a very busy and populated area of Paris you might like to walk around in.
If you are looking for a different feel, I suggest you take the metro out to the Montmartre district. This is your classic French city with winding cobblestone streets, quaint little cafes, artists set up in the square and music playing. Go there and plan to spend the day. From there you can take all the steps up to sacre coeur for the most beautiful view of paris you will ever see. Again, the line up to enter the basilica looks long. But it’s free to enter and you don’t actually wait that long. You can easily spend plenty of time wandering through this district, checking out the art and little shops and galleries that line the streets. At the base of Montmartre there is a wall called “Le mur des je t’aime” meaning “The Wall of Love” where “I love you” is written in 250+ languages. Sit there for a while and watch families, lovers, old married couples hug and kiss each other while the pose for a picture. It’s absolutely beautiful.