Walking Tours of Paris, France
Paris, the "City of Lights," is often called the "most romantic city in the world." The classic vision conjured up by this image is a couple walking arm in arm along the Seine River. Although it is a huge city, many of the most important attractions and much of the beauty of the city is centered around this river which runs like a ribbon through the center of this urban metropolis. A boat ride on a Bateau Mouche is a must-do activity for travelers to Paris because of the importance of the river and its access to many of these sights. Another way to incorporate the river into your sightseeing is to walk along its banks and their vicinity. My first walk takes advantage of the river’s omnipresence.
Walking Tour 1 – Around the Seine
This walk begins at the famous glass pyramid of the Louvre, one of Paris’ many must-see attractions, located between the Rue de Rivoli and the Seine River.
Visit the Louvre early to avoid the crowds, then proceed west from the pyramid, past the Triumphal Arch built by Napoleon and through the lovely Tuileries Garden and ultimately out into the Place de la Concorde, which is a very busy area but worth closer examination. Check out the Egyptian Obelisk (3,200 years old), the fountains and statues. During the French Revolution it was the location of the guillotine which ended the lives of over 1,000, including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Take the Champs Elysses which begins at the square and ends at the Arc de Triomphe. This grand thoroughfare, one of the most famous streets in the world, is lined with exclusive shops and cafes. The beginning is adorned with formal gardens which offer some shelter from the noise and bustle of the city.
When you reach Place Clemenceau, turn left on Winston Churchill Avenue to see the Grand Palace, on the right, and the Little Palace, on the left. Ahead is Pont Alexandre III, but save a detailed look at this famous bridge for later, on your river cruise.
Instead, return to the Champs Elysses and turn left, climbing the hill to the Arc de Triomphe, one of Paris’ premier attractions. Take the tunnel under the traffic circle to reach the structure which chronicles and pays tribute to the victories of Napoleon and the French who died in other wars. The view from the top of the Arch is stunning.
Next, head down the Avenue d’lena which eventually brings you to the Trocadero Gardens, across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. Cross the bridge to Paris’ #1 attraction and one of the most readily recognized icons in the world. It was built by Gustav Eiffel for the 1889 World Exhibition and was, for a while, the tallest structure in the world, at over 1,000 feet high.
Climb the tower for fantastic views of the entire city. At the base of the tower, incidentally, is the launching dock for the Bateau Mouche cruises of the Seine, a must-do activity for all visitors to the city, but return here later, or on another day, for that part of your visit.
Exit the area by walking southeast (away from the river) along Avenue Pierre Loti through the Parc du Champ de Mars and aroung the military school to Avenue de Segur, then turn left to reach the Hotel des Invalides, whose dome sits over the tomb of Napoleon.
Pass by the Court of Honor to the Quai d’Orsay and take a right along the banks of the Seine, past the Bourbon Palace, now the National Assembly Building and onward to the Musee’ d’Orsay. Save a visit here for later and continue the walk eastward along the Seine, past the School of Fine Arts, then take a right onto Rue de Vieux Colombier to St Sulpice Church, featured in the movie, The DaVinci Code. Take a quick look inside then turn right onto Rue Garanciere which leads to the Luxembourg Palace and its wonderful gardens. Stroll the lovely garden paths leisurely to enjoy the park-like atmosphere.
Exit at the front of the palace and take a right onto Rue de Vaugirard. Take another right on St Michael’s Boulevard, then left on Soufflot into the district known as the Latin Quarter and up to the Pantheon. This impressive domed church is famous as the final resting place for many notable French men and women, such as, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Rousseau, and Zola.
Return to Boulevard St Michel and turn right. Be sure to spend some time here on the Left Bank, sitting at a cafe and people-watching. Eventually this road will bring you back to the river. Check out the Place St Michel and its beautiful fountain, then cross the bridge ahead onto the Ile de la Cite’. Continue straight ahead on the Boulevard du Palais. On the left is the exquisite Sainte Chapelle, a Gothic masterpiece with magnificent stained glass windows. Next to it is the Palace of Justice, once the Royal Palace, and, on the northern side of the island, is the Conciergerie, the infamous prison where the condemned awaited their decapitation.
Next head down the Rue de Lutece, then right on Rue de la Cite’ and walk left into Notre Dame Square. The incredible cathedral before you must be scrutinized from all sides and angles. Be sure to check out the gargoyles, portals, and flying buttresses on the exterior and the famous Rose Windows inside.
When finished, exit north on the D’Arcole and cross the Notre Dame Bridge back to the right bank. Almost directly ahead, on your right, is Paris’ beautiful City Hall. Check out its grand elegance and the beautiful square it sits on.
Exit to the north, turning left on Rue de Rivoli which will bring you back to the Louvre. A slight detour — an immediate right on Rue du Renard, will take you to the Pompidou Center, another of the city great museums.
Walking Tour 2 – North of the Seine
This walk begins at Paris’ Opera House (Opera National de Paris Garnier), one of the foremost venues of its kind in the world. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, if I could sit in front of the Opera House indefinitely, the entire world will pass by. It is located at the northern end of the Avenue l’Opera, just north of the Tuileries Gardens.
A short, optional detour leaves the Place de l’Opera heading southwest on the Boulevard des Capucines which leads to the Place de la Madeleine and the huge church which was originally built as a temple by Napoleon. Return to the Opera House and continue northeast on Boulevard des Capucines, then turn left on Rue Laffitte. When you reach Rue de Chateaudun turn right then immediately left on Rue Flecher to a large intersection. Turn left onto Rue Notre Dame de Lorette and then right onto Rue Pigalle which leads to Pigalle Square. This infamous neighborhood is the decadent part of Paris where you will see sex shops and other x-rated places.
Take a left on Rue de Clichy and then turn right at the famous Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill) where the Can-can became famous and is still performed. You are now on Rue Lepic and have entered the section of Paris known as Montmartre, an enclave populated by artists.
Follow Rue Lepic as it winds first to the west then to the east and ends up at the famous bakery, Boulangerie, used as a subject in so many paintings of the area.
From here, head east on Rue Norvins which enters the center of the Montmartre neighborhood, Place du Tertre. This is another great place to people-watch while sipping a beer or a coffee.
Continue east on Rue Norvins which will bring you to another of Paris’ famous churches, Sacre Coeur. The beautiful white Basilica sits high above the city and offers stupendous views. Be sure to check out the inside as well, admiring, among other things, the Great Mosaic of Christ, above the choir.
When you leave, take the funicular or the stairs down to Rue le Tudico. Take a right, then left on Rue des Trois Fieres, Continue straight at the square down to Boulevard de Rochechouart, then straight across to Rue Bochart du Saron, then right on Rue Condorcet and left on Rue des Martyrs.
Continue southward right through the large intersection with Rue Notre Dame de Lorette and other streets onto Rue Flecher and then a quick right and left onto Rue Laffitte and finally right on Boulevard de Italiens which becomes Boulevard des Capucines and leads back to the Opera House where you began.