Any student studying abroad knows right away that Paris is huge. Some days, it can seem like the 20 arrondissements spiral on and on forever. Believe me, I know. But the best way to take advantage of such a huge city is by exploring on your time off. In this list, I’ve compiled some of the most relaxing trips to take through and around the city. After all, the best ways to know the ins and outs of the city is to find the secret little spots where you can relax and be yourself.
Le Jardin du Luxembourg
Le Jardin du Luxembourg, otherwise known as the Luxembourg Gardens in English, is a huge public garden that stretches over 20 hectares (about 50 acres). In its beginning, the grades were created by Marie de Médicis, the widow of King Henry IV of France in 1612. They were made so that as she looked out her window at the brand-new Luxembourg Palace. After the French Revolution, the palace was remodeled and new additions were built. Ever since the 1950s, it has been the meeting place for the Senate. Even though the building no longer holds royalty, you can’t help but feel regal as you walk through great stone statues surrounded by seasonal flowers. There is a great view from anywhere in the gardens, but a particularly picturesque place is right by the Medici Fountain. The gardens are a perfect spot for a walk, a picnic, or just taking some time to feel tranquil outside the usual hustle and bustle of Paris’s busy streets.
Quartier de la Sorbonne
If you take a stroll through le Jardin du Luxembourg, you may find yourself in the quartier de la Sorbonne, or Sorbonne University’s neighborhood. It may not seem like much at first, but this is truly an incredibly historic neighborhood in Paris. Here, you will see one of the first universities in the world, and also one of Europe’s most prestigious, none other than the legendary Sorbonne. Built in 1253, the school looks more like a museum at first glance than a university. But that’s not all this neighborhood has to offer. If you look closely, you’ll see other artifacts that have survived since ancient times. Just a 10-minute walk away from the Sorbonne is the Arènes de Lutèce, an actual Roman amphitheater (yes, gladiators did, in fact, use it for battle). Another great part of this neighborhood is that the Musée de Cluny/Musée National du Moyen Âge is also a monument. In this medieval, Middle-Ages museum, you’ll notice right away that the main part is literally inside a centuries-old building. There are rotating exhibits, so be sure to come back regularly to see different artifacts and treasures that once belonged to knights in shining armor and royalty. There is lots to see walking through here for the day.
Château de Versailles
OK, so Versailles isn’t technically in the city-limits of Paris, but I would honestly recommend anyone take a trip out to this beautiful French town. And you definitely need an entire day to do it! The town is primarily accessible by car, but if you want to walk, then bring hiking boots. Getting around is mostly uphill, and there are lots of calming forests to walk through. Seeing the actual château, or castle, itself is a great way to learn all about French and European history, especially in relation to how the French monarchs reigned aggressively until the French Revolution. A tour through the palace is a very long one, taking at least a few hours just to go through building. But if you have an audio guide, it really makes the time pass by. On average, more than 7 million people visit it each year. It is highly recommended that visitors buy a reserved ticket in advance to skip the long lines. Even as you leave the castle and walk through the town of Versailles, you’ll really appreciate the tranquility of the small town, especially since the traffic of Paris is about 12 miles away.
Overall, there are lots of little spots to go throughout Paris for a calm, relaxing day trip. These can include your favorite pastry shop, an art museum, going to the library, and so much more. It can be easy to forget when you’re in the middle of the city that is so busy, that there are little pieces of tranquility nearby. The next time you have a free day, consider taking a trip to a little-known spot in Paris, and appreciate the relaxing moment.
Asha Swann is the Spring 2020 CEA MOJO Blogger in Paris, France, and is currently studying at Sheridan College.