Last Updated on 9th October 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
Do you want to truly get to know Paris? Discover the city’s secret spots and hang out in all the coolest cafés? Well, these free and self-guided walks are the perfect place to start. Here’s your guide to the best of free Paris walking tours you won’t want to miss! Each focuses on a different arrondissement, aspect of the city, and all are worth taking in order to get to know the city on a more local level!
Is Paris a good walking city?
First things first: is it easy to walk around Paris? I would personally say that Paris is fairly easily to navigate on foot thanks to the fact that most of the historic districts (or arrondissements as they’re so-called in French) are centred within the Paris Peripherique.
With this being said, some areas of the city are much more walkable than others! For example, while the Latin Quarter has some of the widest boulevards in Paris, Le Marais is home to much tinier alleyways and plenty of little cobblestone lanes. Furthermore, Montmartre is pretty hilly, and some streets are steep in places.
Wherever you choose to walk, I recommend wearing comfy walking shoes! I personally love my keds like these ones as they go well with dresses and skirts and can easily pack into the smallest of suitcases. If you’re looking for something even comfier, I love the shoes from this company.
#1 Montmartre Walking Tour
If you make it your mission to enjoy just one Parisian arrondissement on a local level, make it Montmartre. After all, head to the 18th arrondissement of Paris and you won’t find the 19th-century Haussmannian architecture that is so synonymous with the city.
Instead, you’ll find a village vibe complete with several wooden windmills, and even a secret vineyard! Highlights of the Montmartre walking tour of Paris include several historical spots, as well as must-see photography sites (think Instagrammable streets and postcard perfect walkways).
#2 Le Marais Walking Tour
Once a marshy swampland on the fringes of the city, today Le Marais is one of the chicest districts Paris has to offer. Home to designer stores, boutique hotels, and plenty of incredible eateries, head to this area of the city if you want to discover Paris’ Medieval past.
While in Le Marais, be sure not to miss out on a visit to Place des Vosges (the first public square in the city), as well as the chance to dip into Paris’ ever-so-new vegan scene. Other highlights of this walking tour include a visit to the oldest house in Paris and a visit to some of the coolest museums the French capital has to offer.
#3 Ile de la Cité Walking Tour
If you’re headed to Paris for the first or thousandth time, then no doubt you’ll find yourself on Ile de la Cite at one point or another. One of two natural islands in the centre of the River Seine, it’s in this district where you’ll find Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, and plenty of history from the Middle Ages.
Allegedly, it’s also on Ile de la Cité where the fated lovers, Heloise and Abelard met. Similarly, it’s there where the love story of the doves took place during the 13th-century. Other highlights of this area of Paris include one of the cutest coffee shops in the city, as well as one of the best places to see cherry blossoms in the late spring.
#4 Latin Quarter Walking Tour
So-called because during the Middle Ages students from the nearby Sorbonne university would converse with one another solely in Latin, today the Latin Quarter is still filled with students, happy-hour bars, and eateries. Centrally located and full of museums, this walking tour is predominantly about books, coffee, and cake!
Other highlights of the Latin Quarter include plenty of Roman ruins (the baths are a sight to behold in of themselves), the Paris Pantheon (the dome offers one of the best panoramic views of the city), and the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, the final resting place of the patron saint of Paris, Saint Genevieve.
#5 Highlights of Paris of the Past Walking Tour
If you’re looking for a meander of the historical highlights that have shaped Paris over the ages, then my vintage Paris tour is free to undertake and will guide you from the Latin Quarter, through Ile de la Cite, and all the way to the other side of the Seine, and into Le Marais.
For those who are unable to embark on the other free Paris walking tours due to time constraints, this is the perfect self-guided walking tour for you. Other attractions you may well want to stop off at en-route include admiring the ever-so-stunning stained glass windows of Sainte Chapelle and seeing the very spot from which all points in Paris are measured.
Practical advice, tricks, and tips for going on free walking tours of Paris
Read some books about Paris: Before you visit the City of Light, then you may well want to read some fiction and historical works and memoirs about the city. Here are my very top creme de la creme picks for the best books about Paris!
Paris Museum Pass: If you want to see a number of museums and cultural sites while in the City of Light, you may well want to consider purchasing an all-in-one pass. This 2,4, or 6-day pass gives you access to over 60 museums, and in many cases, offers skip-the-line options at many of these institutions. Check prices and more information here.
Wear comfortable shoes: When visiting any European capital city, comfortable shoes are a must. And Le Marais arrondissement of Paris is no exception. Be sure to leave your high heels at home as there are plenty of cobbled streets, especially on these free walking tours of Paris. I personally love these shoes as they go well with both jeans and dresses. I would also add that any kind of tennis shoes, i.e. ones like these, are really practical for wandering around the city.
Book your Paris accommodation well in advance: If you’re planning a trip to Paris, then you should bear in mind that it’s an extremely popular destination all year round. This means that you should probably book your hotel/ hostel/ guest house well in advance. You can find the best deals for Paris accommodation here.