Paris Ground Zero: Best Things to See + Do

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Photo courtesy: Paris

No matter what time of the year you visit Paris you are sure to have an amazing experience. This week, we are focusing on Paris Ground Zero – the central point of the city. If you plan your days around specific areas you will maximize your travel time. Make each arrondissement a fulfilling one-stop-shop and get your fill before moving on to the next one. Stay tuned as we continue to unfold the crème de la crème of the city!

Paris Ground Zero | River Seine Rive Gauche Left Bank bridge architecture | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: Gina Speed

Paris Ground Zero Metro

Any trusty travel guide book generally does a good job outlining the city and it’s highly convenient subway system. Make sure to purchase a carnet (book) of 10 or 20 metro tickets at a time. Start your Paris Ground Zero visit at metro stop Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame. It lets you out right on the left bank (Rive Gauche) across the street from Pont Saint-Michel. This gaslamp bridge is beautiful in the evening! Look for it in Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris. It’s the bridge where Gil and Adriana see Zelda Fitzgerald (Allison Pill) contemplating suicide. (Check out this cool travel blog with all of the site locations in the movie after you watch it.)

Paris Ground Zero | Pont Saint-Michel bridge | Midnight in Paris Zelda Fitzgerald and Adriana | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: ohhellobee via tumblr

Pont des Arts

Head up the street (away from the Notre Dame) to the next bridge. Hang your own “love lock” on the Pont des Arts. The city is continually removing these locks, but people continue to add them back. Love will never die! You will see other bridges or stairway railings as you visit Paris with groups of locks as well. Romance is continually in the air in this beautiful city. (Single travelers can be just as nourished by it quite happily.)

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Photo courtesy: Gina Speed

Notre Dame

Head back down to the large, Gothic cathedral and take some time to walk inside. The Notre Dame is the crowning glory of Paris Ground Zero. Visit Notre Dame between 8am6pm for free. You can also pay around 10€ to climb up the left tower and take in a view of the city. Make your reservation on the computer outside first, then wander through the cathedral while you wait your turn. Trust me, time will fly! If you’re there on a Sunday, plan to go for mass and enjoy beautiful music under arches and stained glass.

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Photo courtesy: Fabinho Vilhena

Left Bank Booksellers

Back across the bridge and alongside the cathedral is a long line of book vendors. Left Bank booksellers are a quintessential part of any Paris Ground Zero walk. Look for the perfect keepsake from your trip or a souvenir to bring home to a friend. Or, don’t! You can simply peruse the vintage bound books and postcards as you stroll along the River Seine. The walk alone is soul-fulfilling.

Paris Ground Zero | Left Bank booksellers vintage books Rive Gauche | Girlfriend is Better
Photo courtesy: Gina Speed

Shakespeare + Co. Coffee Shop

Depending on the time of day, you might want to start your journey or end it at Shakespeare and Company Cafe. Despite its slightly touristy nature, the cafe is hands-down a favorite in Paris Ground Zero. The baristas speak English and serve some of the best coffee in the city. I know, right? Kind of a surprise! They also serve yummy, nutritious food, like chia seed pudding with coconut. You will find yourself yearning to return here every morning!

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Photo courtesy: Culture Passport

Shakespeare + Co. Book Store

Next door to the Cafe is the famous Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. A visit to the book store is a Paris Ground Zero must. The 17th-century monastery was converted into a bookstore in the 50s and has a wonderful history. It has been a popular hangout for centuries! Peruse the shelves for a book to read on the plane home and make sure you have them stamp it. Near the back of the store is a little red staircase that will take you up into the poetry section. There are little benches and cubbies to relax on while you take in a line or two of prose. The ancient beams and windows are a total delight.

Paris Ground Zero | Shakespeare and Company bookstore red staircase poetry Hafiz | Girlfriend is Better

Parlez-vous anglais?

Depending on how long you linger at each spot, this area will easily take up half a day. Start at Paris Ground Zero as early as you dare and take the loop in either direction. Half of the fun of Paris is just taking in the architecture and wandering in and out of whatever place strikes your fancy. Don’t worry if you don’t know the language. Just about everyone speaks some level of English. You will be just fine. Stay tuned for the next arrondissement travel guide in February!

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