As government officials debate a third lockdown and the extended closure of restaurants, bars, cafés, theatres, museums, and key tourist attractions, Paris’ options are seemingly limited. But don’t despair! There are still plenty of things to busy yourself with in one of Europe’s most enchanting capitals - if you know where to look.
The stunning city scenery remains unspoiled, the streets are free from tourists, and the Haussmans are still standing. The terraces aren’t as lively while café culture is on pause, but you can still get away with not doing any home cooking, and dining on the city’s best independent cuisine during the curfewed evenings.
Here’s our pick of what to do and where to go in Paris while everything’s closed.
Food and drink
Thankfully the French have deemed boulangeries and patisseries essential businesses, so you won’t be short of a croissant, éclair or baguette. For more substantial meals, though, you’d do well to take a look at the following.
Bouillon Pigalle’s click and collect service
The Bouillon restaurants in Paris are known for their delicious, simple and surprisingly cheap cuisine. While all the other branches are forced to close, the larger Pigalle branch is open for collection of a three course meal to reheat at home for a very reasonable €10. The menu changes daily, so you need never cook again.
L’as du Fallafel’s sensational pitas
Clichés exist because generally, they’re true, and anyone who’s ever told you that L’as does the best falafel in Paris was no liar. Head over to the window in the Marais to pick up a takeaway falafel that you’ll proceed to dream about for the forseeable future. Jardin des Rosiers Joseph Migneret is a few steps away and the perfect spot to try to eat it without spilling it all over yourself. (NB: L’as is closed on Friday nights and all day Saturday).
Rue des Martyrs’ delectable traiteurs
One of Paris’s most picturesque streets is lined with rambunctious delicatessens from all over the world. Pick up melt-in-the-mouth ravioli from Sogno Di Pasta, fresh Greek mezze and salads from Yorgaki, and hand rolled japanese dumplings from Maison Zhang. If it’s not quite dinner time, Arnaud Delmontel has the butteriest croissants north of the river, and there are benches at the top of the street to disinfect, sit on and eat.
La Cerise Sur La Pizza for a riverside lunch
Round the corner from St Paul’s metro is this unassuming but incredible pizza joint, close enough to the Seine for the pie to still be piping hot after your short walk down Rue Saint-Paul. Head straight down to the river on the steps next to (now closed) Le Nautes, and eat your haul on picnic benches by the water, as you fondly remember what civilised restaurant dining used to feel like.
Hot chocolate and park combinations
An important duo for any wintery walk in Paris. Ensure you pick up a thick chocolat-chaud to wrap a gloved hand around as you wander through the pretty parks and people watch.
Un Dimanche a Paris and Jardin du Luxembourg
Honestly, you’ll want more than just a hot chocolate from here - their cakes are jaw-dropping. Luckily you’ll have plenty of space in Luxembourg to walk them off, or to simply sit and pretend you live in the Palais.
Mococha and Jardin des Plantes
A very cute chocolatier on Rue Mouffetard will set you up nicely for a meander around the nearby park, and console you while the zoo area remains closed. Continue towards the river to the Jardin Tino Rossi for some gorgeous outdoor sculpture admiration for when the sugar rush kicks in.
Pain Pain and Montmartre’s rooftops
This patisserie has won awards for its Galette du Rois and its baguettes, but the chocolate éclairs are the real stars here. Grab one (in a very chic little box) before heading up to the top of Montmartre to look at Paris from its highest hills. Tip: avoid crowds in front of the Sacré Coeur and instead head to the dog park next to it for a view of the Eiffel Tower and dogs in coats.
Angelina and Jardin des Tuileries
Pick up a famously thick and indulgent chocolat chaud à importer before the sun sets. Sip slowly as you walk through the gardens and past the statues of Auguste Rodin near the Musée de l’Orangerie, before taking a seat on a bench above the fountains near Place Vendome to watch the sky turn fiery at the end of another day in a pandemic. Chocolate and sunsets help soothe the soul. Promise.
Back in Black and Place des Vosges
Save a fortune by swerving Carette and visiting Back In Black around the corner, before sauntering around the Place des Vosges’ array of art galleries - all viewable from the street. You can almost pretend life is normal again.
Maison Bury and Buttes du Chaumont
To be honest there isn’t a lot of great choice near this park, but its enormous Jurassic Park-esque rocks and water features are so worth a visit that the chocolate tastes better just by soaking up the view. Try Maison Bury across the road from the lake entrance, to lessen the risk.
Other things that are well worth your time
A gorgeous hidden park running along the 12th arrondissement. Join from Viaduc des Arts.
A legalised squat that’s home to artists who live in their studios. Each room is totally different and usually with political undertones. Even the spiral staircase connecting everything is a work of art.
Galeries Lafayette is still open
Dodge the crowded shopping areas and bring your hand sanitiser on the escalators up to the viewing platform for a Paris panoramic.
Rent a Vélib
The city is at its quietest and it’s never been easier to get around on a bike or trottinette.
See the black swans in Parc Montsouris
Towards the outskirts of the 14th arrondissement, this park is known locally for its wildlife - which sometimes includes bright green parakeets. The surrounding little streets off of Rue Nansouty are also worth Instagramming.
If you’re up for being inside a usually cramped shop (with distancing measures enforced) there are plenty of these dotted around the city, where you pay for your clothes by the kilo rather than per item.
Street art in Belleville
As this village-like area becomes more infiltrated with hipster-types, the street art is increasing. Head to Rue Denoyez or Place Frehel to see the most prominent work - but it’s really everywhere in Belleville. If you’re up for a climb, the top of the Parc de Belleville is worth bringing a picnic to for another great view of the city.