At first appearances it would seem impossible to keep fit in Paris—there are so many exquisite, edible temptations on every street. My own street features seven (yes, you read that right, seven) boulangeries/patisseries and a chocolaterie. Thanks a bunch. But as the saying goes, it’s all swings and roundabouts. There are patisseries every 10 paces, but there are also many apartment buildings that don’t have elevators. Living on the fourth floor of a building without one has gone a long way to reduce my need for a gym membership.
The real key to staying fit in Paris is learning to look at the issue from a different angle. Yes, there are sweet and savory treats everywhere, and as a visitor they’re especially tempting, but moderation is the heart of it. You’ll notice that these goodies are often much smaller in size than they are in the US or UK. They’re gooier too, meaning messier to eat, meaning you can’t eat them on the go. Instead you take your time and realize there’s really no need for another. Everyone’s a winner!
But if you feel you simply must do a little detoxing, the following places will help you.
Le Grenier de Notre Dame is Paris’s oldest veggie restaurant, and Le Potager du Marais is a very popular choice. Saveurs Végét’Halles doesn’t have loads of ambience, but it has a thorough veg menu.
And don’t forget all the amazing outdoor markets—including two organic (bio, en français) options, Raspail and Batignolles, though every quartier has its own local produce markets once, if not twice, a week. These are really inspirational, with heaps of fruits and vegetables that just beg to be bought and experimented on.
Eating well is only half of keeping fit, of course. You also have to keep moving, and in Paris there’s nothing easier. One of the top ways is to walk, especially along the Seine. With the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Grand Palais and other landmarks to feast your eyes on, it’s possible to clock in some serious mileage without even realizing it. The Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes and Parc des Buttes Chaumont (including that killer hill) also offer beautiful paths to follow.
There’s also the metro. Contradiction? Maybe. On the one hand, you can easily walk around central Paris if time is on your side. If not, hop on the metro, where the long connections at some stations will have you walking farther than you realize. Then be sure to use the stairs rather than the escalator for changing lines.
Another tip: Vélibs. Praise them. There are dozens of stations scattered around the city; and biking is a truly Parisian way to see the city, look cool and work your legs all at once. The 24-7 rentals are just 1 euro per bike (plus supplemental costs, depending how long you ride), and you can pick it up and drop it off wherever is most convenient for you.
If you need the communal vibe, the Centre de Yoga du Marais is a popular expat option, with classes seven days a week. On the left bank you can work up a sweat in style at the swish Rasa, which offers a range of different yoga styles. Élément also offers yoga, but its real draw is Pilates. Mat and machine classes, private and group, for beginners and aficionados, are offered in clean, modern facilities.
Plenty of pools and gyms in Paris offer one-day passes. At the Club Quartier Latin, in the 5th Arrondissement, you can swim laps, play squash or practice tai chi. The massive Vit’Halles, centrally located at Les Halles, and the 22 branches of Club Med Gym are other outlets that have passes.
41, rue de l’Arbre Sec, in the 1st Arrondissement.
01 49 26 90 60.
Le Grenier de Notre Dame
18, rue de la Bûcherie, in the 5th.
01 43 29 98 29.
Le Potager du Marais
22, rue Rambuteau, in the 3rd.
01 42 74 24 66.
Blvd des Batignolles, from rue des Batignolles to rue Boursault, in the 17th.
Editor’s note: After getting healthy, why not indulge in our chocolate and pastry do-it-yourself walking tour?