The Secret to Having the Streets of Paris All to Yourself

I was headed to the airport this summer to take a trip that my husband and I planned while our kids were at camp when a friend of mine called me. As we started talking about Paris, he told me a story about he and his wife taking a bike tour the summer before and how much fun they had.

Knowing that we were going to be in Paris on Bastille Day I had not booked a bike tour (even though it is one of my most favorite things to do) because I had been told over and over not only that we shouldn’t go to Paris last summer, but that it would be IMPOSSIBLE to get around the city let alone book restaurants, museums, etc., etc.

But my friend got me thinking and when we arrived, I decided to take a chance and ask our concierge about the possibility of arranging a bike tour the following morning. They happily obliged (with a few precautions about the street closings) and we were able to use the e-bikes available in the lobby of the hotel at no extra charge. Our guide arrived at 10 AM and off we went.

My husband and I were so skeptical that this tour would be worthwhile that we agreed in advance that even though we had paid for three hours, we would politely tell our guide that we only planned on using two of the three. Besides, we had a fabulous lunch reservation and I did not want to miss it.

Fast forward to thirty minutes in to the tour, my husband turned to me and said cancel your fancy lunch, we are not cutting this short (which ended up being the right call because the restaurant actually would have been impossible to get to by car).

Not only was our guide fantastic (feel free to reach out to me if you want her details – she is a freelance tour guide), but the streets of Paris were EMPTY. All the streets were blocked off so there were no cars and no traffic, and not many pedestrians either. Our guide told us that Parisians flee the city on Bastille Day, much like I used to on the Fourth of July when I lived in Washington, D.C.

We covered so much ground in those three hours, and we were sad when it came to an end. It was incredible to ride a bike in the middle of Paris streets and on the grounds of the Louvre without having to contend with navigating around tourists or cars. We also got to experience the Bastille Day parade and accompanying fighter jets and helicopter display in the middle of our tour.

I would go back to Paris on Bastille Day just to experience that day again. I also think it would be a great thing to do as a family.

Here are all the places we got to visit on our bikes, as well as the not-as-fancy but still-super-cute lunch we had afterwards.


I would suggest using this as a guide of great spots to visit on your bike if you decide to take a tour.

Palais Royal (in particular the Cour d’Honneur or main courtyard and Buren columns) : “Created by the Cardinal Richelieu in 1633, the Palais Royal and its gardens, just a short walk from the Louvre, housed royal families up until the Palace of Versailles was built. Prestigious and peaceful, the gardens are surrounded by a superb futuristic architecture with contemporary sculptures by Buren and Bury.” Louis XVI spent part of his childhood here.

The Colonnes de Buren were designed by artist Daniel Duren and are situated in the courtyard, near the garden and Ministry of Culture. Comprised of 260 black and white striped octagonal columns.

Here is a great piece with more details on the Palais Royale in Condé Nast Traveler.

Le Marais Neighborhood, Place des Vosges and Jardin de l’Hotel de Sully

Le Marais: “The Marais is a winding maze of multi-faceted streets that beg to be explored. It bursts with small boutiques, historic buildings, cozy traditional restaurants, and hidden parks. Around each corner, you’ll come across little gems of architecture spanning the centuries, from understated medieval towers to classical libraries and 17th century splendor.”

Place des Vosges: Built by Henry IV in the early 1600s, Place des Vosges is the oldest planned square in Paris. Many famous people lived here including the famous writer Victor Hugo.

Jardin de l’Hotel de Sully – this was my favorite place we visited on our tour. Hotel can also mean private mansion in French(“hôtel particulier”), which is what this is – Maximilien de Béthune, first Duke of Sully, and former minister of finance and superintendent of buildings for King Henry IV, purchased it in 1634. It is a now a government building. The courtyard and gardens are spectacular!

The Louvre – home to the Mona Lisa, among other priceless masterpieces. 🙂

Cathédrale Notre-Dame: As I am sure you recall, the cathedral’s spires were destroyed in a devastating fire in 2019. The construction is still ongoing but it is very much worth visiting even if only outside to see this stunning cathedral and example of French Gothic architecture.

Bastille – former site of the Bastille prison until the storming of the prison during the French Revolution.

Paris Plages (Paris Beach) – We biked all along the River Seine and got to experience the “Paris Plages” – “From mid-July to mid-August, the municipality of Paris runs a temporary artificial beach operation along River Seine. Judiciously named “Paris-Plages” the scheme was started by Bertrand Delanoë in 2002 for Parisians who could not go on holiday and had to stay in the French capital during summer.”

Louis Vuitton exhibition at the Champs-Elyseés store featuring a giant image of Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama

Chez Flottes – Déjeauner!

E-Bikes for guests at The Ritz
Off we go
In case you didn’t believe me — proof of empty streets!
Palais Royale
On a typical day, the Louvre has 30,000 visitors.
Grounds of the Louvre – normally filled with tourists
Todd unintentionally dressed in the colors of the Paris flag.
Notre Dame
You can see the construction in the background of this photo.
Todd and our guide – he makes besties with the guides on every trip we go on – lol
It was so cool to bike through the Marais neighborhood
Todd biking down an empty street
Normally covered in bikes
This was my favorite place we visited – a little hidden courtyard in the Place des Vosges
Home of Victor Hugo
Place de Bastille on Bastille Day
Paris Plages along the River Seine
Bastille Day Parade, close to the River Seine
One of the busiest street in Paris, Rue de Rivoli – empty
Right behind our hotel…
Our wonderful guide, Raphaëlle. She does all kinds of tours, not just bikes, for individuals, groups and families
The butter.

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