1. Where to Stay
Stay a third night free at the four-star Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel and Conference Center (from $258), which renovated its spacious rooms less than a year ago (now with AC!). A new fitness center boasts several treadmills and Nautilus machines. Hop on one of two dozen Vélib rental bikes in front of the hotel and explore the surrounding Left Bank.
There’s a lap pool in your suite at Murano Urban Resort (from $515), and each guest gets an Electra cruiser bike. The hotel bar is a hot spot in the bohemian Marais neighborhood, and the restaurant serves modern Mediterranean on an outdoor terrace.
A cheaper option with boutique amenities, Marceau Bastille (from $258) offers in-room massages for sore cycling muscles. All rooms have sleek furnishings and flat-screens, but splurge on a “Privilege” room for more space and natural light, for an extra $110 per night. The work of iconic sixties fashion photographer Jean Paul Dumas-Grillet is on display in the hotel’s art gallery through the end of October.
2. Where to Eat
Chef Christian Etchebest opened La Cantine du Troquet (101, rue de l’Ouest; no phone, no reservations)—a casual spinoff of his popular restaurant Troquet—in June. Pair Basque-inspired dishes like mint pea soup and roast chicken in black-olive sauce with one of the young, bold—and more affordable—wines (like a 2006 Côtes d’Auvergne) on the list.
Young chef Sylvain Sendra opened his Itinéraires (5, rue de Pontoise; 33-1-46-33-60-11) in the Latin Quarter in April. He serves a rotating selection of carefully executed modern bistro fare, like a “cappuccino” made with puréed oysters and braised beef cheek with buttery mashed potatoes, in a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere.
Parisian restaurants are often shuttered Sunday nights, but not Lao Lane Xang 2 (102, avenue d’Ivry; 33-1-58-89-00-00), an upscale Laotian–Southeast Asian restaurant that opened in Chinatown last winter. The spicy toasted rice salad with hints of lime and chile and duck breast lacquered in a red curry and tamarind sauce cleanse the palate after a weekend of heavy French food.
3. What to Do
Paris’s groundbreaking Vélib bike-sharing program has grown to 20,000 public-use bicycles since launching last summer. Take one for a spin by signing up with a credit card at any Vélib kiosk. (The first half-hour is free, each additional half-hour is €1 up to €4. Helmets aren’t provided.) Take the metro (bikes are allowed) to the Porte de la Villette, a giant outdoor complex of lawns, stages, and pavilions perfect for pedaling. Take a break at Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Europe’s largest science museum, which also has a Vélib station nearby.
To pretend you’re in the Tour de France, follow the Quai de Valmy canal through leafy, café-strewn neighborhoods—after a few miles it crosses the Place de la République and the Bastille, ending at the Seine. When traffic subsides after eight, race toward the Arc de Triomphe.
Rando Velo, a loose organization of cyclists, organizes free two-and-a-half-hour rides on Friday nights along a tourist-site-heavy route that passes the Palais de Chaillot, Jardin des Tuileries, and briefly runs along the Champs-Elysees. Cyclists meet at city hall (Hotel del Ville) at 9:30 p.m.
Bike About Tours offers special family tours and private excursions (bikes provided; from $40), in addition to group tours of historical sites. The American company Fat Tire Bike Tours combines a night tour with a glittering boat cruise down the Seine (from $44), and also offers a bike tour of Versailles—the only way to see all the grounds in a day.
Put your pannier to use at the farmers’ markets around the city. Check Chocolate and Zucchini for a listing of markets by location and time, and pick up rustic country-style baguettes—pain du campagne—and other picnic treats like fresh goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, and little custard tarts. Dine au plein air in the Luxembourg Gardens, closest to the Saint Germain (4, rue Lobineau, open daily) and Raspail (boulevard Raspail, between rue de Cherche and rue de Rennes) markets.
4. Insider’s Tip
Traffic signals must be observed by bikers. Police actively ticket riders who run red lights.
5. Oddball Day
Escape Paris price-gouging for a day and go bargain-hunting at La Vallée Village—Euro Disney’s complex of outlet shops is the largest in France. To get there, catch the A4 RER train at Gare de Lyon or Châtelet-Les Halles and take it a half-hour to the Val d’Europe stop, right at the mall. Everything from to Zadig & Voltaire sells here for at least 33 percent less than Paris’ department-store prices. Personal shoppers are available for the sartorially clueless (two hours for $140; reservations at 33-06-21-99-98-97). For lunch, take the train to the town of Meaux, home of the famed Brie de Meaux cheese. Auberge du Champ de Mars (16, ave de Victoire; 33-1-34-15-15) has stone walls, antique tables, and Brie certification from the region’s cheese-makers.
An American who has cycled extensively around Paris, May Q maintains a site that collects personally tested bike itineraries and tips.
Tour-guide writer Heather Stimler-Hall’s Secrets of Paris page is full of accessible insider info and links on biking in Paris.
The City of Paris offers a must-have downloadable and printable map of the city’s 200-plus miles of bike routes.