Solo Paris in April, All Tips Appreciated!!
February 22, 2023 5:23 AM   Subscribe

I’m finally taking myself on my first grownup solo trip and headed to Paris in April! Looking for updated hints and ideas.

Things I like: modern art, eating street food, walking for hours, people watching, nursing a coffee for hours, early bedtimes, bookstores, all the fun clothes.

Staying near Pigalle and definitely have that nyc fomo of meandering an eh street when the fun street is around the block.

What do I need to do and buy?

Not interested in fancy stuff, cocktails. Hit me up with all the fun things and once in a lifetime experiences!!
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (21 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
On one of your first days, walk from the Statue of Liberty (Metro Charles Michel) along the Seine to the Centre Pompidou. This takes you across all the major sites along the river, the booksellers etc, right to the premiere modern art museum and just next to the Marais quarter, which is definitely one of the Happening Places. It takes a few hours, but this walk is my favourite for refreshing where everything is versus one another. North side of the river for preference, but the bridges are so frequent that you can alternate.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 5:33 AM on February 22, 2023 [2 favorites]

The Promenade Plantee! It's basically the Parisian High Line - a 5 kilometer park built along the path of a disused railway track. Part of it is elevated, and then it slopes through a ground-level full-on park and continues on to a slightly below-ground-level portion (it's the part where the original train track approached a tunnel).

The bridge that the elevated bit sits on is now also host to a bunch of little craftsman galleries, shops, and cafes. So you could either start at those shops and poke around a bit before climbing up to the Promenade, or start at the other end and finish there down in a cafe. I just did the whole Promenade in the summer; the views from the elevated end were lovely, and the lower-level end was wonderfully cool on a humid day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:06 AM on February 22, 2023 [4 favorites]

Big sites are going to be crowded. If there's something you really want to See (with a capitol S), get there right when it opens. For me, that's Sainte Chappelle and Monet's Water Lilies in L'Orangerie.

(And this might go without saying, but get a good guidebook. You'll get great advice here, but a book will be more comprehensive. Spending a few hours reading it will greatly reduce your risk of missing out.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:31 AM on February 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

For food, Paris has great open-air food markets (marchés alimentaires). While a lot of these markets are comprised of fresh produce and meat, there's always plenty of ready-to-eat items (e.g. quiches, pastries, cheese, olives, little starters, etc.).

Here's a list of opening hours for specific markets -- you can filter by arrondissement using the Choisir un arondissement selector at the top left of the link. The link provides hours for the next two weeks but hours are generally the same every week, holidays aside.*

*Be aware that if your April trip actually includes May 1, that May 1 is a major holiday in France. Public transport operates but tourist attractions and most restaurants/stores (outside of those touristy areas) will be closed.
posted by andrewesque at 6:36 AM on February 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

I expect you know about Shakespeare and Company, but... don't miss Shakespeare and Company. It's the kind of bookshop that usually only exists in dreams.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 7:13 AM on February 22, 2023 [4 favorites]

When I was in Paris in 2019, I did a food tour with Paris-by-Mouth that consisted of visiting a selection of small food shops where the guide explained what was available and then made some purchases. We eventually made our way to the cellar of a wine store where we sampled our bounty with appropriate wine matches. That might be a bit more indulgent than what you are looking for, but it was really, really yummy.
posted by TORunner at 7:37 AM on February 22, 2023 [2 favorites]

I was in Paris late last April, and my favorite memories are the hours we spent sitting in a park, people watching. The weather was great and Parisians were just out and about, reading, playing chess, letting their kids run around. It was like something out of a painting. We'd grab picnic fixings from a bakery, crepe cart, and/or little grocer, then sit in the Tuileries or the Luxembourg Garden for an hour or two, then walk some more.

We stayed in the Marais, right by the Pompidou, which was a great neighborhood for wandering. The Musee Carnavalet is right there, too, which gives a great overview of the history of Paris and helped orient our future walks. (And it's free.)
posted by writermcwriterson at 8:10 AM on February 22, 2023 [3 favorites]

It's been awhile but:

-Paris is really walkable, if you like walking. On my trips I generally will in one day make pretty big loops - I wouldn't be too worried about doing it "wrong" honestly. Pick a handful of key places/things you want to do each day, and allow for a bit of exploration in between.

-Get the Museum pass! It really is worth it, even if you are only really into modern art - so many museums in Paris are incredible buildings to just walk in/people watch. And the pass lets you cut the main line, so you can quickly pop into any museum you want. On that note...

-Musée d'Orsay: even if impressionism isn't your think the building of this museum is very unique (used to be an old train station - worth at least checking out briefly).
-Pompidou: as mentioned by others, this is the main modern art museum.
-Musée des égouts de Paris: You get to walk through part of the sewer system - maybe not for everyone, but I found it cool.
-Musée Rodin: even if you don't care about Rodin, it's a very picturesque building/garden.
-Musée de Cluny: Again, even if the subject of medieval art isn't your thing, the building is very cool.
-Musée de la l'Orangerie: worth doing a quick stop for at least the water lilies.
-Musée National Eugène-Delacroix: a small museum, again, part of the charm is the building/grounds.
-Musée Picasso: Again, it is an excellent art collection, but the building is also cool.
-Louvre: Excellent people watching, and also, some of the rooms - like the 17th- and 18th-century decorative arts galleries, are worth checking out.
-Palace of Versailles
(There are many more, but even if you just checked out some of these, the pass is worth it)

Not included in the pass:
-The Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature: very cool museum about the history of hunting

-For gelato, Berthillon. It's pricey, but the flavor of their gelato is mind blowingly intense. It is also near the Seine and other pleasant places to stroll as you eat.

-L'As du Fallafel: it lived up the hype when I was there -best I'd ever had. And cheap!

-After or before a stroll around Montmartre, go over to Marché Barbes - this hosts an outdoor market with cheap prices of all sorts of things, you'll easily find some affordable things to make a lunch out of, and it's great people watching.

-See a canal/quai at some point - this is likely a little out of the way, but if you do end up nearby for other reasons, Le Bastringue is an excellent bistro by a quai.
-The cemeteries are interesting, though I don't think it matters too much which one you see.
-Paris Flea Market is cool, if a bit of a trek.
posted by coffeecat at 9:10 AM on February 22, 2023 [2 favorites]

If you like modern art, make sure you also see the Pinault Collection. We were there last weekend and the Mangrane/Twombly exhibit was beautiful.
posted by vacapinta at 9:22 AM on February 22, 2023

One of the most delightful walks I've ever done was from Sacre Coeur Basilica down the hill through Montmartre. Just so picturesque and lovely. I went on a crisp, clear day and the sun was just starting to go down as I walked down the hill. It was magical. There's a funicular up one side of the hill to Sacre Coeur, then the route down through Montmartre is on the other side (behind the Basilica). I ended up right near Moulin Rouge when I got down to the bottom.

You might consider a hop-on/hop-of bus tour. I know it sounds gross, but it can help you plan your sightseeing.

We did it when we were in London for just a few days. We just rode the whole circuit once very early in the day without getting off. It showed us where a lot of things we wanted to see were in relation to each other, which was really helpful. It also revealed that a few things we had wanted to see were closed (or in one case underwhelming) and surfaced some other stuff we hadn't been aware of.

We then stayed on the bus and did the hop-off/hop-on thing for attractions we didn't plan to spend a lot of time at, then went back on our own to the places we thought we'd like to spend more time at. All in all it ended up being good value for the money and very helpful for maximizing the organization of out limited time in the city.

I think the pass might have been good for a couple days, and IIRC it included admission vouchers to a couple of attractions.

So it's worth considering, I found it very helpful for planning.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:07 AM on February 22, 2023

The YT videos by "Les Frenchies" are fun, and current: they did one on street food like a month ago, for example:

The Paris Museum Pass now allows only one entry per museum, not in-and-out. And I believe that it actually spans hours even though the face states a number of days, so a savvy traveler might be able to use it an extra afternoon/morning (instead of thinking that it's dead after however many days).

The France forum on the Rick Steves web site has a lot of active posters, and most questions seem to get some responses -- once your plan begins to firm up:
posted by wenestvedt at 10:18 AM on February 22, 2023

If you are Northside on 9th April, catch Easter Mass at the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. There was a bit where the Paschal candle-flame is propagated through the congregation which gives me the shivers 50 years on. Then walk Soth through town to the river . . . for the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation behind Notre Dame. Different sort of frisson.
posted by BobTheScientist at 10:24 AM on February 22, 2023

The Promenade Plantee! It's basically the Parisian High Line

I was coming to recommend the same thing. It's wonderful. We walked it in early May when all the irises were in bloom along the pools and it was one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. One of the stops along it that I would recommend is Ground Control, near the Gare de Lyon. It's a great little creative venue with street food booths and they have shows there. It's in a space that was a postal sorting facility that has been reclaimed.

Vintage/used clothing shopping in Paris is great - the stores are called "friperie". The ones up near Pigalle aren't great (mostly just cheap fast fashion), but there are several in The Marais near Rue de Rivoli that are good and all clustered in the same area. The prices tend to be quite good and there are a few that sell clothes by the weight.

Otherwise, if you are into bike riding at all, ride a bike share bike from Bastille to the Arc de Triomph. It's all on wide protected streets and takes you by City Hall, the Louvre, the Palais Royal and along the Champs Elysées, totally comfortable.

Similarly, check out the Quai François Mitterand along the bank of the Seine on the north side - what was once a busy road has been turned into a place to stroll and bike and skateboard, with cafes and bars and such along the way. It's a nice spot to spend an afternoon or evening and has great views.
posted by urbanlenny at 10:27 AM on February 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

Also consider the Musée du Quai Branly. They sometimes have interesting special exhibitions.
posted by Morpeth at 11:16 AM on February 22, 2023

I'll second the rec for Paris-by-Mouth food tours. Mrs Bassooner and I did their North Marais tour on our honeymoon last summer, and it was a highlight of our trip. Super knowledgeable and friendly guide, small groups (we had 7 total on our tour), and lots of tasty stops. You can pick a tour based on neighborhood and/or focus (savory vs sweet, meat or meat-free, etc). Signing up for a tour also gets you access to their newsletter of detailed reviews and recommendations of Paris restaurants, which can be super helpful in figuring out dinner reservations.
posted by bassooner at 11:46 AM on February 22, 2023

If its a nice evening walk up belview Hill for a good panorama on the city and the Eiffel tower at dusk and dinner at one of the two bistros on top of the park.

Go to the Tokyo Palace for modern art, there is a good market on the street in front on a saturday morning (check dates).

Go to the Cluny Museum to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry, then the piscine pontoise on a late night opening.

More than the Shakespeare book shop (overrated and overcrowded) try smaller second hand book shops, like the San Francisco book shop by the Luxembourg gardens.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

Oh oh oh the Institute di Monde Arabe has a new Museum

There Is a semi secret garden to sit and be at the back of the Archives
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 12:43 PM on February 22, 2023

Would Dali qualify as modern art? There is a Dali museum near Place Tertre (the artists' square just slightly down the hill from Sacre Coeur basilica). Place Tertre tends to host non-modern artists and is a bit touristy but I enjoyed it anyway. Others have already mentioned the Orsay and the Pompidou.

You might like eating at a bouillon such as Bouillon Pigalle.

I have yet to drink coffee or wine at a bad cafe in Paris, but some of my favorites are Cafe Flore (famous for the authors and philosophers that were regular customers) on Blvd Ste Germain near Luxembourg Garden (my favorite, especially when the toy boats are sailing the grand basin fountain); Les Antiquaries near the Orsay; and A Vieux Paris d'Arcole on Ile de la Cite near Place Dauphine and Ste Chappelle, although instagrammers are a bit of a nuisance there.

I recommend going to Place Dauphine during the late afternoon on Saturday or Sunday to watch people play petanque (a version of Boules) and have a coffee or drink at one of the cafes around the "square."

Others have mentioned Shakespeare and Company and the bouqinistes along the Seine.

You can hardly go wrong anywhere you go, there are wonderful museums, cafes, and gardens practically everywhere in central Paris.

I would also recommend The Earful Tower blog and podcast. The blog has occasional posts that the writer calls "Paris secrets" and these are unusual sites that are not usually on the tourist track.

Bon voyage!
posted by statusquoante at 1:11 PM on February 22, 2023

If you take public transport (metros, buses, trams), paper tickets have been phased out in Paris, and you need to buy a plastic rechargeable Navigo easy pass. You can load it with tickets that were previously bought in paper form.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:34 AM on February 23, 2023

Be a bit careful with the passes, there are a bunch with "Navigo" in the name that have various requirements and discounts. Only the Navigo Easy (formerly the Navigo Decouverte) is the one for non-residents. The Paris Visite is way more expensive but a bit easier to buy. In the past it has been difficult to buy RATP passes with a U.S. credit card but I had no problem in June.

Do also look at the bikeshare, Velib'. I had very bad luck linking it to my Navigo Decouverte but you can get unlimited short rides for 20 euros a week. Paris has become a cycling city in shockingly short order. There is a whole lane of the Rue Rivoli, previously one of the most car-chocked boulevards, completely devoted to bikes. Pigalle (you know that's the red light district, right?) is pretty flat but in the hilly areas of Montmarte and Belleville there is also an e-bike option that can be extremely handy. There are a bunch of private e-scooter and e-bike apps in a pinch.
posted by wnissen at 10:19 AM on February 23, 2023

The Paris Visite paper ticket has been replaced by a Navigo Day Package e-ticket that can be loaded onto the Navigo Easy Pass, both are day passes for multiple journeys on all the forms of public transport.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:58 AM on February 24, 2023

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