From hip art galleries and lively street cafes to fresh baguettes which just melt in the mouth, there’s plenty of reasons to go to visit the French capital. In the latest in our With Love From postcard series, Liz Wootton shares some sustainable tips for a getaway in the City of Love… Bon voyage!
London’s older (and slightly more glamorous) sister – a trip to Paris is always a treat. Wander along the wide elegant boulevards, thronged with boulangeries, fromageries, cafés and wine bars, stopping occasionally for an espresso or else a leisurely browse in one of the boutiques. There’s so much to do, see and taste in this elegant, captivating and quirky city.
As well as being romantic, vibrant and oh-so-chic, Paris is also a surprisingly environmentally-conscious city, tackling the climate change crisis in a number of innovative ways. In 2007, the city was one of the first municipalities to adopt a climate action plan, and things haven’t slowed down since.
With a groundbreaking redevelopment project – transforming part of the Clichy-Batignolles district into an ‘eco-village’– scheduled to finish in 2020, a fleet of ‘SeaBubbles’ – eco-conscious flying water taxis – launching on the River Seine, and the city’s annual We Love Green festival, this is truly a capital which takes sustainability very seriously.
Things don’t stop here either: Paris has plenty of ambitious plans for the future, hoping to become the world’s sustainable capital of fashion by 2024… In the City of Love, green is definitely the new black right now.
As a tourist, there’s plenty of things you can do to make your trip to Paris go easy on the planet. Starting with travelling there in the most sustainable way possible. Those coming from the UK can hop aboard the Eurostar, which departs every 30 minutes from St Pancras, or else opt for the (much less glamorous) option of a coach – great if you’re trying to save the pennies. If you’re located on mainland Europe, then Paris is connected to almost anywhere by a wealth of train and bus networks – as long as you’ve got a bit more time then there’s really no need to fly.
THINGS TO DO
There’s so much to do and see that it can be a little difficult to know where to start. For first time visitors, the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées and Sacre Coeur are all musts; as is heading to the Louvre and engaging in a staring competition with Da Vinci’s (rather smug-looking) Mona Lisa. To help combat over-tourism, as well as having a more enjoyable experience, visit these key spots at off-peak times rather than fighting through the crowds.
Wandering the ancient streets of the Marais, the Jewish Quarter, is also a ‘must’. As well as being full of beautiful old buildings, quaint shops and secret city gardens, this area is also legendary for its falafel vendors – perfect if you’re looking to pick up a delicious plant-based lunch on the cheap. For a view of the city from the river, cruise down the Seine on a river barge, marvelling at the famous sites and pretty buildings with a renewed perspective.
Once the tourist spots are checked off, delve a little deeper into the heart of Paris to discover more of what this artisitc and romantic city has to offer. Impressionist art aficionados will be enchanted by Musée de l’Orangerie. Tucked away in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens, this lovely little spot is home to an impressive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, with Monet’s famous Water Lillies series serving as the pièce de résistance. Over in Bastille, the rainbow-hued houses lining Rue Cremieux make for an excellent Instagram opportunity. While Marché Mouffetard, described by Hemingway as a ‘wonderful, narrow crowded market street’, retains its bustling charm to this very day.
Nature-lovers should make use of the fact that Paris is the most woodland-dense capital city in Europe and head to one of the city’s 400 gorgeous green spaces for a leisurely afternoon stroll. The carefully-manicured Jardin du Luxembourg is a great spot for picnicking and sunbathing, while the sloping hills at Parc des Buttes-Chaumont will reward walkers with stunning views of the city. If you have all day, then the sprawling Bois de Vincennes (the largest park in Paris) is a wonderful place to get lost in – you’ll find boating lakes, a race track, farm and even a Buddhist temple in this enormous plant-filled paradise.
With so much to see, you’ll be wondering what the best way of travelling around the city is. Luckily, Paris has a fantastic array of eco-friendly travel options, meaning you’ll never have to step foot in a taxi.
If you fancy stretching your legs and seeing the city, then walking is a great option. Central Paris isn’t as widespread as other capitals, so you’ll find that walking between sites is more manageable than you think. If your legs are getting a little tired, then you can always ride the Metro or bus around town. If you’ve still got some energy left then pick up one of the e-scooters which you’ll have seen zipping around the city or hire a bike for the day.
If you’d prefer to travel on the water, then buy a pass for the Batobus – a hop on hop off boat service which will take you to all the main sites. Keep an eye out for the SeaBubbleswhich should also be launching soon on the Seine. Dubbed ‘the Tesla of the sea’, these innovative ‘flying’ boats are powered by electricity and have the potential to prevent congestion and cut down car-use. If successful, this exciting eco initiative could radically change public transport as we know it.
FOOD & DRINK
The majority of the good restaurants in Paris pride themselves on using organic, local and seasonal produce, making it relatively easy to find a decent meal without causing too much damage to the planet. Back in 2013, the local authorities made it even easier by introducing a label to help diners identify the restaurants using local produce (‘Des produits d’ici, cuisinés ici’). Keep your eye out for this label as you wander the streets, peering into the windows of prospective eateries. You can also find a really helpful online map here, which lists all the Parisian restaurants who source their ingredients locally.
Winner of the Sustainable Restaurant Award in 2017, a trip to Paris would not be complete without paying the incredible Septime a visit. Nestled in the hip Bastille neighbourhood, this incredible spot has always placed sustainability at its core. 99% of the ingredients used here are sourced from France, vegetables make up 80% of the offering and environmentally-damaging beef is banned from the menu. For drinks, you can enjoy an array of natural wines, many produced on the restaurant’s own vineyard, as well as filtered water served in old wine bottles – no plastic bottles to be found around here folks.
If you’re fancying a cup of coffee and a light lunch, then head to La Recyclerie. Just don’t plan anything for the rest of the afternoon, because you’ll find yourself struggling to leave. Set in an old railway station, this gorgeous space is home to a restaurant, bar, café, farm and vegetable garden, as well as numerous DIY repair workshops for anyone who wants to get involved and a weekly farmer’s market held upstairs. As you may have guessed from the name, recycling is at the core of this project and, not only does it implement circularity and zero waste within the business itself, but it also teaches this ethos and skillset, encouraging it in the wider community.
Image: (L) Septime; (R) VG Pâtisserie
Another incredible concept, Freegan Pony is a community restaurant committed to fighting food waste. Set in a vast concrete warehouse, under a busy highway out in the 19th arrondissement, it’s definitely a bit of a pain to get to, but worth it all the same. The menu here is completely vegetarian and changes daily, depending on what food the team have managed to rescue from being discarded. The prices are ‘pay as you feel’ and the food is deliciously-creative – it has to be because they never know what the ingredients they will get!
If you’d rather cook at home, then you’re in luck – there are a plethora of fantastic places to buy fresh produce dotted all around the city. Grab your fresh fruit and veggies at Au Bout du Champ – these stores allow local growers to sell their freshly-picked produce to Parisians, at a fair price. If you’re looking for cheese, meat or artisanal produce then head to one of the city’s many farmers markets to buy directly from the producers themselves.
You just can’t visit Paris without visiting a boulangerie, so make a beeline for the beautiful old Du Pain et Des Ideés for fresh croissants and crisp baguettes. Made using natural (and mostly organic) ingredients and traditional methods, the products here are top quality and absolutely delicious.
Paris is also famous for a vast array of delicious patisseries, whose counters heave with an array of delicate cakes and exotic-looking tarts. If you’re plant-based, then you’ll be happy to hear you don’t have to miss out on any these tasty treats – VG Pâtisserie, over on Boulevard Voltaire, serves a collection of beautiful, fresh and completely vegan French pastries. What’s more, they encourage customers to bring their own reusable containers to transport the cakes away in, thus cutting down on unnecessary waste. Plant-based or not, we’d definitely recommend paying them a visit.
Paris is a wonderful city for shopping (not that we’re encouraging you to buy anything you don’t need though). The wide boulevards are thronged with pretty independent boutiques, selling lovely artisanal products, and bustling flea markets where you’ll find unique and quirky wares.
If you’re running low on skincare, cosmetics or essential oils then head to Aroma-Zoneon Boulevard Haussmann where you’ll find an array of organic and natural beauty products. They even run workshops in aromatherapy and cosmetics in case you’re interested in finding out how to make your own.
Packed in a hurry and missed out your socks? No to fear, you can pick up a pair from Orphan Socks on Rue des Gardes. This fabulous shop sells beautiful socks, clothing and accesories, all made out of recycled materials. The people behind the business are passionate about promoting circularity within the fashion industry and preventing unecessary waste and we think they are doing a fantastic job.
As well as pretty boutiques, Paris is also home to a wealth of antique fairs, flea markets, book stalls and vintage shops, meaning shopping secondhand has never been easier, or chicer. We especially love the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, which is said to be one of the world’s biggest flea markets. Sprawling over seven hectares, you’re sure to find all sorts of antique treasures, fascinating curios and ancient books here.
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