Solo Travel to Paris: Our Full Guide

solo travel to Paris- Image by edmondlafoto from Pixabay

The ultimate guide to traveling alone in the city of light

While Paris is so often associated with romantic getaways and family vacations, it’s also a fantastic place to wander and explore on your own. Despite its reputation as a place essentially designed for couples, the city has an unusually high number of single residents, and in that respect tends to cater surprisingly well to visitors traveling alone. In other words, it’s not at all unusual to see Parisians occupying tables unaccompanied at cafes and restaurants, or strolling through museums or parks, lost in contemplative thought. Keep reading for our full suggestions on how to enjoy a solo trip to Paris, with tips and ideas on what to see and do, dining out alone, staying safe and more.

What to See & Do When Travelling Alone to Paris: A Few Ideas

Sunset over the Seine and the Ile de la Cité, Paris. Credit: Joe de Souza/Creative Commons

In a real sense, Paris can be a playground for solo travelers. There are countless streets to wander and explore, parks and gardens to perch in, shops to casually browse, museum halls to roam and admire, cafes to linger in and movie theatres to steal into when your feet are tired and you just want to relax a bit. Here are some of my favorite things to do “all on my lonesome”.

Explore the city’s neighborhoods on foot (or by bus).

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Paris is one of the world’s most walkable big cities. It only takes about an hour (at a brisk pace) to walk from the southern tip to the northern tip of the capital, and most neighborhoods are built for pedestrians and meandering strolls.

Whether you stroll the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, wander up and down the hilly heights of Montmartre, seek the ghosts of artists and writers in Montparnasse or follow the traces of Roman and medieval Paris in the Latin Quarter, there’s enough to see and do for several trips.

And when you’re on your own, you may notice a lot more. Bring a good camera and a notebook, and enjoy the ability to absorb the city in a more contemplative, introspective way. It’s amazing what you can observe when you’re not chattering away with a travel companion.

See our complete guide to the arrondissements (districts) of Paris for an overview of highlights in each major neighborhood, and tips on how to navigate them like a pro.

Soak in some art and culture at smaller museums in the capital.

Once you’ve seen the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, beeline to some of the smaller, quieter collections in the capital, from fine arts to photography, city history to abstract painting and fashion. These are less overwhelming places where you can spend a few meditative hours, and many have lovely cafes, gardens and other spaces ideal for journaling or enjoying a book between admiring the collections.

Also check out our list of free museums in Paris, equally ideal for exploring solo.

Perch in a café with a coffee and a book.

I spent countless afternoons after teaching drafting a first shot at a novel in the cafes of Rue Montorgueil. Image: Guillaume Baviere/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons 2.0 license

It’s not just a cliché: Paris is a city where writing and reading in cafés is a perfectly mundane and conventional way to spend an afternoon by yourself. Don’t be shy about lugging along that tome of Proust or Balzac you’ve been aiming to read, settling into a corner table with a café crème or an allongé (Americano) and watching the world pass by outside the window.

Or bring along a fresh notebook and fill it with observations and insights on the sounds, smells, and odd characters that fill the scene around you. And not to worry about how long you can keep your table: lingering is not only allowed in most places– it’s practically an artform in France. (A notable exception is during lunchtime, when some cafés reserve certain tables for diners– ask ahead to be certain you won’t be asked to clear out from yours).

See our guide to some of the best writer-friendly cafés in Paris here, and this guide to excellent coffee shops and roasters in the capital.

Lurk in the city’s many historic cinemas.

The Champo is one of the Latin Quarter's beloved historic cinemas.
The Champo is one of the Latin Quarter’s beloved historic cinemas.

One of the things I really enjoy doing solo is ducking into a cinema for a matinee or late afternoon movie. Paris runs more films every week than one could possibly wish for, and boasts an unusual number of historic cinemas with genuine old-world appeal.

See my guide to some of the capital’s best movie theatres here. And by the way, it isn’t considered even remotely weird to go to the cinema by yourself. In my sense, it’s ideal– no wrangling over what to see, nor where to sit.

Take a cooking class or food tour.

Tonka bean and chocolate eclair at the patisserie included on the Eating Europe tour. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved.

Last but not least, signing up for a French cooking class or taking a food tour can be a wonderful way to spend a few afternoons or mornings. It’s also a great way to meet other travelers and engage with others, if you’re missing conversation during a solo trip.

Food tours I’ve vetted and enjoyed include the Eating Europe Paris food tour and the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Pastry and Chocolate walking tour.

See this page for current cooking class operators in Paris, from pastry making to bread and classic French dishes.

Eating Out Solo in Paris: A Few Tips

different types of French restaurants-- a guide to what to expect, including etiquette and prices
Eating out alone in Paris needn’t be intimidating. Pictured: Bouillon Chartier/courtesy of same

If you’re wondering whether eating out solo in Paris might prove an awkward affair, you’re not alone. I myself sometimes find it unnervingly stressful to show up at a restaurant, only to have the server pointedly ask “Table for one only, Madame”? It can be irritating to feel as if you’re under a sort of spotlight as you dig into successive courses, with no conversation other that chit-chat with your servers to keep you distracted. Attempting to read a book or scroll social media feeds between bites of food can also feel strained and self-conscious.

But dining alone in the capital needn’t be embarrassing or awkward. Here are a few tips for doing it in style and comfort:

Choose lunch over dinner

For some reason– whatever reason– I find eating out alone far less cringe-worthy at lunch rather than at dinner. Especially in busy brasseries and casual eateries where office workers regularly show up for mid-day breaks, there’s simply nothing unusual or awkward about occupying a table for one at l’heure du déjeuner (lunch hour).

A major perk of such a strategy? Lunch menus tend to be much better bargains. You can often enjoy a fixed-price menu comprising two or three courses for a fraction of the price you’d pay at dinner. Good for your budget, and better for your soul.

So what do do for dinner? I enjoy getting takeout and watching a movie in my hotel room, personally. If you have kitchen access where you’re staying, prepare a simple French-style meal from ingredients scored at local markets or grocery stores. It’ll make you feel much more like a local– promise.

Choose noisier restaurants

In my experience, dining alone in French restaurants is less awkward in more bustling venues. Think about how self-conscious one might feel in a quiet place with starchy white tablecloths and overly attentive waitstaff, with no background hum of conversation and clanging silverware to take attention away from you?

Reserve a table at busy, popular, casual bistros, neighborhood wine bars or enormous brasseries. The casual vibe in these sorts of less formal places will often make eating solo feel less daunting.

See our complete guide to navigating French restaurants (including etiquette tips) for more on this.

Go for street food

A vendor prepares fresh crepes in Paris

There’s absolutely nothing odd or unexpected about enjoying street food while wandering the city on your own. Stop at a crepe stand, nosh on some delicious falafel, or score a cup or cone of some of the capital’s best ice cream or gelato.

See our complete guide to street food in the city of light here.

Reserve ahead

Finally, try to reserve in advance when dining solo and specify in the online notes (if booking via the web) that you’d like a quiet corner table. When eating out alone, it can seem less stressful to be seated somewhere away from the entrance or the busting center of the restaurant, so you feel less “observed” and more relaxed.

Tips for Staying Safe During Solo Travel to Paris

While Paris is generally a safe city, traveling alone does come with some heightened risk, especially for women and travelers with disabilities.

It’s particularly important to take care and stay aware after dark, especially when walking through quieter areas with fewer people around.

Solo travelers might also be slightly more vulnerable to pickpocketing, since travel companions often spot the attempts of would-be pickpockets before they’re able to get away with your valuables.

It’s also important to keep in touch with your embassy or consulate, buy good travel insurance in case of an accident, know where to find help at local pharmacies and hospitals, and learn how to use local taxis safely— including identifying official taxis and avoiding illegitimate rides.

See our complete guide to safety in Paris for full information and tips on how to stay secure and confident during your stay.

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