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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Assisi and Italian Country Charm

In the Italian countryside, Rick connects with rustic, traditional culture: enjoying an agriturismo (farmhouse inn), seeing how prosciutto and pecorino cheese are made, and hiking down into deep and ancient wine cellars. He ends in Assisi - the hometown of St. Francis - which retains its spiritual aura to this day. Like pilgrims, he explores its stony center before trekking to its awe-inspiring basilica, built on the tomb of the beloved saint.

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Barcelona and Catalunya

The creative spirit of Spain's Catalunya the land of Picasso, Gaudi and Salvador Dali is on a roll. We'll get caught up in the festivity of Barcelona, enjoying the vibrant street scenes, tasty tapas and pedestrian-friendly Gothic Quarter. Then we'll take a scenic side trip to mountaintop Montserrat, and finish with an artist's pilgrimage along the Costa Brava to Salvador Dali country seaside Cadaques to visit his home and nearby Figures to experience his playfully surreal mausoleum/museum.



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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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Swiss Alps

Switzerland draws travelers from around the world for its legendary mountains. From the Matterhorn to the Jungfrau to Appenzell, we savor both the country's jaw-dropping alpine beauty and the rich and resilient culture of its people. As we lace together that dramatic mountain wonder with scenic train rides, breathtaking lifts, and unforgettable hikes, we also enjoy alpine life - from exploring glaciers to making cheese the old-fashioned way.

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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.

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Little Europe: San Marino, Monaco, Vatican City, Liechtenstein, and Andorra

Don't blink as we blitz through Europe's tiniest countries: Vatican City, the world's smallest country, comes with the planet's biggest church. The fairytale princedom of Monaco lures visitors with its fancy casino and glamorous views. Italy's last independent hill town, San Marino still looks formidable, as does the castle-guarded principality of Liechtenstein. And tiny Andorra entertains shoppers and hikers alike, surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Pyrenees.



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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.

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Great Swiss Cities: Luzern, Bern, Zurich and Lausanne

In this episode we'll focus on an often overlooked side of Switzerland its urban charms. We'll get some exercise, from ringing a very big bell to floating down an urban river. We'll also enjoy a variety of eye-opening art, from Chagall and Klee to inmates of an asylum. Then we'll ponder a few Swiss innovations, from their open-minded drug policies to their hush-hush underground arsenals. And it'll all before a backdrop of Switzerland's stunning natural beauty.




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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.

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Vienna and the Danube

For centuries, Vienna was the crown jewel of the rich and powerful Habsburg Empire. A century after that empire's fall, the Viennese appreciates their imperial legacy as a cultural wellspring and an excuse to live in style. We'll take in the city's wealth of elegant gardens, great art and fine music. Then we'll explore the city's surroundings, with a trip along the romantic Danube River and a hike up to the breathtakingly Baroque Melk Abbey.

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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.

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The Czech Republic Off The Beaten Path

Few travelers venture beyond Prague to experience the Czech Republic's many cultural riches and offbeat delights. We'll get you started with a whirlwind of Art Nouveau, local pub music, stinky cheese-tasting, river-rafting, and peat-bathing in places like Olomouc, Moravsky Krumlov, Telc, Trebon and Konopiste. We'll also tour a remarkable memorial to the holocaust in Terezen, and the charming castle town of Cesky Krumlov.



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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.

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French Alps and Lyon

After exploring the proud cuisine capital of Lyon - which, at least in its own mind, rivals Paris - we head for Chamonix, in the shadow of Europe's tallest peak: Mont Blanc. With the classic alpine resort as our springboard, we make some high-altitude cheese, then ride the lift up to Aiguille du Midi and over to the border of Italy. And we hike the Tour du Mont Blanc - the trail that circles that iconic mountain.

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Greece's Peloponnese

Island getaways are fun, but the real heart of Greece is found in the Peloponnese Peninsula. After enjoying the charming old port town of Nafplio, we'll time-trip through the ruins of Olympia, take center stage at the remarkably preserved theater at Epidauros, and explore the ancient capital of Mycenae. Then we'll wander off the beaten path along the rustic, rough-and-tumble Mani Peninsula, relax in the idyllic beach town of Kardymli and marvel at Greece's Rock of Gibraltar: the fortress town of Monemvasia.



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Copenhagen

Denmark's capital is the most fun-loving in Scandinavia. As we get to know Copenhagen, we'll discover reminders of its Viking history and symbols of its proudly independent ways today. We'll stroll through Europe's first great pedestrian zone, ogle crown jewels in the palace and take a bike ride through a famous hippie squatter community, finishing at Copenhagen's full-time carnival, Tivoli Gardens.




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Denmark: Beyond Copenhagen

Using Copenhagen as a spring board, we'll visit the very best of Denmark. Aarhus welcomes us with its ruddy affluence, charming open air museum and eerily well-preserved ancient bog man. Roskilde impresses visitors with its royal burial church and the best Viking ship museum anywhere. And the delightfully quaint Isle of Aero beckons a bike ride among thatched cottages, "snooping mirrors", and cobbled alleyways that reminds us of the world of Hans Christian Andersen.



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Istanbul

Where Europe comes face to face with Asia, we'll explore the fascinating, multilayered city of Istanbul. We'll lose our way in the Grand Bazaar and feast like kings with locals at a fisherman's wharf. We'll follow the fall of the Byzantium and the rise of Islam at the city's ancient wall, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. To escape the city bustle, we'll board a boat on the churning Bosphorus, make friends over backgammon, and try a traditional bath.

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Germany's Fascist Story

Traveling across Germany, we learn how fascism rose and then fell, taking millions of people with it. Visiting actual locations - from Munich to Nurnberg to Berlin - we trace the roots of Nazism in the aftermath of World War I, when masses of angry people were enchanted by Hitler. We explore the totalitarian society Hitler built, and see the consequences: genocide and total war. Learning from Germany's fascist story, we can recognize that hateful ideology as well as the tricks of wannabe dictators in our own age.

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Iran:Tehran and Side Trips

As he's done with previous programs on Israel, Egypt, and Eastern Turkey, Rick takes us beyond Europe to a place that's rich with history...and mystery. In this first of two half-hour shows on Iran, Rick dodges traffic in Tehran, enjoys the tranquility of a nearby village, and encounters both anti-American propaganda and a warm welcome from everyday Iranians.



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Iran's Historic Capitals

Iran's rich history goes back millennia, to the days when Persepolis was home to "the king of kings." In this episode, Rick Steves explores three historic capitals of Iran: Persepolis, with its splendid monuments; Shiraz, with the tombs of Iran's most beloved poets; and Esfahan, with its extraordinary mosques and endearing people.



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Croatia: Adriatic Delights

A fascinating land with a hard-fought history in a complex corner of Europe, Croatia is emerging as one of Europe's top destinations. Sampling the very best of Croatia, we start by exploring the fabled Dalmatian Coast from dramatic Dubrovnik to crusty Adriatic island ports. Heading inland, we hike through Plitvice Lakes National Park and enjoy the thriving capital city Zagreb. Our Croatian finale: the Istrian Peninsula and its enchanting port town of Rovinj.

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Dubrovnik and Balkan Side-Trips

Nestled inside its mighty ramparts is Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic." From this remarkably preserved medieval fortress city, we venture into less-touristed corners of the former Yugoslavia. In Bosnia, we visit Mostar - war-torn in the 90s, but bursting with promise today. In Montenegro, we sail the fjord-like Bay of Kotor and explore its mysterious, mountainous interior.

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Egypt's Cairo

Teeming Cairo, straddling the Nile, is the capital of Egypt and one of the leading cities of the Muslim world. With 20 million people, greater Cairo pulses with energy. We explore the back streets on a tuk-tuk, drop in on a mosque, haggle with a gauntlet of eager merchants, bake some pita bread, help chisel a tombstone, marvel at King Tut's gold, greet the ancient Sphinx, and climb into the center of the greatest pyramid.

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The Best of Slovenia

Little Slovenia is the least visited and most underrated of Europe's alpine countries. From its prosperous capital of Ljubljana, we enjoy the mountain resort of Lake Bled, venture into the Julian Alps for natural thrills mixed with World War I history, go spelunking in a gigantic cave, and swim with Slavs in a charming Adriatic port.

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Granada, Cordoba, and Spain's Costa Del Sol

Andalucia's Moorish heritage sparkles in the historic capitals of Granada and Cordoba. And the pride of the Reconquista and the power of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand enliven the region's great sights. Tasting the smooth sherry and marveling at prancing stallions, we find the passion in Andalucian culture. And we top it off with fun in the Spanish sun on the Costa del Sol.

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Andalucia, Gibraltar and Tangier

Exploring Andalucia, we experience the quintessence of Spanish culture. Starting up high, in Spain's whitewashed hill towns, we roll down to the coast to enjoy the windsurfing mecca of Tarifa. Then we catch a bit of Britain on the Rock of Gibraltar, and sail to Africa for a Moroccan finale in Tangier.



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Oslo

The proud spirit of the Norwegian people shines in every dimension of their capital city-from its once-fearsome Viking ships to its sleek new Opera House, from tales of World War II heroism to the constant festival of its thriving harborfront. Connecting with the culture, we enjoy art-from Vigeland's statues to Monch's scream-and cap things off by joining local friends for a sail on their fjord.

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