In June, my partner, Ian, took me to Paris for my birthday. We stayed in Montmartre and on our first night ate at La Souris Verte, a busy bar/restaurant on Rue Marcadet. The only free table was on the pavement, next to a man who was playing chess with a young boy.
It was a very friendly place and later we got chatting to our neighbour, the chess player. This local told us that he was separated from his wife and family and works from home, so he eats at La Souris Verte most nights for the social interaction. We asked him what he recommended we see while we were in the city, and he suggested we catch a bus into the centre and then just walk around and take in the sights.
“Make sure you take a walk beside the Seine,” he added.
Paris has an excellent transport system, including trains, metros, buses and a hop-on-hop-off boat (Batobus), so getting around is relatively easy but the array of available tickets is confusing. We were in Paris for four days and were considering buying a three day pass, so we asked our new-found local friend about transport options. He recommended we catch the number 95 bus that went from the end of our street to most of the main tourist attractions.
He shrugged and spread his hands, exhaling a puff of air in that very Parisian style. “It’s up to you if you want to pay,” he said.
We gathered from this that the locals didn’t bother with bus tickets, at least not on this particular route, so the next day we put it to the test. The number 95 has two carriages with a bendy middle so we got on at the back and ignored the ticket validation machine, as did about 80% of the other people who got on.
Besides the Musée du Louvre, we got to see many other sights from the number 95, including: L’Eglise Saint-Germain des-Prés (the oldest church in central Paris), Pont des Arts (the first cast iron foot bridge), Comédie-Française, Palais Garnier (aka the Opéra de Paris), Place de Clichy and Cimetière de Montmartre.
Although this bus route is very scenic it is not the only one, for example:
- Line 38 runs north to south through the city centre with views of the Latin Quarter, the Seine, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
- Line 28 offers views of the Ecole Militaire, the Assemblée Nationale, the Seine, the Grand Palais and the Champs-Elysées.
- Line 96 goes along the right bank, including Hotel de Ville, the Marais neighbourhood, and Bastille.
Paris buses are great way to see the city sights and to meet the locals. They are also very easy to use. Maps of the bus system and timetables are posted on the walls of bus stops and, once on the bus, the route is shown and the next stop is announced. If you don’t feel comfortable scamming a ride, it’s inexpensive to pay – the standard fare is one métro ticket and your ticket lasts for 90 minutes.
So give those expensive tourist bus tours a miss and travel with the locals on the buses!