Delve into Local Strolls, a series where writers reveal their favorite walks in their hometowns. Each route offers a snapshot of urban life, guiding you to lesser-known attractions and cherished local spots. Here, Vivian Song takes us on a gentle stroll past shops, through gardens and along the river in Paris.

In some ways, one of my favorite walking itineraries in Paris contradicts the very definition of that most famous and poetic of French verbs, “flâner” or to stroll. Some purists might point out that my oft-repeated route has a predetermined start and finish line, while the point of "flâner”-ing is to wander aimlessly, not knowing where their walk will lead them.

But I would argue that switching to autopilot and repeating a familiar and comforting walking routine can also produce moments of awe, pleasure and discovery if done in the same spirit of the aimless wander: without haste, with no agenda, and always with a sweet treat.

People sit on benches under blossoming magnolia trees in a park
Save your take-out dessert until Jardin du Palais Royal, if you can © Vivian Song / Lonely Planet

On that last point, this particular itinerary actually starts at Mochi Mochi Aki, a small Japanese take-out dessert shop on rue Saint-Anne that is lined with Japanese and Korean restaurants and grocers. I order my usual, passion fruit mochi, and resist the urge to bite into the ridiculously soft and pillowy sweet rice cake until I get to my next destination, the Jardin du Palais Royal, five minutes away. If I’m feeling particularly indulgent, I may also stop at Matcha Social Club to pick up an iced strawberry matcha latte for the walk over.

At the park, I will amble leisurely up and down the tree-lined alleyways, chuckling inwardly at the waddling toddlers chasing after dogs, and dogs chasing after pigeons, and take dozens of photos of the gardens because I am rarely without my DSLR camera on a leisurely outing like this one.

After a good long sit-down under the shade that involves one of the best mochis in Paris, a bit of reading, and a lot of people-watching, I’ll make my way out of the park in the direction of the Louvre and the Seine in order to indulge in another one of my Paris pastimes: the crossing of bridges. I cross as many as I can on this route, zigzagging between the Left and Right Banks as views from either side of the river offer such beautifully different perspectives.

L: Queue outside Mochi Mochi in Paris. R: Close-up of mochi desserts boxed in plastic containers
Vivian considers Mochi Mochi Aki to be the best place to buy mochi in Paris © Vivian Song / Lonely Planet

After crossing Pont du Carrousel, I head south on the Left Bank and then cross Pont des Arts, the pedestrian bridge where buskers provide passersby with some lively entertainment. I continue along the upper quay in order to greet the open-air booksellers or bouquinistes and check out their latest wares.

That brings me to the majestic Pont Neuf, which means "new bridge" but is actually the oldest standing bridge in Paris, where I join the other tourists in taking in the views of the Seine, Eiffel Tower, and the pedestrians strolling on the quay below. Even after 14 years of living in Paris, I never tire of views like this. I cross this bridge too, but stop short of reaching the Left Bank and veer midway into Île de la Cité’s Place Dauphine, a lovely triangle-shaped public square, where groups of friends are playing petanque, young couples are on weekend dates, and parents are following waddling toddlers, who are chasing delightedly after small dogs their own size.

People follow a walkway beside a river heading towards a bridge
The walking route zig-zags across the river © Vivian Song / Lonely Planet

After staying on the upper quays, I’m now ready to embark on the last stretch of my itinerary. I cross the Pont au Change and take the stairs that lead down to the lower quay on Voie Georges Pompidou. Formerly a major traffic artery, the riverside banks on both sides of the Seine became car-free in 2017, giving Parisians nearly 8km (5 miles) of wide and scenic waterfront promenades lined with petanque courts, terraces and children’s play areas.

The strolling experience is different down here. Those on wheels — bikers, skateboarders, e-scooters and rollers skaters (yes, of the disco-kind) — weave their way between pedestrians, who have collectively, it seems, agreed to walk with slackened pace to match the gentle cadence of the Seine rolling beside us to our right. As I reach Pont Marie, at which point I can take the metro line 7 straight home, I take one last look at the scenery before me and am reminded of the words of Victor Hugo: “To wander is human, to stroll is Parisian.”

Distance: Approx 3.8km
Time: Approx one hour

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