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.

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

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Vienna and the Danube

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Read our ancient Rome travel guide.

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