Paris is huge, and therefore this blog is going to be slightly different from usual. I’m not going to pretend or allude that this post will even scratch the surface of one of the world’s greatest cities, all I can offer is my short experience there.
Coming from London, another one of these great big cities; I felt equipped to tackle a large amount of Paris in a short amount or time, and I think I did very well, but one could spend weeks walking the city and still not even come close. History, culture and experience run deeper than a weekend tourist can hope to see, so we went without expectation and just dived right in.
Here’s how we spent a weekend in Paris; we were there for the first time, to celebrate Mrs. R&R’s birthday.
We caught the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare Du Nord, for £69 (€87) return each, and the train took just over two hours. This was actually our first Eurostar experience and we were impressed; the speed, comfort and convenience of our journey was a great way to start and end our weekend. If you are looking at a similar trip and have found cheap flights; weigh up airport transfers, check-in and departure times with the Eurostar service, as it might be much easier to take a train.
Flights from London to Paris with easyjet starts from £50 (€63) per person return, with a flight time of just over an hour. Keep in mind that for the £19 (€24) savings on the Eurostar ticket you will need to get to and from either London Southend or Luton airport. If the easyjet experience isn’t to your liking, Air France depart London Heathrow from £76 (€96) return per person.
If you do arrive by Eurostar, another benefit is that you arrive at a major train station and can therefore connect to the vast public transport network. The Paris metro is very easy and reliable, a single ticket costs €1.80 (£1.40) and lasts for 1.5 hours. You can get all the info you need about what tickets to buy for your trip here.
Hint – Unless you really want to take a taxi to your accommodation, use the metro.
We chose a nice self catered apartment in Ménilmontant, using Airbnb, for €82 per night. It’s well over our usual nightly budget, but since it was only a two night break we splashed out a little. A quick note on renting through Airbnb; the site will always add their service fee onto the advertised price for the accommodation, and in cases like this one the landlord will add a cleaning fee as well. What was advertised as €60 per night, ended up being €22 per night more expensive, once service and cleaning fees were added. If you have a strict budget, adjust your search terms accordingly.
BnB prices in Paris range from around €25 – €60 per night for a double room, and from €35 – €115 per night for a whole apartment, depending on the luxury and location.
Hostels in Paris start from €31 per bed per night for a dorm room, and €70 per night for a private double. Some of the most popular (but not the cheapest) hostels are Le Village Hostel, 3 Ducks, Generator Hostel & St. Christopher’s.
Hotels are vast and varied. For anything decent you will probably need to pay at least €50 per night, and for that price I recommend heading over to somewhere like booking.com and checking out reviews, as you could easily get stuck with a crappy room. To be totally confident you are staying somewhere good, you will want to start looking around the €75 per night range.
The area you stay will be determined by what your interests are and how close you want to be to the main sights. We found the metro system to be a great way to get around and staying even slightly further out in Ménilmontant was easy. Places like Montmartre are either cool or not depending on who you ask, so i’m afraid it’s really down to you. Take a good look at the Paris map and measure distances; for example, we walked from Ménilmontant to Notre-Dame and it maybe took us 40 minutes at a leisurely pace.
I’m going to assume that anyone reading this and intending a trip to Paris is well aware of the main sights and attractions the city offers. For reference, here they are: The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame de Paris, Champs-Élysées, The Latin Quarter & The Panthéon, Saint-Germain-des-Prés and The Moulin Rouge. These are widely known and reviewed; information about them is everywhere, so take your pick. Here’s some observations I made:
Walk everywhere you can, within reason, and only take the train once you are tired. Walking the streets of any neighbourhood in Paris is an experience in itself, the culture and unique feel of each area is all around you and you could miss it if you just pop up at the metro stop of the next attraction. Also, it gives you the chance to stop in at the bars and cafes you pass as you wander.
Consider if you really want to pay the entry fee and take the tour. We walked up to Notre-Dame in the evening while it was impressively set in lights, took a seat and absorbed the atmosphere around the awesome building. When we returned the next day to pay entry and go inside, the line was around the block and the church square was crammed with tour groups, so we decided our first impression was the one to keep. On the other hand, climbing the Eiffel Tower was high on our list (not sorry), so we got in line, paid our entry free (€7 each for a stair-climb ticket), climbed the tower and were rewarded with a stunning view.
Search away from the main tourist spots for restaurants and good bars, even a few streets back, where the menus are in French and the prices are reasonable. Eat Raclette, a dish of melted cheese, potatoes, cold meat and pickles. Get some bread, cheese and wine, and head down to the river or a park for a picnic. Find a nice looking cafe and try Escargot, you might hate it (or love it), but there’s nothing else like it.
Food prices in Paris depend entirely on the experience you make for yourself (see picnic). A coffee and croissant breakfast at a local cafe or bakery might cost around €3-€4, a good main meal for dinner might cost somewhere around €10-€17. Wine however is very cheap and should be consumed freely and regularly while in Paris, as per the city laws.
We discovered a couple of little gems right on our doorstep; spending one evening drinking with locals at a ‘dive’ bar and another eating delicious platters and drinking craft beer at Les Trois 8. It was experiences like these that made our time in Paris special, and unique to us. If you can find some sort of connection to a small area and local people, you are more likely to see through the mist of tourism that a city like Paris is often hidden behind.
Hint – Paris locals get a bad reputation for being rude, which we found to be totally incorrect outside of the major tourist areas. You try dealing with thousands of tourists all day every day and see how friendly you are. Even learning a few basic words in French like bonjour (hello), oui (yes), S’il vous plaît (please), merci (thanks),and Au Revoir (goodbye), and using them often, will go a long way to making your experience more pleasant.
Paris for two nights;
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