What? Go to Paris, one of the most exciting cities in the world – and do nothing?!


Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? There’s so much to see in so little time. Of course, we’d like to squeeze in as many activities as possible. I get it. I’m usually that way, too. More so when visiting a place for the first time.

Specially when Europe isn’t exactly easy or cheap for us ordinary Pinoys to get to. The Schengen visa requirements alone – from setting an appointment to getting all the paperwork done to personally submitting the documents and having our biometrics taken.

Even for frequent-ish travelers like us. Seriously. Every. single. time. we travel. We go through the entire process all over again. (Just thinking about it makes me exhausted.)

When we finally get to our destination, however…well, suffice it to say that it makes all the effort worth it.

And the travel stories my family seems to talk about the most – even many years later – are of those times when we actually decided to do “nothing”.

I’m thinking they’re probably onto something here, so let me share a few ideas for a trip to Paris that can balance those hectic, frenetic days of sightseeing and museum-hopping, and give yourselves a chance to chill and really get to know this vibrant city.

1. Float your Boat in Jardin des Tuileries 

Rent a miniature boat or grab a seat in one of those park benches around the pond, and just sit back and relax.

While keeping a close eye on your kids (if traveling with them), it’s still possible to appreciate how much history surrounds this important site.

Look out for the empty space between the fountains and the Place de la Concorde. There once stood the Tuileries Palace, the official royal residence of the French monarch in Paris. (Read about our related post on Versailles.)

Destroyed in a fire years after the French Revolution, it was never rebuilt.

After enjoying the gardens, you can then head on over to Angelina, the popular tea house along Rue de Rivoli.

Metro Stop: Tuileries 

2. Goof off in Jardin du Luxembourg 

Like most gardens in Europe, this one came with a royal residence – in this case, the Luxembourg Palace built for Marie de Medici, widow of King Henry IV.

The biggest park in Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg also has a huge pond, remote-control boats for rent, and lots of chairs from which to relax while watching your kids.

Photo Credit: Philippe, Wikimedia Commons

It also has a puppet show theatre, carousel and fenced-in playground, pony rides, and musical performances in the gazebo.

But what I particularly liked about this garden were the trees, which provided much-needed shade from the piercing afternoon sun. Sit on a bench or grab a chair and enjoy the scenery.

In our case, it was the sight of our three boys having a great time just running around, exploring the grounds, lying down for a quick rest on a bench before grabbing some ice cream, then watching a group of French men play a game of boules or pétanque.

We also got a kick out of searching for the bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty, which replaced the 1900 World Expo model of Lady Liberty that now stands outside the Museé d’Orsay.

Metro Stops: Odéon or Luxembourg

3. Picnic in Champ de Mars under the Eiffel Tower

What trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower? And a trip up this popular Parisian landmark does require a bit of planning as the queue can get pretty long.

Assuming you’ve already made arrangements for your visit to climb up the Eiffel Tower, why not follow it with a picnic in the Champ de Mars?

This area is the long, public green space between the Eiffel Tower on one end and the Ecôle Militaire on the other.

And while you’re at it, you can take your time perfecting that obligatory shot of yourself with la Tour Eiffel.

Metro Stops: Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel, Ecôle Militaire, and Bir-Hakeim

4. Boating in the Bois de Boulogne 

Former royal hunting grounds, these woods now have running, cycling and bridle paths, two race courses, restaurants, picnic grounds, a theatre, a children’s playground, and a pond for boating. Not the remote-control kind but real boats for people to ride on.

For over 30 years now, the Bois has also played host to the Fête a Neu-Neu, an annual fair that’s held in early autumn.

Jardin de Bagatelle in Bois de Boulogne. Photo Credit: Benchaum, Wikimedia Commons

The Bois de Boulogne is located in a quiet residential section of Paris within the 16th arrondissement. Walking around this specific area, it was easy to see that this was a more affluent neighbourhood. A private, less-touristy side of Paris that tourists wouldn’t normally see.

Metro Stops: Porte Dauphine, Porte d’Ateuil, Porte-Maillot, Avenue Foch

5. Place des Vosges in the Marais 

The oldest planned square in Paris, it was originally called Place Royale but was renamed Place des Vosges in 1800.

Photo Credit: AlNo, Wikimedia Commons

Right smack in the middle of what’s probably our favourite neighbourhood in the city, the Marais, you’re surrounded by plenty of restaurants, cafés, interesting shops and galleries. I’m telling you, this area has loads of personality.

Like Jennie and family, we prefer staying here as well. This is a section of Paris that really feels like a neighbourhood. It’s close to a lot of major tourist spots, yet if you want to feel like a local during your visit, the Marais can absolutely help you achieve that as well.

Metro Stop: Place des Vosges

6. Sit in a Sidewalk Café in Saint Germain des Prés

You can find sidewalk cafés practically anywhere in Paris. But for me, part of the charm of Paris has always been its café history, having played host to the literary and intellectual elite during the late 19th to mid-20th centuries.

Café society, as it was known, with the likes of writers like Hemingway, artists like Picasso, and other great thinkers like power-couple Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir as part of the scene.

The café society of yesteryears may be gone but the sidewalk cafés of Saint Germain-des-Prés remain to be great places to pass the time and watch the city go by.

Metro Stop: Saint Germain-des-Prés

7. Watch the Sunset from the Sacré Coeur 

A perfect way to end your day in Montmartre.

Secure a spot on the front steps of the Basilique du Sacré Coeur and share a bottle of wine, if you wish. Enjoy.

Photo Credit: Art Anderson, Wikimedia Commons

Metro Stops: Anvers or Abbesses then take the funicular up

Final Thoughts

Relaxing the demands we put on ourselves whenever we travel can’t be easy for everyone. Not all the time, at least.

For some, there’s the fear of never getting another chance to return to a city like Paris. For others, that’s just how they roll.

But living in an age where everything moves fast, it may be worth considering striking a balance in the way we spend our holidays. To actually slow down, take a break, and get to know a city … by “doing nothing”.

Links to Photo Credits:

Jardin du Luxembourg

Bois de Boulogne (Jardin de Bagatelle) 

Place des Vosges 

Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre