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Slow Travel Paris: How to See Paris Like a Local

Paris—a dream destination of many for its beauty and iconic tourist spots.

But if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by crowds, tired from trying to see it all, or shocked by high prices, you might wonder if there’s a better way to enjoy Paris.

The answer? Slow travel.

Slow travel means taking time to discover a place instead of rushing from place to place.

I admit, I used to think Paris was a bit overrated. But after spending a week here, moving slowly and exploring beyond the famous sights, I completely changed my mind.

I discovered hidden gems, cozy restaurants, and quiet spots that showed me the real charm of Paris.

If you’re ready to see Paris in a new light and live like a local, here’s a complete guide to slow travel Paris.

A slow travel in Paris featuring an elderly woman cycling past a historic building with striking red and white facade. The street is quiet with a few pedestrians and parked cars, framed by lush green trees and clear blue skies.

Preparing for your Slow Travel in Paris

Before exploring Paris, here are the best times to visit, essential packing lists, and handy French phrases for a smooth start in the City of Love.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to enjoy a slow travel in Paris is during the spring months of April and May.

During these months, there are fewer crowds, mild weather with little rain, and the city is filled with flowers and lively festivals.

September, the start of early fall, is another great time to visit. The summer heat starts to cool down and crowds begin to thin out again.

View of a serene river in Paris, possibly the Seine, flanked by lush green trees and distant city buildings under a clear blue sky. The calm waters reflect the surrounding greenery and blue skies, creating a peaceful urban landscape.

Packing Essentials

Packing light saved me a lot of money and energy. By traveling with mostly essentials, I didn’t have to use a taxi. Here are some essentials for your trip:

  • Comfy Shoes: Slow travel in Paris involves a lot of walking, so wear comfy (and stylish) shoes.
  • Light Jacket: Have a versatile, lightweight jacket for unpredictable weather
  • Daypack: A small backpack is handy for carrying daily essentials.
  • Rain Protection: Have a compact umbrella or raincoat for sudden showers.
  • Adapters: Bring a travel adapter for French outlets.
  • Smart Casual Clothes: Pack layers and smart casual outfits that can transition from day to night.

Essential French Phrases to Talk with Locals

Parisians are sometimes regarded as rude.

But many of them are very considerate if you try to talk to them in their language. Before your trip, learn some common French expressions like:

  • Bonjour (Good day) – A universal greeting
  •  Merci (Thank you) – Always appreciated
  •  Excusez-moi (Excuse me) – Useful for getting attention or navigating through crowds.
  •  Parlez-vous anglais? (Do you speak English?) – A polite way to find a common language
  •  Où est…? (Where is…?) – Essential for finding your way
  •  Je voudrais… (I would like…) – Useful in cafes and restaurants
  •  Combien ça coûte? (How much does it cost?) – Important for shopping or services

Trust me, even a little effort of bonjour will go a long way. It often leads to more meaningful interactions with locals.

Finding Your Parisian Home

Choosing where you’ll stay in Paris for your slow travel is important. Think of your goal and choose one that would fit your style.

You may opt for an eco-friendly boutique hotel in historic buildings for easy daily relaxed walks.

A backpacker hostel in a well-connected neighborhood could be a more affordable option. Or a cozy guest house for an intimate holiday experience.

Choosing Your Neighborhood

Paris is made up of 20 different neighborhoods, known as arrondissements – divided by the River Seine into the Right Bank and the Left Bank.

Each has a distinct personality so choose which one to focus on or make as a base. Here are some of the best ones:

Le Marais (3rd and 4th Arrondissements)

One of Paris’s most vibrant and historic districts, Le Marais is a perfect blend of old-world charm and contemporary chic.

With its narrow streets, stunning architecture, and lively squares, this neighborhood is ideal for those who love to explore on foot.

It’s also home to excellent cafes, bistros, boutiques, and art galleries.

Canal Saint-Martin (10th Arrondissement)

Off the beaten Path in Paris: Canal Saint Martin

For a more laid-back vibe, Canal Saint-Martin offers scenic waterways, trendy shops, and a youthful atmosphere. It’s a great area to enjoy walks along the canal and have picnics.

You can even stay at the Le Citizen Hotel and enjoy unparalleled views of the iconic canal.

Montmartre (18th Arrondissement)

Cobblestone street in Montmartre, Paris, with quaint buildings covered in ivy and a sidewalk café featuring green shutters and matching furniture, conveying a quiet, charming atmosphere.

If you’re drawn to the artistic heritage of Paris, Montmartre is the place to be.

This hilltop neighborhood offers incredible views of the city, the iconic Sacré-Cœur Basilica, the Wall of Love Paris, and a maze of cobblestone streets that have inspired countless artists.

Belleville (19th and 20th Arrondissements)

View of the Eiffel Tower from Parc de Belleville, showcasing one of the best free views in Paris under a partly cloudy sky.
Views of Paris from Parc de Belleville including the Eiffel Tower

Belleville is an eclectic and dynamic area for a taste of multicultural Paris. Here, you’ll enjoy vibrant street art and a diverse food scene.

It’s also one of the secret spots to enjoy panoramic views of Paris without the crowd.

Saint-Germain-des-Prés (6th Arrondissement)

This historic district is synonymous with Parisian intellectual life.

It’s perfect for those who appreciate cafes where philosophers and writers once gathered.

Saint-Germain-des-Prés is also known for boutique shopping, art galleries, and museums.

Nation (12th Arrondissement)

We stayed in Nation during our slow travel to Paris and I loved its affordability and a genuinely local atmosphere.

It has lots of hostels, budget-friendly bakeries, supermarkets, and cafes. It’s also a good base because it’s well-connected by various train lines.

It’s a great base to explore the city and do day trips from Paris.

Exploring the City

The best thing about slow travel is there is no list or itinerary to follow.

But I know this can be scary or feel weird to someone starting. So, here are some of the best things to do with your slow travel in Paris.

Stroll around the city on foot

The best way to slow travel to any place especially Paris is by foot.

Try to walk around without an itinerary. Get lost. Be fascinated with every corner.

Discover spots that resonate with you rather than having a checklist guide.

If you really need a guide, stroll along the Seine River, Montmartre, and Le Marais.

Maybe, eventually, you’ll make it to your destination, but you’ll also enjoy getting there.

Oh again, comfortable shoes are your best friends for this one.

Cycling in Paris

Grabbing a bike in Paris will change the way you see the city.

It’s liberating to breeze through the lanes. The Seine’s banks are a perfect start, but the real magic is in the lesser-known paths, like the serene Canal Saint-Martin.

Paris’s bike-sharing system, Velib, is your gateway to this adventure—simple, accessible, and so Parisian.

Self-Guided Walking Tours

Joining a walking tour allows you to connect with Paris on a personal level.

Whether following the echoes of famous writers in the Latin Quarter or marveling at hidden architectural gems, you’ll learn it from a local.

Pick a theme that you’re most interested in. Here’s one of the best walking tours in Paris.

Cruise on the Seine

Seeing Paris from its historic river is unexpectedly calming.

I recommend a small boat at twilight when the city’s lights are about to twinkle, and the crowds thin out.

It’s a peaceful moment to reflect and fall deeper in love with Paris.

Hidden gems: Lesser-known attractions

A big part of me falling in love with Paris is its hidden gems.

Below are my recent finds. I also have a complete list of hidden gems in Paris should you need more.

I encourage you to find yours. Walk around, sit in a park, go in the opposite direction of a crowded spot -let Paris reveal itself to you.

Waking on the lush garden with a fountain in the Grand Mosque in Paris, one of the hidden gems for slow travel in Paris.
  • Grand Mosque in Paris – I can’t believe this quiet space exists in the middle of Paris. This has become my favorite place in Paris, especially after learning about its inspiring history.
  • Rue Cler – This is where I got to experience an authentic taste of Parisian life.

    If you want to see how Parisians shop their everyday food and get croissants, macaroons, wines, and cheese (and all other French), this perfect spot. Best part? It’s even near the Eiffel Tower.
  • Rue Cremieux – This unique colorful pedestrian street is perfect for an early stroll.

    It gave us a short break from the beige and brown buildings. We felt we were not in Paris suddenly!
  • Estate of Trianon – If you need a different scene from Paris, you can take many day trips to other French cities and countries.

    This palace is hidden within the famous Palace of Versailles. It’s perfect for leisurely walks, picnics, and admiring French grandeur without the crowds.
  • Non-touristy Viewpoints – I shared my complete list of spots to enjoy views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.

    Most of them are unknown to many tourists. Do not try to visit them all. Pick one or two and be fully present there.

Eating Like a Local

One of the top things to do in any place is taste their local cuisine.

Do not just tick this experience in a list. Take your time and savor every bite (after all, macaroons and croissants really do taste better in Paris!)

Here’s how to dine like a true Parisian:

Picnics

Our picnic at Champs de Mars. Me and my partner mat with our picnic cloth, grapes, croissants, strawberries, and almonds.

I love the picnic culture in Europe. And in Paris – it’s even in their tradition to have a picnic along the Seine or in one of its many parks.

Our favorite spot is at Champ de Mars with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Pack a baguette or croissant, some cheese from a local fromagerie, and a bottle of wine.

You can also grab fresh juice if you’re sober like me and you’re set for a delightful meal.

Again, you can all buy these in Rue Cler or at their supermarkets which offer daily fresh and even bio-products.

Local Markets

A bustling fruit stand, "Au Bon Jardinier," on Rue Cler in Paris, brimming with an array of fresh produce. Visiting local markets is one of the best ways to experience slow travel in Paris.

Parisian cuisine is a treat for all senses. I enjoy seeing their fresh produce, and artisan chocolates, and listening to their local sellers.

I already mentioned our favorite street market is Rue Cler. You can also visit Marché Bastille.

It is one of the biggest Parisian markets. It has everything from fresh produce to gourmet cheeses and meats.

Marché des Enfants Rouges in Le Marais is Paris’s oldest market. Here, you can also grab a bite at one of the many food stalls with multicultural foods.

Farm-to-Table Restaurants

Ethical dining? It’s no wonder slow travel emerged from the slow food movement.

It’s a call for us to be aware of our food sources. To choose to eat locally. To go for food cooked with craft and care over speed.

Food is a central part of Parisian culture and everyday life. They take pride in their cooking.

What’s a better way to experience slow travel than through food that’s good for you and the planet?

One great restaurant to try is Les Résistants in the 10th arrondissement. It has an inspiring dedication to small-scale producers.

They offer a well-crafted menu that changes daily based on the freshest, most ethical ingredients.

The founders even went on a year and a half of travel throughout France to find the best produce!

If you’re looking for plant-based cuisine, head to Le Potager de Charlotte in the 9th and 17th arrondissements.

It is a charming restaurant that offers healthy, vegetarian, and gourmet cuisine made entirely in-house with the closest possible sourcing.

Café Culture

No visit to Paris is complete without indulging in its café culture.

Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots in Saint-Germain-des-Prés are iconic, but for a more local experience, try Le Select or Café Charlot.

Sip on a café au lait and enjoy a croissant while experiencing the relaxed pace of Parisian life.

Living Like a Local

When in Paris, do as the Parisians do. Here’s how you can truly live like a local in Paris:

Cooking Classes

Dive into the flavors of France by taking a cooking class. Galeries Lafayette and Le Foodist are fantastic places to start.

They offer everything from baking to gourmet meal preparation, all taught by passionate local chefs.

Language Classes

Planning to stay for a month or longer?

Why not learn some French? You can even take a class in a local coffee shop with a Parisian!

Again, the secret to navigating this city is learning some key phrases.

Art Workshops

After visiting museums, why not explore the city’s vibrant street art scene with expert-led tours and workshops? 

You’ll learn to use specialized spray paints and even design your own graffiti mural!

Paris is also famous for its luxurious fragrances and perfumes, so why not create your own signature scent?

Learn and select your own “notes” with the guidance of a Parisian nose (perfumer).

Fashion Workshops

Dive into the world of Parisian fashion through an intriguing walking tour about haute couture and fashion design.

You can even have a local to help you find discounted couture! Or you can simply watch a fashion show from the biggest brands.

So next time you slow travel in Paris, don’t just observe the Parisian lifestyle, be part of it.

Parks and Green Spaces

I love how parks are such an integral part of life in Europe. These parks provide fresh air for Parisians, especially those living in small apartments.

Similarly, these parks will provide a breather for your travel. Here are some of the best parks in Paris:

Jardin du Luxembourg

Luxembourg Garden, a picnic place in Paris displaying a classic white marble statue amidst a green enclosure, complemented by neatly trimmed trees, colorful flowerbeds, and traditional Parisian architecture in the background.

Located in the 6th arrondissement, the Luxembourg Gardens are a quintessential Parisian escape.

Originally owned by the royal family, this expansive park is now a public space loved especially by locals.

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Parc Buttes Chaumont in Paris

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is one of the city’s largest and most intriguing parks.

This park is known for its dramatic landscapes, including cliffs and a beautiful artificial lake. Plus, it offers some of the best views of Paris.

Parc Monceau

A romantic red brick and stone bridge arches gracefully over a calm stream in Parc Monceau, one of the best parks in Paris for picnic, surrounded by lush greenery and tranquil walking paths, evoking a serene escape within the city.

Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement is a delightful blend of English and French landscaping styles.

This unique park is famous for its surprising follies — including a small Egyptian pyramid and a Chinese fort.

Wrap Up: Slow Travel Paris

Exploring Paris slowly is about more than just seeing the sights—it’s about truly connecting with the city’s heart.

As you wander, let yourself be drawn in by the unexpected: a cozy café corner, a hidden garden, or a lively street market.

This is the essence of living “à la Parisienne” and slow travel—taking the time to savor each moment.

Read More About Slow Travel in Paris

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