Rick Steves

How to Embrace Life and Art in Paris

Few cities can outshine the rich artistic and cultural traditions of the city of Paris. And the Parisian passion for living life to the fullest, or the joie de vivre, is just one of the many charms alluring visitors there year after year.

In this second episode of two dedicated to the City of Lights, Rick Steves explores the best activities and places for enjoying life and art like a Parisian -- even if just for a few days. If you're planning an upcoming trip to Paris, consider these extraordinary adventures. You'll see that there's so much more to Paris than the typical tourists stops.

Check out all the places he visits in Paris in the full episode above.

Did you know that Rick Steves' Europe airs twice a day? Enjoy more of his European adventures weekdays at 5:30 a.m. and again in the evening at 7:30 p.m.

Hang out at a faux beach

I bet you didn't see that one coming. But it's true, during the summer, the city closes down a one-mile stretch along the River Seine, brings in sand and voila! You have a sunny, sandy beach right in the heart of Paris. This hangout spot, called "Paris-Plages," offers Parisians a nice getaway from busy city life. It's free and open to the public, and provides a fun place to stroll, soak up some sun, play Frisbee and people-watch. While it's certainly not the Riviera, it still looks like a lot of fun.

Explore the city by bike

Rather than bothering with buses or taxis, consider getting around this gorgeous city on bike. Paris is very bike-friendly, with plenty of designated lanes, and racks to park. The city's Vélib' bike-share program gives residents and visitors access to thousands of bikes at hundreds of curbside stations all over the city. Steves suggests subscribing online in advance to avoid finicky ATM/credit card readers at the stations. Picking up a bike is simple. You can grab a new bike wherever you are and head off to enjoy more of the joie de vivre!

Visit Paris' less touristic art museums

Go beyond the must-see Louvre for an even deeper appreciation of the city's love for art. The Cluny Museum, for example, is one of Paris' less-visited treasures which houses a rich collection of art from the late Middle Ages.

The Orangerie Museum, located in the grand Tuileries Gardens, is another great spot, whose claim to fame is Monet's "Water Lillies." Other featured collections include impressionist works and much more. Also, check out some impressive sculptures by Michelangelo at the Rodin Museum.

Marvel the stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle

The sanctuary of this 13th century Gothic church is bathed in vibrant color and light thanks to its wonderful display of original stained-glass windows. The panels illustrate thousands of scenes from the Bible, and with just a little daylight, the room transforms into an awe-inspiring sea of color.

Get to know modern Paris

Hop on the Métro to the La Défense district for a more contemporary side of Paris that few tourists ever get to see. This area is Paris' commercial hub, and where many locals work today. Though it appears to be a jungle of skyscrapers and multinational companies (it's nicknamed Paris' "petit Manhattan" for a reason), there is an incredibly artistic influence there as well. La Grande Arche, built in 1989, is the centerpiece of the district. Continue along the Esplanade and you'll see a number of glorious artworks on display. This open-air modern art show must make getting to work a lot more enjoyable.

Savor the Parisian café scene

A trip to Paris would not be complete without taking some time to relax at one of the city's many cafés. Head back to the old center or find a spot in one of Paris' quaint neighborhoods, and enjoy a freshly brewed coffee as you people-watch and get a taste for the good life.

Sainte-Chapelle | Photo: Chris Chabot/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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European Travel Skills, Part III

The last episode in this three-part mini-series distills Rick Steves' 30 years of travel experience into 30 minutes of practical advice on how to have a fun, affordable, and culturally broadening trip to Europe. Shot on location in Amsterdam, Germany's Rhineland, Venice, Siena, the Italian Riviera, the Swiss Alps, Paris, and London,these episodes cover Rick's favorite 3,000-mile European loop while providing viewers with essential travel skills.

  • 2019-12-06T01:00:00-08:00

Western Turkey

From the port of Kusadasi, we wander the streets of ancient Ephesus, soak in a natural spa at Pamukkale, learn why the dervishes whirl at Konya, munch lunch in a Turkish pizzeria, and cruise the Mediterranean on a traditional Turkish gulet from Antalya. Turkey is a mighty nation whose ancient heritage, Muslim faith, and western ways are coming together...and we'll see how.

  • 2019-12-09T01:00:00-08:00

Central Turkey

We marvel at the fascinating landscape of Cappadocia from high above in a balloon...and from deep below, prowling an underground city where Christians once hid out. We'll join a circumcision party, explore troglodyte ghost towns, shop for sheep at the market, and chat with an imam. Then we enjoy the modern capital, Ankara, and pay our respects to the father of modern Turkey, Ataturk.

  • 2019-12-10T01:00:00-08:00

France's Loire: Chateau Country

Along the Loire River Valley, the beautiful French countryside is studded with evocative chateaux. Home-basing in Amboise, we visit four unique castles: elegant Chenonceau, massive Chambord, stately Cheverny, and fragrant Villandry. Along the way, we tour Leonardo's home, feed hunting dogs, enjoy the local cuisine, and savor a princely garden.

  • 2019-12-11T01:00:00-08:00

Paris Side-Trips

Side-tripping from Paris into the Ile-de-France, we indulge in the world of royal and aristocratic extravagance in the pre-Revolutionary playground of France's elite. We explore Versailles, Europe's palace of palaces; exquisite Vaux le Vicomte; and extravagant Fontainebleau, home to centuries of French rulers. We'll also marvel at the glass and statuary of Chartres cathedral and dine like kings.

  • 2019-12-12T01:00:00-08:00

The Best of Israel

We start in Jerusalem, alive with religious tradition and passion - Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. We then visit cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, with its in-love-with-life beaches; ponder the sad fortress of Masada; and join pilgrims at biblical sights around the Sea of Galilee. We'll also pay our respects at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, drop into an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, and savor the local cuisine.

  • 2019-12-13T01:00:00-08:00
  • 2019-12-25T11:30:00-08:00


Palestine is the Muslim and Arab half of the Holy Land. After visiting Jerusalem, we harvest olives near Ramallah, follow pilgrims to the place of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, approach Abraham's tomb - as both Jews and Muslims do - in Hebron, drop in on friends for dinner, and bob in the Dead Sea. We'll also learn about walls, Israeli settlements, and the challenges facing this region.

  • 2019-12-16T01:00:00-08:00

Italy's Riviera: Cinque Terre

Exploring Italy's most remote and romantic stretch of Riviera, we visit five tiny port towns: dramatic Vernazza, surrounded by vineyards; reclusive Corniglia, high on its bluff; pastel Manarola; hardscrabble Riomaggiore; and the pint-sized resort of Monterosso. Fishing for anchovies, sipping wine out of rustic barrels, and savoring twinkling Mediterranean vistas, we enjoy the ultimate Riviera adventure.

  • 2019-12-17T01:00:00-08:00

Italy's Veneto: Verona, Padua, and Ravenna

In the shadow of Venice, we visit three great cities. Padua is famed for its venerable university, precious Giotto frescoes, and pilgrim-packed Basilica. Verona is a hit with aficionados of Roman ruins and Romeo and Juliet fans. And Ravenna, with its shimmering mosaics, was once the western bastion of the Byzantine Empire. We enliven each stop with a tasty dose of Italian dolce vita.

  • 2019-12-18T01:00:00-08:00


Europe's best-preserved 17th-century city, Amsterdam is quaint and jarring, traditional and modern. Filled with history and happy-go-lucky, it's a delight to explore. Uniquely entertaining Amsterdam shows us Rembrandts and Van Goghs, more bikes than cars, flirting prostitutes, and pot-filled coffeeshops - all under tall, skinny facades leaning out below quaint church towers.

  • 2019-12-19T01:00:00-08:00

The Netherlands Beyond Amsterdam

By train, bike, and boat, we visit the top Dutch sights outside of Amsterdam: from Haarlem to Rotterdam, and from Delft to the Zuiderzee. Along the way, we enjoy charming towns with fragrant cheese markets, soggy polderland, mighty dikes, and windmills both new and old. Rolling through the Netherlands and connecting with its people, you can't help but think, "Everything's so... Dutch!"

  • 2019-12-20T01:00:00-08:00


The capital of the Czech Republic, Prague is the best-preserved Baroque city in Central Europe. We experience its massive castle, beloved statue-lined bridge, evocative Jewish Quarter, and thrilling 20th-century history while enjoying its infectious love of music and perhaps the best beer in Europe. With a beautifully preserved Old Town, Prague deserves its nickname: the Golden City of a Hundred Spires.

  • 2019-12-23T01:00:00-08:00


A tumultuous 20th century left Berlin filled with powerful sights - from evocative memorials, to surviving bits of its communist and fascist days, to its glass-domed Reichstag. We enjoy its now-trendy east side, its people-friendly riverfront, and its vibrant social scene. Reunited Berlin - perhaps the fastest changing and most happening city in Europe - is entertaining more visitors than ever.

  • 2019-12-24T01:00:00-08:00

Siena and Tuscany's Wine Country

Siena, once a proud and independent city-state, retains its confidence and unique traditions. Rick enjoys a front-row seat at its wild horse race - the venerable Palio - and marvel at cultural treasures from the days when Siena rivaled Florence for leadership of Tuscany. Then he heads into wine country for a little dolce vita under the Tuscan sun.

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West England

The quintessence of charming England is the "West Country": quaint Cotswold villages with their fine churches, manor homes, and gastropubs; Wells, England's smallest cathedral town; and the New Age capital of Glastonbury, with its legends of the Holy Grail and King Arthur. He finishes by pondering the dramatic prehistoric stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury.

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