Narrowing down where to go when visiting Paris, with its many attractions and neighborhoods, can be overwhelming, especially if you’re just passing through for an afternoon and have little time, or it’s your first time here. Fortunately we’ve enlisted the help of one of the City’s professional, local tour guides, to curate this free, essential self guided tour of central Paris. A stroll along the river Seine is the best way to soak up the history of the City and its ambiance. Whether you’re only here for a few hours, or are looking for a free walking tour of Paris that captures the spirit of the City of Light and takes your breath away, you won’t be disappointed.~HIP Paris Editors

From Notre DaME To the Eiffel Tower: Paris Walking Tour – Free Itinerary

A google map of the essential walking tour along the Seine.

Notre Dame

Our adventure begins at Notre Dame Cathedral on the Île de la Cité. This island is the heart of historic Paris. This beautiful city was born here, around 200 BCE when a Galic tribe, the Parisii (Par-ee-SEE), settled in the area. The Romans crashed the party about 150 years later, but “Paris” retained its name from these original settlers.

Marché aux Fleurs

The next destination is the enchanting Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market). Established by Napoleon to enhance the Parisian charm, this vibrant market is bursting with colors and fragrances. Check out the lush Orchid House. When you’re ready to cool down, head to the ornate Wallace Fountain. Its refreshing water is a little gift from Paris on a hot day.

A colorful flower display at Marché aux fleurs.
photo by Sammy Royal

Pro Tip: Paris boasts about 1200 drinking fountains, and the water is safe! Bring a refillable bottle to avoid buying overpriced water.

Cité, Palais de Justice, Sainte Chapelle and Conciergerie

After soaking in the floral beauty, make your way to the Cité Metro station. This gem feels like stepping into turn-of-the-century Paris with its intricate Art Nouveau ironwork by Hector Guimard. Nearby, the imposing Palais de Justice stands tall, a former royal residence now serving as France’s highest court. To its left is the stunning Sainte-Chapelle, one of the oldest churches in Paris, dating from the Middle Ages. To the right, the historic Conciergerie awaits with tales of revolution-era prisoners like Marie Antoinette.

Pro Tip: Visiting Sainte-Chapelle on a sunny day is one of the best ways to appreciate its beautiful architecture. The stained glass will make you feel like you’re walking through a kaleidoscope.

La Conciergie from the left bank of the Seine.

Place Dauphine

Just around the corner, discover Place Dauphine, a delightful triangular square commissioned by King Henri IV in the 1600s. While many of these buildings have been renovated, the two at the forefront, by the equestrian statue, retain their original charm. 

Pro Tip: Most of the eateries here cater to the tourist crowd. However, Restaurant Paul, founded in the early 1900s, is a charming spot for traditional French fare, worth the detour.

Square du Vert-Galant

Exit the square by the equestrian statue, cross the street, and follow the stairs down to Square du Vert-Galant, a tranquil oasis named after King Henri IV, affectionately dubbed “The Green Gallant.” Find a spot by the willow tree at the island’s tip – a perfect place for a moment of reflection or a romantic rendezvous with the river lapping on both sides of the banks of the Seine.

Pont Neuf, Institut de France, Académie française

Ascend the stairs and continue your stroll across Pont Neuf—ironically named “New Bridge” since it’s the oldest in Paris. From here, make your way to the Left Bank, where the Institut de France awaits. This architectural beauty is home to the prestigious Académie française, the esteemed guardians of the French language.

The Pont des Arts on a partly cloudy day.

Some Interesting Facts: The Académie française has a well-documented history of trying to protect French from the influence of English. They often create French alternatives for popular English terms, such as their proposed “le toile d’araignée mondial” (the world spiderweb) as an alternative to “le World Wide Web.” This suggestion never gained widespread popularity, though. French speakers overwhelmingly adopted the English term “le Web” instead.

Pont des Arts

Stroll across Pont des Arts, formerly known as the Love Lock Bridge. Once upon a time, lovers would seal their affections by attaching padlocks to the bridge and tossing the keys into the Seine below. Although officials of the City of Love halted this romantic tradition to protect the bridge’s integrity, the view from here remains as breathtaking as ever.

Pro Tip: This spot is perfect for capturing stunning photos, especially at sunrise and sunset!

Musée du Louvre

Continue your journey into the Louvre Museum through the entrance directly across from the bridge. Back in the seventeenth century, King Louis XIII decided to spruce things up with the construction of the Cour Carrée, or square courtyard. From the central fountain, you’ll get a sneak peek of the iconic glass pyramid through a small doorway. Walk through, and voilà, you’re stepping into the most famous part of the Louvre!

The Pyramid of the Louvre on a partly cloudy day.

Tuileries Gardens

Pass the pint-sized Arc de Triomphe and step into the sprawling Tuileries Gardens. This former industrial site was transformed into a horticultural haven by Catherine de Medici. Soak in the view of the Louvre, take some photos, and let your imagination wander through the lives of French royalty who once strolled these very paths.

Jardin des tuileries in full bloom on a sunny spring day.

Place de la Concorde

Walk towards the western end of the gardens and arrive at Place de la Concorde, a bustling roundabout dominated by a massive Egyptian obelisk. This historic square also has a darker chapter. It was the location of the guillotine during the French Revolution.

Grand Palais and Petit Palais

From here, you’ll walk to the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais, taking a lazy stroll down Paris’s most famous avenue, the Champs-Élysées. Stick to the sidewalk or meander among the trees to the left, and be sure to spot the real Arc de Triomphe making a grand appearance in the distance. Both the Grand Palais and Petit Palais were built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, but only the Grand Palais had a cameo in the Tom Cruise film Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

Pro Tip: While the Grand Palais is currently undergoing renovations, the Petit Palais offers a free entry to explore its artistic treasures and garden.

Pont Alexandre III and Hôtel des Invalides

After admiring the Petit Palais, head to Pont Alexandre III, Paris’s most elaborately decorated bridge. It’s a wedding photographer’s outdoor studio with ornate sculptures and stunning views of the Eiffel Tower. Cross the bridge to the Left Bank of the Seine river again so you’re standing in front of Hôtel des Invalides, a grand building housing a military museum and the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. From here, the Iron Lady of Paris awaits!

Les Invalides on a partly cloudy day.

The Eiffel Tower

This stretch along the Seine is the longest on the tour, so lace up your comfy shoes! But trust me, the reward is worth it to see one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations from this vantage point. The Eiffel Tower will soon rise before you, an iconic landmark you can’t miss. If you need extra content for your IG, head to 228 Rue de l’Université, best places for photos, with the Eiffel Tower as the perfect backdrop. Snap some selfies, wander around the base of the Iron Lady, and imagine yourself at her inauguration in 1889. 

The Eiffel Tower on a sunny day.

After conquering this walk, you’ll likely be famished. Skip the overpriced tourist traps around the Eiffel Tower and head to Rue Cler, a charming street lined with boulangeries, fresh food markets, and delicious restaurants. Here, you can savor an authentic Parisian meal and have un verre de vin (a glass of wine). It’s a great way to soak in the local atmosphere.

This curated route offers a glimpse into the heart of Paris, introducing you to its iconic landmarks, hidden gems, and historical significance. But this is just the beginning! You’ll discover countless other treasures and have an even more unique experience as you wander off the beaten path.

A fruit stall on Paris's rue Cler.

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  • Looking for more self-guided walks for your next visit? Here is another of our favorite free walking tours of Paris, curated by one of our beloved local experts.
  • Want to enjoy leisurely strolls through the heart of Paris while staying in an apartment of your own? Check out this fractional apartment for sale in le Marais, just moments from Place des Vosges.
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Written by James Christopher Knight. 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.


James Christopher Knight

A transplant from Los Angeles, James is a passionate Paris storyteller and photographer with Paris Love Affair Tours. A local since 2017 with a Parisian family, he captures the city’s essence through his work as a professional tour guide and through photography, sharing a love for its architecture, culture, and hidden gems.

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