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9 of the best activities to do in Paris on strike days

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
9 of the best activities to do in Paris on strike days
The Sacre-Coeur Basilica Roman Catholic church at the summit of Montmartre in Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

If you're visiting Paris on a strike day you may find that public transport is disrupted and certain tourist attractions are closed - but don't despair, there are still plenty of fun activities that are unaffected by strike action.

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If you're in Paris on a strike day, be aware that certain services like public transport might be disrupted - you can find the latest details on big strikes in our strike section HERE. It's also worth checking in advance if any demos are planned, so that you can avoid the demo route and the large crowds that are usually present.

Then there's the question of what to do - depending on the strike and its level of support, you may find that big tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower or Versailles are either closed or have changed opening hours, and some of the bigger city museums may also close.

Fortunately, there are a lot of alternatives, so here are some suggestions;

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Parks and Gardens

Paris is home to several beautiful and accessible parks and gardens. From Parc Buttes Chaumont in the 19th arrondisement in the north of the city, known for its artificial lake, hilly topography, and collection of over 47 different species of plants and trees, to the Luxembourg Gardens in the 6th arrondisement near the Latin Quarter and the Parc Montsouris at the edge of the city at the bottom of the 14th arrondisement.

Be sure to check the park's opening times before visiting - inclement weather, such as high winds, might lead to early or unexpected closures.

If you had tickets to the Louvre, but the museum closed unexpectedly due to strike action, you might still enjoy going nearby to visit the Tuileries Garden and to see the iconic pyramid structures at the museum's entrance. 

The Jardin des Plantes is another option. Located along the Seine near the Asterlitz train station, the Jardin des Plantes is home large greenhouses, a zoo and a paleontology centre. 

There are also the larger parks - the Bois de Vincennes and Boulogne - located on both east and western edges of the city respectively, which offer wider spaces to picnic, relax, or even go for a jog.

If you fancy a walk, try the Promenade planté (Coulée verte René-Dumont) - this is former elevated Metro track that has been converted into a green space - similar to the High Line in New York. Walking along its 4.7km length gives you a great bird's eye view of the city as you enjoy the plants. There are also plenty of entry and exit points so you don't have to walk the entire length.

Take a stroll along the water

Talking of walking, there are many who say that the best way to see Paris is to become a flâneur/flâneuese - that is to take a relaxed stroll while talking in the view and possibly thinking elevated thoughts.

Paris is home to two large bodies of water that are perfect for walking alongside. The first is the Seine - take a stroll from the Musée d'Orsay to Notre-Dame and take in all the sites and landmarks in Paris' city centre.

For those looking for a less crowded option, the Canal Saint-Martin in the trendy 10th arrondissement is also very walkable, with plenty of shops and cafes along the route. Try starting near the popular cafe Chez Prune and walking up (for as long as you want, or until your feet get tired).

Both the Seine and the Canal also offer private boat services, such as Bateaux-Mouches, if you want to cover more ground or enjoy the water without the walking part.

Cemeteries

It may sound a bit morbid, but Parisian cemeteries are a popular location to visit. They are full of history, and many famous, important figures are buried inside them.

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Montparnasse and Père Lachaise are two of the most visited cemeteries in the city. You can try to find the tombs of Oscar Wilde, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, among many other notables. (The Local's tip for Père Lachaise - check out the tomb of Victor Noir and its amusing backstory).

Smaller museums and galleries

While larger museums and monuments, such as the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, Chateau de Versailles or the Eiffel Tower, might be subject to unexpected closures on strike days, smaller monuments and museums are more likely to stay open.

Some options to choose from might be the Musée de l'Orangerie, a museum with impressionist and post-impressionist paintings near the Tuileries garden, or the contemporary photography museum (the Maison Européenne de la Photographie), located in the heart of Paris near the Marais district.

Further north, there is also the Musée de la Vie Romantique, a literary museum focusing on the lives of George Sand and other prolific authors. Along the Seine, with a view of the Eiffel Tower, you might opt for the contemporary and modern art museum the Palais de Tokyo.

If you are more interested in art galleries, rather than museums, then there are plenty in the Marais district to choose from, such as the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Oftentimes, galleries are free to enter as well.

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Keep in mind that when it comes to museums, many close on Mondays or Tuesdays (particularly if they stay open all weekend). During a strike day, be sure to go to the museum's website to verify it is indeed open and check its normal operating hours. You might be able to reserve a ticket in advance too.

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Churches and places of worship

Places of worship remain open on strike days in France, which means you have plenty of options if you want to visit one of Paris' 197 historic and modern churches and cathedrals. Aside from Notre-Dame, Saint-Sulpice, which was built in the 17th century and is situated on Paris' left bank, is the second largest church in the city. 

The Sainte-Chapelle chapel, filled with colourful stained glass, is also a popular monument for many tourists. You need tickets to enter, and therefore would be advised to verify opening hours before making the trip.

The Grand Mosque of Paris is also a popular site, known for its outdoor garden, café and restaurant. Many people visit the Grand Mosque of Paris specifically to taste the tea, but the religious centre is also home to a hammam (a steam room offering massages and exfoliation), though this is exclusively for women.

Consider an alternative way to see the view

If the Eiffel Tower happens to be closed on the day you were looking forward to seeing a view of the city, consider some alternatives.

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You can climb to the top of one of the high-end shopping malls near Opera, like the Printemps Haussman centre, and have a glass of wine while admiring the view. The Montparnasse Tower also has an observatory - though you need to book tickets to get up to the 56th floor.

You might also consider visiting Sacre-Coeur or the lesser known Belvédère de Belleville for a view over the city.

Shopping and markets

Private stores and shops do not close on strike days, although some may close for at least part of the day if they are close to the route of a particularly large demo. Whether you were looking forward to shopping at the vintage 'kilo' shops or high-end designer stores, strike days might be the best time to do so.

If you're feeling rich or you just want to enjoy the stunning art deco building, check out the newly-reopened La Samaritaine - one of Paris' oldest department stores.

Markets are also a popular activity - filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, there is likely to be an outdoor (or indoor) market in your area at some point during your stay in Paris.

READ MORE: All you need to know about shopping at French food markets

Cafés and Restaurants

Cafés, bars and restaurants remain open on strike days too. There are plenty of well-known, historic cafés across the city, if you want to get a dose of history - from the Shakespeare and Company café to La Maison Rose and Les Deux Magots (once frequented by famous authors like Ernest Hemingway). 

Spa day

Finally, if you want to stay in and relax during strike day, then consider booking a spa day. As mentioned above, you can do so at the Hammam at the Grand Mosque of Paris, but there are plenty of other smaller places to get pampered - especially if you have walked all over the city and have tired feet.

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