Paris for two weeks, solo - what do to in free time?
September 4, 2019 1:10 PM   Subscribe

I (mid-30s female) am going to Paris for work September 30 - October 14, staying in the 5th on Rue des Ecoles near the Panthéon/Sorbonne/Cluny Museum. The nearest Metros are Maubert-Mutualité and Cluny-La Sorbonne. I'll be by myself the whole time (apart from work hours). I have a little passable classroom French. What awesome things can do I in my fairly ample, but mostly after-hours and weekends free time?

I'm very grateful to be able to go on this essentially once-in-a-lifetime (for me) trip and I'm looking to squeeze a lot out of it. I've been to Paris before but never for this amount of time or with level of independence. I'm fine with solo eating, drinking, wandering, and public transportation. My work will take me to many of the more well-known museums so I'm not looking so much for recs in that area, but suggestions of any museums less traveled are welcome.

Other things I'm interested in:

Cheese (shops, tastings, restaurants with great cheese courses, etc.)
Truffles/olive oil/"gourmet" food
Grocery stores and drugstores
Embroidery and cross stitch
Shopping, including department stores, stationery, makeup and skincare not available in America (or New Orleans, anyway), or really any fun shops
Live music of any kind
Live sports of any kind, or any big games to watch? (PSG UEFA Champions League game on 10/1, for example maybe?)
Fun bars to watch them in?
Restaurants including Vietnamese, Japanese, North African, great sandwiches, anything else interesting

I'd like to settle in and explore the area where I'm staying. I'm aware that it's pretty touristy (and that I am a tourist) but there's got to be some cool places? Of course I'm open to any other part of the city too. Thank you for any recommendations!
posted by CheeseLouise to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's been years since I've been to Paris but I'm tingling with excitement for you! I'm sure you'll get lots of great suggestions, here are two things I found really memorable:

Au Petit Fer a Cheval in the Marais is a bar/bistro with superb people watching. In a lively area that's probably quite touristy now but it felt like a respite. It has a wonderful horseshoe-shaped bar that encourages socializing.

Early October is a wonderful time to visit Versailles. You really get the sense of it as a country escape from the city, and the leaves will be starting to turn, so you'll get fall colors (not sure how much of that you get in New Orleans?). I would skip the grand palace and instead visit the gardens and the Trianon, which is a lot less busy but still fascinating.

Have a great time!
posted by CiaoMela at 2:18 PM on September 4, 2019

Best answer: Madeleine Gely makes pretty umbrellas, though my god the clerk was testy.
posted by praemunire at 2:25 PM on September 4, 2019

Best answer: See if there are any social or specialized Meetups going on while you're there.

See what Airbnb experiences are listed--they're cheaper and more informal than more commercial tours.

Check out Secrets of Paris suggestions, which are great and offbeat.

Go on a cheese tour.
posted by Elsie at 3:10 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Listen to FIP - one of my favourite radio stations in the world. They play music almost all the time - but have occasional announcements about upcoming artistic events - mainly in Paris. Go and see some!
posted by rongorongo at 3:34 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I really enjoyed the Pavilion d’Arsenal - an urban planning/architecture museum that has a permanent exhibit on the history of the development of Paris - super interesting (also free).
posted by yarrow at 8:10 PM on September 4, 2019

Best answer: The Catacombs
posted by el_presidente at 1:11 AM on September 5, 2019

Best answer: CityPharma in the 7th arrondissement is kind of the go-to spot for skincare products, though you'll find popular French brands such as Nuxe, Avène, Bioderma, Klorane, and Caudalie at pretty much any pharmacy.
posted by neushoorn at 1:36 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Any grocery store - Carrefour, Monoprix, Leader Price, Picard (frozen), etc. And too many boulangeries/patisseries to list here. Amuse-toi bien !
posted by eyeball at 10:08 AM on September 5, 2019

Best answer: Le Bon Marche is a fabulous department store. Slow Galerie sells beautiful framed prints of all sizes and styles at very reasonable prices.
posted by airplant at 12:14 PM on September 5, 2019

Best answer: On the perfume front, Printemps has a floor of perfumes. It's pretty comprehensive for the large French brands, although each brand is separate, with its own sales people. If you prefer the niche brands and having a more personal service to help you compare among brands, Jovoy is wonderful. I was lucky enough to have a question about oud in perfumery when the founder of the company was in the store. It was fun and educational. I have not been, but have heard that Serge Lutens Palais Royal is a showstopper.
posted by SandiBeech at 6:01 PM on September 5, 2019

Best answer: Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques in Asnieres!

It's the first pet cemetery in the modern world and it is honestly one of the most fascinating places. Its elaborate graves include but are not limited to: the original Rin Tin Tin, a lion, a couple monkeys and some amazing cats. (Find Ramses the cat, you won't be disappointed).

It's also just very sweet to see how much people love their pets.
posted by donut_princess at 9:25 AM on September 6, 2019

Best answer: >>L'As du Fallafel (don't go to any of the others nearby)

As a counterpoint, I heard much the same thing before going to Paris but when I went to L'as du Fallafel it was lined up down the block. So I went to Chez Marienne on the corner instead and picked up a perfectly delicious falafel without standing in line for an hour. Wherever you get your falafel from, I highly recommend eating in Jardin des Rosiers - Joseph-Migneret park down the street.

We also lucked into one of the occasional tours of the Arts Forains fairground museum which was mind-blowing (not just to look at, but you can also ride many of the attractions).
posted by Gortuk at 10:41 AM on September 6, 2019

Best answer: I wouldn't characterize that area as particularly touristy, for as close to the center of Paris as you'll be. It's a nice place to go for a walk though the Metro sucks there. I know they're not romantic but the bus service in Paris is really good and you get to see me.

If you like raw seafood, there's a branch of the small chain Le Bar a Huitres right around the corner at 33 Rue Saint-Jacques. They have (like many places) a reasonable lunch "formule" but for my money the decadent seafood platters are the reason to go, laden with top-quality shellfish, including little sea snails and tiny grey shrimp that I had never even heard of. Order a half-bottle of Muscadet and luxuriate. I would avoid their cooked dishes.

Obviously you should walk across to Ile Saint Louis and enjoy some Berthillon ice cream. The flagship has long lines (though the best selection) but many other places have it, including the Alsatian restaurant La Brasserie de l'Isle Saint-Louis, right off the bridge to Ile de la Cite.

It's on the other side of town, but I highly recommend the cheese restaurant L'Affineur Affine at 51 Rue Notre Dame de Lorette in the 9th. Reservation recommended, and as the name suggests they are also an affineur so you can take some home. Superb natural cider selection as well and very inexpensive for the quality.

If you like offbeat museums, I have a couple. La Musee des Arts Forains is about the circus arts, located in the pavilions at Bercy on the southeast edge of the city. They have historic carousels, puppets, even games from all over Europe, and some of them you even get to use/play. It's in French but they have English handouts. Reservation required, EUR16. Truly stunning. The other is just outside the southwest of Paris, in Issy-les-Moulineaux, La Musee Francaise de la Carte a Jouer. Featuring all types of playing cards, it won some European museum prize recently but I was there with just one other patron. Beautifully designed, fascinating historical and rare cards, there's also a museum upstairs with a number of Rodin castings and other cool stuff to see. EUR6 [sic]. I've never seen either of these recommended in a guidebook.
posted by wnissen at 1:40 PM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

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