My high school friend, Ginger, was going to the French capital with her husband and asked me for suggestions. They had already planned an outing to the Big Stuff, and had another day in Paris to just wander on their own.

Here’s your walk down through the heart of Paris. Through the Marais, over the Seine, and into the 6th arrondissement.

Paris building and neighborhood
Photo by Matthieu Oger

First, some Paris etiquette.

Say Bonjour

For every single person (clerk, waiter, person-on-the-street you ask for directions, literally everybody) you encounter, make full eye contact and say Bonjour. This increases your chances of having a positive human interaction. Before the eye contact and Bonjour, you don’t exist.

Check Opening Times

It’s a good idea to check opening times before you go. You might need reservations at the museums (especially at the popular ones like the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre museum). Even if the place is supposed to be open, remember that the French don’t feel the same obligation not to disappoint the public that we Anglos do. They’ll close if there’s too much traffic, not enough traffic, a gas leak, a fight on the train, a terrorist threat, a strike, Sunday afternoon, Monday, or just because. Be flexible.

Get Your Phone Map ready

Use the phone map of your choice, and please pull over to the side to orient yourself because if you block a Parisien going about their business you’ve just contributed to international stress and we don’t need that right now. 

Let’s go!


Le Marais to the River Seine

We’ll start on the Right Bank, the part of Paris north of the Seine, in the Marais. That means swamp in French because that’s what it originally was. Then it was the Jewish quarter, now it’s cool and historic and trendy, the center of things.

Your first stop is Merci. It’s a cool store with clothing and housewares. Sometimes it’s got fun, funky, functional stuff and sometimes it just feels like an expensive garage sale. You never know, but I’ve bought some great stuff there and there’s an adorable cafe/bookstore attached. Have a tiny espresso.

A red car in front of a bookstore and cafe at Merci Paris
Photo by Robin Ooode

If you would like a small-bite museum, visit the Picasso Museum. If not, head to…

Place des Vosges. Swan about for a bit. Look in the galleries and shops surrounding the square.

For my money, the best food you can put in your mouth in Paris is a pita sandwich from L’As du Falafel. If they’re closed, go to Mi-Va-Mi across the street. It’s less Instagramable but the same deliciousness.

Keep going towards your next stop, the BHV. It’s not the fanciest of Paris department stores, but it’s got great stuff nonetheless. I love to sniff the stationery and stroke the sheets. There are restrooms in the ladies lingerie department, FYI. (If you see a restroom in Paris, use it. There aren’t that many.)

Pass in front of City Hall (l’Hotel de Ville) on your way to Pont d’Arcole, a bridge to the Île de la Cité. Gawk at Notre-Dame Cathedral, then keep going and take the Pont au Double to the Left Bank. 

While you’re on a bridge, lean on the railing and smooch. Look at the boats. Look at the Eiffel Tower. Take selfies. Smooch some more. You’re in Paris, baby!

The bank of Seine River with a view of Eiffel Tower
Photo by Dan Novac

Rive Gauche: The Latin Quarter and St. Germain

Cross over to the Seine’s Left Bank and walk past Shakespeare and Co in the 5th arrondissement. It’s a terrific bookstore but there’s usually a line, so skip it and go to my favorite, Abbey Books. Tell Brian I said hi. Don’t miss the basement.

Left: Abbey Bookshop entry door, Right: Shakespeare and Company Paris with a cherryblossom tree
Photo by Celine Ylmz

The best crêpes in town IMHO are at Crêperie Genia, a little stand next door to McDonald’s. I love the classic ham and cheese. I’ve heard great things about the honey and walnut as well.

Now it’s time for that wonderful French tradition, the apéro. It’s a post-work, pre-dinner glass of wine, meant to give you a moment to reflect on your day before heading into the evening, whether that’s to visit your lover or go home. I love Café le Dante in this neighborhood, but anyplace with sidewalk tables will do the trick. Order a glass of wine, toast each other, maybe smooch a little more. 

For dinner, try Bouillon Racine. (There are lots of bouillon-type restaurants, but this one is nearby.) This restaurant is in the Belle Epoque style, and the food is traditional French. Portions are small, so order three courses. Maybe four. Have coffee afterwards – it’s the perfect place to linger like a proper Francais.

After dinner, wander through the winding streets over to Cafe Laurent for some jazz. Have a cocktail—my favorite is the Piazzolla. (If you have one, you can take the Metro home. If you have two, you might need an Uber. Trust me on this.)

If possible, stand on a bridge and look at the lights twinkling on the Seine. Smooch a little more.

Paris street with cafe terraces at Saint Germaine
Photo by Caleb Maxwell


Is this list too long for one day?

Yes. Is there too much food, coffee, and alcohol involved? Yes. Will you pass by things you wish you could stop and see but you feel compelled to keep going because Yvonne said so? Yes.

You be you, boo. Make the list your own, just like you’re going to make Paris your own. It’s your day.

 Profitez bien!


  1. Merci – 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, France
  2. Picasso Museum – 5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris, France
  3. Place des Vosges – Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris, France
  4. L’As du Falafel – 34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France
  5. BHV Marais – 52 Rue de Rivoli, 75004 Paris, France
  6. Shakespeare and Company – 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
  7. Abbey Bookshop – 29 Rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris, France
  8. Crêperie Genia – 53 Rue de la Harpe, 75005 Paris, France
  9. Café le Dante – 2 Rue Dante, 75005 Paris, France
  10. Bouillon Racine – 3 Rue Racine, 75006 Paris, France
  11. Cafe Laurent – 33 Rue Dauphine, 75006 Paris, France

Paris Walks – More To Explore

What are some other places to check out nearby?

Rue Vieille du Temple – on Sundays it’s closed to cars and shops are open!

The Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Prés (visible from the metro station at Saint-Germain). The abbey is one of the oldest in Paris, dating from the Middle Ages.  

Boulevard Saint-Germain has lovely boutiques to check out.  

Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore – though now touristy, the likes of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, Pablo Picasso, Albert Camus frequented these historic cafés.

For greenery and peace, head to the Jardin du luxembourg.

Which are some of the best arrondissements for Paris walks?

The 1st arrondissement– The Seine river, Pont Neuf, the Louvre, Saint-Chapelle – This is great for first time visitors wanting to catch a glimpse of some of the big Paris attractions.
The 3rd and 4th arrondissement – the Marais, home to some of our favourite streets for fashionable boutiques, trendy cafés and more.
The 5th and 6th arrondissement–Latin Quarter and St. Germain-des-Près – historic and picturesque. Home to some of the most walkable streets in the City of Light.
Montmartre – a mix of Bohemian roots, multicultural pockets, pretty Paris streets with shops and cafés, along with the Sacre Cœur means you can’t go wrong with a stroll here.
10th and 19th arrondissements – Canal Saint-Martin & Canal de l’Ourcq – this is where you will find many locals enjoying an apéro on the canal banks and frequenting the shops, cinemas and cafés of these hipster enclaves. If you’re a visitor wanting to wander off the beaten track, this is the place to go.

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Written by Yvonne Hazleton. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.


Yvonne Hazelton

Yvonne is an American writer living in Paris. She blogs at Escaping the Empty Nest.

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