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Paris Advice: Be a Flaneur


 When people ask me for advice about what to do when they go to Paris I have no problem suggesting museums, restaurants, sights and shopping. Paris has so much to offer the tourist and resident alike.  I always say, take the Batobus, go to a concert at Sainte Chapelle and meander the Marais.

But my favorite and best advice is to “Be a Flaneur.”

What’s a Flaneur?   Well, that’s a distinctly French term for someone who meanders the streets looking for inspiration…..

 Flaneurs can be seen all over  Paris, killing hours in its scenic cafes and strolling aimlessly along its beautiful boulevards.  Flaneurs happily make doing nothing look like an honorable activity.

Edmund White coined the term in his book, “The Flaneur.”

He wrote, “Paris is a world meant to be seen by the walking alone, for only the pace of strolling can take in all the rich (if muted) detail.”

The French called the “walking for the pleasure of it” as flanerie and someone who does it a flaneur.


Back in the mid-1800s, it was actually became fashionable to walk a pet turtle to set a slow space.

So, why do I advise “walking with no purpose other than to be stimulated by your surroundings?“

There’s so much to see.  Surprises.  Stuff that will make you smile.  Walking in Paris is not about getting from here to there.  It’s about enjoying the journey.

Here are some of the fun surprises that I recently saw in the glorious City of Light.

Don’t you just love this romantic and happy couple posing and kissing in Place Vosges?  If you haven’t meandered this romantic spot in Paris, get yourself there on your next trip. Plan to spend some time.

It’s the world’s first purposely designed urban square, marked by precise symmetry and French charm You will love resting and people watching. Eating.   And a fabulous spot for great photos.



I love the fashion on the streets.   This is not a city that embraces Casual.  Ever since Louis XIV established his court at VerSailles it has been a city to “see and be seen.”



 Even on a rainy day, Paris is a city to enjoy.  This is  Rue Montorgueil,  a traditional very old street market that reinvented itself as a Hipster Food Court.   Great spot for lunch. Rainy or no.


 Wowy, zowy, another sight on a rainy day…..This guy didn’t care about the weather.  I zeroed in on him in the Marais, my favorite area in Paris.   (To read more about this part of the  city, click here).













And what is this outfit all about? Hmmm.  I’m thinking it must be a bachelorette party.   Why else would some one meander the Marais in this get up?  I should have asked. 

For more people watching in Paris, click here.


And my favorite thing to do when meandering Paris…….look up.  Always something to see.


If you are intriqued with the idea of being a Flaneur, be sure to read John Baxter’s book, “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: a Pedestrian in Paris.”  And do share your thoughts, memories and experiences in the comment section of this blog.


Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Marie Preston
    Jul 15, 2013 Reply

    Love this one! I have been a happy flaneur in Paris many times, but I didn’t know the term until I read John Baxter’s book earlier this year. As always, you captured Paris with a delightful joie de vivre!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Jul 15, 2013 Reply

      Thanks Marie, I am glad you enjoyed. I appreciate your comment.

  2. posted by
    Jul 15, 2013 Reply

    We always thought (my husband especially) that we needed a scheduled destination when traveling. That is, until you taught us to be Flanuers. What a wonderful experience it was-Many thanks!

  3. posted by
    peggy depersia
    Jul 15, 2013 Reply

    Your photos capture Paris is insightfully.
    One of my favorite memories of an experience in Paris was a visit with my Mother to the site of the well known painting ‘The luncheon of the Boating Party’ If memory serves me, it was painted by both Renoir and Degas and is such a wonderful scene of people enjoying the delights of a beautiful summer day on the upper terrace of an island cafe in the Seine. Romanticized image but wonderfully luscious.

  4. posted by
    Mary Reed Kelly
    Aug 10, 2013 Reply

    A French friend of mine posted this video (Le Flaneur) on Facebook — I thought you’d like it:

    • posted by
      Aug 10, 2013 Reply

      Thanks so much. I love the images in this video. I appreciate your sharing.

  5. posted by
    Ten Tips for Visiting Paris | DesignDestinations
    Aug 25, 2013 Reply

    […] Charming.  But they are killers and you want to be able to walk or as the French say, “Be a Flaneur.”  This means walking just for the pleasure of it.  It isn’t fun if your feet […]

  6. posted by
    “To err is human, to stroll is Parisian.” | DesignDestinations
    Aug 24, 2015 Reply

    […] For another blog post on the art of strolling in Paris, click here.  […]

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    Santa Barbara: How the West was Fun | DesignDestinations
    Mar 28, 2016 Reply

    […] This makes all the difference in the world. Paris also has limited building heights, established by George Eugene Haussmann in the 1800s which is what makes it such a terrific walkable city. […]

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