It might be tempting to rely on the metro to whizz across town, but to truly experience Paris, it’s best to travel above ground. There’s no better way to get to know the city than to get lost in its winding side streets, stopping for a break on a café terrace or a browse inside a quaint boutique. It’s no wonder bike- and scooter-sharing schemes are so popular here: lined with handsome Haussmann buildings and specialist shops, Parisian streets have undeniable bags of charm.
But there’s no need to brave local traffic for a different view on Paris: all you need is a few bus tickets and a sense of curiosity. In-the-know Parisians have a special place in their heart for bus 96. From the sleepy 15th arrondissement to the hip heights of Belleville, it takes in some of the city’s best sights. We’ve mapped out a one-day adventure along its route. All our picks are open on Sundays, too: just hop on and off for the best culture, shopping and gourmet stops along the way.
Start the day at this peaceful atelier turned museum, where sculptor Antoine Bourdelle once worked. Framed by floor-to-ceiling windows, his studio has been carefully preserved, and looks out over tranquil gardens showcasing some of the artist’s most monumental pieces. Don’t miss the contorted form of the Dying Centaur, or a peek at the contemporary practice his oeuvre continues to inspire.
For a restorative café noisette, head to the terrace of this St Germain institution. Once a hangout for the likes of Cézanne and Picasso, it’s still popular with students from the nearby School of Fine Arts. It’s retained much of its bohemian good looks, though these days you’re more likely to rub elbows with well-heeled locals tucking into caviar blinis and grilled-to-perfection croque-monsieur.
For lunch, prop up the bar at Yves Camdeborde’s laid-back seafood joint, dreamed up by the innovative chef as a youthful antidote to formal dining. Nab a stool at the counter for thrilling bites: bloody Mary oysters, say, or a zingy apple ceviche. It’s all very convivial, so don’t be surprised if you end up making friends after a glass or two of natural wine from the extensive list.
Topped by a delicate Gothic spire, this bijou chapel was built by Saint Louis to house his precious collection of Christian relics. Its 13th-century stained-glass windows are the real draw, though, recounting in intricately crafted detail the history of the world. Classical concerts are staged here on some evenings; book ahead for a chance to experience Bach, Mozart or Vivaldi under the lofty nave.
Stretching from bustling rue des Archives to the peaceful arches of Place des Vosges, rue des Francs-Bourgeois is lined with on-trend boutiques. Unusually for Paris, they stay open all week, so it’s a popular spot for post-brunch walks. The surrounding streets go car-free on Sundays: take your time sampling the Marais’ best assets, from Jewish snacks to Musée Picasso’s Cubist masterpieces.
Chocolatier Jacques Génin is a master of ganaches and caramels, prettily decorated with floral patterns and his signature expressionist squiggles. His flagship store on rue de Turenne gets busy at the weekend, but the plump Paris-Brest pastries are worth the wait. Make sure to sample the pâtes de fruits, intense fruit jellies that pack in a summer’s worth of rhubarb, mango or blood orange.
Unlike its more famous neighbour the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, or the nearby Père Lachaise cemetery, this green haven has a modern feel. Flower beds and sprawling lawns are broken up with edgy street art and vibrant murals; kids can run riot on the wooden playground and climbing wall. The city views it commands are equally impressive, and worth the steep climb up the hill of Belleville alone.
With its rough-hewn walls and bare wood tables, this neighbourhood eatery sets the stage for memorable Italian fare. Tuscan chef Michele Farnesi is at the helm in the kitchen, but he’s no slave to tradition. Produce is impeccably sourced and dishes packed with flavour. Evening tasting menus might saunter from raw Sicilian prawns, perhaps, to a creamy saffron risotto – a fitting end to a day of exploring.