Why You Need to Bike in Paris
Paris was the perfect way to kick off the trip. We had a relatively short 10-hour flight that got us in just in time for a walk through Le Marais neighborhood and an easy dinner at a famous falafel shop.
My last time here was packed with all the tourist trappings. That’s not to say that the famous monuments shouldn’t be visited, au contraire, they are absolutely worth it. But we just shrugged off not seeing the Eiffel Tower and settled for glimpses of it hovering in the Parisian skyline. The days were long, with the golden hour stretching to 9 pm. This allowed for leisurely wanders and time to just be. We strolled and biked through the winding streets, admiring beautiful walls, architecture, and green parks. We even spent a Saturday as we might have in the states, by working out: he went for a run while I took a free yoga class at Le Marais Lululemon. A cat nap with the royal wedding streaming in the background was in order shortly thereafter.
The days pass by quickly, but contrary to my usual gogogo planning down to the last quarter hour, there was an unusual luxury of.. oh well, we’ll come back next time to do that. Merci Paris, for easing us into the beauty and the beginning of our world tour. -L
Here are our recommendations and tips for Paris:
- Bike Share: Getting around by 🚲 is a fantastic way to see the city. Not only is it faster than walking, but relative to the metro you will see much more of the city. The new generation of dockless bike shares are especially convenient. We used dockless bikes from ofo – use one of our links to get your first 3 rides free. Our bikes were not perfect by any means: many could not change gears, I had a busted bike seat at one point, and you definitely need to be willing to sweat a little. However, it is the perfect way to see the prettiness of the city.
- Metro: Sometimes you’ll still need to go below ground, the best value is typically the 10-pack of one-way tickets as they can be shared!
- Musee d’Orsay is open late on Thursday evenings. Tickets are €2 cheaper then and you will likely avoid the huge crowds.
- If you plan to enter any monument or museum, try to schedule for a weekday. In May, we saw a huge difference between the queues for the hot spots.
- Saint Chapelle: Paris’ oldest church is magnificent. Try to go early so you don’t have to wait in an hour-long queue or jostle with tourists for the optimal picture-taking-spot. Get disappointed when you are first let in, realize it’s not very big, but hold your breath until you climb the staircase to the second floor and bathe in the rainbow of stained glass around you.
- Marché Bastille: If you are around on Thursday or Sunday, check out this farmer’s market. Starting under the Genie of Freedom, start your stroll through the blocks of stalls. You’ll find stands with fresh produce, baked goods, artisan edible goods, and souvenirs.
- Most places charge more for you to sit down and eat vs. take away. If you want to save some cash, go with the take-away route and find a nice park to sit in and enjoy your food.
- Speaking of nice parks, we really enjoyed the Luxembourg Gardens. It’s a beautiful place with free chairs for you to sit and take a nap on if you’re still recovering from jet lag. Even if you don’t go to this garden in particular, find the one closest to where you’re staying. A cheap bottle of wine and ham, cheese, and butter baguette sandwich is a wonderful way to rest your feet and wallet.
PRO-TIP – Not all baguettes are equal in France. When buying baguettes, make sure to buy ones labeled “la tradition” or “la speciale.” If you’re not sure, just buy the slightly more expensive one. The reason is that price of bread in France is regulated so bakeries will use the cheapest stuff they can get away with for the regular baguettes. The nicer stuff has a much better crust and taste and it’s usually not much more expensive.
Below are the bakeries we visited:
- Really great croissants and baguettes. Kitchen is totally open so you can watch the bakers at work.
- Du Pain et des Idées
- First bakery we visited in Paris. Beautiful shop with a great selection of pastries.
- Pierre Herme for Macarons
- Regarded as one of the best macaron shops in Paris. They have a bunch of locations and really interesting flavors like Lychee Rose
Coffee in Paris seems to be priced on par with San Francisco (~$4 for a cappuccino).
- Radio Days
- This was my favorite coffee shop during our stay. You can tell that it’s a place run by people who really care about coffee.
- Good wifi and tables to sit at and get some work done.
- 10 Belles
- Stopped here on my way to pick up baguettes in the morning. Tiny place but very good coffee at great prices.
Budget (< $10 / person)
- L’As du Fallafel: This place comes up consistently as the #1 cheap eat in Paris, and with good reason. You get a huge pita stuffed with meat / fallafel for about €10. Make sure you get the harrisa on the side too!
- Chez Le Libanais: Don’t be confused – there are actually 2 places with the same name right across from each other. One is a nice sit down restaurant while the other one is a take-away window (with very limited seating in the back). If you’re looking for a cheap meal, go to the take-away window. They also have a free bathroom!
Mid range (< $30 / person)
- Le Comptoir de La Gastronomie (Foie Gras and French cuisine): This was our first real “french” meal in Paris. Without a doubt the thing to try is their Foie Gras. You can apologize to your arteries later 🙂
- Breizh Cafe (Crepes): We stumbled into this place in the Marais neighborhood. They specialize in buckwheat crepes and cider. The crepes are not big so you probably need at least one per person.
- Les p’tites indecises (Bistro fare): Our favorite meal in Paris. The place was packed with locals when we arrived around 9:30pm. Food is very classic french bistro fare. Wait staff speak fluent English and had great recommendations on food & wine. We got the beef tartare (which we recommend) and steak frites (of which the steak part we cannot recommend). The steak was a fairly cheap cut (rump?) but the frites were excellent. We think the ambiance and service of this place more than made made up for the poor steak.
- What do you think we’re made of money?? No high end dinners in Paris this time 🙂