Why Paris is Getting More Pedestrian-Friendly-- & Where to Avoid Cars

  • 01 of 07

    Places Where Walkers Rule in the City of Light

    Paris is becoming more pedestrian-friendly, with car-free zones expanding in 2016.
    Mairie de Paris

    If you’ve ever meandered through the streets of Paris, dreaming of how magnificent the city must have once been without the steady buzz of scooters, wailing ambulances and honking taxis, you’re not alone. This is the globe's most-visited metropolis, meaning that cars and their pollution are a reality that's hard to escape from.

    Luckily for pedestrians, however, the French capital counts many car-free areas that make a leisurely stroll very pleasant-- and even more are planned for 2016 and beyond. Read on for details on these foot-friendly works in progress, then click through for ideas on where to escape from automobile noise and exhaust. 

    Read Related: Why to Think Twice Before Renting a Car in Paris 

    New Pedestrian Zones in 2016: All the Details

    2016 was a big year for greening and reducing the presence of cars in Paris, with the opening of a new stretch of pedestrian-only paths overlooking the Seine River. The plan is all part of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s overarching goal to rid the city of cars and reduce air pollution.

    Read related feature: Top 10 Reasons to Visit Paris in 2017

    The car-free zone encompasses 3.3 km along the city’s Right Bank, from the tunnel at the Jardins des Tuileries to the Bassin de l’Arsenal near Bastille in the 4th arrondissement/district. 

    This new pedestrian stretch includes 4.5 hectares of grassy terrain, outdoor sports equipment, a children’s play area, small cafes and perhaps even a nightclub. The only restrictions? Everything that gets set up must be easy to take down, in the unlikely event that the Seine overflows onto the banks.

    Past Successes Fuel Political Will-- and Local Support

    The pedestrian-friendly project piggybacks off a previous success – the creation of no-car zones along the Left bank of the Seine, from Pont Royal to Pont de l’Alma – as well as the support of the public. The city of Paris put out a poll to Parisians to gauge their interest in another car-free area, offering two possible zones to convert: an area running from Chatelet to Pont de Sully or the winning Tuileries/Bassin de l’Arsenal zone. The City Council approved the Right bank plan in December.

    Even More Pedestrian-Only Zones in Years to Come?

    Mayor Hidalgo’s attack on car pollution in Paris doesn’t stop on the Right Bank, however. She also has plans to create a tramway that will go from East to West in 2020 as well as ban diesel cars that same year. In September, the city launched a car-free day, which closed off nearly all vehicle traffic in the center of Paris.

    Additionally, a portion of the 9th arrondissement, near Place de l’Opera and the sumptuous Palais Garnier, could become equally pedestrian-friendly in the coming years. Local politicians voted unanimously in early December to remove cars and add grassy expanses to the treacherous intersection crisscrossing the elaborate opera house. This is good news for those who want to go on a shopping spree in the nearby Belle-Epoque department-stores district, too....

    Looking to take a stroll through Paris without worrying about traffic? Click through to make the great pedestrian getaway in the French capital. 

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  • 02 of 07

    Walking-Friendly Zone #1: Rue Montorgueil Area

    Rue Montorgueil is in the smack-center of Paris: but this pedestrian street feels like part of a small village.
    Valerie Hinojosa /Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons license.

    In the adorable pedestrian-friendly zone comprised by Rue Montorgueil, Rue Tiquetonne, Rue Montmartre, Rue St-Sauveur and surrounding streets, you’ll find charming cafes, permanent food markets/vendors, restaurants and trendy boutiques galore. Village ambiance abounds in this area of the 1st and 2nd arrondissements, despite being in the city's near-center. 

    Read related: 5 Paris "Villages" You've Probably Never Heard About

    Be sure to check out one of Paris’s oldest boulangeries, La Maison Stohrer, at 51 rue Montorgueil for immaculately crafted tarts, pastries and savory treats. 

    Other pedestrian streets nearby: Rue Rambuteau (between Rue Montorgueil and Les Halles/Boulevard Sebastopol)

    Getting There:  Metro Sentier, Etienne-Marcel or Les Halles (Lines 1, 3 or 4)

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  • 03 of 07

    Walking-Friendly Zone #2: Rue des Rosiers

    Rue des Rosiers is the center of Paris' oldest Jewish quarter, and is famed for its falafel and Yiddish bakeries.
    Ninara/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons license

    Nestled in the old neighborhood known as the Marais, this street, the artery of Paris' oldest Jewish quarter, is famous for its traditional kosher restaurants and bakeries. It's also one of the trendiest spots to wander on a Sunday afternoon, the only day of the week when it becomes 100% pedestrian-only. The rest of the week, cars are relatively rare during most times of the day. Do like the locals and procure a delicious falafel sandwich here, sit down for a hearty pastry and tea, or hit up the area's chic boutiques.

    Read related: What to Do on Sundays in Paris? 

    Getting There: Metro St-Paul (line 4) 

    Other pedestrian areas nearby: Place des Vosges (beautiful 13th-century square and mansions)

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  • 04 of 07

    Walking-Friendly Zone #3: Rue de la Huchette/Latin Quarter

    Rue de la Huchette in Paris
    Asp Explorer / Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons license

    Meander through these cobblestone streets and you’ll feel instantly drawn back to Paris of another era. Once known for its jazz cabarets, it still boasts several theaters and nightclubs. However, a portion of this street, nestled in the heart of the uberpopular Latin Quarter and only a stone's throw from Notre-Dame Cathedral, has turned into a mega tourist trap. Hawkers will often do their best to beckon you inside their restaurants or shops. You may or may not appreciate it.

    Getting There: Metro/RER St-Michel (Line 4; RER Line B or C)

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  • 05 of 07

    Walking-Friendly Zone #4: Rue Mouffetard

    Greg Elms/Lonely Planet Images

    Further south in the Latin Quarter, the charming Rue Mouffetard and surrounding neighborhood has a history that stretches all the way back to the Roman era. In close reach of the Sorbonne University and the Pantheon, this street is perfect for strolling, tasting and shopping. Here’s your chance to sample delicious food from around the world, pick up quality farm-fresh local products from the street's numerous permanent vendors, and amble around with an ice-cream. 

    Getting There: Metro Censier-Daubenton (Line 7)

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  • 06 of 07

    Walking-Friendly Zone #5: Promenade Plantee, Cours St-Emilion and Bercy Village

    Ventura dos Santos/Creative Commons

    It might seem a bit off the beaten track, but that’s exactly why you should head down to the southeastern corner of Paris: you'll be rewarded with quieter niches that tourists rarely visit. Some of these are especially pedestrian-friendly. 

    Read related: Unusual Things to Do in Paris - Go Off the Beaten Path

    Built above ground on a former railroad track, the Promenade Plantée is a beautiful respite from urban Paris. A stroll here, stretching a kilometer, affords gorgeous views over the city's buildings, and is lined with trees and flowers.  (Main access: Avenue Daumesnil, Metro Bastille)

    Even further east, a strip of boutiques, known as Bercy Village, offers easy shopping, and the sidewalk cafes in the complex are perfect for people-watching. Stop off for a movie at the UGC cinema or go for a walk in the nearby Bercy park. (Metro: Cours St-Emilion)

    Read more: All About the Bercy/Gare de Lyon district 

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  • 07 of 07

    Walking-Friendly Zone #6: Rue Daguerre

    Rue Daguerre is a wonderful pedestrian street near Montparnasse/Denfert.
    Hian VK/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons license

    Nestled in a southern neighborhood that most visitors only visit to see the Paris Catacombs, this adorable pedestrian-only street is lined with cafes, specialty shops, good bakeries and cheese shops, and permanent produce vendors. It's a breath of fresh air away from the hustle and bustle of central Paris, and worth a look if you're seeking a quieter ambiance. 

    Read related: Top Permanent Market Streets in Paris

    Getting There: Metro/RER Denfert-Rochereau (Line 4/RER B)