A 5‑Hour Walking Tour of Paris and Its Famous Streets, Monuments & Parks

“We’ll always have Paris,” Bog­a­rt tells Bergman in the final scene of Casablan­ca, a line and film insep­a­ra­ble from the grand mythol­o­gy of Paris. The city still inspires non-Parisians to pur­chase Belle Epoque poster art by the shipload and binge Net­flix series in which Paris looks like a “city where the clouds part, your brain clears, and your soul finds mean­ing,” Alex Abad-San­tos writes at Vox. It’s also a place in such media where one can seem to find “suc­cess with­out much sac­ri­fice.”

Paris was the city where Hem­ing­way felt “free… to walk any­where,” he wrote in A Move­able Feast; where James Bald­win wrote in his 1961 essay “New Lost Gen­er­a­tion” of “the days when we walked through Les Halles singing, lov­ing every inch of France and lov­ing each oth­er… the nights spent smok­ing hashish in the Arab cafes… the morn­ing which found us telling dirty sto­ries, true sto­ries, sad and earnest sto­ries, in gray workingman’s cafes.”

The image of Paris has not always been so full of romance and escapism, espe­cial­ly for Parisians like Charles Baude­laire. “For the first time Paris becomes the sub­ject of lyric poet­ry” in Baude­laire, wrote Wal­ter Ben­jamin in The Arcades Project, a major, unfin­ished work on Paris in the 19th cen­tu­ry. Like the expats, Baudelaire’s imag­i­na­tion strolled through the city, freed from respon­si­bil­i­ty. But “the Paris of his poems is a sunken city, and more sub­ma­rine than sub­ter­ranean.”

The Paris of rev­o­lu­tion­ary fer­vor, com­munes, bar­ri­cades, and cat­a­combs… of Rim­baud, Coco Chanel, the Sit­u­a­tion­ists…. There are too many ver­sions of the city of lights; we can­not have them all. For the past year, we have not been able to see any part of it but from afar. Thanks to the mag­ic of YouTube, how­ev­er, we can walk the city for hours — or watch some­one else do it, in any case. The five-hour walk­ing tour at the top may skip the places a mod­ern-day Baude­laire would want us to see, but it does include “the most famous streets, mon­u­ments and parks,” notes the descrip­tion,

You’ll also find here short­er video walk­ing tours of Mont­martre, the Eif­fel Tow­er, and Lux­em­bourg Gar­dens, where Hem­ing­way would often meet Gertrude Stein and her dog, and where he found him­self “learn­ing very much “ from Cézanne about how to move beyond sim­ply “writ­ing sim­ple true sen­tences.” We are unlike­ly to have these kinds of expe­ri­ences on our video walk­ing tours. But we can get a taste of what it’s like to briskly cruise Parisian streets in the 21st cen­tu­ry, an expe­ri­ence increas­ing­ly like­ly to become a vir­tu­al one for future writ­ers, poets, and expats and tourists of all kinds.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of the Paris Cat­a­combs

Take an Aer­i­al Tour of Medieval Paris

Down­load 200+ Belle Époque Art Posters: An Archive of Mas­ter­pieces from the “Gold­en Age of the Poster” (1880–1918)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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