Paris is a vibrant and exciting city, but it also has a slow and quiet side. Here are the 17 most wonderfully relaxing things to do in Paris.
You can effortlessly pack every hour of your itinerary with sites and museums. But what if you want to do some relaxing in Paris for a bit?
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Find a quiet corner of the Musee Rodin gardens to relax in Paris
The Rodin Museum occupies the Paris mansion in which the artist lived. It’s a lovely home in the heart of the city, surrounded by beautiful and well-manicured gardens. And it’s a great secret place in Paris. Many of Rodin’s stunning sculptures, including his famous Thinker, have been placed around the garden. There are plenty of places to take a break and just enjoy one of the most relaxing things to do in Paris, sitting in a beautiful garden.
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Explore hilly and artsy Montmartre
There’s not really anything like Montmartre. Montmartre is the name of the hill Sacre Coeur perches atop as well as the surrounding area in Paris’ 18th arrondissement. Once the home of Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, etc., this part of Paris is also where you’ll find the famous Moulin Rouge as well as the only vineyard within the city limits.
Montmartre is a great area to just poke around and explore. There are also a wide variety of guided tours and activities you can try.
Visit Monet’s Water Lilies (first thing in the morning)
If you want to mix a little art with your relaxation, I can’t think of anything better than to spend some time soaking up Monet’s Nymphéas at l’Orangerie.
These rooms can get rather full later in the day (watch out for noisy school groups!), so it’s worth getting going a little earlier to hit this museum as soon as it opens. The two rooms of Monet’s water lilies paintings are on the first floor of the museum. Each elliptical room houses four of the paintings; seating is in the center of the room.
And if you have the Paris Museum Pass you can visit this museum as many times as you like while your pass is valid.
Taking an evening stroll is one of the most relaxing things to do in Paris
If you’re looking for something relaxing to do in the evening, I’d recommend taking an evening stroll along the Seine. The lights of Paris are so beautiful at night, and you really get the full effect along the banks of the Seine. And if you’re in that area, pop over to the Louvre Museum to see the pyramid and courtyard lit up. Lovely!
Watch the sunset from a bridge on the Seine
If you are out wandering in Paris in the evening (which I highly recommend) make sure you pause on one of the many bridges over the Seine to watch the sun go down over the City of Lights. There are 37 bridges across the Seine in Paris. Not all of them are suitable for pedestrians or offer good views, but many do. You can also try a popular sunset or dinner cruise on the Seine.
Browse the shelves at Shakespeare and Company (bonus: enjoy lunch at the café next door!)
This iconic, English-language independent bookstore is a must-do for book lovers traveling to Paris. The store is a fair bit larger inside than it appears on the outside, and it is quite literally stuffed nearly to the rafters with books, books, books everywhere. Sigh. It’s great place to pick up a literary souvenir of your trip to Paris…and the staff will gladly stamp the title page of your book with the shop logo!
Please note that photography is not allowed inside the shop, but there’s a nearly endless stream of tourists, Instagrammers and bloggers taking photos outside the store (including yours truly).
Next door to the bookshop, the Shakespeare and Company Café offers an excellent, though limited, menu with great healthy, vegetarian and gluten-free options. And the outdoor seating includes views of Notre-Dame while you enjoy your lunch and read your books.
Pull up a chair at Jardin des Tuileries
Located between Place de la Concorde and the Louvre, the Tuileries Garden is a great place to relax in Paris and rest your weary feet between touring that massive museum and a visit to Musee de l’Orangerie (located at the southwest corner of the park). Green chairs, perfect for reclining and reading a good book (perhaps that book you bought at Shakespeare and Company), are scattered throughout, particularly near each of the two basins. And it’s perfectly acceptable to put your feet up on the edge of the basin to assist you with relaxing in Paris.
Sip coffee at a café and people watch
This is one of the most relaxing things to do in Paris. Yes, it’s a cliché…but for a reason. There really isn’t anything more Parisian and wonderfully relaxing than to sip a coffee at a café and watch the world stroll by. If you want to be a little more authentic (and save a few euros), move away from the top tourist areas.
Your server won’t bring your check until you ask for it (“L’addition, s’il vous plaît.”) so feel free to take a nice long break while you slowly sip and recharge before you tackle the rest of your day.
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Wander…with no place in particular to go
I have a tendency to rush about like a woman on a mission when executing my travel itinerary, then I need to remind myself that it’s okay to just wander a bit. In fact, this is a great thing to do on your first day in a new city. Fresh air and walking help me to ignore how jet lagged I’m feeling, and doing a little wandering helps me to very quickly get familiar with the area immediately around my accommodations.
One of the great joys of walking through Paris is discovering the narrow, poky streets in neighborhoods like the Latin Quarter. They’re so different from the wide boulevards. So, take an active breather from your itinerary and just wander.
Picnic at Square du Vert-Galant
Okay, I’m just now realizing that a lot of these suggestions center around food and drink. Story of my life. Anyway…when you’ve had your fill of Paris restaurants, but not your fill of bread, cheese or people watching, there’s a great picnic spot at the western tip of Île de la Cité (the island in the Seine where Notre-Dame resides).
Square du Vert-Galant is an ecological green space perfect for taking a break during your sightseeing in the historic center of the city. There are several benches in this little park or you can leave the fenced-in area and take a seat right at the edge of the island, dangling your feet over the water. We enjoyed watching the Seine river cruise boats going by.
Enjoy the view of Paris from the steps of Sacre Coeur
The Basilique du Sacre Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) in Montmartre stands atop the highest point in Paris and provides some great views of the city. Pull up a step and just soak in the view.
Getting to the basilica requires a strenuous climb up about 200 steps or you can take the funicular (cost: 1 metro ticket). To get the full experience, take the funicular up to Sacre Coeur and then take the 200 stairs down. If you’re looking for an even higher vantage point, you can climb up to the Sacre Coeur dome for €7 (but keep in mind that’s another 300 steps).
The church itself is free to enter after a minor security process (they just peak in your bag). Since it is an actual functioning church, visitors are asked to refrain from taking photos and remain silent while inside.
Stop by a creperie for an afternoon snack
When in Paris you absolutely have to eat your body weight in crepes and galettes…and baguettes…and pain au chocolat. Mmmmmm. Sorry! Got a little distracted there.
You probably know what a crepe is, and galettes are very similar. They’re basically a buckwheat version (you may also see them listed on menus as Breton pancakes) and typically have a savory filling. Have a galette for lunch or dinner and then enjoy a sweet crepe for your dessert or afternoon snack. Perfection.
Our favorite creperie in Paris is Culture Crepes. The service is warm and friendly, and they happily made sweet galettes for my husband who has to eat gluten free. A traditional butter and sugar crepe with a French coffee is an excellent way to take a breather and recharge before you continue your Paris sightseeing day.
Watch the Eiffel Tower lights from Parc du Champ de Mar
Champs de Mar is a large public greenspace that spreads out east from the Eiffel Tower. It’s a popular spot to picnic or just relax with an up-close view of one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. Of course, you can do this anytime during the day, but why not check it out at night? The Eiffel Tower is lit up after sunset (which is really nice), but then there is a five-minute sparkling light show that I personally think is spectacular. The light show runs every hour on the hour from the time the tower is lit up until 1 a.m.
Pay your respects at the Deportation Martyrs Memorial
If you’re looking for something to do outside of the typical Paris tourist sites, I highly recommend stopping at the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation. The memorial is located on the east end of Île de la Cité and is free for all visitors. It was opened in 1962 and honors the 200,000 people who were sent to the concentration camps from France during World War II.
There is a small visitor’s center just inside the entrance gate at the memorial where you can get a brochure. You will need to pass through a minimal security check (they just peak inside your bags) before you can enter. The memorial is typically closed on Mondays and major holidays.
Browse the bouquinistes’ stalls along the Seine
As you stroll along the Seine, you’ll pass numbers of green stalls offering everything from souvenir refrigerator magnets and postcards to vintage posters, magazines and used books. These are the bouquinistes, and they’ve been selling their wares on the banks of the river for literally hundreds of years. There are more than 200 stalls on both sides of the river. The stalls themselves are highly regulated by Paris law (color, height, etc.) and there is a years-long waiting list to get one of the coveted spots. You’re sure to find a good deal on a Parisian souvenir here.
Window shop at Galeries Lafayette Department Store
The belle époque Galeries Lafayette department store, famous for its stained-glass domed ceiling, is just a block away from the rear of the famous Palais Garnier opera house (best known as the setting of The Phantom of the Opera). It’s a great place to browse around, especially if you want a special souvenir such as a Parisian luxury clothing. If you’re looking for a meal, there’s a nice cafeteria-style food court upstairs. There’s also a small Starbucks on the third floor with a nice view of the beautiful ceiling if you’re just looking for a snack or a pick-me-up.
Treat yourself to something familiar
Okay, this one really applies to any city, but it’s key for me when I’m dealing with travel anxiety.
When you’re on the road you can spend a great deal of time constantly surrounded by the new and very unfamiliar. Now, don’t get me wrong, experiencing the new and unfamiliar is one of the reasons I travel, but I also need to intersperse it with the familiar so that I can relax before gearing up to head out into the unfamiliar again.
It could be something as simple as picking up a few of your favorite brands of snack foods at the grocery store or watching a favorite movie on Netflix. I have a tendency to seek out Starbucks when I’m traveling. I grew up in the Seattle area, so I can walk into a Starbucks on the other side of the planet and immediately feel more at home because I’m experiencing something familiar. Order a favorite drink and take a seat. It’s wonderfully relaxing.
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