Paris on Foot

Walking tours offer the best of the City of Lights

By: Jonathan Siskin

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Luxembourg Gardens is a popular
destination on walking tours of Paris.
Paris is made for walking, and one of the best ways to get a feel of the city is to join a walking tour escorted by a knowledgeable guide. On a recent stay at the Rive Gauche Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, I participated in a group tour led by Nicolas Avril, the hotel’s chief concierge who has lived and worked on the Left Bank for the past nine years and compiled a list with descriptions of his 10 favorite sites located within a mile of the hotel.

During our tour we visited three of the most historically significant sites on his “Top 10” list beginning with a stop at Rue Mouffetard. A major thoroughfare since Roman times, it originally extended south from the Rive Gauche all the way to Rome. Lined with well-preserved buildings from the 17th- and 18th-century, Rue Mouffetard is one of the oldest and most vibrant market streets in the city that comes alive in the early morning as locals mill about the stalls, perusing eye-catching displays of sumptuous fruits and vegetables. There are also quality clothing shops, shoe stores and quaint cafes throughout the neighborhood, and down one of the side streets is an impressive African market.

It’s just a short walk from Rue Mouffetard to the famed La Manufacture des Gobelins. Originally a dye works factory established in the 15th century by the Gobelin brothers, it was acquired in 1692 by Louis XIV. The king hired the finest artisans of the day weavers, cabinet makers and silversmiths to produce furnishings and tapestries for his new palace at Versailles. The Gobelins’ legacy of superior craftsmanship lives on today as the factory manufactures wall hangings, carpets and furniture that adorn the interiors of state buildings, palaces, castles and official residences. Our tour concluded at the Le Jardin Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens), 60 magnificent acres of green in the heart of the city that is the most popular park in Paris. The gardens date from 1627 and are centered around the Luxembourg Palace, which today serves as the French Senate. Among the favorite pastimes of Parisiens who frequent the park are sunbathing around the Grand Bassin, playing chess and pitching balls in a traditional game of boules under the chestnut trees.

Avril’s “Top 10” also includes the highs and lows of Paris. Topping the list is Tour Montparnasse, the second tallest tower in Europe which provides panoramic views of the city. Those with a yen to explore the city’s underbelly can descend to the Catacombes, an ancient network of tunnels that make up Paris’ famed subterranean burial ground.

Avril and his staff book escorted walking tours and also provide maps and inside tips on where to go for those who prefer self-guided walks. While he rarely leads tours himself, he recommends that individuals as well as groups reserve space on a walking tour offered by Classic Walks. One of Paris’ leading English-speaking tour companies, Classic Walks offers a quality selection of guided walks built around different themes, such as the Latin Quarter Walk, World War II Walk and Montmarte Walk. There is also a Da Vinci Code Walk that stops at several places featured in the best-selling novel.


In addition to walking tours, Classic Walks also offers bicycle and Segway tours. Prices range from $17 for two-hour walking tours to $100 for the city Segway tour.

Other companies offering quality walking tours are Paris Walks and Eye Prefer Paris Tours .