Paris Above: Dejeuner sur l'herbe

To best appreciate Paris you need to stay outside and, with just the odd cafe break, stay on your feet

If you've ever sat outside the famous Deux Magots cafe on the Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris, you will know The Explorer. He arrives by bike, wearing khaki shorts and a white hunter hat and bearing a box of tricks. He plucks an assistant from the assembled ranks of beautifully dressed Parisians and shorts-wearing tourists, and then proceeds to make an ass of them - in the nicest possible way. The show lasts about as long as the average cafe creme.

Street performers make Paris an endless open-air delight. In the Arenes de Lutece, watch a game of boules; on the Pont St Louis, listen to six trendy young men play jazz; on the Pont des Arts, examine the 10ft-high sculptures; in front of Notre Dame, watch teenagers on in-line skates do everything bar a back-flip. Just thinking about all this activity is enough to make you feel tired.

But Paris has plenty of places to recuperate - with some of the prettiest parks and most enticing pavement cafes in the world, you can top up your caffeine or alcohol levels while observing Parisian life in all its many guises.

If you want to take the city by storm, where better to start than the Bastille? A focal point through the ages of political protest, the Bastille's column commemorates no less than three uprisings: the July revolt of 1830, the July revolution of 1789, and the 1848 uprising. It has stood here since 1833, but the column is now rather overshadowed by the gleaming glass opera house, built 10 years ago for the bicentennial of the 1789 revolution.

From Bastille, it's just a short hop to the Place des Vosges. Up Boulevard Beaumarchais and first left into rue des Francs Bourgeois - wittily translated by Jack Kerouac as "the street of the outspoken middle classes" - the chic street lined with boutiques soon opens up into a beautiful, early 17th-century square, with antique shops and cafes tucked under the surrounding arcades, and a haven of green in the centre. This is the ideal spot to sit with a baguette, a wedge of brie and a bottle of Bordeaux.

Between here and the Left Bank float the two little islands that formed the original heart of Paris, the Ile de la Cite, home of Notre-Dame, and Ile St Louis. On the tiny Pont St Louis that links the two, mime artists, musicians, fire-eaters and cafes jostle together, and a queue snakes up to the most famous ice-cream parlour in the city - chez Berthillon.

For a different flavour, head south to the tranquillity of the arresting Mosquee. In a quiet square just between rue Monge and the Natural History Museum, the facade is a stunning mosaic of green and white. On certain days you can take a tour of the mosque, which plays an active part in Muslim life here, but if there's no tour you may be lucky enough to sneak a glimpse of the garden patio. Around the corner, on rue Geoffroy St Hilaire, is the mosque's very special cafe. The lion's share of the restaurant is indoors and decidedly Persian in feel, but there is a large, shady outside terrace where the waiters serve you hot, sweet mint tea in tiny glasses and sweeter-than-sweet Persian cakes. There is a hammam here, with alternate days for men and women to come and be steamed, pummelled and pampered.

Well-spruced young men awaiting their dates festoon the gates of Luxembourg Gardens on sunny days. This is a formal park, and large areas of the grass are not meant for walking on; but it does have plenty of thoughtfully provided chairs that are always occupied - whether by picnickers, girls sunbathing, or solitary readers, their heads buried in books. Beyond a stone balustrade adorned with geraniums is the pond, where boys from five to 65 sail their boats.

A few blocks west, on rue de Varenne, is the Rodin Museum, whose grounds are a quieter treasure than the Luxembourg.

Among trees and shrubs in the front garden you can glimpse the gilded dome of Les Invalides next door; the long, elegant garden behind the museum has a shady avenue of cafe tables where you can sip a citron presse.

From culture to shopping: as well as some rather expensive fashion, the Boulevard St Germain is the place to find some of Paris's oldest and most famous cafes - the Brasserie Lipp, the Deux Magots and the Cafe de Flore. There is also St Germain church to admire, after which you could head east a little way along the boulevard and take a left along rue de Seine.

Immediately, a bunch of flower stalls springs up alongside popular cafes at the junction with the rue de Buci. Continuing down either rue de Seine or the parallel rue Mazarine towards the river, you will come to a little arch and emerge on the river at the Pont des Arts, which has to be the perfect place to sit and reflect on the river. On warm days, the pedestrian, wooden-planked bridge is lined with students reading andtourists studying their guides; often there is an open-air exhibition of paintings or sculpture.

North of the Seine, the rue Montorgueil offers no tourist vista, but it's entirely Parisian. Cobbled and (almost) car-free, it bursts with flower shops and cafes, but also a supermarket and regular delis, some of which have stalls of fish or cheeses outside.

Sipping a coffee or a pastis here rewards you with the endless entertainment of watching Parisians go to buy their daily bread.

This is the place to buy croissants for breakfast at one of the patisseries, then take them to your favourite cafe; or, for later in the day, there are several great lunch spots, including the terminally hip Le Cafe, where having to squeeze in is part of the attraction. Ther street also features unusual boutiques and shoe shops, and even an old-fashioned, very French bar where you share a bench and wash your oysters down with rose.

You can spend all day here, if you try. But in the evening, the Marais calls, pulling you back to your starting point near the Place des Vosges. At night the Marais is decidedly gay.

A patchwork of streets full of lively bars, perhaps my favourite is the rue Vieille du Temple, which offers rich pickings for window-shoppers, the fenetres of the apartments above giving glimpses of opulent interiors. Stop at the corner of rue du Tresor for an open-air aperitif at the Cafe des Chaises au Plafond, and when you finally have to venture indoors, there's no better place than the restaurant next door, Le Philosophe.

Victor Hugo, an almost-philosopher, wrote in 1862: "To inhale Paris preserves the soul." So get outside and start breathing.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

    SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

    Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

    £Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

    Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; VMWare, Windows; Disley; £40k

    £40000 per annum + benefits: Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; V...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?