Montmartre is the ideal place for this with little bistros mixing with galleries and artists plying their trade near the Sacre Coeur. If you want a change from the capital, hire a car and leave Paris to discover the historic cities and towns less than an hour away.
Start by taking the E16 north to Amiens. In the city take a stroll or hire a boat to travel along the Quai Belu or visit the cathedral, held to be one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe and also the biggest cathedrals in France. The cathedral in Chartres challenges Amiens for the title but it nearly didn’t survive as the American liberating forces in the Second World War were ordered to destroy it. The order was refused by the commanding officer and the beautiful building remains standing today. You’ll find Chartres southwest of Paris on the E50.
Rouen is where the English finally ended Joan of Arc’s valiant attempt to drive them out of France and she was burnt at the stake in the city. Rouen is west of the capital on the E5 and, apart from the history of St Joan, is also known for its half-timbered buildings giving the old city a Tudor feel.