Paris for the Second Time: What to Do?
Paris is one of the greatest cities in Europe. The allure of this iconic destination means that for many visitors, a single visit just isn’t enough. It’s also a popular transportation hub, which means it’s quite likely you’ll find yourself in Paris for the second time.
If you’ve already been fortunate enough to visit the French capital on a prior trip, here are some tips and suggestions on what to do that you may have overlooked the first time.
Paris for the second time
1. Choose a different neighborhood
If you’ve been to Paris you’ll know that there are 20 different neighborhoods or arrondissements in the city. They’re named according to their number, such as 4th arrondissement, or 4ème in French. Most of the classic tourist action takes place in and around the heart of the city, namely the 1st to 9th arrondissements.
But the best way to see a new side of the city if you’re visiting for the second time is to not only visit a new neighborhood, but to stay in one too. Accommodation in these outlying neighborhoods is often cheaper and the local stores, restaurants and bakeries are more authentic. Book accommodation in a less-touristy neighborhood and spend time exploring your immediate surrounds. If you feel the urge to get back into the centre, you’re almost always just a short metro ride away.
2. Visit the attractions you didn’t get to the first time
It’s impossible to visit all of Paris’s famous attractions on a single visit. Sure you may have ticked off a trip up the Eiffel Tower, but did you venture to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, or take in the view from Montparnasse? Now’s your time to remove those regrets still lingering from your previous visits.
3. Don’t feel guilty about doing something for the second time
Many of Paris’s key attractions are thrilling, which means they can also be overwhelming the second time around. Don’t be afraid to return to a favourite attraction. You’ll get a totally different perspective and may just enjoy it more. This is particularly true when it comes to the city’s famous, and famously gargantuan, museums. Venture into the wings that you weren’t able to visit the previous time, or return to artworks that had a profound impact on you.
4. Explore the smaller museums
Most visitors to Paris race through the Louvre, and if they have time, pay a visit to Musee d’Orsay. Both are well worth your time and money, particularly on a first visit, but there are dozens of other smaller museums that many first-time visitors overlook. These often focus on a specific style or artist, perfect for slowing down on a second trip and engaging with the artwork. Museums that deserve special mention in this regard: Picasso Museum, Luxembourg Museum, Museum of the Orangerie, Jacquemart Andre, and the Rodin Museum.
5. Master the art of the flaner
Most initial visits to Paris are frantic. With so much to see and do, it’s almost impossible to slow things down and really absorb everything that’s going on around you. With a second or subsequent visit, you have the perfect excuse to ease the pressure and master the art of the flaner – a leisurely walk with no purpose or destination. Allow yourself to wander the winding streets and back roads of Paris without putting pressure on yourself to see something new or get somewhere quickly.
If you see an interesting bakery or restaurant, stop and order something off the menu. If you find a nice park bench, take a seat and spend a few hours reading or people watching. Order an ice cream and find a scenic spot along the Seine at which to eat it while you chuckle smugly at the other tourists desperately trying to cram in all of the city’s attractions.
6. Get out of town
The outlying regions of Paris are equally beautiful and worth exploring. If you’re back in the city for a second time, make sure you spend at least one day out of the city. Plan a day trip to Versailles or Giverny. If you have more time, schedule an overnight stop in a nearby region such as Champagne, Burgundy, Normandy, or Brittany.
7. Tour the graveyards
Paris may be home to some of the world’s most famous graveyards, but it can be difficult justifying a morning among the dead on a first-time visit. On your second trip, spend some time walking through the city’s better or lesser-known graveyards and visit the resting places of some of the world’s most famous artists, poets, musicians, and politicians. Pere Lachaise and Montmartre Cemetery are the most popular in the city.
8. Take a self-guided walking tour
If you’re not totally comfortable with aimless wandering, a self-guided walking tour is a good compromise. Mobile app Detour has two fascinating tours that walk you through Paris’s lesser-explored neighborhoods. They do this automatically using your phone and without you needing to put up with annoying first-timers. The tours share intriguing stories told by residents both past and present.
9. Time your visit to coincide with a big event
Paris is full of historical treasures that aren’t going anywhere, but there are also several annual events that first-timers overlook. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, time your second or subsequent visit to coincide with the final stage of the Tour de France, the French Open, Bastille Day, New Year’s Eve, or even over a large football or rugby match. You won’t feel guilty for skipping the traditional Parisian attractions, and you’ll see a brand new side to the city.
Paris is a city that you can return to several times and still not feel totally satiated. There’s a lifetime of things to see and do there. If you have the opportunity to return to the French capital on your next Eurail trip, keeping it interesting and relevant is often just about slowing it down, staying in a new neighborhood, and soaking up the quintessential Parisian atmosphere that so many hurried visitors overlook.