May 9, 2019
Fresh, flaky croissants by the Seine, bags upon bags of chic French threads, years of influential art and artists in some of the world's best museums... yep, a city break to Paris is always a good idea.
Even if you have just 24 hours to spare, you can get a lot out of a visit to the French capital. And for those travelling from London or the southeast, even a day trip is completely doable; taking the first Eurostar out and last one back gives you some 11 hours in the city.
If you don’t mind an early start, a day trip to Paris from London is certainly worth it. Laid-back cats can spend hours simply strolling through oh-so-French streets, while serious sightseers can tick off plenty of attractions in a day. Plus, you'll save a packet on pricey Parisian accomodation.
From café hopping and city shopping to gallery hours and climbing towers, read on for our one-day Paris itinerary below.
Just one day in Paris is never enough. That said, with many of the main attractions within 30 minutes of each other, you could power through a lot in less than 24 hours.
One of the most efficient ways to tick off the big-hitters is to travel clockwise from Paris’ main station, Gare du Nord, in a rough circuit.
Take the Metro Line 4 to stop Châtelet and follow Rue de Rivoli into the heart of the Marais district. You could spend hours getting lost in the cobbled streets of this Medieval-turned-boho neighbourhood where boutique stores rub shoulders with popular falafel joints in the Jewish quarter, quiet gardens sidle up behind specialty galleries and charming courtyards can be found at every turn.
After a stroll through the area, grab a morning café et croissant at the jazzy Le Voltigeur – the staff always dish up something delicious and Instagrammable.
Once you’ve dipped your toe in the life of a Parisian boheme, walk about 15 minutes to the Île de la Cité – the heart of Paris and the home of two of the city’s most iconic churches. Currently, only one is open to visitors: the incredible Sainte-Chapelle. Nestled in imposing Gothic arches, the chapel’s jaw-dropping 13th century stained glass windows are definitely worth the stop. To save time (you only have a day, after all), pre-purchase your ticket online to fly past security and the often hour-long ticket queue. The other, the Notre Dame, is closed indefinitely due to fire damage.
To tackle the Louvre in an afternoon is impossible, so why not try something a little more manageable? Just 25 minutes away from the Sainte-Chapelle you’ll find the Musee d’Orsay. Housed in an old train station, the gallery boasts a huge collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings. Even better? You can get two-for-one entry when you flash your Eurostar tickets.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Paris without at least a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Luckily, it’s only another half-hour walk (or 15-minute metro ride) right up to it. Grab a takeaway bite along the way – Lapelosa Félice on Avenue Rapp does fantastic and wallet-friendly baguettes – and enjoy a late lunch with a view. You could spend the rest of the day lining up to climb the tower but remember: if you’re on the Eiffel Tower, it you won’t be able to see it!
Next, head towards the Champs-Élysées – don’t forget to stop in on macaron giant Ladurée – then continue towards the Arc de Triomphe. After you’ve snapped the iconic memorial, you can spiral up the stairs of the tower for epic 360 views of the city and the hectic 12-street roundabout.
If you prefer to ramp up the romance, however, hop on Metro Line 2 to Pigalle and the Wall of Love. This modern installation in the dreamy Montmartre district features the words ‘I love you’ in 250 languages – tres belle!
The heart of Paris’ Belle Epoque (the ‘Beautiful Era’), Montmartre still retains some of its artistic charm from early 20th century – but only just. Painters set up their easels to capture the daily goings on and if you look closely, you’ll discover hole-in-the-wall stores hawking handmade wares.
Finish your day at the Sacré-Cœur.The domed church at the top of Montmartre hill looks down over the city and is free to enter, though the inside is far less impressive than its blindingly white exterior. Instead, enjoy those macarons on the grass before meandering back to Gare du Nord. It’s just another 20 minutes from the basilica, et voila! Paris in a day, done.
At its fastest, the Eurostar takes just two hours and sixteen minutes from London to Paris. At its slowest, the trip takes two hours and thirty minutes.
The journey from Paris to London, meanwhile, can take anywhere between two hours and seventeen minutes and two hours and thirty-six minutes.
Booking early pays off well for a day trip from London to Paris – you can find one-way tickets from as little as £29pp.
As with many holidays, however, prices depend on the day and time you travel. Tuesdays to Thursdays tend to be cheapest, while last-minute weekend trips can cost around £170 one-way.
1. Pick a few must-dos and plan your day around them: The above itinerary packs in a lot of sightseeing, but if you prefer to spend more time shopping or trying out France's culinary delights, base your day around those instead. If you've visited before, why not get to know a district you haven't visited before?
2. Factor in time to rest: Powering around a city in just 11 hours can get exhausting so plan at least one sit-down meal during the day so you can reengerise for more sightseeing - or shopping!
3. Buy tickets in advance... You can buy tickets to most attractions online and then skip the queue on the day.
4. But check the conditions of entry: Some attractions such as the Sainte-Chapelle can scan you in with tickets on your phone, while others may ask you to pick them up at a collection point or print them yourselves.
5. Don't overpack: Remember, you'll have to carry anything you bring around all day.A small backpack with water, your camera, a few snacks and a jumper should do - especially if you expect to be weighed down with new purchases throughout the day.
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