Perhaps one of the greatest things about Paris is the metro. It’s fast and it’s reliable. It’s wonderful. That is, if you don’t mind being underground.
My first two trip to Paris lasted for about five days each – an acceptable amount of time someone would spend in the city during a vacation.
When I returned to the city for a third time, I wasn’t very interested in seeing the run-of-the mill tourist attractions. I’d done the route from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame to the Champs Elysees before – twice.
Rather, I wanted to experience what I had missed in between while I was riding a train deep under the road.
As it turns out, I had missed a lot.
Turns out, all those kilometers of road that I was passing under feeling like I was “making up time” for the busy vacation away actually held something of substance. And I missed it.
But you will never know until you take the complete walking tour of the city.
Now, you could hop on one train and get off at every stop to see the marvels of Paris above ground, or you could use the two things that are attached to your ankles and decide to work off all the wine and cheese you’re probably going to indulge in at some point during your time in the City of Lights and Love.
The best parts about Paris, after all, are the sidewalk vendors and the cute little cafés that are out of the way.
If you’re truly searching for something off the beaten path, then exploring the entire city by walking is definitely something you should consider.
How to plan your Paris walking route
Now, in order to make this work, you have to plan to cut some things out of your schedule. Paris is still a big city – it’s walkable, but you will need longer on foot.
Simply put your list of everything that you want to see in an order-of-importance list. After that, you can group together some things that are in the same area and start plotting your great hike of the City of Love and Lights.
Section your city map off into zones (I suggest into four sections ― north and south of the Seine and east and west of the Louvre) and highlight the major attractions you want to see. Always plan on things taking far longer than you would expect and always account for time waiting in lines and getting from one attraction to the next. If you’re a photographer with a bad case of a shutter-finger, make to allot for time to stop and get those excellent shots along the way, too.
Maybe make it a goal to hit two or three big things on your list each day. That will give you enough time to wander and explore the city without thinking that you absolutely have to hit everything.
As you stroll, you’ll probably also find some cute, quaint, little places you’ll want to stop and enjoy a cup of coffee and people watch ― that is, after all, one of the greatest things about France.
In order to succeed at the big walking tour of Parks, you’ll have to be OK with having absolutely no idea where you are at times. When a friend and I popped up out of the Catacombs of Paris, it took us some time to actually figure out where we were in relation to where we entered the underground house of the dead and figure out where we were trying to go from there.
We simply found two cross streets, memorized the name of the streets, and nestled ourselves in a small corner café with our map to try to figure it out.
That café ended up being one of my favorite spots in Paris. It was full of locals and great people chattering away in French. The view of the street that I would soon have to navigate wasn’t half-bad either. My friend and I found a spot sitting alongside the street so we could watch the beautiful people passing us by.
Along our walk back to the Seine, we came across several beautiful gardens and fountains. We then stumbled into the Panthéon and the Luxembourg Gardens, and a small church that was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen just behind the Panthéon. We then trekked back to the other side of the Seine River by way of the Île de la Cité, bypassing Notre Dame for the day (we returned the following day for mass).
Earlier in the year, my friend had stayed in an apartment around here with her family, and they regularly took refuge in a small, but quaint boulangerie nearly every morning for breakfast.
Before we decided to head back to our hostel, which was located right behind the Louvre, we decided to try to find that very boulangerie. Once found, we went in and warmed ourselves up from the cold March weather, which consisted of mostly a chilled wind, with some more coffee.
Paris by foot, though more time consuming, won’t disappoint. You’ll be able to safe a few euros from those metro tickets to use on all the yummy food you’ll buy at those hidden gems of cafes you’ll come across.
This is a guest post by Megan Fischer. All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.