Paris, known for the incredible museums, food and shopping can fill every moment of your french itinerary. But, the crowds can make it hard to become one with the city. I am assuming that you are going to live your Parisian dream not stand behind a massive tour group. Well, also to go and eat your weight in croissants, of course.
When the crowds and museums start to get overwhelming, try this short walk instead. I am confident that this is one of the best walks in Paris.
First of all, this route was inspired by the travel master Rick Steves Historic Paris Walk (fangirl, I know). The first time I was in Paris I took this walk and now I take anyone who goes with me too! Plus it doesn’t cost anything, except for a crepe that I think is necessary to round out the experience.
This isn’t a site-seeing tour no ticket booths necessary. But more of a suggested route centered around the Notre Dame Cathedral. And as a bonus includes what I consider the best view of the cathedral from the river.
It can take 20 minutes or an hour depending on how long you are enjoying it and if you decide to stop along the way. Keep in mind these aren't specific directions with exact steps or meters, but more of a generic flow. The purpose of this walk is to stroll and enjoy the city.
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Start at Paris Point Zero:
First, stand in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral. It really is extraordinary the saint sculptures adorning the front and the gargoyles keeping watch make it such a unique place. Now look down, and try to find the bronze circle on the ground, the one with compass points on it. This is considered the zero kilometer point of Paris. Depending on the time of year or even day there can be a large line to Notre Dame, if it is short you should really go in. It is free to enter but a priceless experience seeing the interior.
After you are done admiring all the details of the front and maybe the inside of the cathedral, and feeling like you really are at the center of the universe we can get started. Walk to the right side of the cathedral, push through the wrought-iron gate (its okay, you are allowed). There is a lovely green park along the side, take your time and walk towards the back. Enjoy the beautiful sculptures, and marvel at the flying buttresses of the cathedral (this side is the best angle for that).
Next, now that you have reached the back of the cathedral walk towards the shops (away from the river). There is a crepe shop/stand here. While this may not be an award-winning crepe stop, the view and location have the potential to make it the best creperie in the world.
My first experience here it was surreal. I got my crepe (just with sugar, no Nutella, I know gasp!) and went back into the park and sat on a bench behind the cathedral. Out of nowhere, a violinist started playing and I was in my Paris dream, waiting for someone to pinch me, or instead, magically place a beret on my head.
While enjoying your crepe (watch out it's super hot inside) walk across the bridge at Pont de l’Archevéché (It's the bridge at the back of the park that runs across the river)
Look for the locks. Be astonished at how many there are, stacked on top of one another all along the bridge. You can be romantic, stop and contemplate all the lovers and love stories that are locked away forever because they have thrown the key away into the Seine.
Or like me, think about the shear number of keys that are now at the bottom of the River. These must have wreaked havoc on the poor fish just swimming below. I can't imagine what this has done the to ecosystem (science teacher soap box). If you are wanting to add your love to the bridge, know that these are really damaging and are causing expensive problems on the bridges in the area (and around the world). Some areas are now having glass walls installed to prevent more locks being hung. While I am all for love, I’m not a fan of the destruction of property.
When you reach the end of the bridge, there are some stairs on either the right or left. Don’t be scared, you can totally walk down them. They lead down to the banks of the river. Once you are down the stairs walk back toward the cathedral. Strolling along the Seine, there are boat tours and restaurants, check out the menus, maybe they will inspire your dinner plans. Keep walking and I promise this will take you to one of the best photo ops of the cathedral.
Finally, above you on street level and depending on the time and day, the street may have green containers that open up to sell old books, art prints and more. Go back up any of the stairs so you can browse for a unique souvenir. On this side, opposite the cathedral, you are also most likely in the Latin Quarter (check a map) with Shakespeare & Co. Book Store and the oldest tree in Paris only steps away. Enjoy the rest of your day, hopefully with you feeling like the Parisian you always wanted to be.
Can't wait to go to Paris? Check out how we travel on a budget 5 Hacks to Save Money when you travel . Need a room?
To my teacher friends, describing this great Paris walk is actually a bit tricky. You may have read in my other posts that I can manage an underground system with ease, but if you put me above ground I can get super lost and not in the good way. So making sure I could describe these directions accurately is a challenge for me.
This is also how I feel when I try to teach my students how to understand graphing. I always have hopes that they will eventually be able to read a graph and the data like a story. I could describe these directions if I thought of it in context of telling someone a story about where they were going. Which is what inspired me to create Story Graphs.
If students can look at a graph and say, Jim walked 1 km in an hour to my friends house and then stayed there for 1 hour, suddenly those lines on a graph are more than numbers and lines on paper, but instead they are actual events. It can make graphing make way more sense.
Check out our Story Graphs activity. Your students will get better at graphing but I can't promise it will make you better at directions though!