When I visit Paris, just walking around the city and listening to the sounds — pedestrians, cars, motorbikes, laughter and chatter spilling from the many street cafes — brings me inspiration. The feeling of being in a different environment than home is enough to spark new ideas for any traveler, but this is especially true in Paris, where there’s so much art, history, and literature on every corner.
Paris has put a number of influential artists, musicians, writers, and actors on the map over the years. Some weren’t even from France, but were heavily influenced by the city and spent their most successful years of their career in the French capital. I’m thinking of Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and others like them. Once you arrive in Paris, you begin to understand why so many artists throughout history have flocked to this location because, as I said before, just taking an outdoor stroll is enough to inspire you to create.
Even if you’re not an artist, you could probably use a little inspiration. Why not? So here you go! Make this your shortlist when you visit Paris for the six most inspirational places in the City of Light. And if you are an artist, then definitely bring along your notepad or whatever you need to write, draw, perform or create. You’re in the right city for it.
1. Take a magical journey through Montmartre.
Montmartre oozes artistic inspiration at every corner. You will be able to sit and write in the shadow of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica or set up a canvas and paint what you see.
If you’re not artistically inclined, you can still have an authentic French art experience by getting your portrait painted in the Place du Tertre. There are plenty of artists in the area, so find one with a style you love.
Thanks to all the beautiful side streets and brightly colored buildings, you’ll have plenty of visual inspiration, too, perfect if you’re a photographer, videographer or simply sharing your favorite finds on Instagram. Tucked away graffiti and street art makes for unforgettable photo opps.
At the various art museums, most notably the Dalí museum or the Musée de Montmartre — which focuses heavily on the work of Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec — there are gardens to sit and enjoy the scenery the way the artists themselves often did. This is a great way to process all the irreplaceable pieces of art you just saw in the collections.
Montmartre offers an immersive experience that fuses the past with the present day. This makes for one of the most inspirational centers in Paris.
2. Relax in the Tuileries Gardens.
Walking through the Tuileries Gardens after your visit to the Louvre museum, you can people-watch to your heart’s content, which is often a great source of inspiration, I find.
I often come here to sit under the trees by one of the many fountains and enjoy the rare calm inside the bustling city. This is a great place to sketch drawings of those seated around you or even one of the many sculptures in the garden. Come at the right time and you might even catch an event, like the one that turns the Tuileries Gardens into an outdoor art gallery every year.
This is in the heart of the city, so it’s easy to add to even the busiest of Paris travel itineraries.
3. Get your writing inspiration from the community at Shakespeare & Co.
There’s a reason I included this place in my unique gift guide to Paris. It’s incredible.
This historic bookstore has a large collection of English books, bestsellers from the United States, England, and lots of translated works. It’s also the owner of the delicious, organic café next-door, an environmentally friendly place to get a coffee guilt-free.
You can come here for a coffee with your empty notebook to draw or write, but the real inspiration might come from the view. You’re right across from Notre Dame.
Or — if you’re an aspiring wordsmith with time to spare — you can join one of the more intense community ventures put in place by the bookstore to encourage young writers. One program, called the “Tumbleweeds,” lets you temporarily stay upstairs in the bookstore for free for as long as you want (they advised two days when I last visited) in exchange for a few hours of helping out in the store, writing a single-page autobiography of yourself for their records, and reading one book per day. Most travelers who come here to see the sights will want to book accommodations somewhere like a hotel or hostel, but if this happens to fit your career dreams, send them an email and see where it leads.
Beyond this, there are writing groups, photography workshops, arranged readings, and festivals dedicated to literature.
4. Sip tea at The Paris Mosque.
Can you be inspired through your stomach? Yes. Yes, you can. You’re in Paris, after all.
At the Grande Mosquée de Paris, you can eat beautiful pastries and sip on the tastiest tea in their beautiful gardens. Bring along a creative project if you have one or just let your mind wander. Waiters frequently approach you with tea that you can continuously drink as you linger through the afternoon.
This site is a cultural mecca of inspiration and ideas because of its diverse environment, out of view from the Haussmann architecture that is the norm in Paris. The mosque is also one of the biggest in France, with prayer rooms, a garden, library, hammam spa, café, and restaurant.
5. Take a stroll along Rue Mouffetard.
This street has a central roundabout at the top, where you can find yourself surrounded by cafés. Even if you don’t stop at a café, you can take a seat under the trees by the fountain and listen to entertainers who usually come here in the afternoons to perform.
Rue Mouffetard is still in the heart of Paris and is where many students come for entertainment. You might not find it on the typical tourist track, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit.
There is plenty of inspiration to be found walking the street, passing local boutiques and small food-stands (selling some of the best crêpes in the city) before reaching the top. There’s a great French bookstore along the cobblestone street, which I’ve visited for inspiration from time to time.
6. Browse local art studios at 59 Rue Rivoli.
At this off-the-beaten-path spot on one of the most luxurious streets of Paris, you can explore art through the working studios of local artists. Set your GPS for 59 Rue Rivoli.
In 1999, an abandoned bank was taken over by a team of local artists to become the free art gallery it is today. As you walk up the spiral stairs, you will see the chaos of creativity on the surrounding walls, drawings and paintings from artists who’ve worked and sold art here in the past.
I brought my friends here when they visited Paris during a short trip, and squeezing it into their busy itinerary of places to see was well worth it. We had so much fun in the artistic world we found ourselves in. We even had one of the artists draw a quick sketch of the three of us together. He was fascinating and wanted a picture with us for his studio, which we found adorable. It’s an absolute charmer of a destination for your to-do list in Paris.
Paris: Home to Inspiration
Hopefully, this short guide gave you ideas of some spots to check out for your trip in Paris. No matter how long your trip is, you can always learn from new places. These are just a handful of the sites you can visit for guaranteed inspiration and fulfilling experiences. But — you’re in Paris — there’s a lot more where that came from.