Last Updated on 22nd January 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
There is a myriad of reasons you may well want to travel alone: You want to explore a new city at your own pace, you wish to experience the world through another perspective, or you simply want to get comfortable with being by yourself. All are legitimate reasons for wishing to travel solo and there are plenty more reasons still… Paris makes for a great getaway trip, even if you’re going it alone. As such, here’s your ultimate guide to the best things to do in Paris on your own!
Is Paris good for first-time solo travellers?
Having lived in Paris, the city is one of my favourites in Europe. I love Paris and recommend that everyone travelling through Europe makes it their mission to visit at least once. However, when asked the question “Is Paris a good destination for first-time solo travellers?” my response would be a mixed one.
On the positive side, Paris is a city that has plenty of secrets to uncover. From hidden bookshops to forgotten chapels which are frozen in time, Paris is a treasure trove just waiting to be discovered. What’s more, is that it’s usual to travel and dine alone in French culture and so you’ll feel at ease walking into a restaurant and asking for a ‘table for one’.
With this being said, French is the first language of the city, and though you’ll find many people who can speak English, if you don’t speak French then travelling across France is that much harder. I would also say that the street harassment I’ve experienced in Paris has been that much more than in cities such as Zürich, Ghent, or Rotterdam.
As such, if you wish to visit l’Hexagone on your own for your first solo trip, then the city of Lyon is a great starting point. Alternatively, start in nearby Amsterdam or London to get used to travelling by yourself before heading to Paris. After you’ve spent a few days alone, you’ll soon be equipped to navigate the City of Light on your own. For more travel recommendations, here’s my guide to the best solo travel destinations in Europe!
Things to know before visiting Paris as a solo traveller
So you’ve chosen to visit Paris on your own? Good idea! Though the city is also often touted as the ‘City of Love,’ there’s no shortage of incredible things to do. From munching on some of the best French sweets to be found in the city to uncovering the millennia worth of history to be found in the French capital, there’s something for everyone.
If it’s your first time visiting the city, then you might well want to check out my very best Paris travel tips. Otherwise, you should know before you go that while most people have a fantastic level of English (especially those working in the tourist industry), it’s always good to have a few French phrases handy. As such, I recommend bringing a simple French phrasebook like this one.
Thanks to its status as one of the most visited cities in the world, there’s no shortage of wonderful guided tours and excursions to be taken from the city. I personally use and love GetYourGuide. If you’re not sure where to start, then some especially well-reviewed recommendations include this Half-Day Trip to Giverny from Paris and this French Macaron Class at Galeries Lafayette!
Finally, one of the things you’ll want to book as soon as you know which dates you’ll be visiting Paris is your accommodation. As a year ’round popular destination, the best places tend to fill up fast. This is especially true of the peak season (i.e. summer) and during festivals, events, and school holidays. Check here for the best Paris accommodation rates.
10+ Things to do in Paris on your own
#1 Take a self-guided Paris walking tour
Paris is a beautiful city filled with plenty of quirky, unique, and historic things to do. As a result, there’s no better way to get to know the French capital than by exploring on your own two feet (so be sure to bring a pair of comfortable shoes).
And while you may well wish you had a friend or partner in tow to take a self-guided walking tour of the city, it’s honestly better if you walk it alone. After all, that way, you can stop to snap as many photos as you wish! You can also stop for snacks at whichever café most appeals to you, and you can generally enjoy the city at your own pace.
For those wishing to soak up some medieval history, I recommend following this self-guided Le Marais Walking tour. Otherwise, if you want to capture the most Instagrammable spots in the city, then it’s well worth embarking on this Montmartre walking tour of highlights of the 18th-arrondissement.
#2 Visit a small and unusual Parisian museum
While some of Paris’ larger museums (Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre) are pretty much always teeming with tourists, some of the smaller house museums the city has to offer are much quieter, off the beaten path, and less touristic. As such, they can seem much less daunting when you’re travelling on your own.
Some of my top picks for off the beaten path museums in Paris include paying a visit to the Musée de Montmartre (the former residence of Auguste Renoir and dedicated to all things 18th arrondissement related) and the Musée des Égouts. Literally translated as the ‘Sewer Museum,’ this entirely unique museum takes you deep into Paris’ underbelly to see the city from a new perspective.
#3 Enjoy French coffee culture at a café
There are plenty of stunning cafés throughout the City of Light, many of which are well worth a visit. French coffee culture is well-known across the world thanks to its unique charm and there’s a certain art to drinking coffee in Paris (as well as ordering it!).
If you’re a solo traveller in Paris, then it’s also worth noting that it’s not uncommon in French culture to sit in a café alone in Paris and sip on a coffee, soaking up the atmosphere and watching the world go by. For those looking for the most photogenic coffee shops in Paris, here’s my complete article about the cutest cafés in Paris.
#4 Enjoy a traditional French breakfast
And while we’re on the subject of food, take the time to learn all about the traditional French breakfast while in Paris. Typically, you won’t find any heavy foods on the menu. Instead, an authentic ‘petit dejeuner’ comprises of fresh juice, fresh fruits, coffee, and a croissant or other pastry.
Otherwise a ‘tartine’ (sliced baguette served with jam and butter) is a common go-to. So whether it’s raining in Paris and you’re looking to escape the bad weather or you simply want to get a feel for the local culture, you can’t go wrong by heading to a traditional café come breakfast time!
#5 Go shopping for vintage, antiquarian and unique books
Even if you don’t speak French, there are still plenty of interesting Anglophone bookshops dotted across the city. With that being said, many of the best bookstores are focused around the Latin Quarter of the city (so-called because during the Middle Ages, students of the nearby Sorbonne University would converse with one another solely in Latin).
One of the most iconic bookshops in the city is that of the ever-so-famous Shakespeare and Company. Located just across the River Seine from Notre Dame and surrounded by cherry blossom trees come springtime, this book centre is packed with novels, tomes, and books about Paris.
Close by, the Abbey Bookshop is ever welcoming and there’s always a freshly brewed coffee pot so that you can sip on a hot beverage while you browse the books. After you’ve bought your books, why not head to the nearby Place de la Sorbonne where you can peruse your new purchases together with a coffee?
#6 Soak up a village vibe in Paris itself
Many people don’t know this, but once upon a time, Paris was surrounded by hills which were populated by villages (at one point, even Montmartre was one of these and was covered in windmills). As time wore on, the city limits of Paris rapidly expanded, eventually absorbing the former villages into the fabric of the city itself.
While the villages are now within the city limits, many of these micro-arrondissements have retained a certain ambiance and charm which can seldom be found in other European capital cities today. Now, some of the best secret villages of Paris are Butte Bergeyre (home to one of the few remaining vineyards of Paris) and Square Montsouris (a picturesque cobbled lane filled with art deco houses).
And so, if you’re looking for the best things to do in Paris on your own, then heading to one of these small villages is a great way to escape the crowds of the city, learn some history, and get the opportunity to snap some incredibly ‘Instagrammable’ photos of Paris.
#7 Check out some filming locations
For any movie buff such as myself, that Paris has been used as a backdrop for many a film likely needs no introduction. Between French productions and Holywood blockbusters, there’s no shortage of cinematic experiences filmed in the city and going in search of these places is easily one of the best activities while solo in Paris.
Highlights of filming locations in Paris include a stroll along Cabal Saint Martin (where Hotel du Nord and Amelie were filmed) and the Saint Germain des Pres Neighbourhood (where much of a special episode of Gossip Girl in Paris was filmed).
#8 Learn how to make macarons
The ‘best selling cookie in France’ is that of the macaron! And, yes, you read that correctly! If you’re truly looking for solo activities in Paris, then you might want to consider forgetting about the weather and tucking into France’s favourite cookie! Though there’s a big debate as to who really sells the best macarons in Paris, book this class and you’ll soon be baking a batch of your own!
#9 Find the best sunset view in the city
And at the end of the day, when you’re wondering what to do alone in Paris when you’re feet are tired and your finger automatically hovers over the shutter button, there’s one final thing you need to do. And that is to see the sunset! Paris is a city which is located on many levels, and so there are plenty of vantage points from which to take advantage of the last of the day’s light.
However, if you truly want to capture the best of Paris at sunset, then I recommend avoiding ascending the Eiffel Tower. Instead, head to the Arc de Triomphe, climb the spiralling steps to the top and enjoy one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower any viewpoint in Paris has to offer. Free to visit for under 26-year-old residents of the EU, this experience is well worth paying for even if you can’t get in for free!
#10 Take an off-the-beaten-path day trip from the city
While Versailles is incredibly popular and the queues can get a little lonely when you’re waiting on your own while alone in Paris. Instead, there are plenty of other interesting day trips from Paris where you’ll be able to soak up some history, tickle your taste buds, or simply escape the crowds of Paris.
If you want to visit a French Château, then I recommend making the trip to Maisons-Laffitte, Château de Sceaux (which was used to film the Versailles TV series), or Chantilly. All three are easy to reach within an hour of Paris via public transport and attract fewer tourists than more popular attractions such as Versailles.
For those wishing to experience the magic of a French town, then there’s no shortage of unique and quirky settlements in the Île de France region. For example, the foodie city of Meaux is a must for any food lover. After all, it’s here where some special brands of Brie and Mustard originate. If a historical town is more your thing, then you shouldn’t miss the medieval city of Provins.
And finally… Is Paris safe for solo female travellers?
Of course, before visiting Paris for the first time, you might be concerned about the potential safety aspects of visiting a large city. The French capital is generally as safe as back home, though you should take precautions (just like you would if you were back home).
The biggest problem which tourists in the City of Light tend to face is from Paris scams (find a full list of Parisian scams and how to avoid them here) and pickpockets. As such, you’ll want to take precautions: firstly, always make sure that your bags are well fastened/ secured.
If you’re travelling with a handbag, then make it a cross-body one. Make sure your bag has a zipper and walk along while holding the fastened bag. Crossbody bags are not only stylish but they also allow for you to keep an eye on your belongings at all times. Your best bet for avoiding Paris pickpockets is to not even open your bag in crowded places, like the Paris metro or in busy streets in more touristic areas.
French wine is easy to drink, but if you’re on your own, then limit yourself to one or two glasses with your meal. Other safety tips that I personally take when travelling through France on my own includes booking my hotel in a more touristic area, checking in with someone back home once every day or two, and dressing as the locals do. Check out my full guide on how to dress à la Parisienne here.