Things to do in Paris During The Day
With over 1,000 museums, around 400 parks and more boutique shops and cute pavement cafés than you can shake a very large stick at, there are dozens of things to do in Paris during the day. Here’s our pick of the crop.
See the Sights
Paris’s relatively compact center is easy to explore on foot but if you really want to max out your daytime sightseeing, there’s an abundance of other great ways to see the city.
For sheer convenience, you’ll find Paris’s near-ubiquitous electric scooters tough to beat. Known as trottinettes to locals, these zippy little machines can be picked up and dropped off at hundreds of locations around the city, making them a super-easy way to get from A to B with minimal effort. Note that for safety reasons the speed limit for trottinettes is restricted to 10km/h in most parts of Paris.
Join a guided Segway tour to tick off some of the city’s big attractions in, um, style. A self-deprecating sense of humor and a decent ability to stay upright are all you need to participate. Pass the mandatory training session and in no time you’ll be whizzing to big-hitting Paris landmarks including Les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe and the soaring Pont Alexandre III with its photogenic Art Deco lanterns.
Alternatively, plan your own tour itinerary and rent a Vélib bicycle – also available for pick-up and drop-off pretty much everywhere in central Paris. Meander riverside and through the city’s stunning parks, pausing to admire the fabulous architecture and smell the roses, and, of course, to pick up some still-warm pains au chocolat from a boulangerie along the way.
Seine sightseeing cruises depart from the Eiffel Tower throughout the day and are particularly enchanting at sunset, while hop-on hop-off bus tours are another fine way to see the city, especially from the top deck on a sunny afternoon.
Have a Picnic in the Park
Picnicking in the park should be considered mandatory on any trip to Paris. Open-air markets and street food abound in the city, so putting a gut-busting lunch together is pas de probleme. Rue Montorgueil is brimming with fab boulangeries, fromageries and street stalls that runneth over with juicy, fresh fruits. Pick up some just-baked bread, aromatic cheeses, plump grapes and artisan wine then hit the oldest pâtisserie in town for a decadent dessert of creamy rum babas and éclairs.
Or head to Marché des Enfants Rouges in the Marais for gut-busting fried sandwiches, galettes that fairly ooze cheese, and some of the best Moroccan street food this side of Marrakech at Le Traiteur Marocain. Now fully equipped for your al fresco feast, the question is which park? Decisions, decisions...
In the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, the Champ de Mars is a picture-perfect location for whiling away a few hours. Its sprawling manicured lawns and ringside views of the tower makes it an inspired location for your picnic – and a dozen or so selfies.
One of Paris’s biggest parks, Bois de Boulogne contains – among other attractions – a château, a botanical garden and several lakes. Hire a boat to row across the largest of these (you’ll work up an appetite for sure), then walk off your picnic with a wander to the beautiful Parc de Bagatelle botanical garden, with its bountiful rose gardens and heavenly scents.
The exquisite Luxembourg Gardens promise some low-octane pursuits including giant chess and the ancient French sport of pétanque. Head to Parc de la Villette for its fascinating series of architectural follies – there are 26 to find across the 137 acres of this huge green space, plus open-air music and cinema in the warmer months. Also in summer, take your picnic down to the banks of the Seine for the annual Paris Plages, where golden sands, deckchairs and ice creams are the order of the day.
See Some Great Art
Paris is a paradise for art lovers – and artists. Matisse, Modigliani, Manet, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec are just some of the painters who went on to become household names after being inspired by this great city. No surprise, then, that you’re rarely more than a stone’s throw from an amazing museum or gallery.
Of course, you can’t come to Paris and not visit the Louvre, home of the world’s most famous painting. Once you’ve ticked off the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo it’s time to experience what is hands-down the finest work of art in the museum. That would be the Mont Blanc, a decadent, gravity defying French fancy comprised of whipped Chantilly cream, meringue, chocolate shavings and chestnut vermicelli. You can view – and demolish – this bona fide masterpiece in Café Angelina on the first floor of the Richelieu wing.
If you find the Louvre just a tad overcrowded for your liking, nearby Musée d’Orsay provides a less hectic alternative within the picturesque surroundings of the old Gare d’Orsay train station. The museum boasts one of the biggest collections of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art on the planet, with many pieces from Toulouse-Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge series and a number of Monet masterpieces, including one from his Water Lilies series. Other smaller but equally unmissable galleries include Musée de l'Orangerie in the Jardin des Tuileries, the Rodin Museum with its extraordinary seven-acre sculpture garden, and Renoir’s pretty garden at the Musée de Montmartre.
Spend a Day in the Marais
Picking a favorite district in Paris is like being asked to choose a favorite French fromage. There are just so many good ones to choose from! Set on the Seine’s Right Bank in view of Notre-Dame, the Marais is an entrancing maze of narrow, winding streets and alleyways that are chock-full of tiny independent boutiques, tempting pâtisseries and adorable pavement cafés.
Grab a spot beneath the linden trees and watch the world go by in the Place des Vosges. This formal garden sits in the oldest planned square in Paris, hemmed in by atmospheric arcades and immaculate 17th-century townhouses with steeply pitched slate roofs. One of these – the former home of Les Misérables author Victor Hugo – is now a museum exhibiting furniture and works of art that belonged to (or were created by) the man himself.
Indeed, for such a diminutive district, the Marais packs in a fairly impressive number of museums and galleries. Make for the Maison Européene de la Photographie for the best in contemporary photographic art, and don’t miss the Musée National Picasso-Paris, a stellar collection of over 700 paintings and sculptures by the father of Cubism.
The legacy of Paris’s former Jewish quarter lives on in the Marais, primarily via its selection of kosher restaurants and bakeries. Make sure to treat yourself to a falafel wrap or pastrami sandwich at one of the excellent takeaway joints on the Rue des Écouffes or Rue des Rosiers – just follow your nose to discover true manna from heaven.