3 Fun & Memorable Ways to Visit Paris Without Going Underground

Enjoy the Ride as Much as the Destination!

For many of our guests, a stay in the City of Lights is understandably perhaps one of the most exciting and special events of the year.

Although the Paris Metro is undoubtedly an effective tool of transit (at least it is – ahem – outside of driver strikes), it seems a shame to spend too much of your time underground, especially in a city as beautiful as Paris.

So, rather than popping up from under ground like a mole at your chosen sites of interest, I’ve selected 3 FUN, ORIGINAL and MEMORABLE  ways of visiting and getting around Paris, while enjoying the ride just as much as (if not more than!) the destination.

Fun Way #1 : Touring Paris in a Citroën 2CV

Venice has its gondolas, New York has its taxi and Paris … its 2CVs!

The Citroën 2CV, is quirky little tin snail of a French car, characterised by voluptuous curves and cheerful cheeky eyes.

The name 2CV (read “Deux Chevaux”) actually derives from it’s tax rating of two horses (horses = chevaux) and is affectionately nicknamed “La Deuche” or “La Deudeuche” by the French.

The 2CV was a true industrial and social revolution, paving the way to economical and popular cars. Over 9 million were made throughout the little car’s a astonishingly long and colourful history, from 1942 to 1990.

The “Deux Chevaux” is as quintessentially French as a baguette, so when I started seeing specialised tour operators using them to show visitors around Paris, I thought “that looks like fun!”

Being driven in a 2CV is a lot of fun : the quaint retro atmosphere, the push-pull dash-mounted gear lever, the soft suspension (you can rock the car to alarming angles with your bare hands), the absurdly narrow bicycle-like tyres that go patter-patter on the cobblestones, all conspire to put a big smile on your face.

Plus, the 2CV was cool enough for Roger Moore and a sultry Carole Bouquet in the James Bond epic “For Your Eyes Only”…

Being a convertible, the “Deuche” also offers amazing views and photo opportunities. In fact, you can even stand up and stick out of the top (though perhaps not at speed!) to take your photos, much to the surprise of passers-by.

The specialised 2CV tour operator we’ve chosen is called “4 roues sous 1 parapluie”, (parapluie = umbrella, symbolizing the soft top). We chose them because they offer a very creative choice of tours, starting at a very reasonable 19€ / person (for 3 people).

The most popular tours include “Eternal Paris” which takes in the grand majesty of the classic monuments and avenues and “Secret Paris” where even a native Parisian would learn from the lively anecdotes and unexpected stories.

Other more creative tours include the “Monopoly Tour” which is like a real life board game, the classic “Paris by Night”, best-seller-book inspired “Da Vinci Ride”, “Romantic Ride” with a bouquet of roses included, and the amusing “Tour of Ladies Delight”, a luxury shopping tour which becomes the “Tour of Men’s Despair” if the 3-hour option is chosen!

Sign up to our newsletter and you’ll have access to a special promotion on these tours. 🙂

If you have been in a 2CV before, I’d be please to hear what you thought (use the comment function at the end of this post).


Fun Way #2 : Tandem Cycling in Paris is Twice the Fun!

If you receive my newsletter, you might have read my in-depth report on how to make the most of the revolutionary “Vélib” self-service short-trip bicycle system.

The truth is that where it not for Vélib, it would never have occurred to me to cycle in Paris. I suppose maybe I thought that urban cycling was for cabbage-eating beard-wearing environmentalist bohemians. How wrong I was… In fact I liked cycling in Paris so much that I now actually use a bicycle of my own to get around every day, using the 350Km of dedicated cycle lanes that make cycling much safer than it once was.

Going one step further is renting a tandem bicycle!

Not only is a tandem fun, but it also means that you’re always within easy speaking distance of your co-rider (often there isn’t room for two cyclists to safely ride next to one another), which makes touring Paris more pleasant.

The company I’m linking to also offers special tandems designed to take children with you ; imagine the fun of that!

Of course, although cycling in Paris is fun in and of itself, you might want to add the benefit of a tour guide to explain the history and significance of everything you’re seeing.

The same bike rental company also offers a range of off-the-beaten-track tours across Paris that look enjoyable.

Here are a couple of examples to get your legs pumping:

The “Heart of Paris” tour takes in the narrow streets of the historic Marais district. Then across Les Halles and Palais Royal, heading for the Louvre and the Seine, ending with the Islands and Notre-Dame.

The “Paris Contrasts” tour mixes nature and modern architecture, visiting the canals, boats, small houses and rich green parks that you just wont find in the more typical districts. Historic areas such as Belleville and Menilmontant are intertwined with new-built areas such as the Parc de la Villette.

There is even a special “Paris at Dawn” tour that kicks off at 6:30am in springtime and summertime. Not sure about you, but that sounds a tad hardcore to me…

Bicycle tours cost 34€ per person, with discounts for under those under 26.

If you have used tandem before or have done a cycle tour of Paris, please do share your impressions by commenting below.

Fun Way #3 : The Future is Here and it Looks like a Bubble!

You might have seen these futuristic bubble shapes moving silently along the Paris avenues.

“Cyclobulle” (CycloBubble) is a new electrically-powered means to discover Paris differently. The driver doubles as a tour guide, commenting the sights while gently pedalling with the help of an electric motor.

This new mode of transport is practical, speedy and of course environmentally friendly. The driver can take you anywhere and at any time, even if it’s just to go shopping or to have a mini tour of central Paris.

The rate is 25 euros for half an hour and you can be picked you up and dropped off wherever you want.

The tricycle format can seat up to three people in the back so you are fully covered and protected from the elements (well, as I write this it is 3°C with Paris under a freak cold spell with air blown in from Siberia… so I’m not so sure about the ‘weather protection’).

Do you think these might be the green future of city centers? If you have seen or tried the cyclobulle, please share your impressions by commenting below.

I’m hoping that with these 3 original ways of getting around Paris, you will enjoy the ride as much as the destination, and your stay will be all the more memorable for it!

Here’s to you having fun exploring Paris!

If you have some other fun and memorable ways of visiting Paris, please share your ideas with us. 🙂

47 Comments Add yours

  1. Ron Cann says:

    The best way to travel around Paris is to walk. Combining walking with the Metro makes every destination an adventure and exposes you to the unique flavors of each quartier. Of course, for the timid, fat or lazy, other arrangements are necessary. But telling people they are timid, fat or lazy won’t rent apartments.

    1. Hehe Ron. Actually, I think most of our clients would agree with you about walking ; that’s why they insist on central locations, for the charm of having everything within immediate walking distance. On the other hand, they also insist on an elevator is the apartment is above the 3rd French floor (and I quite understand them on that point!). 🙂

    2. Deborah says:

      For those of us who are neither fat, lazy or timid? But have injuries preventing the enjoyment of walking long distances, the advice from Alex is really helpful and welcome. Thanks Alex. The mean spirit and thoughts from Ron are not productive.

  2. Nelson E. Cobleigh says:

    Alex, you may have already covered this in an earlier newsletter (I am a newish subscriber), but it is worth mentioning the Batobus system on the Seine. There are seven stops at all the great tourist destinations on the river and with a day pass you can get on an off as much as you want. It is a great way to see the city from the river and still get where you want to go. They have guides on board to answer questions, sometimes in English. The tariff is reasonable as well. The boats are inclosed and semi-comfortable in the wind and rain.

    1. Yes Nelson, I agree about recommending Batobus, especially as it is more authentic and not as “touristy” as the bateau mouche.

  3. Laura Bourke says:

    Bonjour Alex

    J;aime les coureils que vous m’nvoyez et il y en a qui m;’amuse beaucoup. Je serai a Pais pour Noel et j’admirerai encore une les lumieres de Paris, Paris by Night. Bonne fete de Noel.

    Laura

  4. Ellen A. says:

    Hello, Alex –
    Thanks for this information. I am coincidentally writing a similar article on varied transport for tourists in Paris, covering some of the walking tours, boats and bike tours. I wonder if you have heard about the motorized bicycle tours offered by Paris Charms and Secrets? They look expensive but fun. Thinking of trying those next time – and I believe there is a company that rents Vespas – very Roman Holiday – but in Paris!

  5. Vicky Wendt says:

    After high school, I went to Switzerland for university (this was in 1965). No comments on my age, please. Well, all my Swiss friends had a deux cheveaux. The first time I got in one, I was stunned. The seats were a metal rod all around with a sort-of seat attached to a frame. I got in and with no warning from my so-called friend, leaned back. The seat, and I, both tilted and tipped back to the so-called back seat. It is seldom that I have ever laughed so hard. Being in the 60’s we painted the little darling with all the psychodelic colors of the time. What a wonderful experience. Truly a car with a unique personality. My favorite car of all time.
    Thank you for sharing your feelings on this vintage treasure.
    Vicky

  6. Jeanette says:

    The best way to visit Paris is to walk, walk, walk. I recently spent 12 days in Paris and the only time I used transportation was to come from and go to CDG airport. It is the only way to fully appreciate the architecture, mingle with the people and get the real feel of the city, I was able to visit almost all the arrondisements and see and experience so many things I would have missed if I had not been walking.

    1. Carmel O'Neill says:

      This resonates with me Jeanette. I will be in Paris for 8 days end of July, all alone, so would like to hear some of your “on-foot” adventures if you have the time.

      1. Ellen A. says:

        A charming personal website about walking solo through the lesser known quadrants of Paris is http://www.myParisadventures.dk. Lots of photos and quirky commentary in excellent English by this Danish national. Highly recommended as entertainment, and to give you new ideas about where to sightsee and eat in Paris.

      2. Jeanette says:

        Thanks. I love hearing other people’s stories.

      3. Jeanette says:

        I am going back to Paris in 3 weeks, this time with my daughter who has never been to Paris. I am a flâneuse, a stroller, when I travel. I go where the day guides me and take in everything that surounds me. Every day is an exciting adventure. I stayed in the Latin Quartier and on my first full day in Paris I walked to and around Montmartre. It was fabulous! Take with you the “Knopf MapGuide: Paris” and you will never get lost. A couple of times I joined Peter and Oriel Caine’s Paris Walks tours. No reservation needed; you just show up at the designated spot and time. They were very good. Read as much as you can about Paris before you go and when you get there the city will seem familiar to you; it will be like seeing an old friend. Have a wonderfu visit!

      4. Carmel O'Neill says:

        Thank you for a great response Jeanette. I have been to Paris before with a French speaking friend so I sort of “tagged along” not having to worry about the language. This time I am looking forward to spending my days as you describe you spent yours…strolling and exploring. Thanks too for the links to walks etc.
        Enjoy your next trip to this wonderful city; sharing with your daughter will be a wonderful experience.

    2. Peggy Newman Herrod says:

      Jeannette, my daughter and I will be in Paris from 10-05-12 to 21-05-12. we have never been and I’m a little nervous, but very excited!!! I hope to have a wonderful adventure also!!

      1. Anonymous says:

        You will have a fantastic trip. Paris is safe to walk, even late at night. I read a lot (and I mean a lot) to prepare for my trip and when I went the city was already familiar to me. Among my favorite books: Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light by David Downie, Into a Paris Quartier by Diane Johnson, The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz, The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by John Baxter, Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik, A Corner in the Marais by Alex Karmel, Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thadeus Carhart, Forever Paris by Christina Henry de Tessan, Paris to the Past by Ina Caro. For in depth reading: the 3 volumnes of Thirza Vallois: Around and About Paris. Don’t leave home without the Knoph MapGuide: Paris. My favorite book? Dawn of the Belle Epoque by Mary McAuliffe. Yep. I read a lot. In 2 weeks I will be there! Counting the days!!!!

  7. http://mensengagementrings.ca says:

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  8. Chris Dobbs says:

    Would either or both the Citroen or Cyclo Bubble be advised for a party of 3 ( one weighing a chubby 250 lbs, the other 2 in medium weight each about 150 lbs??

    1. For the 2CV, no problem. Not sure about the CycloBubble…

  9. Dickie Hebert says:

    Alex,
    Where can I get a map of individual bus routes in Paris, like those at the bus stops?

    1. Ellen A. says:

      You might try the main tourist office at 25, rue des Pyramides in the 1st arrondissement. It is just off Avenue de l’Opera. But the last time I asked, they seemed to say that the free versions were not being published anymore. I have a worn copy of the map that is a bit hard to read (so many buses travel in only one direction on a given street, so you must look for those tiny directional arrows). If the tourism offices or metro stations are no help, the newspaper kiosks in major areas like the Champs-Elysees, Palais Royal or St.Paul may have Paris bus maps for sale. Assuming you have time to map out your route at home or a cafe with wifi, there is an interactive map at http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_21902/maps/. Riding the buses can be a great pleasure in Paris, especially in the off season when they are not so crowded. Try route 69 from Pere Lachaise to the Eiffel tower, route 63 from Ile St. Louis through the left bank to Trocadero (with the best view of the Eiffel tower), or the amusing route 29 from gare St.Lazare to Place des Vosges in the Marais. Route 29 used to have buses with open platforms at the back. If you are lucky enough to find one of these relics, you will especially enjoy seeing the bus driver squeeze around ancient buidings in the tight turn from Place des Victoires!

  10. Paris is my heart’s destination and destiny, and has been since I was five (although it took me almost forty more years to go there.) While I agree that the Metro is a marvel of efficiency, one of the greatest ways to navigate its splendors — aside of course from walking — is to take a bus. It might take longer and require a bit of map-staring, but you will be rewarded with a balcony-seat, close-up joy ride through this City of Marvels!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Marcia F says:
    There is a wonderful book of the bus routes called L’Indispensable which tells about all 109 lignes, correpondances: Metro, RER, Tramway which we picked up for 5.30 euros at a map store on the Left Bank going toward the Musee D’Orsay past Pont Neuf . Check it out at http://www.indispensable.fr. We will never go to Paris again without this book and Paris Circulation which is available at most newspaper kiosks.

    1. Jeanette Juarez says:

      Good Information!

      1. Martin says:

        It probaby wuldon’t be that good an idea to wander around Paris by yourself at night unless you speak French. Although the crime rate is very low compared to other cities of comparable size its still a very big city and getting lost is way too easy for any tourist.You’ll also discover that people eat dinner very late in Paris. Almost no one eats before 7:30 PM and 8 or 9 is more usual. They then spend a couple of hours eating so nothing much gets going untill 10 PM.You might try going on the big Friday night skate (assuming you bring skates with you). Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people gather at the Place D’Italie at 10 PM every Friday night and skate thru the streets of Paris complete with police escort.

  12. pat says:

    You forgot the segways! I did this a few years back with 3 older lady friends, the lesson itself took a while,(2 hours for us- usually 1/2 hour!) . The tour leader’s information was outstanding. we learned more about Paris on the segway tour (4 hours) than on any of the other factual tours. So, if we could to it, ages 58 – 64 anyone can!

    1. Anonymous says:

      We took the Segway tour last April but we ended up calling the demonic machines from hell and I spent 4 hours in the Hotel Dieu getting medical help for a severely sprained ankle so I’m not recommending them. I was fine until we got to the Tuilleries and had to use dirt paths and uneven ground. They definitely need a better method to stop safely.

  13. Ingrid and Lowell Liedman says:

    My wife and I spent six months in Europe back in the mid 1980s starting out in Paris. We had leased a Citroen 2CV ahead of time and, after a week in Paris, proceeded to spend four months driving all over central Europe and the Balkans. We got as far as the Greek mainland and then headed back to Paris to drop off the car. It was great fun but with the top that rolled down from the outside it offered no protection to break ins but we were lucky and nothing was ever stolen. Maybe, because it was a so often referred to as a student car, thieves thought it would have nothing inside worth stealing.
    So, I was surprised to find your references and photos of that old car which was called “the Duck” in many languages in some other countries in Europe. It was fun having it. Only getting used to the gear stick that you pulled straight out of the dash board made it a bit strange. So, we dropped the car off, spent another week in Paris, and headed by train for Italy.

  14. Ingrid and Lowell Liedman says:

    PS
    Yes, walking is also our favorite way of seeing Paris or most any other large city when possible. We are returning to Paris later this year. This will be our fifth visit but there are still things we have not seen. And what a beautiful city.

  15. Love this web site, and really love the three ‘getting around’ ideas above. I am taking my daughter to France (and of course Paris) early next year for her sweet 16th birthday, so all these tips are priceless.

    Thankyou Alex and team.

    1. John Avery says:

      Depending of course on her temperament, your daughter may enjoy a couple of lesser-known museums: Le Musee de la Vie Romantique in the Ninth Arrondissement near Montmartre and le Musee Galliera in the more-elegant Sixteenth, devoted to mode and costumes, the exhibits among the most innovative and exciting in the world!

      1. Thankyou John, we will be sure to visit these museums, they sound like something my daughter will appreciate.

        Regards
        Vicki

  16. Sara says:

    I’m returning to Paris for the fourth time in May….to celebrate my 70th. I’m bringing with me a girlfriend who has never seen the splendor nor the magic of Paris. Your website is wonderful. When I return again, I will definitely rent one of your apartments. I love all your hints…..but nothing in the world is like the joy of walking the streets of Paris.

  17. Gail says:

    I was told of a very reasonably priced bus pass where I needed to have a passport picture to purchase it and attach it to the pass. Anyone know of the name of the system in Paris?

    1. John Avery says:

      Then new weekly pass (carte hebdomadaire) and monthly pass (carte mensuelle) can be purchased from subway (Metro) kiosks the day before they are effective andare good on either subway or bus.. A plastic sleeve is provided which holds your photo ID and information, along with the electronic pass. The larger stations also have other combination passes that include museum entrees, etc. If you are to be in the city for only a few days, it is ususally better to just purchase a set (carnet) of ten tickets to be punched in on the train or bus.

  18. sarah says:

    Wow…totally kul..luvin d idea…cnt wait to try out d 2CV…:)…

    1. sarah says:

      Tanks loadz Alex and Team…ur ideas r priceless nd awesome…

  19. Patty Madigan says:

    Hello and thanks!
    Some of us are not so sure-footed any more–so alternatives to walking extensively, are greatly appreciated! We are arriving in Paris from Morocco–and hope to be in good shape after hours of walking in the souks and medinas–but you never know! 🙂

    merci!

    patty

    1. Jeanette says:

      When one is in Paris one should become a flanneur, a stroller. It is the most wonderful way to experience this beautiful city.

  20. Dave Regehr says:

    We’ve enjoyed Paris dozens of times since our first visit in 1969. For many years, we got around mostly on foot and by metro, since the bus system seemed too complicated. What a shame!

    Then we came across “Bus #69 Sightseeing Tour” in Rick Steves’ Paris 2010 guidebook. It opened our eyes to a wonderful, relaxing, and low-cost way to see Paris. Key items: 1) Buy the latest “Guide des Autobus Parisiens” by Editions A. Leconte. 2) At a train station, buy the “Passe Navigo Decouverte” card with photo identification and micro-chip, for unlimited bus, metro, RER, and suburban train travel in zones 1-5 (includes the “Roissy Bus” between CDG Airport and the Opera), from Monday through Sunday, for 34,40 euros. City buses are not as fast as the metro, but can be surprisingly fast since many streets have restricted bus/taxi lanes. Key advantages of Paris bus travel: no stairs and many more stops!

  21. Bellen says:

    I was in Paris a year ago and was somewhat intimidated by the traffic, even when crossing some streets on foot. Please reassure me that the small vehicles of 3 fun ways… are safe(?)

    1. While accidents can happen, Paris traffic is much safer than it appears. The traffic is aggressive, yet most of this cut-and-thurst is bravado and gesticulation. Generally, Paris drivers know what they’re doing and are intimidating rather than dangerous.

      1. Bellen says:

        Thank you, Alex. That makes sense. I grew up and learned to drive in New York City and your explanation could also hold true for there. I guess it just feels a lot different when one is the pedestrian.

  22. Judith Langton says:

    We were luckily enough to have yet another visit to Paris several months ago and were a little more than slightly intimidated by the velocity and aggression of the drivers especially when negotiating a pedestrian crossing which in New Zealand is classed as “a safe haven”. Not so in Paris, we likened crossing the pedestrian to “running of the bulls”. We found it safer to make our way into the middle of the pack, and run, to save being run into by motorcycles who regularly pushed their way into the pedestrians. But it hasn’t deterred us, there is nothing like ‘being in and enjoying the moment in Paris.’

    Great information in this newsletter Alex, next time we will definitely try out Bus #69 tours and the cutest of all cars the 2CV.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Dear Alex,
    Please assist me! I am trying to find in a previous newsletter of yours a restaurant with a view of the Eiffel Tower through its glass roof. Can you remember which restaurant this is please?
    Sincerely,
    Bronwyn Morgan
    Bronwynmorgan@bigpond.com

  24. Ellen says:

    Bronwyn,
    I am reasonably sure that you are remembering a night photo taken from Les Ombres, which is on a rooftop terrace at the Musee Quai Branly. The reviews on food and service have been mixed, but you can’t argue with that view! If you decide to try it, the website is http://www.lesombres-restaurant.com/fr/om.html. I’m sure Alex’s team can find you a nice apartment with a lively street view as well! Have a great trip.

  25. The chapter concludes with a assessment of reservations about HRM and the connection between HRM and personnel administration.

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