21 Relaxing Things to do in Paris | How to Slow Down and Enjoy Paris
Paris, the City of Lights, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. However, it’s also one of the most-visited places on the planet and chances are, you’ll be jostling for space at many of the city’s iconic attractions. But don’t despair – there are many hidden corners of Paris where you can kick back, relax and soak up the atmosphere.
City travel doesn’t have to be stressful. To help enjoy your trip, read our guide to the best way to spend a relaxing vacation in Paris.
1. Take a Cruise on the Seine
The River Seine cuts through the centre of Paris, creating two historic islands: the Île Saint-Louis and the Île de la Cité, where you can find some beautiful medieval monuments.
Instead of traipsing through the crowded streets, take to the water for the best view of these historic attractions. You’ll see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and some of the finest Parisian architecture.
Many of the boat companies in Paris also offer dining tours, so you’ll be able to sit, relax, and enjoy the view as you sample some fine French cuisine, even enjoying a little live music as you glide serenely down the river.
2. Read a Book in the Jardin de Luxembourg
Paris is well known for its beautiful parks, and the Luxembourg Gardens, a stone’s throw from the Latin Quarter, is one of the best.
Visit here on a weekday afternoon and join the in-the-know Parisians who come here to gaze at the flowers, kick back, and read a book. The park’s flowerbeds are lined with green chairs, and in spring and summer, you’ll find Parisians of all ages reading the newspaper, catching up with friends and picnicking.
This is a wonderful way to spend a lazy afternoon in Paris.
3. Get Lost in a Good French Bookshop
The Latin Quarter, on the Left Bank of the river, is the centre of Paris’ literary culture. Here you’ll find the best bookshops, to suit all tastes and interests.
There are plenty of beautiful French-language bookshops lining Boulevard Saint Michel, but English speakers must check out Shakespeare & Co., a Paris institution that was once frequented by Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, and Kerouac.
This labyrinthine shop is crammed full of books, specialising in literature and philosophy, and regularly hosts exclusive readings and literary events. Come here in the mornings to avoid the crowds, and you’ll easily pass a couple of hours getting lost in a good book.
4. Go Antique Shopping in the Marais
The Marais is one of Paris’ trendiest districts, filled with art galleries, wine bars, and stylish independent shops. This is also the place to go to find bargain antiques, and it’s possible to spend hours treasure hunting in this pleasant neighbourhood.
Saturday and Sunday mornings are a perfect time to grab a bargain at one of the many pop up markets, and there are plenty of excellent cafes and bars if your feet begin to ache and you feel the need for a pit stop.
5. Visit the Rodin Museum
Visitors to Paris are spoilt for choice when it comes to museums. However, if the queues and crowds at the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay put you off, try one of the smaller museums to satiate that culture craving.
The Rodin Museum is just a stone’s throw from the Musée d’Orsay, and offers a much more tranquil experience.
The beautiful walled garden contains some of Rodin’s most iconic sculptures, including The Thinker. Contemplate this famous piece of art and do a little thinking of your own as you wander around this special museum.
6. Walk the Coulée Verte
The Coulée Verte, (literally, the Green Corridor) is a verdant strip of disused railway in the heart of Paris. Close to the Bastille district, the Coulée Verte is an old railway viaduct, converted into an elevated walkway.
The route is planted with lush beds and gardens, and is the ideal place to take a stroll while gazing on the beautiful Parisian skyline.
Make sure to stop at the Jardin de Reuilly where you can sit and eat a picnic, and even quench your thirst with Paris’ first public water fountain to offer sparkling water. Here is the google map.
7. Try Mint Tea in the Grand Mosque of Paris
Built in 1926 to honour Muslim soldiers from France’s colonial territories that had fought for the French in the First World War, the Great Mosque of Paris is a stunning building.
The mosque itself is open to the public, but many visitors come for the beautiful tearoom, restaurant, and oriental hammam.
Famed for its Algerian pastries and legendary couscous, the elaborately decorated café also opens up onto a green courtyard filled with trees, offering a beautiful place to stop, relax and sip on a Moroccan mint tea.
8. Watch The World Go By in Saint Germain
The quarter of Saint Germain, located on the city’s left-wing Left bank, was once a hotbed French existentialism. In the mid-20th century, this corner of Paris was populated by philosophers and thinkers holding forth on the major subjects of the day. Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus all used to hang out at the iconic Café de Flore, which still offers coffee and philosophy at their weekly discussion sessions.
Due to its reputation, Café de Flore is often busy and somewhat overpriced, but you’ll easily find an alternative terrace where you can take a leisurely coffee and watch the world go by.
9. Visit Disneyland Paris
Visiting Disneyland might not be the best way to avoid the crowds, but it is definitely the place to rediscover your inner child.
Even the most avid culture lovers sometimes need a break from the galleries and museums, and this legendary theme park is the place to go to let your hair down and meet some of your favourite Disney characters.
Just a short train ride out of the city, Disneyland Paris is a fun day out for the whole family.
10. Marvel at the Stained Glass in Saint-Denis
The Cathedral of Saint-Denis is one of the most impressive examples of Gothic architecture in Europe.
Visit on a sunny day, and you’ll see the church flooded with shimmering ribbons of light passing through the elaborate stained glass windows. This is also the place where many of France’s most famous medieval kings and queens are buried.
The cathedral, located in one of Paris’ northern suburbs, has a calm and peaceful quality difficult to find in churches like Notre Dame, where crowds of visitors pile in at all hours of the day. Come to Saint-Denis for a moment of reflection, and marvel at the beautiful medieval windows designed to be the ultimate monument to God.
11. Play Petanque in a Paris Park
Petanque, a form of bowls in which players compete to accurately roll heavy balls into position, is a national sport in France. Men and women of all ages enjoy this relaxing and fun activity, and you’ll see fierce competitions being played out in parks and gardens across the whole of Paris in the summertime.
One of the most popular places to play is the ancient Roman arena, the Arènes de Lutèce, where you’ll find hoards of retired men and women, as well as younger devotees, enjoying a few lunchtime games alongside a picnic. Come along and watch the experts at play, or even have a go yourself.
12. Watch the Sunset from Montparnasse
Montparnasse is a lively part of Paris on the Left Bank, but it’s premier attraction is the tall tower that offers incredible views over the city.
Montparnasse Tower rises 210 metres up into the air and boasts an outdoor roof terrace with arguably the best view in the city. This is the ideal place to come, grab a drink and watch the sun go down behind the Eiffel Tower.
13. Visit a Parisian Spa
City breaks can be tiring, and sometimes we all need a little rest and relaxation. Fortunately, Paris has a fine array of health spas designed to provide a slice of luxury after days spent tramping the streets and nights in smoky bars.
Some of the city’s best spas can be found in the upmarket 9th arrondissement, where you can indulge in a little light shopping at the Galleries Lafayette, and then retreat from the world with a massage and a facial.
14. Go Wine Tasting in Paris
France has a well-deserved reputation for wines, and although Paris isn’t the centre of vine production, it offers some fantastic tasting opportunities by gathering the best of the best from across the country.
A wine tasting session in Paris is sure to be an education, albeit a fun one. Most companies offer cheese or chocolate pairings, and the opportunity to learn a little more about the historic wine production inside and outside the city.
This is a great way to immerse yourself in French culture and enjoy some of the country’s finest produce.
15. See Exotic Flowers in the Jardin des Plantes
The Jardin des Plantes is one of Paris’ more unusual parks, as its fine collection of rare and unusual plants means that it more properly deserves the title of botanical garden. In particular, the exotic alpine garden is a feast for the eyes and nose, and contains some rare and beautiful specimens.
Younger visitors will enjoy the hothouse, and the small zoo, which is home to a number of endangered species including red pandas, orangutans, and white-naped cranes. If it’s raining, you can always head next door to the excellent National History Museum.
16. Get Pizza at the Canal Saint Martin
The Canal Saint-Martin runs right through Paris’ hipster district, and was the filming location for many of the iconic scenes in the 2001 blockbuster, Amélie.
This trendy area is a haven for artists, and the many fashionable bars and bistros in this area attract a young, trendy crowd. There’s no better way to pass along, warm summer evening than by grabbing a pizza with a group of friends and taking it to the side of the canal. The atmosphere is laid back, and it’s the ideal place for an urban picnic
17. Find a Vintage Cinema
On those rainy Parisian days, there’s nothing better than curling up and watching a good movie. Thankfully, Paris has a whole range of vintage-style cinemas to choose from, which regularly show arthouse films and old classics.
In particular, the student quarter close to the Pantheon boasts an impressive number of classic cinemas in beautiful old buildings: the perfect way to while away the hours.
18. Walk Around the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
The Parc des Buttes Chaumont is one of Paris’ oldest parks, and is probably the city’s best-kept secret.
This quiet neighbourhood in the north east of Paris offers green space, a large artificial lake and a beautiful set of cliffs, grottos, and waterfalls. The defining feature of the park is the Temple de la Sybille, a Roman-style monument perched precariously on the edge of a striking man-made cliff.
This is a great place for wildlife spotting, right in the heart of the city, and the ideal place to come and listen to the birdsong in spring.
19. Attend the Fete de la Musique
Every year on the 21st of June, Paris transforms itself into one large stage. The longest night of the year is devoted to music, and anyone with an instrument is encouraged to come out into the streets and make music until the sun comes up.
This is a night to remember and a city-wide celebration of music and singing. Just don’t expect to get any sleep! The official site with all the details
20. Visit the Montmartre Vineyards
Paris might seem an unlikely place for a vineyard – after all, cities don’t often have space for agriculture. Yet Montmartre, one of the city’s most iconic districts and home to the Moulin Rouge, boasts its very own vineyard and even has a harvest festival every October when the grapes come into season.
Come to pick grapes and soak up the atmosphere, and of course, you’ll have to stay for a glass.
21. Row a Boat in the Bois de Boulogne
The Bois de Boulogne is a huge expanse of green, wooded territory to the west of Paris, and offers the perfect getaway for those weary of city life.
One of the most relaxing things you can do here is take a boat out on to the lake, gaze upon the tall, old trees, and bask in the warm spring sunlight. This is the ultimate place to relax in Paris.
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