Paris wants to be Europe’s greenest city — but how will it impact travellers?

Mar 26, 2021

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Paris is a city of many nicknames, such as the City of Love and the City of Lights. It may soon have another sobriquet: Europe’s greenest city.

Paris has embraced a green approach to urban planning as it seeks to combat the effects of climate change. It has set a goal of becoming the continental benchmark for environmentally-conscious cities by 2030.

What does it all mean for travellers who may be planning to tour what has been Europe’s most-visited city? For starters, it means embracing the idea of a trip with more walking and pedalling, which leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

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The upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic has helped mayor Anne Hidalgo accelerate her plans to combat the city’s infamous pollution problem and transform Paris into a green paradise full of “urban forests.”

It’s also sparked a bike boom in France’s capital city. Last year, the famed thoroughfare the Rue de Rivoli became a pop-up bike path to deal with the increase in bikes on Parisian streets as the pandemic kept people off crowded public buses and trains. If you plan on visiting once global travel rebounds, renting bikes or booking a bike tour to explore the city would make a lot of sense.

Group of bicycle riders crossing a bridge. Street signs indicate they are entering an area where no motorized vehicles are allowed. (Photo by leezsnow/Getty Images)

Paris has always been a great city to take long, leisurely strolls, and that has not changed. The city’s green approach has led to infrastructure changes to make historic squares like the Place de la Bastille and pathways like the riverbanks along the Seine more pedestrian-friendly. Parisian cafes remain as alluring an option as ever. In fact, the pandemic led to the city giving many restaurants the ability to put outdoor tables in street-side parking spaces.

Related: How to avoid 8 common mistakes tourists make on their first trip to Paris

The city’s push to go green has had an impact on another famous aspect of Parisian life: cars. Travellers who prefer to rent a car to explore a city may want to rethink doing that in Paris. For one, driving in the city is still somewhat maddening. The city has vowed to make more car-free spaces, such as the Champs Elysees and the Place de la Concorde, which have either been cut off from car traffic or limited the number of automobiles that are permitted to enter. The increase in bike traffic has only made it harder.

Second, there are significantly fewer places to park. The city has reportedly removed 72% of its on-street parking spaces to make room for bike lanes and to provide spaces for eco-friendly electric vehicles. The good news is that it’s still quite easy to navigate Paris without a car.

Even if biking isn’t your thing, public transportation can get you wherever you need to go, from a museum to a specific restaurant. RATP is Paris’ public transportation app and incredibly useful. The app not only provides routes and travel options, but it gives you the comparable CO2 footprint for each method of transportation to a particular destination, so travellers can make the most environmentally-sound choice.

Another method to get around the city debuts later this year. Electrical water taxis called SeaBubbles will provide quick trips down the river Seine from two Parisian landmarks: Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower. The SeaBubbles use hydrofoil technology and are fully powered by electricity.

Where you stay will have been changed to fit a more environmentally-friendly approach as well. All Parisian hotels have been encouraged to follow the Charter for Sustainable Accommodation. Since 2012, the initiative has encouraged hotels to seek better recycling practices. As such, you can expect to see some improvements across the hotel experience, whether that means more recycling bins or bulk toiletries.

As the city continues to adapt and embrace a greener approach, it just means visitors may need to adjust how they plan to take in all the unforgettable sights that make Paris one of the great cities of the world.

Featured image by Paul Panayiotou/Getty Images.

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