An alternative guide to Paris during the Olympics

Anna Richards

Anna Richards

On my first trip to Paris, we worked our way through Tripadvisor's 'Top 10' list and ate chicken and chips for every meal. We accepted roses from street vendors and screeched 'voulez-vous coucher avec moi' outside the Moulin Rouge. In short, we ticked off every cliché in the book.

The familiar sight of the Eiffel Tower on the bank of the Seine
The familiar sight of the Eiffel Tower on the bank of the Seine © Ekaterina Belova - Adobe Stock Image

Although likely more sophisticated than my teenage self, first-time trips to the capital of France* tend to follow a fairly rigid itinerary. First up are the galleries: the Louvre, the Musée D'Orsay, and perhaps the Impressionist collection at Musée de l'Orangerie if you want to be different.

There'll be the obligatory visit to the Eiffel Tower, perhaps a boat ride down the Seine and a trip out of town to Versailles.

But if you're coming to Paris for the Olympics, the chances are you've been at least once before, and here's why you should shake up your routine.

It's going to be very, very busy. An estimated 15 million people are expected to watch the Olympic Games in Paris, meaning that at the city's most famous sights, there won't be enough room to swing a cat's flea, let alone the cat itself.

And if you've already stood on tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the stamp-sized Mona Lisa, dodged a million and one street sellers with Eiffel Tower keyrings and spent your life's savings on a coffee on the Champs-Élysées, try this guide to escape the crowds.

Getting to Paris: find current deals on city breaks to Paris for all budgets with TUI*.

What to do in Paris

There are well over 100 museums in Paris, and while not the same magnitude as the Louvre, there's satisfaction in being able to explore an entire collection of a smaller one in a few hours. I like the Musée Bourdelle, a sculpture museum showcasing the works of Antoine Bourdelle.

Exploring Musée Bourdelle
Exploring Musée Bourdelle © Guilhem Vellut - Flickr CC BY 2.0

Interactive displays take you through the long and convoluted process involved in creating the immense bronze mythological statues displayed in the garden. For an eclectic and kaleidoscopic mix of modern art, head to 59 Rivoli. An artistic collective and former squat, many of the artists create their works on-site as you visit. Better still, both of these are completely free.

If the bed bug crisis had you rethink Paris's Metro, make getting around part of the experience. Every Friday evening, Pari Roller organises after-dark tours around Paris* by rollerskate, scooter or bike. They're due to keep running their tours throughout the Olympics.

Hop on an electric Cooltra scooter
Hop on an electric Cooltra scooter © HJBC - Adobe Stock Image

If you've got a driver's licence (and you're comfortable on a motor scooter), Cooltra allows you to rent motor scooters all over the city for pay-per-minute rides. Speeding through Paris on a scooter is like being the main character in a film.

Where to eat & drink

There's no shortage of great restaurants in Paris, but sometimes the choice feels overwhelming (and the price tag too, for that matter).

Although the term 'speakeasy' is a bit of an oxymoron, there's still a certain thrill to visiting a restaurant through a secret entrance, a la Bidoche, where the restaurant is hidden in a butcher's shop. The menu is predictably meat-heavy, and prices are based on weight.

Taking Paris's culinary scene by storm is Orgueil, whose speakeasy, although not particularly well hidden, makes the entire meal an interactive experience. A small, mirrored room (which requires you to cross the kitchen to access it) gives you a full view of the kitchen team preparing.

It's like being transported into a cooking programme. The seven-course tasting menu is prepared with as little waste as possible, and simple dishes, such as a raw spinach salad, are given twists that have you licking the bowl clean.

Not so long ago, Paris had the reputation for the world's worst coffee scene. A proud nation, and not one to take such a snub lightly, café-culture rapidly transformed. At Bonjour Jacob, pair your brew with an excellent selection of indie magazines, many of which give in-depth wanderlust inspiration to the French capital itself.

For something stronger, head to rum cellar Le Comptoir General on the bank of Canal Saint-Martin for a pirate's treasure trove of cocktails and regular live music nights.

Where to stay

You won't go far wrong staying around Montparnasse, in the 14th or 6th arrondissements. It's well connected by Metro and RER lines, you can get the best view in Paris (taking in the Eiffel Tower) from the top of Montparnasse Tower, and the culinary scene is infinitely more varied than the overpriced chicken-and-chips tourist traps just above in the 7th.

The lively streets of Montparnasse
The lively streets of Montparnasse © Zefart - Adobe Stock Image

Newly-opened Hôtel des Grands Voyageurs, on the edge of the 6th arrondissement, has chic decor reminiscent of a Golden Age sleeper train. The suite rooms come with gramophone players and a room service menu of 100 different records and there's a secret bar hidden in the property.

Belleville, Paris's edgy, colourful East End, is filled with street art. Foodies, head to Babel Belleville. Dishes draw inspiration from all over the world, and instead of bog-standard frites, you've got panisse chickpea fries.

Climate in Paris

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall

The above guide shows the climate in Paris. Find out more about conditions across the country in our complete guide to the climate in France.

Set to explore Paris beyond the usual? Don't miss the latest offers on city breaks with TUI.

Low deposits on summer & winter sun holidays with TUI

More about Paris

Paris by month

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Anna Richards

Anna Richards

Posted on Wednesday 6th March 2024 in: City Culture Europe

Back to top

Explore holidays in the sun for less

More holidays

Airport parking

More parking

Airport lounges

More lounges

Related posts

Back to Travel inspiration Top ^