Planning a few days in Paris? With so much to explore, see and do, it can be hard to choose between a sight-seeing extravaganza of the City of Light or a fantastic foodie’s weekend away. Here’s all the information you need to help you plan the perfect Parisian escape.
History and culture in the City of Light
Paris is undeniably one of the world’s most beautiful cities, with enough visual, historic and cultural clout to fill a lifetime of weekend breaks. Its pleasures are both simple and grand – from a café crème at a pavement cafe and a stroll along the Seine, to an afternoon at the Musée d’Orsay admiring the greatest collection of Impressionist paintings in the world. It’s the fashion capital of the globe, where Dior-dressed ladies stroll down tree-lined avenues, peering over giant sunglasses into chic designer boutiques. Its reputation for good food is legendary, with a new emphasis on simplicity alongside its traditional high-end restaurants. And its village-like vibe lends the city a special atmosphere, where every quarter has its own charm.
Musée d’Orsay museum is one of Paris’ popular muserms
Art lovers can hang out world-class institutions from the Louvre, home to more than 35,000 works including the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, to smaller museums like the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which are equally compelling. If you’re into architecture, tour Paris’s iconic buildings like the Opéra Garnier and the Sacré Coeur rubbing shoulders with the Centre Pompidou, La Défense’s Grande Arche and other 20th-century landmarks.
Louvre Museum is home to more than 35,000 works including the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa
But most of all, Paris is ageless. From Le Marais to Montmartre to Montparnasse, whether you already know it like the back of your hand, or you’ve just opened the shutters on your first day in town, France’s capital is infinite and timeless and deserves to be savoured at length.
How to get there
The best way to get to Paris is by Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, with connecting tickets from your local railway station if needed. The shortest journey is two hours 16 minutes, and you can choose from 14 trains per day; the Eurostar has free Wi-Fi and plenty of legroom, and you’ll arrive bang in the heart of Paris.
Eurostar is the best mode of transport to Paris
But you could also fly, of course. Flights are available from across the UK to Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly airports, on low-cost carriers such as easyJet, Vueling and Transavia, or national airlines British Airways and Air France. If you do arrive by air, the quickest way into the city centre is by RER train line B from Paris CDG, or Le Bus Direct from Orly to one of five central locations.
Where to stay
If you want to splurge on deluxe digs for your city break in Paris, the best places, loaded with charm, are in the Latin Quarter. A few minutes’ walk from the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Hôtel Les Dames du Panthéon offers strikingly designed rooms and a lounge bar, as well as some impressive views of the city. Also nearby is the lavish L’Hôtel, Oscar Wilde’s last home, and Hotel 7 Eiffel, with its cool clean lines and secret rooftop garden.
A room in Hotel 7 Eiffel and views of the balcony of Hôtel Les Dames du Panthéon
Other popular places to stay, whatever your budget, include the crowded-yet-charismatic neighbourhood of Montmartre, and the elegant streets of Le Marais, which offer easy access to major highlights like the Musée Picasso and Notre Dame Cathedral. For something a little more avant-garde, try the fashionable districts of South Pigalle (or So-Pi) for great bars and nightlife, or Canal Saint-Martin for picturesque waterways and bijou boulangeries.
Unmissable experiences and attractions
Don’t try to squeeze too much into your Paris city break – there’s simply too much to see and do to fit into a few short days. That said, some of the city’s landmarks are unmissable – including the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and I.M. Pei’s iconic glass pyramid over the entrance of the Louvre museum. On top of that, there are museums and galleries to explore, like the sensational Musée d’Orsay with its line-up of Manets and Gauguins, and the contemporary art of the Centre Pompidou, which is also home to a theatre and cinemas.
Musée d’Orsay is one of Paris’ famous museums
Classic Paris experiences include a walk across the Pont Neuf, with the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre to one side and Notre Dame and Ile de la Cité to the other. Be sure to wander along the Seine at night as the lights start to twinkle or take an glass-bateaux dinner cruise along the river for the ultimate romantic date night. Or climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower and sip a glass of champagne high above the city.
In Montmartre, wander around the Sacré Coeur before soaking up the arty atmosphere and strolling the surrounding hilly streets. Spend a few hours in the Latin Quarter, picnicking in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and finish the day with a cocktail at one of the city’s many rooftop bars, watching the sun go down.
Opera Garnier is a must see if you’re into architecture
Eat, drink and be merry
Despite the rapid rise of other cities’ dining scenes, Paris is still the gastronomic capital of the world. You can experience regional cuisines from across France in Paris, where chefs treat each culinary traditions with reverence. We’re talking dishes like roast pigeon or os à moelle (bone marrow) and andouillette (a sausage made with pig intestines and sometimes stuffed with tripe – an acquired taste if ever there was one). But the scene is ever evolving, and a new generation of young chefs are switching things up. While there’s always an emphasis on authentic ingredients and recipes, there’s a new focus on simplicity and removing the ‘intimidation’ factor a lot of tourists feel when entering a typical French restaurant in the city.
Paris is known for their delectable pastries and world famous macaroons
If you’re looking for a perfect Parisian dining experience, try to get one of the cosy fireside tables at Le Coupe Chou near the Sorbonne, or a comfy banquette at La Closerie des Lilas brasserie in Montparnasse, a former coaching inn where Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald once stayed. Finish your night with cocktails at Little Red Door on Rue Charlot in the heart of Le Marais. This sophisticated, low-lit bar was voted one of the top 50 bars in the world in 2017.
The City of Light is a fascinating, multidimensional city, with a side for everyone. Most of all, Paris is perfect for a romantic break, with plenty of pavement cafés, cosy neighbourhood bars and chic hotels to hole up in. If you’re into food, Paris is very much the ground zero of good eating. From formal white-tablecloth restaurants to casual bistros and petite patisseries, there’s nothing quite like a foodie weekend in the French capital. And if you’re an art or history buff, there are few finer cities in the world to spend time in, with over 200 cultural institutions to choose from. Whether you’re a budget traveller looking to soak up the city’s street life and best free sights, or you want to splash out on a luxury weekend in a five-star hotel, you’re sure to find the perfect Paris city break for you.