Exploring Paris by foot is one of the great pleasures of visiting the City of Light.
It is possible to cross the entire city in only a few hours, but only if you can somehow keep yourself from stopping at numerous cafés and shops. In fact within a few years walking combined with biking and the Metro will be the only way to get around the very center of Paris: The Mayor’s office has announced plans to declare the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th arrondissements almost totally car-free by 2012.
The smartest travelers take advantage of the walk-ability of this city, and stay above ground as much as possible. A metro ride of less than 2 stops is probably best avoided since walking will take about the same amount of time and you’ll be able to see more of the city.
Related Read: A Guide to Paris for Beginners
Exploring Paris by foot
You may have heard of the hazard of walking into dog droppings in Paris. The problem has receded over the last decades, partially due to fines as high as 180€ and an extensive street cleaning operations. However you will still occasionally encounter one of these little packages. Eventually with a little practice you’ll be able to avoid them without effort while looking every way but down, though you may find yourself dancing around fallen leaves in the autumn (some are just the right size and color).
You will also notice that most of the older Parisian streets (especially the ones in the Quartier Latin) are particularly narrow with little or no room to even fit a car, so the sidewalks on these roads are extremely tiny. Although this means you would opt to walk on the road, be wary as Parisian drivers, taxi drivers in particular, take no heed in the narrowness of the road, and will drive down it just as fast as if they were driving along a major road.
The city is best explored by foot, and some of the most marvelous memories you will have of Paris is walking through secret found places. Just a quick word of warning – be alert of pickpockets in Paris.
Your own walking guide to Paris
To get a great orientation of the city on foot while seeing many of Paris’ major sights, you can do a West to East walk from the Arc de Triomphe to Ile de la Cite (Notre Dame). This walk takes about 1-2 hours without any stops. Start at the top of the Champs Elysees (at the Arc de Triomphe) and begin walking down the Champs Elysees towards Place (‘square’) de la Concorde.
- On the way towards the obelisk on the square, you’ll see the major stores and restaurants of Paris’ most famous avenue.
- Once you’ve passed the main shopping area, you’ll see the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais to your right.
- At Place de la Concorde, you’ll be able to see many of Paris’ major monuments around you. In front of you is the Tuileries, behind you is the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, behind you to your right is the Tour Eiffel (read up about the story behind the Eiffel Tower) and Musee d’Orsay, and finally, to your left is the Madeleine.
- Continue straight ahead and enter the Tuileries Gardens passing by fountains, flowers, and lovers in the park.
- As you continue straight ahead, and out of the garden, you’ll see the pyramid entrance to the Louvre directly in front of you.
- With the pyramid directly in front of you, and the Tuileries directly behind you, turn to your right and walk towards the Seine.
- Now you can walk along the Seine (eastwards) until you reach Pont Neuf. Cross Pont Neuf and walk through the Latin Quarter, cross the river again to reach Notre Dame cathedral on Ile de la Cité.
Some of our favourite walking tours of Paris
While we love exploring Paris by foot on our own, if you’re a first-time visitor to Paris you should definitely also join in on one of the may walking tours of Paris. They’re great as you’ll learn more about the history of Paris as well as see many of the highlights of the city that you may not notice on your own.
Some of our favourite Paris walking tours focus on specific areas within the city, including:
- Paris by night walking tour
- The great women of Paris walking tour
- Paris food walking tour
- Chocolate walking tour
- Street art walking tour
- Paris Latin Quarter walking tour
- Montmartre district walking tour
Walking is definitely one of the best things to do in Paris – whether exploring Paris by foot by yourself or joining in on one of the fun walking tours. Just make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes!