Connecting with one another in public is made possible by the existence of public places that encourage connection. Paris understands this better than anywhere else.

Paris invites us to express ourselves openly and honestly in public spaces. It is a shining example of a city that encourages social life. Known as "The City of Love," many equate Paris with romance. But it doesn't stop there — apart from romance, it is also a city full of streets and public spaces that encourage connection and affection of all kinds.

Luxembourg Gardens - The Heart of Social Life

Luxembourg Gardens is a beloved place where everyone feels welcome to gather and relax, surrounded by tranquil ponds, beautiful gardens, plenty of shade and an abundance of places to sit. People dip their toes in the water, sunbathe, chat, and pause their busy day to just enjoy life for a little while, alone or with loved ones.

Seating is the "backbone" of Social Life

Luxembourg Gardens is a testament to how a place to sit is fundamental to our ability to connect with others. If we want to create places where people feel comfortable and inspired to stop and connect, we need to offer a variety of places where they can do so. Luxembourg Gardens' iconic moveable chairs fill its grounds and serve this purpose, as well as a variety of benches to suit every need.

How Seating Shapes Welcoming Cities
Benches and seating are not objects; they are mirrors to our social behavior. We have seen it time and again, that where there is seating, there is life.

Paris has four dominant types of seating

Please Just a Nice Place to Sit
A well-designed seat placed in the right location sets the stage for lively activity along a sidewalk, in a park, or on a waterfront.

1) The square bench

The square bench is a delightful invention because of how multi-functional it is. With four directions of benches surrounding a table and umbrella, it offers a place where a variety of individuals, conversation partners, and even groups can sit and eat under the cover of shade.

2) The plank bench

Flexible and versatile, the seating area made of joined planks offers a fun place to sit, play, eat, and gather. It doesn't require design or expertise to put together, just a strategically located space to let this multi-tiered seat work its magic.

3) The moveable chair

Simple yet powerful in how it can transform a space, the moveable chair is so popular because it allows people the freedom and control over where to sit and how to position themselves. It gives people a sense of ownership over their space.

4) The standard bench

An oldie but a goodie, the classic standard bench is a fixed, one-directional bench with a back. Its length invites the seating of 1-4 people or the laying down of 1-2. It's the perfect place to people watch or read the morning newspaper.

Other types of seating

The more variety, the merrier! Having a number of options for places to sit means offering multiple ways to experience and enjoy a place. Paris offers a multitude of seats from which to take in the city.

Sitting and relaxing together around town

Places where everyone enjoys hanging out

People are drawn to each other, so when you offer places to stop, sit, and spend time together, they immediately start to gather there. With all its car free streets, squares, gardens, and a variety of other nooks and crannies where traffic isn't welcome, Paris creates perfect environments for hanging out and having fun.

Hanging out on the street

When car lanes are narrow, people aren't stressed about hanging out in or near the street because cars drive slowly. Because many of Paris' streets are narrow, its sidewalks are full of pedestrians and outdoor dining options. This activity further encourages drivers to slow down because they realize that they are sharing the street and must be careful.

Public Displays of Affection

People show affection when they feel relaxed and joyful. Therefore, places that remove stressors from people's environments like cars, noise, and fumes, and add features that bring joy like flowers, beauty, and serenity attract expressions of affection and happiness.

The natural expression of reaching out to connect with or touch one another is a basic way of communicating, and is almost as important as breathing. From simple eye contact to a kiss — human contact imbues a place with life.

Photos and selfies - a great indicator

Taking photos of each other or ourselves is evidence that we find a place or moment to be special and worth remembering. You know when you catch sight of many people taking pictures that you've got a great place people love. Paris is full of such places, from iconic landmarks to beautiful storefronts, squares, and gardens.

Where our paths meet

Public transportation and walkability push us together, unlike personal vehicles that pull us apart. Paris is very well connected with trains, buses, bike lanes, and pedestrian areas. Transit stops are therefore active places and often surrounded by great amenities that make the wait easier and more pleasant.

Shoes off

The best places for fun and relaxation are often those where you can kick your shoes off. Thankfully, Paris has plenty of these, especially along its world renowned waterfronts.

Paris, the World’s Best Waterfront
Paris Plage challenges the idea of iconic design as a way for cities to show off. Instead centering the creation of iconic places, Paris Plage sets a high standard for other cities to emulate.
Paris - Bassin de la Villette: The Best Waterfront Yet?
Bassin de la Villette has become the best, most valuable part of the Paris Plage, connecting very different neighborhoods in Northeast Paris

Other Important Amenities


One of Paris's defining characteristics is the thick shade coverage over many of the streets and parks. The tall leafy trees create such a pleasant experience of strolling and being outside when the sun is beating down. Shade is essential for drawing people out into the public realm and keeping them there.

Throwing (Good) Shade for Placemaking
Creating shade can be an intentional strategy developed with and led by communities. It can have an enormous collective impact on walkability, Social Life, and climate resilience.


Paris' streets are calm and pleasant places to be not only because they are narrow and full of a variety of great activities, seating, and amenities, but also because they are usually lined by bollards. Bollards offer an added sense of safety, they create a visual separation between pedestrian area and car area, and they are great spots to lean on, chat, and rest.

Bollards: How They Add to Our Social Life in Communities
Bollards are used to define public areas, create a place to gather and socialize, or just feel safe while waiting to cross the street...and importantly separate vehicles and people

"Inside Out" Streets

Paris' streets are such enjoyable places to be because they are the epitome of what we call "inside out" design. Everything that happens inside buildings spills out onto the sidewalks through outdoor seating, external displays of goods, etc. making the pedestrian experience interesting and fun.

Rue Montorgueil
Let’s Turn Buildings Inside-Out
Bringing the inside out onto the sidewalk blurs the lines between public and private space, creating one dynamic, thriving ecosystem.

A Place for Joy

Chance encounters are among the most valuable things that our public realm offers us. Think of how many times you've run into a friend or made a new one in a public space. Places that attract people and allow for their paths to cross are essential to a city's social life.

A safe, comfortable, pleasant space invites us to connect and be close to one another. Witnessing the public displays of affection of others reassures us that it’s ok to relax and be ourselves. Paris is a wonderful example of how to design spaces like this, one that many other cities should follow.

Couples and Friends Hanging Out - Public Spaces Where Affection Thrives
When trying to identify the great places around us, a good approach is to look for where the couples are.
Creating Social Life for All - Places Where People Thrive
Great public spaces combat the epidemic of social isolation and loneliness by offering a welcoming place for people of all ages, races, abilities, and backgrounds.
Social Life - How it Helps Shape the Future of Our Communities
Social life describes an entire ecosystem of human interaction that gives us meaning — and makes the very existence of our economy, community, educational system, arts and culture, science, and innovation possible. Reflections of Jay Walljasper.

Who we are

The Place Man: Watch the New Documentary on the Placemaking Movement
We have recently created a documentary, The Place Man, about our work in placemaking over the last 50 years, made by the wonderful Guillermo Bernal. It got us thinking about the state of the placemaking movement and what’s next.
The mission of the Social Life Project is to incite a renaissance of community connection in public spaces around the globe. Through our online publication, presentations, campaigns, and catalytic projects, we can create transformative impact on communities everywhere. Our work grows out of more than 50 years devoted to building the global placemaking movement. It is an initiative of the Placemaking Fund, along with PlacemakingX — a global network of leaders who together accelerate placemaking as a way to create healthy, inclusive, and beloved communities. We gladly accept donations to advance our work.
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