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.

saintchapelle_600
Sainte-Chapelle | Photo: Chris Chabot/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Get the free PBS App

Full Episodes

Upcoming Airdates

Rome: Baroque Brilliance

This second of three episodes on Rome reveals a city busy with life and bursting with Baroque. We ramble through the venerable heart of Rome, admire breathtaking Bernini statues, ponder sunbeams inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, and mix and mingle with the Romans during an early-evening stroll. Following an exquisite Roman dinner, we join locals after dark, lacing together the Eternal City's most romantic nightspots.

  • 2020-08-17T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

Rome: Back-Street Riches

In this third of three episodes on the Eternal City, we explore this grand metropolis-so rich in art and culture-on a more intimate scale, delving into its back lanes and unheralded corners. Venturing through the crusty Trastevere district, visiting the historic Jewish Ghetto, and enjoying art treasures in a string of rarely visited churches, we uncover charms of hidden Rome that compete with its marquee sights.

  • 2020-08-18T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

Florence: Heart of the Renaissance

Fifteenth-century Florence was the home of the Renaissance and the birthplace of our modern world. In this first of two episodes, we gaze into the self-assured eyes of Michelangelo's David, enjoy Botticelli's Birth of Venus, delve into the 3-D wonders of Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise, appreciate Fra Angelico's serene beauty, and climb the dome that kicked off the Renaissance. Then we cross the Arno to where Florentine artisans live, work, and eat ... very well.



  • 2020-08-19T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

Florentine Delights and Tuscan Side Trips

In this second of a two episodes on Florence, we enjoy more of the exquisite artistic treasures of the city that propelled Europe out of the Middle Ages. Then we side-trip to a couple of rival cities and cultural capitals in their own right, Pisa and Lucca, where we'll marvel at a tipsy tower, circle a city on its ramparts, and enjoy some Puccini in his hometown.



  • 2020-08-20T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

Paris: Regal and Intimate

In Paris, amidst all of its grandeur, the little joys of life are still embraced. In this first of two episodes on Paris, we cruise the Seine River, visit Napoleon's tomb, and take in the Louvre. Then we feel the pulse of Paris-shopping in village-like neighborhoods, attending church in a grand pipe organ loft, and celebrating the mother of all revolutions with a big, patriotic Bastille Day bang.



  • 2020-08-21T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

Paris: Embracing Life and Art

In this second of two episodes on Europe's "City of Light," we ride a unicorn into the Middle Ages at the Cluny Museum, take a midnight Paris joyride in a classic car, get an extremely close-up look at heavenly stained glass in Sainte-Chapelle, go on a tombstone pilgrimage at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, and savor the Parisian cafe scene. Few cites are so confident in their expertise in good living-and as travelers, we get to share in that uniquely Parisian joie de vivre.



  • 2020-08-24T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

London: Historic and Dynamic

In many-faceted London, we ponder royal tombs in Westminster Abbey, learn how to triple the calories of an English scone at teatime, discover treasures in the British Library, enjoy the vibrant evening scene in Soho, uncover Churchill's secret WWII headquarters, join the 9-to-5 crowd in the new London, shop where the queen shops, and straddle the Prime Meridian at Greenwich.

  • 2020-08-25T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

North England's Lake District and Durham

Hiking through the Cumbrian Lake District-England's green and pristine mountain playground-we admire idyllic lakes, discover misty waterfalls, tour a slate mine, and conquer stony summits. And we'll meet the locals-and their beloved dogs and sheep-everywhere. Then we play a little cricket, hike Hadrian's Wall, and are dazzled by Durham's Norman cathedral.



  • 2020-08-26T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

Venice: City of Dreams

After sorting through the monuments of Venice's powerful past, we trace its decline from Europe's most powerful city to its most hedonistic one. We cruise the Grand Canal, luxuriate in a venerable cafe, and savor fresh fish canalside with Venetian friends. Becoming as anonymous as possible in this city of masks, we'll be dazzled by masterpieces of the Venetian Renaissance and get intimate with the city of Casanova...on a gondola under the moonlight.



  • 2020-08-27T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

Venice and Its Lagoon

Venice, more than any other European city, has an endlessly seductive charm. For centuries, it was nicknamed La Serenissima, "The Most Serenely Beautiful One"-and for good reason. Along with sampling the sumptuous art treasures of Venice and exploring its back-street wonders, we cruise its lagoon, stopping in fiery Murano for glass, pastel Burano for lace, and murky Torcello for a sense of where Venice was born.

  • 2020-08-28T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

European Travel Skills, Part I

The first 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.

  • 2020-08-31T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

European Travel Skills, Part II

The second 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.

  • 2020-09-01T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

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.

  • 2020-09-02T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

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.



  • 2020-09-03T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

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.

  • 2020-09-04T02:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD