During a recent trip to Europe, I tried Rick Steves’ free audio walking tours. Throughout a week, I tried different free audio walking tours in different European cities. One of these was Rick Steves’ free audio walking tour of historical Paris.
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How to use a free audio walking tour
I found several free audio walking tours of Europe in my pre-trip research. The most common way to get access to these walking tours is to download an app on your smartphone. Once you access the app, there are usually several audio tours available for download. Just click on the tour you would like to do and download it to your smartphone.
For the Rick Steves’ free audio walking tours, you can also download the sound file and map from his website and then transfer it to your smartphone or audio device you would like to use while walking.
Rick Steves has a variety of free audio walking tours for Paris, including the historical Paris walking tour I did. Other options include the Louvre Museum Tour, the Orsay Museum Tour, the Père Lachaise Cemetery Tour, the Rue Cler Walk, and the Versailles Palace Tour.
The free audio walking tour I chose: the historic Paris walking tour
The historic Paris tour included some well-known sights but also a few that I was not familiar with.
The Notre Dame Cathedral
The historic Paris walking tour started in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was early in the morning, and I was happy to see that there were no crowds at the Notre Dame Cathedral.
The first sight on tour was Point Zéro des Routes de France, which is Point Zero, the point from where the distance to anything in France is measured. I am sure many people walk over Point Zero without even noticing it.
The audio walking tour discusses the carvings on the arches above the doors of the Notre Dame Cathedral. I found this fascinating, and it was impressive that these carvings were done so many years ago when tools were so limited! Some of it was quite gruesome!
From there the audio walking tour continued inside the Notre Dame. It was my first time at Notre Dame, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that entry was free! The audio walking tour took me through the entire Notre Dame covering both sides and included explanations of various items in the coves and on the walls of the cathedral. The stained glass windows were stunning!
After walking through the entire Notre Dame, I went outside and saw the statue of Charlemagne and His Guards in the plain outside the Notre Dame Cathedral.
From there the audio walking tour took me along the side of the Notre Dame Cathedral through the Square of Jean XXIII, which is a public park. The Square Jean XXIII features several statues of Popes.
Eventually, I arrived at the Deportation Memorial, only to find that it was still closed. I was a bit disappointed but managed to take beautiful pictures from just outside the Memorial in the Square de L’Ile de France. I have added the Deportation Martyrs Memorial to my bucket list for future trips to Paris.
From there the walking tour took me across a bridge to Ile St Louis, which is an island in the River Seine. The Ile Saint-Louis is connected to the rest of Paris by four bridges.
The left bank
From Ile St Louis the audio walking tour took me back to the left bank, which is opposite the Notre Dame Cathedral. The view of the side of the Notre Dame from the left bank was spectacular!
Square René Viviani
In the middle of the Square is a fountain by Georges Jeanclos. It is quite a unique structure with no water surrounding it, but instead, there were pots full of colourful flowers around the fountain.
Rue René Viviani also contains Paris’ oldest tree – planted in 1901!
Shakespeare and Company Bookshop
The Shakespeare and Company Bookshop and Cafe are next to each other. The Shakespeare and Company bookshop has existed since 1951 and has become an icon in Paris.
I loved the fountain outside the bookshop. It is an example of fountains that are called Wallace Fountains. Wallace fountains can be found in most squares in Paris, always in a forest green colour. The history behind these fountains is quite fascinating.
The audio walking tour took me into the Latin Quarter, and I ended up at St Severin. The Church of Saint-Séverin is one of the oldest churches on Paris’ left bank and is still in use today.
Place St Michel
I eventually ended up at Place St Michel, which was around the corner from the hotel I was staying in. Tourists love this magnificent fountain, but I managed to take a photo as the one groups of tourists left. Place Saint-Michel represents the battle between good and evil with the archangel Michael representing the good that vanquishes the bad, or the Devil.
From Place St Michel, the audio walking tour made me cross the river using the Pont St Michel. I was in two minds about visiting Sainte Chapelle since I had seen several churches during my time in Paris and I was wondering if one more would not be a waste of time. I decided to visit the Church of Saint-Denys de la Chapelle since it was known for its gorgeous stained glass windows.
Sainte Chapelle is much smaller than the Notre Dame Cathedral and you have to pay an entrance fee. Despite this, I was not disappointed with my decision to visit Sainte Chapelle. It is a small, but colourful church. The colour is everywhere – on the walls, on the ceilings, the floors, and the windows. The stained glass windows were not only colourful, but the massive sizes made it even more impressive.
Sainte Chapelle was completed in seven years and was intended to house Christian relics such as Christ’s crown of thorns, which had been acquired by Saint Louis.
The Conciergerie has a long history. King Philip the Fair built the monument and King John the Good later finished the kitchens. La Conciergerie served as a royal palace for several years before the French royal family moved to the Louvre and Vincennes.
The building then became the Palace of Justice and a prison. It played a significant role during the French Revolution with the establishment of the Revolutionary Court. It’s most famous prisoner was Marie-Antoinette. During the Restoration, a commemorative chapel was built in Marie-Antoinette’s cell.
Outside the Conciergerie, I found the most beautiful clock! It is the oldest clock in Paris and still keeps time.
The audio walking tour took me along the side and back of the Conciergerie to Place Dauphine, which is a square near the western end of the Île de la Cité. Place Dauphine was created by Henry IV in 1607.
Nowadays there are plenty of cafes and shops located in the Place Dauphine.
The audio walking tour ended at Pont Neuf. The Pont Neuf is the oldest standing bridge over the Seine River.
On the Pont Neuf is a statue of Henry IV who was responsible for the completion of the bridge’s construction in 1607.
Compare hotels and AirBnBs near the Notre Dame in Paris
If you are looking for a hotel to stay in Paris, I stayed at the Hotel Albe Saint Michel.
I loved the free audio walking tour offered by Rick Steves. A walking tour gives you the opportunity to see the sights, but also to experience the smells and sounds of the city – which you may not get from the top of a sightseeing bus. The audio walking tour also works well since Rick Steves, and his co-presenter pointed out where to go for the next sight on the list. I love the fact that you are in control of the tour and can stop it to explore on your own once you reach a specific spot. The insights and explanations of the different points of interest were fascinating. The map on the app is also useful in following the directions given by the presenters.
One thing is for sure; I will be looking for more audio tours in my future travels! I can recommend this as an exciting way to explore a city.
Do you like doing self-guided walking tours? Which has been your favourite?