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Free things to do in Paris

May 12th, 2010

Basilique du Sacre-Couer on Montmartre
The view from the highest point in the city is free (and a great place to kiss apparently).

So far in 2010, Paris has been experiencing a return to prominence as the top European destination for travelers. I found the city so beautiful with art, food, and wonderful people on nearly every corner. Plus it’s so easy to get around on the excellent Metro system.

To really enjoy Paris you don’t have to spend a lot of money either. Book one of our value hotels and then enjoy these ten things you can do for free while in Paris:

1. Notre Dame – You can enter Notre Dame and walk the grounds for free. Certain areas are only accessible by tour, however.
2. Basilique du Sacre Coeur – See that big white thing on the hill known as Montmartre, you can tour it for free. It’s the highest point in the city, so enjoy the view, and it’s directly above some of the city’s best markets for exploring (don’t miss the spice market).
3. Take a ‘podcast’ tour - Download a free walking tour podcast and set out on your own. Rick Steves has a great Paris walk-tour and it’s a free download.
4. Enjoy a free walking tour – There are a number of free tours in Paris. At St. Michel in the Latin Quarter and in Montmartre you can join a free walking tour of Paris. Plus there are some tour guides who regularly offer ‘free’ tours. Just be sure to tip your tour guide.

Chopin's grave at Pere Lachaise
Tributes surround Chopin’s grave at Pere Lachaise

5. Celebrity Spotting the easy way – There’s one place where you can always find famous people, the cemetery. The Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise is the famous resting place of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde. Alexandre Dumas and Edgar Degas can be found at The Cimetiere de Montmartre. Also many churches have some amazing burial tombs.
6. Have a Picnic in the Garden - Stop by the Tuileries, a 16th century palace with lots of public art to explore. The Jardin du Luxembourg – is best known for its puppet shows and toy sail boats, but it is also filled with sculptures, gardens, and excellent people watching opportunities. Grab a baguette, some cheese and wine and enjoy a wonderful afternoon.
7. Book Stores - Paris has some of the most unconventional book stores around. Les bouquinistes on the banks of the Seine are a must see and nearby is the world famous ‘Shakespeare and Co.’ store.
8. Performance Art - The Centre Pompidou usually has a free outdoor concert or other public art performance. You may also enjoy walking the streets near Picasso’s home (now a museum) and photographing the graffiti art that is very popular there.
9. Look Around — The height limit set for buildings has meant that the density of architectural beauty is very high in Paris. There’s the Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, Notre Dame, and the exterior of the Louvre just to name a few. Repeat this tour at night for a completely different experience. The Centre Pompidou and La Defense are examples of more modern approach that has come to Paris lately.
10. Go Shopping for flair – The Champes Elysees is world famous for a reason. But for me the magic of Paris is found in the small shops frequented by the locals. The Galeries Lafayette is known for its breathtaking setting. The unique Belle Epoque architecture of the store is worth a trip. Be sure to see the dramatic colored glass dome and the ornate Art Nouveau staircase while there.

This is just a short list. Keep an eye open for free days at museums, art galleries, and other events in the parks or streets of the city.

Photo Credits: Basilique du Sacre-Couer and Pere Lachaise. Both under a CC license.

JFrost Destinations, Travel Guide , , , , , ,

Paris Shopping by Neighborhood

March 12th, 2010

Shopping in Paris

Surprising a lot of people, Paris is a top destination for Spring Break this year. If you’re on your way for spring break or any other season, you may want to map out your shopping strategy in advance. Paris is broken into neighborhoods or as they call them arrondissements. Each has a unique character, special restaurants, and shopping. But there are a few that are clearly the best:

1st Arrondissement — Where the 1st arrondissements meets the 8th on Paris’s Right Bank is where you’ll find the best shopping strip. This fertile hunting ground includes the rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, home of the big designer houses, and the Champs-Elysées, which has seen changes over the years, but it still the place to be seen. If you are near the Palais Royal, you’ll find a jewel of a collection of boutique shops around the garden areas of the palace.

2nd Arrondissement — Located near the Palais Royal you can find the Garment District, which features amazing clothing bargains and some other unique shops. There is also a small collection of streets that are now closed to vehicle traffic and covered in glass. The Passage de Grand Cerf, between 145 rue St-Denis and 10 rue Dussoubs, is a place of amazement. From hipi retro stores to Asian-themed shops you’re bound to find something that pleases. Plus don’t pass up on the food stalls.

3rd Arrondissement — Home to the Musee Picasso this neighborhood is a great place to find street art, particularly stencil graffiti, sprinkled on building walls and inside doorways. The upper Marais area, down near the 4th arrondissement features a large number of men’s clothing stores. Also look for the rue des Francs-Bourgeois, which is open on Sundays, a rarity in Paris. It features trendy fashion boutiques and outdoor dining opportunities.

4th Arrondissement — This is the neighborhood for lovers of art and food. Both the Pompidou Centre and the Bastille district are settings for up-and-coming artists and galleries, not to mention street performers. You will also find the Marche aux Fleurs et Marche aux Oiseaux (the Flower and Bird markets) just on the north side of the Ile de la Cite.

Shakespeare and Co

5th Arrondissement — Part of the Latin Quarter, it’s also home to many of the cities educational and research establishments, like the Sorbonne. This means you’ll find plenty of budget shopping, apropos for someone living on a student’s budget. My favorite joint in the whole town is the eccentric and electric book store Shakespeare and Co., which you’ll find right down beside the Siene. For the young, and the young at heart, visit l’Epee de bois (the Wooden Sword) on the street of the same name.

9th Arrondissement — Home to many of the city’s big department stores, including Printemps flagship store. The 9th is defined by the Paris Opera house, railway stations, and luxury hotels, but don’t pass up the Passage du Havre. This old shopping arcade has its history in fish shops and transportation, but the modern incarnation is a beautiful mall. Enter on the Rue de Caumartin and experience the modern Paris shopping experience.

Photo Credits:

Haussman Boulevard & Printemps store / CC BY 2.0

Shakespeare and Co. / CC BY 2.0

JFrost Travel Guide , , , , ,