Pic: Prochasson Frederic

Paris is a popular business destination for corporate travellers, but it also doubles up as an ideal place to take a ‘bleisure’ break, explains Flight Centre Business Travel South Africa General Manager, Ryan Potgieter.

“Paris is the world’s most visited city… A travel professional can certainly recommend a few skip-the-queue leisure activities to add to your itinerary.”

Potgieter offers his round-up of considerations to help make the most of your next short stay in the City of Lights, preventing traveller friction and ensuring your next business trip is more relaxing than the last. 

Take to the streets

If you have spare time between meetings, don’t miss an opportunity to set out on a short walk. Exploring the streets of Paris is a wonderful way to see the highlights.

When considering your accommodation, Le Marais is a popular neighbourhood to base yourself, not only for ease of movement to other parts of the city and its close proximity to historical landmarks, but because it offers shopping and dining opportunities. Once the home of artists such as Dali, Van Gogh and Picasso, Le Marais features colourful cafés, caricature artists, patisseries, bookshops and perfumeries.

Paris for every palate

Paris is synonymous with the Michelin star but authentic French cuisine which is available in many hotel restaurants and main markets at prices that won’t empty your wallet.

After a busy morning, head to the Canal St. Martin. Chez Prune is great for an affordable brunch with colleagues, and while weaving your way between engagements near the Arc de Triomphe, L’ Arc Cafe is open from 7h00 until midnight (on a Sunday it opens at 9h00) and serves delicious French food in a beautiful setting. 

A former luxury express train, Le Train Bleu is a fine dining restaurant in the hall of the Gare de Lyon railway station. You can expect to pay for the privilege of dining here, but a quick look around is free.

The city at night

If you don’t have time for sightseeing during the day, take in the cinematic landscape of famous Parisian monuments at night. A cruise along the Seine River past the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame is €13 (about R200).

Visitors can also see the illuminated glass pyramid of the Louvre at night. On a Wednesday and Friday, the famous museum stays open until 21h45, and the entrance fee is reduced from €9 to €6 (about R140 to R95). On the first Sunday of every month, entrance is free all day.   

Instead of after work drinks back at your hotel, test one of the many cocktails during one of the longest happy hours from 15h30 - 20h00, at Le Teddy Bar in the Latin Quarter. 

Montparnasse Tower

See the Eiffel Tower if time allows but Montparnasse Tower in the district of Montparnasse has panoramic views of the city and is generally quieter and less busy. Entry is €15 (about R230) per person.

From Montmartre, it won’t take more than 40 minutes to get to the highest point in the city, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Climb to the dome of the Roman Catholic church or spend a few minutes in the park to admire its architecture before your next business engagement.

The centre of Paris is relatively compact and an even quicker overview is easy to do on the Velib (velib.paris.fr) bike scheme (one-day passes cost €1.70 (R26) and seven days is €8 (125)). Use Google Maps to navigate the city.

Try not to over exhaust yourself by squeezing in too much, says Potgieter. “When it comes to bleisure, the best way to go about it is to extend your business trip by a day or two to take as leave days if possible so that you can take it at your own pace.

“The most efficient way to go about adding a leisure element to your business trip is by speaking to a travel professional like Flight Centre Business Travel who will fit your mini-leisure break within your budget, advise on value-adds like accommodation upgrades and offer travel tips to really get the most of your time and money in Paris.”