5 Things to do Alone in Paris
January 28, 2017
The Romance Capital of the World: My List of Things to do Alone in Paris
Paris, France has the reputation of being perhaps, one of the most romantic cities in the world. Images of couples holding hands and smoking cigarettes along the Seine dance through my head. Or even worse, your mind conjures up thoughts of the love lock tradition. You know, the one where a couple buys a lock, locks it on the bridge, and then throws the lock in the Seine, so that their love will last forever.
Now, all these images would be amazing if I had a boyfriend, but when I was in Paris, I did not. And because of this, these images were starting to depress me. I even started to wonder, “Will I be able to enjoy Paris alone?” Well, have traveled throughout Paris alone, my emphatic answer to this question is yes!!! Not only can you enjoy Paris alone, but you can actually learn to love Paris.
Paris is a city of beauty, history, and charm; and you don’t need a romantic partner, with you, to enjoy all that this city has to offer. This city has a plethora of sites that will not make you run for the hills, screaming, if you are traveling alone. Now, baring this in mind, certain big name sites will not be on this list, like the Eiffel Tower.
Now, obviously you need to see the Eiffel Tower when you are in Paris, since it is so iconic of the city itself. But, let’s keep it real, this site is not the most awesome when you are traveling alone. I mean I went and saw all the couples kissing and taking photos and I kind of wanted to gag with jealousy. So here is a list of 5 things you can do in Paris alone. And yes, there are a lot more than 5 things to do alone in Paris, but I didn’t want to make this post the length of War and Peace. That would get pretty boring. So here’s my abbreviated list.
1. The Catacombs
Okay, I can’t think of anything LESS romantic than walking through a series of cavernous, underground tunnels, studded with human skulls, along with various other human remains. The tunnels are damp, lined with stone, and echo with the slow drip of water. Talk about creepy!
Now in case you don’t know what the catacombs are, they are a series of tunnels and quarries that were used to house remains from the Cemetery of the Innocents. The reason human remains were excavated, in 1785, is that the Cemetery had been around for so long, that the burial site became a source of infection for local residents.
To address the issue, the Council of State decided to prohibit further use of the Cemetery. Disused quarries, later named the Catacombs, were chosen to house the remains because the city had recently inspected the quarries and found them in good condition.
To get there, you can take either Métro et RER B : Denfert-Rochereau or Bus 38 or 68. I took the metro when I went and the station is a little farther outside the city and takes maybe 30 minutes or so from Centrak Paris, so budget your time accordingly (protip: the catacombs are on the way to the airport so you can explore them before you head home.)
Once you get off the metro, the catacombs are right there. Not hard to find at all. There is also decent signage to direct you if you are unsure. Now, I went in August and got there around 11:00 am and the line was insanely long (it took over 2 hours to get in). Therefore, I would try and go later in the afternoon. But if you have to go early, bring a hat and sunscreen because there is no shade to wait under.
The catacombs are open from Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 am till 8:30 pm, with the last admission at 7:30 pm. Tickets are 12 euros and an additional 5 euros for the audioguide. Get the audioguide!! Tours are kind of infrequent and with the audioguide, you can move at your own pace and can still learn some very interesting facts about the site itself.
All in all, it is a super fun, unique experience that will make you forget that you are in
Paris alone. The tunnels and human remains are intriguing and creepy all at once. The history behind the intricate cave network is also fascinating, but do note that it only took me an hour to go through the catacombs. So this site is really only a half day excursion (For additional information see the Catacombs official site at http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/en/catacombs.
2. Père Lachaise Cemetery
Ok, now I know it looks like I have some weird preoccupation with death, but I really don’t. This
cemetery is just beautiful to walk through on a nice sunny day. There are quaint, cobbled paths that line an avenue of intricately carved gravestones. It made sound depressing, but I assure you that the cemetery is quite picturesque.
The cemetery is also quite large. At 110 acres, it is the largest cemetery in Paris. Because the cemetery is so large, there are several entrances. I suggest taking the metro line 2 an getting off at the Philippe-Auguste station. This station is closest to the main entrance on the Boulevard de Ménilmontant.
Entrance into the cemetery is free. And while there are some guided tours, I preferred to discover the intricacies of the cemetery on my own. In the Winter (November 6-March 15), the cemetery is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, Saturday from 8:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday/holidays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Access ends 15 minutes before closing time.)
In the Summer (March 15-November 5), the museum is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m., Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Sunday and holidays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Access ends 15 minutes before closing time. And cemetery employees will actually escort you out when it’s time to leave).
From the main entrance, you have access to restrooms which you should use!! There really are no restrooms throughout the cemetery so take advantage of the bathroom while you can!! Also make sure you grab a free map from the administration building. The cemetery is quite large and it is easy to get lost. The map has all the famous graves labeled and will help you find the final resting place of celebrities such as Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, etc.
There are many more famous graves to discover and the map will help you find them. Finding the graves turned out to be quite fun, and I didn’t think it would be. It felt like a massive treasure hunt. And when I did find the grave I was looking for, I felt really proud of myself. All in all I would say that I spent a little over two hours in the cemetery. Some of the graves are hard to find so it may take you some time, but once you find what you’re looking for, it’s totally worth it.
Ok, now I know this may sound a bit weird, but one of my favorite activities in Paris, is sit in some of there monumentally beautiful cathedrals and just be. I just close my eyes and let my soul absorb the peace and serenity that has inhabited these hallow walls, for hundreds of years. As I do this, all my thoughts and worries seem to melt away. And I begin to wonder what I even had to worry about on vacation!
Now, everyone knows Notre Dame Cathedral. And when you are in Paris, it is kind of mandatory that you go there. I mean, the Hunchback of Notre Dame was centered around this cathedral, clearly it is something special. Well, I am no architectural expert, so I only offer my humble opinion as a wide-eyed, camera wielding, gawking tourist, but I liked Sainte-Chapelle much better than Notre Dame. Okay, there. I said it. Please don;t hate me!! Let me explain.
I have nothing against medieval Gothic architecture, for which Notre Dame Cathedral is world renowned, but I am a sucker for stained glass. And in Sainte-Chappelle, when the sun hits the stained glass, the entire building sparkles. Rainbows burst into life right before your eyes. You don’t know where to turn because there is simply too much beauty to behold. It feels as though the walls are decorated with exotic gems that are pulsating with color.
Sainte-Chapelle is one of those great things to do alone in Paris because you are so mesmerized by the beauty all around you, that you can’t even contemplate talking to anyone. You’re simply too caught up in reading the biblical tales depicted throughout the stained glass masterpieces of this building.
This building is ensconced within the Palais de Justice and is probably the cities’ most exquisite monument. And while this chapel houses a variety of statues, foliage-decorated capitals, and angels, the most magnificent part of the whole structure is the 1113 scenes depicted in the 15, floor to ceiling stained glass windows. And while you do enter through the ground level, make sure you take the spiral staircase to the upper level, where only the king and his court were once allowed.
To get to Sainte-Chapelle, I took the metro and got off at the cite stop. Once there, walk across the Seine, to the islands. Sainte-Chappelle is located there, about two blocks west of Notre Dame. To get in, tickets cost euro 8.50. But, if you get a joint ticket with the Conciergerie, the combined ticket is only euro 12.50 (I would do this option).
Try and get there early because it does get crowded as the day goes on. Chapel hours are from 9:30 am to 6;00pm, March through October. The hours Wednesday night extend oil 9:00pm from mid-May through mid-September (protip: as a special treat after the chapel, go out for some Berthillon. This is a sumptuous, french ice-cream, the best of which is found throughout the Island region of Paris. Seriously, heaven in your mouth.).
4. Musee d’Orsay
The d’Orsay was hands down, my most favorite museum in Paris (The Louvre was too big for me and I like impressionist art better than renaissance art. Please don’t hate me! LOL). Not only is the museum housed in an exquisite railway station that was designed in the art-nouveau style, by Victor Laloux, but the paintings themselves literally take your breath away.
I was so in awe of the raw emotion these paintings evoke, that I forgot to take pictures half the time. LoL. Clearly had no problem being alone because if someone was there, I probably would have ignored them; the art is THAT captivating.
But it’s easy to be awe struck with the works of masters like Van Gogh, Monet, and Degas hanging on the walls. This list doesn’t even account for the vast amount of refined sculpture that decorates the ground floor. To say this place is a feast for your eyes is an understatement.
To be honest, I am no art expert, but this museum inspired me so much that I bought a book onimpressionism (And yes, I haven’t opened the book once). The museum also has a great cafe, that is chic in decor. The room has tall ceilings, with large windows that allow the sunlight to envelope the topiary beneath. The food is also good too. I had cheese, cheese, baguette, and more cheese. LoL. All in all, a charming place to refuel yourself before you trek on through the rest of the museum.
The museum is large but not overbearingly so. Therefore,you could see the three floors of the museum in 3 to 4 hours, depending on how leisurely you stroll through the artwork. But, I would get there early since the museum does get pretty crowded, especially on Tuesdays and Sundays.
When I visited the d’Orsay, I took the metro to the Assemblee Nationale station, and got to the museum by 9:30 am, right when it opened. That was a perfect time because you had the museum all to yourself. However, if you are not an early riser, the museum is open from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. The museum also also has extended hours until 9:45 pm on Thursdays, for a late night art feast.
To save time, I would skip the wait and buy my tickets online. Tickets cost euro 12, but for euro 15, you can buy a combined ticket with the Musee Rodin, as long as you see both museums in the same day (You can do it!!).
5. Walk Along the Seine (One of the many great things to do alone in Paris)
The amazing culture and rich history of Paris, make it an amazing city to walk through. And this is one of the really fun things to do alone in Paris. You really don;t need anyone to walk with.
To me, walking is how you see, feel, taste, touch, and smell the heart of a city; you simply just walk right through it. You stop, relax on a bench, and watch the people walk by. You absorb their persona and sense their way of life.
That is why you NEED to walk along the Seine. You just have to do it. Because if the people are the soul of Paris, then the Seine is the body that they rely on to breath. This river is an intricate part of Parisian culture, both in the past and today, that defines who Parisians are and how they spend their time.
Simply stroll along the boulevard, by the river, and watch as the people eat cheese and drink wine by the shore. Friends will laugh and rip open nice, crusty pieces of baguette. As you hear the melody of this laughter, get a massage in a chair right by the river, for euro 10.
After your massage, continue to wander along the shore and watch the boats cruise by. As you explore the endless river, take in the French way of life that unfolds right before your eyes. Shops, restaurants, and even beach chairs with beach umbrellas, litter
the shore and make the river an exciting place to be ( these chairs are accompanied by sand, which makes it feel more like a beach and less like a river). Whatever you do, just let the Seine, and the Parisian culture, wash over you and capture your heart.