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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Southeast England

Arcing along the southeast coast of England, Rick travels from Canterbury (with its famous cathedral) to Dover (stoutly fortified from Roman times to the Battle of Britain). Then he hikes the trails that top the towering chalk cliffs of the South Downs, wander into the beachy resort of Brighton (England's Coney Island), and push on to Portsmouth, whose naval heritage has left it with the best collection of historic sailing ships anywhere.

  • 2020-07-27T02:00:00-07:00
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England's Cornwall

The far southwest of England is a world unto itself, with a persistent Cornish culture. He explores a world of flowers springing from towering hedges, a tin-mining heritage going back to biblical times, salty pirates' towns and fishing villages, and the Land's End of England. Then, side-tripping deep into the vast and mysterious Dartmoor National Park, he hikes to forgotten stone circles and chase wild ponies.

  • 2020-07-28T02:00:00-07:00
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The Heart of England

The heartland of England has sights that put the "Great" in Britain - its venerable universities, its royal heritage, and reminders of its industrial might. At Oxford and Cambridge, see where kings and prime ministers studied. At Blenheim Palace - Winston Churchill's birthplace - Rick connects with English aristocracy. At Ironbridge Gorge, he fires up memories of the Industrial Revolution. And all along the way, Rick drives on the left and polishes his pub etiquette.

  • 2020-07-29T02:00:00-07:00
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Lisbon

Lisbon, built with the riches of Portugal's New World discoveries, has a rustic charm. Great navigators are remembered. Rick eats lots of cod, enjoys pastries hot out of the oven, strolls the city's back lanes and its reinvigorated waterfront, marvels at an exquisite church built with spice taxes, and listens to some soulful fado music. Then he takes a side-trip to Sintra to explore the fanciful castles of Portuguese royalty and climbs hilltop ramparts with grand views.

  • 2020-07-30T02:00:00-07:00
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Portugal's Heartland

Portugal has an oversized history, fascinating culture, and boatloads of sardines. Saving the capital city of Lisbon for another episode, Rick dances on the beach at Nazare, marvels at a medieval abbey in Batalha, visits a royal library and revels with university students in Coimbra, savors port wine with the people who made it along the Douro River, and gets to know Portugal's gritty and fascinating second city, Porto.

  • 2020-07-31T02:00:00-07:00
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Travel Skills: Cruising

Setting sail on the Mediterranean, Rick explores the ins and outs and pros and cons of cruising. He learns how to get the most out of a cruise, and exercises his independence to make smart use of limited time on shore by planning well, avoiding lines, and eating quick-but-local meals on the go. Along with the joys and efficiencies of cruising, Rick considers the downsides, including the inevitable congestion and commercialism that comes with mass tourism.

  • 2020-08-03T02:00:00-07:00
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Greek Islands: Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes

Rick island-hops through the Aegean, sampling three classic Greek getaways - Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes - and basking in their dramatic beauty. He tours ancient ruins, traces the vestiges of the Crusaders, samples rustic cuisine, savors classic Greek-island views, and compares beaches - from the ultimate party beach to idyllic quiet hideaways. And he shows how a cruise ship can be an efficient way to link up great island stopovers.

  • 2020-08-04T02:00:00-07:00
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European Festivals I

In this first of two episodes on Europe's greatest festivals, Rick cheers with the masses at Siena's crazy Palio horse race, tosses a caber at a Scottish Highland Games, dons a mask for Carnevale in Venice, and celebrates Easter in Greece. Dropping in on some of the Continent's top parties, he discovers that each one is a celebration of traditional culture, and all of them are full of opportunities to sing and dance, feast on traditional food, and party with locals.

  • 2020-08-05T02:00:00-07:00
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European Festivals II

In this second of two episodes on Europe's greatest festivals, Rick dances with Spaniards at Sevilla's April Fair, celebrates Bastille Day in Paris, runs with the bulls at Pamplona, and hoists a frothy stein at Munich's Oktoberfest. And he celebrates a traditional family Christmas, browsing the holiday market in Nurnberg and sledding down alpine slopes by torchlight in Switzerland. With the entire Continent as his playground, fun is his mission.

  • 2020-08-06T02:00:00-07:00
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The Best of Sicily

This tour of Sicilian highlights starts in Palermo, where Rick sings with the merchants in the markets, joins locals in their passeggiata, drops in on a contessa, and marvels at the Romanesque cathedral of Monreale. Then he sips wine on the slopes of Mount Etna, munches cannoli, ponders Greek temples at Agrigento, admires Roman mosaics at the Villa of Casale, and marvel at the view from the Greek theater in Taormina.

  • 2020-08-07T02:00:00-07:00
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Sicilian Delights

Sicily serves up a full-bodied and tasty travel experience. Rick dines on fresh seafood at the fisherman's harbor in Cefalù, ponders ancient Greek greatness in Siracusa, communes with monks - alive and departed - in a Capuchin crypt, sleeps in an olive orchard at an agriturismo, and eats his way through a classic Sicilian banquet with a famous chef.

  • 2020-08-10T02:00:00-07:00
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Scotland's Highlands

The Highlands stoke kilted dreams of Scotland...where legends of Bonnie Prince Charlie swirl around lonely castles. Rick visits the "Weeping Glen" of Glencoe, bustling Inverness, and the battlefield at Culloden. Then he makes a pilgrimage to the spiritual capital of a major clan, and goes prehistoric at Stone Age burial grounds and Iron Age island forts. Venturing along the Caledonian Canal and watching for Nessie at Loch Ness, Rick watches a sheepdog demonstration and enjoys traditional folk music.

  • 2020-08-11T02:00:00-07:00
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Scotland's Islands

Rick begins on the tranquil Isle of Iona, where Christianity first reached the shores of Scotland, and nearby Staffa, with a lovable puffin colony. Then he visits another of the Inner Hebrides, road-tripping across the Isle of Skye, where he explores Iron Age forts, thatched crofter huts, and the dramatic Trotternish Peninsula. Finally, he sails to Orkney - more Nordic than Celtic - with its stony remnants of a thriving Iron Age civilization and evocative reminders of the 20th-century wartime harbor at Scapa Flow.

  • 2020-08-12T02:00:00-07:00
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Glasgow and Scottish Passions

Glasgow, once an industrial powerhouse, offers a fun look at Scotland's vibrantly gritty urban side - full of edgy street art, trendy dining, and the striking architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Leaving town, Rick taps into Scottish passions as he tours historic Stirling Castle, enjoys a bagpiping lesson, samples a dram at the land's most beloved distilleries on the Speyside Whisky Trail, and struggles to lift the Manhood Stone at a Highland Games.

  • 2020-08-13T02:00:00-07:00
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Rome: Ancient Glory

Part one of three on the Eternal City, this episode resurrects the rubble and brings back to life the capital of the ancient world. Focusing on the grandeur of classical Rome, we marvel at the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the empire's exquisite art. Then we go offbeat by bicycle to see the Appian Way and marvels of Roman engineering.

Read our ancient Rome travel guide.

  • 2020-08-14T02:00:00-07:00
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