Free Things To Do in Paris

How to spend a non-touristy 24 hours in Paris

I’ll just do that next time I’m in town” is something I’ve said more times than I can count as far as Paris is concerned. Not because I want to be obnoxious about my travel-focused lifestyle, but rather because Paris is a city that I somehow always seems to cross paths with.

While it wasn’t always a love story, it sure is now. And there is a very unromantic, practical reason for this: for Montrealers, flying to Paris is often the most affordable way to get to Europe. The Montreal-Paris route is consistently cheaper and shorter than many other flights headed to the Old-Continent. And if indeed you are only planning to spend a short amount of time in Paris, you might be interested in seeing what I did last time I was in the city for a day.

An itinerary that is obviously approved by Parisians, since it doesn’t involve the Eiffel Tower ;-)

Jardin du Luxembourg

24 hours in Paris

Created by regent Queen Marie de Médici in 1612 to complement her newly-built residence Palais du Luxembourg — since 1958 it has been the seat of the French Senate — these gardens are inspired by the widow’s Italian roots with lavish tree-lined promenades, lush flowerbeds and intricate fountains. It’s a lovely place to people watch, from kids playing with wooden boats in the fountain to couples unabashedly making out in broad daylight.

La Maison du chou (7 Place de Furstenberg, 6e arr.)

best of paris

I’d been dying to visit La Maison du chou after seeing it so prominently featured on my Instagram feed. And it was worth the wait – these delicious, bite-sized puffs are the perfect mid-morning pick-me-up. And their price is as sweet as their taste, at 3 choux for just 5 euros.

Jardin du Palais Royal

24 hours in paris

Now is the best time to enjoy Palais Royal, seeing as it was just recently renovated. The iconic yet underrated striped columns are the perfect place to enjoy the sun for a bit, people watch or pretend to be a model and have an impromptu photoshoot inside the perfectly symmetric arcades.

Le camion qui fume food truck

24 hours in Paris

The gourmet burger wave hit Paris not too long ago; no longer the exclusive territory of duck magret and onion soup, Paris is now bursting at the seams with burger shops (see what I did there?) but my absolute favourite is also the most volatile. Le camion qui fume food truck generally parks at Place de la Madeleine for lunch, and it is well worth a stop – as long as you get there early because queues can last up to 45 minutes.

Printemps rooftop terrace (64 Boulevard Haussmann, 9e arr.)

24 hours in Paris

Definitely, the best free view of Paris that doesn’t involve muscle pain. The entrance can be a bit tricky to find — it’s located on the 8th floor of the western building of Printemps, where an escalator will take you to the top and most spectacular floor for unobstructed views of Paris, including Opéra Garnier, the Eiffel Tower, and many others.

Du pain et des idées (34 Rue Yves Toudic, 10e arr.)

best of paris

There is a reason why this bakery is so often featured in magazines and blogs; not only is it incredibly photogenic, but their speciality pistachio-chocolate escargots and their orange brioche bread are simply amazing – especially when enjoyed al fresco by the canal.

Ten Belles Café (10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles, 10e arr.)

24 hours in Paris

Although the owners are extremely friendly and the soundtrack is uplifting, what keeps people coming back at Ten Belles is the excellent coffee – best enjoyed by the window or on the small second-floor next to Parisian students prepping for their finals.

Canal St-Martin

24 hours in Paris

The 4.5-kilometres long canal located in east Paris was built by orders of Napoleon back in the early 19th century in order to supply the city with fresh water amidst growing concerns for public safety, notably cholera and dysentery, with the rapidly growing population. Funnily enough, the construction was almost entirely funded by a new tax on wine — only in France, right?! Nowadays, it’s a lovely area whose banks are lined with trendy cafés with sprawling terraces, bakeries and wine bars, and a popular place to watch barges navigate the locks.

Café Chilango (82 rue de la Folie-Méricourt, 11e arr.)

Hang out with the locals at this Mexican eatery where everything is organic and made to order in what is probably the tiniest kitchen in Paris. The menu is simple and the tacos toppings change weekly, but if the citrus confit pork is available, you are in luck.

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