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Everybody knows that Paris is for lovers. That is, everyone says so. But the reality is plenty of people are here seul, alone, and quite happy to be so thank you very much. Being a lone traveller (or indeed resident) can, naturally, have its drawbacks. Having said that, as a lone resident myself I can’t think of a single one. The city is packed with things to do for a party of one – and more than that, it’s packed with things that are more fun on your own. Shock horror! Could it be? What madness is here?! I’m telling you readers – one is the new two.
To prove my point in emphatic style, I’m providing you with ten activities to enjoy in the full pleasure of your own (really rather brilliant) company. There’s not a romance-addled Eiffel Tower in sight; no extortionate candle-lit meals will be spent in the glow of your waiter’s indifference; zero emphasis on skipping hand-in-hand through the Tuileries Gardens. This is Paris for the individual: Paris for One, please.
Head to the movies
There is a rare joy in the simple acts of selecting a film (Paris’ film collection is vast), ambling into a cinema, choosing your own seat and settling into plush red velvet to be instantly transported to another world. Paris is a cinema-goer’s dream. The lovely bustling area of Saint Michel boasts a veritable bouquet of cinematic options. What’s more, the Classics are out in force. A personal favourite is the Action Christine, tucked away down a little side street: two screens bringing classic favourites twice a day, seven days a week.
4 Rue Christine
Dine with friends you have yet to meet
Dinner with Jim Haynes is a Parisian must, and those eating alone will find themselves in fantastic company. Every Sunday for the last 30 years Jim has welcomed strangers for dinner – and all you have to do is call or email to reserve a spot. Dine with up to 60 fellow visitors and prepare for fascinating conversations, international links and great food. It’s the perfect Sunday dinner, and as a party-for-one you’ll be free to throw yourself into the simple, beautiful idea of lunch with strangers.
Hop on the bus
While this may sound like a fairly bizarre activity to undertake by oneself – believe me, it’s not. The beauty of the Parisian transport system is its comprehensive simplicity, its ease of access, and its value for money. Metro and bus tickets are one and the same – so why disappear underground to travel across the city? Not in a hurry? Want to watch the Parisian world go by? Want to see how the city is connected topside? The buses are the answer. Particularly lovely routes are the #29, which goes to the historic and super-trendy Marais, or the #87, which brings you right up to the Eiffel Tower. Great views, real Paris, relaxing journey, no need to spend the duration with your face in a raised armpit…the benefits of the buses are endless for the footloose and fancy free.
The Million Markets
Ok, so there aren’t a million. But there are a lot. Luckily this handy list can direct you to your heart’s desire. Vintage? Antiques? The best veggies in Paris? All await your feasting eyes. Pick a market and wander the alleys of treasure therein – it’s one of the true joys of the city.
For a bit of culture…and a bit of wine
Paris knows its culture. With dozens of free lectures, talks, tours and exhibitions, the city provides learning at every corner. Slight problem: a lot of it’s in French. Enter the American Library of Paris, in the affluent 7th arrondisment. This upstanding institution is one of my personal favourites when it comes to solo-culture. Evenings with an author are a firm favourite in the Library’s programme of events (which you can find here) and start at 7.30pm, before which you can grab a glass of complimentary wine and some nibbles to really settle into the mood. Talks of around 45 minutes are given by authors on a wonderful range of subjects, from the German invasion of Paris to the West’s contribution to the crisis in the Middle East – it’s an educational hit for those who love to listen and learn. And of course the wine isn’t too shoddy either.
10 Rue Gén Camou
Pick an exhibition, any exhibition
Of course you don’t need me to tell you there are more exhibitions in Paris than there are days in the year. Probably. But there is a particularly clever way to see an exhibition and to really enjoy it. Go on your own. Without hindrance or haste the lone exhibition attendee is free to skip the bits they don’t without a second thought, read every single caption if they choose to, sit for an hour before one masterpiece, and leave when (and only when) they wish. Pick an exhibition and wander at will – you’ll never look back.
Free solo cinema (yes, I’m serious)
The Forum des Images is almost too good to believe, but I’m here to set the record straight. Yes, it’s official: you can watch one of 6,500 French films for free in a mini-personal-cinema setting. This revolutionary (and pretty brilliant) pastime starts at Les Halles underground shopping centre. Turn up, get a (free) ticket, and you’ll soon be shown to a little sofa where your own TV and headphones await; select one of thousands of films to wile away the hours and away you go. Pretty cool, non?
101 Porte Berger
Paris is shopping heaven, but where should you go to appreciate its real up-market charm? Shopping institutions Galleries La Fayette and Le Bon Marche are the places to go. Have your make-up expertly applied for free at the gorgeous La Fayette counters, or simply wander the floors of luxury merchandise while mentally furnishing that villa you will one day own in the south of France. These temples to shopping are the perfect place to spend an afternoon – and escape the real hustle and bustle of the city.
Galleries La Fayette
40, Blvd. Haussmann
Le Bon Marché
24 Rue de Sèvres
Meet Shakespeare (and Company)
Famous for a reason, Shakespeare and Company is a lot more than just a bookshop. With a range of events on offer as well as a haven from bustling Paris streets, this English speaking institution is the perfect place to spend an afternoon or educational evening. Another English-oriented bookshop can be found in The Abbey Bookshop in the trendy Latin Quarter. Towers of precariously balanced books will keep you rummaging for hours.
Shakespeare and Company
37 Rue Bûcherie
The Abbey Bookshop
29 Rue Parcheminerie
If the push and pull of Paris is wearing out your shoe leather, there’s no better way to re-balance than an indulgent spa session. Paris has everything you could expect of a city dripping with luxury – for a detailed run down of the best spas in town, check this out and plan your perfect day of relaxation.
photo 1 by LPLT (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
photo 2 © Jesper Haynes
photo 3 by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
photo 4 by keeping it real (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flikr
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