Paris, more than any city I’ve spent time, is an ideal place for exploring on your own. So while all the mags and listings are boasting amazing things to do in the city for couples on Valentine’s day, here are my top four things to do when I’m in Paris by myself.
1. People-watching in parks
Not like a stalker, mind. There’s such a great diversity in Paris. People of all ages and backgrounds live in the city centre and there are parks aplenty where you can witness the history and the population of the city at the same time. My favourite parks for spending hours walking, thinking, and imagining the lives of others are the Tuileries Gardens, the Jardin du Palais Royal and, my newly-discovered favourite (with exceptional views of the entire city) Belleville Park.
2. Eating out
In London I feel awkward about eating out alone. Often, depending on where you go, it can feel a little strange even to go out for coffee alone. But in Paris that is never a problem. From little old ladies to floppy-haired teens, people eating out by themselves are a regular sight and personally I love it. Somehow it makes the amazing French food taste even more amazing. There’s no distraction between you and the plate of loveliness you’re about to consume and, with my writing hat on, I love observing the fellow diners, the wait staff and the passersby. It is an experience that many people balk at but one, in my opinion, that should never be missed when visiting the City of Light.
Major museums in Paris aren’t free like their counterparts in London. You’re going to have to shell out a little bit to visit the likes of the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay but they are totally worth it. However, those museums are going to be packed on Valentine’s Day weekend so unless you’re desperate to see a specific piece or the Mona Lisa, I’d maybe try some of the other, less famous museums which boast equally fascinating collections. The Crypte du Parvis du Notre Dame is a great one (I wrote a post about it here) – it shows the archaeological history of the city, back to the Roman remains of Lutetia. I’d also recommend both the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais by Pont Alexandre III. For those interested in World War 2, the Jean Moulin Museum at Montparnasse is a must-see – it tells the story of the occupation and liberation of Paris. I spent a good four hours here in one trip last year. Of course, the Catacombes de Paris are also amazing (and a definite win for avoiding any schmaltzy romance…).
4. Explore the river
The Seine is really the jewel in Paris’ crown. The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Statue of Liberty and many more may never have been constructed if the Seine hadn’t been exploited by the Romans thousands of years ago. Back then the river was a more practical waterway used for fishing, travel and defence. These days the primary activities of the river are leisure and looking beautiful in photographs. Taking a river cruise is a lovely way to see the city, particularly at night and can cost as little as 10€. I’d recommend the Bateaux Mouches for a tour but you could also use the Bato Bus as a way to get around the city.
Over the last few years Paris has really cleaned up the river and made it a more tourist-friendly focal point. The busy roads that used to flank the Seine all the way through the city have been closed, traffic relocated, and the banks have been returned to the flaneurs. I would definitely suggest walking by the river, admiring the architecture of the bridges and enjoying a hot chocolatey crepe from a concession along the way.