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Free things to do in Paris

Paris is a dream destination for millions of travellers. Here are our 6 recommendations for things to do for free in Paris.

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Tips for running the Paris Marathon

The Paris Marathon, the 42nd edition of which is being held on 8 April, is definitely one of those races in which all runners should take part at least once in their lives. So if you're up to the challenge of running the 42 kilometres this year, be sure to check out these tips.

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Paris, With Kids

1) Parc de La Villette

Open all year around, La Villette is a surefire destination for entertaining boys and girls aged 0 to 99 years! It is the largest park in France, stretching across an area of 55 hectares, and workshops, activities and shows are organised in its gardens and outhouses, come sunshine, rain or snow. It is renowned for its Cinéma en plein air (open-air cinema) in summer. Thousands of Parisians congregate there hours before the sessions to jostle for a good seat and unpack their picnic hampers. In winter, many workshops and other activities are held in the Grande Halle, an emblematic iron-and-glass building that was once France’s most important livestock market. But, to get back to what concerns us here – children – one essential destination is the Jardin des Vents et des Dunes, an admission-free playground recommended for children aged 0 to 13 years. Adults can stretch out on the chaises longues while they keep an eye on their youngsters. The Jardin des Voltiges, given over to circus, is an admission-free venue where kids can experience gravity on ropes, climb or ride a monocycle. Some interesting educational workshops and exhibitions are also organised in La Villette.

2) Cité des Sciences, Cité des Enfants and la Géode

La Villette is not exactly in the centre of Paris so, if you want to visit it, the best thing is to spend the whole day there and also see the Cité des Sciences, the Cité des Enfants and la Géode. The Cité des Sciences features some interesting educational exhibitions for the young – and not so young! – but for children the jewel in the crown is the Cité des Enfants. This huge space, taking up 5,000 square metres, hosts all kinds of activities, experiments, water games and discovery areas for learning while you play. It is divided into two parts – one for children for 2 to 7 years, and another for ages 5 to 12. To round off the day, a fitting choice would be to watch a movie or documentary on the 360° screen in the fantastic Géode.

3) Galerie de l’Évolution

The Gallery was inaugurated in 1889, shortly after the Eiffel Tower, as the Galerie de Zoologie. The formidable sight of a huge herd of elephants, giraffes, zebras or buffaloes will win over the young ones from the outset. The museum’s permanent exhibitions focus mainly on the evolution of the species, while the subjects of extinct and endangered species are also stressed. Children can discover biodiversity and environmental hazards through playful interactivity in the Galerie des Enfants. Further information here.

After such a flood of taxidermy animals, your children are likely to fancy seeing some live specimens. You need only to go outside the museum to come across the Zoo del Jardin des Plantes, a centre dedicated to the study and conservation of some 200 plant species, while for animal sightings you shouldn’t miss the Parc Zoologique de Paris, where you can have breakfast alongside the giraffes, or cut your teeth as animal handlers by feeding a manatee, a kind of giant seal weighing in at 600 kilograms.

4) Orchestre de Paris

One of France’s most prestigious orchestras offers concerts for the whole family where language is unimportant. Children and adults alike will discover music through a series of concert shows purpose designed for a public of all ages which elicit participation. You can check out their programme and times on this website.

5) Museum-wise

Most museums in Paris have materials specifically for children, including whole rooms and halls customised to their needs. The Louvre, for instance, organises workshops, family visits and story-telling sessions geared to discovering the museum as a form of entertainment. Parents can also download teaching material from their website or request it at information points. Noteworthy among the museums most highly rated by Parisians for their family facilities are the Palais de Tokyo and the Pompidou Centre, where they also organise workshops, activities and exhibitions tailored to children and adolescents.

In addition to the well-known museums, Paris has a host of others catering to all tastes. Don’t rule out visting some that will cause surprises, such as the Musée de la Poupée, Musée Gourmand du Chocolat, Musée de la Musique and the Musée Aéronautique.

So, head for Paris with your children – check out our flights here.

Text by Rita Peré / ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by Cité des enfants, Francois_Grandin, Galerie de l’Évolution, Little Palais, Paris Tourist Office. Daniel Thierry, Paris Tourist Office. Amélie Dupont, Arnaud-Legrain

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Paris Shakespeare & Company

When one thinks of Paris, one of the first images that springs to mind is that of an aspiring writer, secluded in an attic, waiting for the Muse of inspiration to make her appearance. Paris is pure poetry and, as such, it houses some of the world’s best bookstores, like Shakespeare and Company. We are going to relive the fascinating history of this book shop and tour the most select Parisian literary venues.

Shakespeare and Company

Sylvia Beach had been in Paris for 20 years when she realised the need to open a shop where readers could find works in English. Shakespeare and Company opened on the rue Dupuytren in 1919 and subsequently moved to rue de l'Odéon, near Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The bookstore founded by Sylvia Beach – who was soon to embark on the publication of one of the great works of universal literature; James Joyce’s Ulysses – almost immediately caught on as a meeting point for English-language writers during their stay in Paris. There must have been some memorable literary gatherings within those walls between such illustrious figures as Man Ray, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and Samuel Beckett, among others.

In 1941, during the German occupation, Sylvia Beach refused to sell the first copy of Joyce’s novel, Finnegans Wake, to a German officer, an act of defiance which led her to be arrested and incarcerated in a concentration camp. She was released six months later, but never opened her book shop again. Sylvia Beach died in 1962 and a year later, another American, George Whitman, acquired her publishing list.

George Whitman had his own bookstore, Le Mistral, which was little more than a study full of printed pages on the rue de la Bûcherie, at the intersection of Saint-Jacques, alongside the Seine and opposite Notre Dame. Fascinated by the life story of Sylvia Beach, and as a tribute to her legacy, he changed the name of his store to rekindle the legend of Shakespeare and Company, the most famous bookstore in the world. This literary venue is well-known, among many other reasons, for providing accommodation to writers who come to Paris in search of inspiration free-of-charge on the upper floor of the shop. In exchange, they are expected to help stack the new releases that keep coming in, as well as serve and chat with customers. A huge number of literary figures have slept over in that loft – George Whitman estimates they number some 40,000. They include both anonymous enthusiasts and those who have ended up becoming paramount figures of the literary world. Prominent among our own literary figures is Terenci Moix who in his autobiography dedicates some passages to George Whitman and his stay at Shakespeare and Company (37 Rue de la Bûcherie).

Abbey Bookshop

Another of the most endearing bookstores in Paris is Abbey Bookshop. Located just a stone’s throw away from Shakespeare and Company, it is run by a Canadian whose warmth and friendliness are simply beyond words. The store is notable for its endless list of works in English (29 rue de la Parcheminerie).


Located on the bucolic Canal St Martin, Artazart is a must-visit spot for design lovers. There, they will be enthralled not only by a stunning range of books and magazines on the subject but by some of the most outlandish design objects, on sale in the shop (83 Quai de Valmy).


“The Most Sophisticated Books in the World” is the motto of Assouline Publishing. With branches in New York, London and Paris, its venue in the Saint Germain des Prés quarter features a boutique where you can purchase their publications, if you can afford them (35, rue Bonaparte).

Gibert Jeune

In the centrally located Place Saint-Michel, rather than a single bookstore per se, Gibert Jeune has several premises scattered around the square, each devoted to a different subject: literature, history, biography, etc. It can take up a whole afternoon’s browsing – and even two! (Place Saint-Michel)


A store featuring rare books, its major appeal lies in its boundless collection of titles dedicated to cinema, photography and art in general. In addition to books, the shop carries a huge selection of posters, acetates and promotional photos. A film-worthy experience for visitors (13 Rue Gerbier).

L’Écume des Pages

A bookstore purpose designed for those who cannot go to sleep without first reading for a while. At L’Écume des Pages, you will not manage to exhaust their wealth of titles, despite the shop staying open until midnight, except for Sundays, when they close at 10 p.m. to get a break (174 Boulevard Saint-Germain).


Freedom, fashion, design, Paris, elegance, class, youth, vibrant cultural urge… these are the words used by Ofr. to describe their publishing policy. A bookstore and exhibition gallery geared to art, design and fashion targeting the modern set, hipsters and other contemporary birds. Welcome to your Parisian intellectual gymnasium! (20 rue Dupetit-Thouars)


If Paris is just your first port of call on a long journey, make sure to drop in on Ulysse, one of the best bookstores in town and anywhere as far as globe-trotters and other migratory species are concerned (26 rue Saint-Louis en Île).


Text by Oriol Rodríguez for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by Dustin Gaffke, craigfinlay, Groume, Arnaud Malon, Luc Mercelis, Blowing Puffer Fish



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