Day Trips To Europe Paris - a guide for days out, weekends, short getaways and city breaks

One of the bronze quadriga chariot statues on the Grand Palais - Click for map

Paris

 

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Stunning outside and in: St Etienne Du Mont church in Place Sainte-Geneviève - Click for map

St Etienne Du Mont church in Place Sainte-Geneviève

There are lots of reasons for going to Paris for the day but three of the best are food, art and walking.

 

It's a wonderful city for aimless strolling and there’s always something to divert you from whatever rough direction you originally intended to go.

 

The city's excellent museums and art galleries include the world-class Louvre, the d’Orsay and the National d’Art Moderne.

 

For food lovers Paris is the gourmet mothership. There’s something for all tastes and budgets, from patisseries and simple bistros to the 60 plus restaurants with Michelin stars.

 

 

 

Getting There

 

If you live near London or Ebbsfleet International in Kent, Eurostar is probably your best option. It goes to Gare du Nord station in north Paris and takes as little as 2 hours 15 minutes from London St. Pancras and around 2 hours from Ebbsfleet.

 

Gare du Nord is just over a mile from the historic centre and a few minutes on the metro. The first St. Pancras train leaves around 5:30am and arrives in Paris before 9:00am; the last one back is about 21:15 and pulls into St. Pancras at approximately 22:30.

 

St Vincent de Paul church near Gare du Nord

St Vincent de Paul church near Gare du Nord

 

The first Ebbsfleet train leaves at about 5:45am and arrives before 9:00am; and the last one back departs at about 21:15 and gets in around 22:20. The Eurostar car park costs £11.50/24 hours.

 

Flying time to Paris' main airport, Charles-de-Gaulle, is as little as one hour and here's a selection of flights; arrival times are in brackets and all times are local.

 

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Airport

Airline

Out - am

Return - pm

Heathrow

BA

7:20 (9:40)

21:50 (21:55)

Luton

Easyjet

7:55 (10:10)

21:20 (21:30)

Manchester

Air France

6:15 (8:50)

18:30 (19:00)

Heathrow

Air France

7:35 (9:50)

20:10 (20:30)

Birmingham

Air France

6:30 (9:05)

18:45 (19:15)

 

If you'd like more information on getting to Pairs, take a look at our booking and travel planning section.

 

Charles-de-Gaulle airport is around 14 miles northeast of the city centre and has three terminals connected by a free shuttle bus service.

 

Frescos in the upper chapel of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris

The magnificent frescos in the upper chapel of Sainte-Chapelle

 

The easiest way into town is by train - RER line B - this takes 35 to 40 minutes and is €8. Depending on your arrival terminal, you may have to take a shuttle bus to the RER station.

 

There are also a number of bus services into the centre; journey times are 50 to 60 minutes and tickets cost around  €12.

 

A taxi will set you back €40 to €60 and take about 45 minutes. All road times are approximate and depend on the time of day. For more information on getting to Paris from the airport, click here.

 

Eco-friendly travel - to find out how you can make your travel carbon neutral visit CarbonNeutral or ClimateCare.

 

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Sightseeing

 

The trial of Joan Of Arc takes a turn for the worst in a painting in the Pantheon - Click for map

The trial of Joan Of Arc takes a turn for the worst in a painting in the Pantheon

The best way to get around Paris is on foot but some of the main sights are a few miles apart so you might want to make use of the city’s excellent metro.

 

A single journey costs €1.70 and a book, or carnet, of 10 tickets is €13.30. These can also be used on buses and zones 1 and 2 of the RER train network. Tickets should be stamped at the beginning of a journey and retained until its end.

 

There are two types of one-day travel card; a Mobilis is €6.60 for zones 1 and 2, and a Paris Visite costs €10.55 for zones 1 to 3. Both are valid for bus, metro and RER journeys and the Visite card also has discounts on several attractions.

 

Tickets can be bought at metro and train stations, bus terminals and some tobacconists. For more information, click here.

 

The most relaxing way to see some of the city’s top sights is from the river Seine. Several companies offer sightseeing cruises including Bateaux Parisians, Vedettes de Paris, and Bateaux-Mouches.

 

Most operate from the area around the Eiffel Tower and one-hour cruises start from around €10. Some firms also run lunch and dinner cruises.

 

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is another monument to Napoleon's victories

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the grounds of the Lovre is another monument to Napoleon's victories

 

The Batobus is a waterbus and sightseeing service that stops at eight attractions along the Seine from the Eiffel Tower to the Jardin des Plantes. Boats leave every 15 to 30 minutes and a day pass costs €12. Operating hours vary throughout the year.

 

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What To Visit

 

A Gothic masterpiece: Notre Dame Cathedral on the Ile de la Cité - Click for map

A Gothic masterpiece: Notre Dame Cathedral on the Ile de la Cité

Notre-Dame - this magnificent Early Gothic cathedral was built between 1163 and 1345 on Ile de la Cité, the largest island in the Seine and the city's birthplace.

 

Highlights include the stunning western front entrance and twin towers, the rose windows and the flying buttresses supporting the eastern end of the building.

 

The church square is generally regarded as the heart of the city and France. All road distances are measured from a zero point in front of the cathedral entrance. Map

 

Musée du Louvre - this former medieval fortress and royal palace houses one of the most incredible art collections in the world, partly thanks to Napoléon’s pillaging of Europe.

 

Over 35,000 works of art are on display, from Egyptian antiquities to 19th century French paintings, but a lot of visitors head straight for Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Map

 

Musée d’Orsay - originally a railway station this stunning building was saved from demolition and converted into a museum and opened to the public in 1986.

 

The collection covers work from 1848 to 1914 and includes painting, sculpture, furniture and photography. But it’s best known for its impressionist collection, which takes in work by Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh. Map

 

The Pyramid entrance of the Louvre Museum opened in 1989

The Pyramid entrance of the Louvre Museum opened in 1989. Before it was a museum it was Europe's largest royal palace

 

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Sainte-Chapelle - the Seine’s Ile de la Cité is graced by a second spectacular Gothic church, a palace chapel built by Louis IX as a shrine for his holy relics of the Passion of Christ.

 

The relics allegedly cost more than the church itself, which given the building’s size and elaborate beauty must have been a vast amount of money.

 

Construction was completed in 1248 and the main attractions include the 50ft-high stained-glass windows, the spire, the apostle statues and the rose window. Map

 

The Panthéon - a mausoleum for great Frenchmen

The Panthéon - a mausoleum for great Frenchmen

 

Pantheon - originally built as a church by Louis XV as thanks for his recovery from illness, the building was inspired by its namesake in Rome and completed in 1790. During the Revolution it was turned into a mausoleum for great Frenchmen.

 

Among others, Victor Hugo, Rousseau, Voltaire, Emile Zola, and the building’s architect, Soufflot, are buried here, together with the inventor of a reading system for the blind, Louis Braille. Highlights include the dome and its galleries, the crypt, and the Sainte Geneviève frescoes. Map

 

Eiffel Tower - the city’s most iconic symbol, and possibly the world’s most famous monument, was built for the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1889.

 

The Eiffel Tower: the world's tallest building until 1931

The Eiffel Tower was the world's tallest building until 1931 when it was eclipsed by the Empire State high-rise in New York

 

Although it had powerful and vocal critics, Gustave Eiffel’s creation became the star attraction and, at 1050 feet high, was the world’s tallest structure until it was pipped by the Empire State building forty years later.

 

On a clear day you can see for over 40 miles from the top viewing gallery. There are also great views from the restaurants on the first and second levels. Map

 

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Centre Georges Pompidou, which always reminds me of an oil refinery, is one of the best-known examples of modern architect in the world and home to Musée National d’Art Moderne.

 

The museum has works by Joseph Beuys, Kandinsky, Klee, Matisse, Verner Paton, Picasso, Pollock, Andy Warhol, but has to rotate the collection of 58,000 plus exhibits because it’s too large to display in one go. Map

 

The Sacre-Coeur church on Montmartre

The Sacré-Coeur on the peak of Montmartre

 

Montmartre (martyr’s mount) is north of the centre and synonymous with art and artists. It’s also Paris' highest point and crowned by one of the city’s most photographed buildings, the Sacré-Coeur (sacred heart).

 

The church was built to commemorate French soldiers killed in the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War.

 

It was financed by public donations from all over France, took 46 years to build, and was completed in 1914 - with the exception of a few parts such as the stained-glass windows and the Great Mosaic of Christ. Map

 

Champs Elysées and Arc de Triomphe - avenue des Champs Elysées is one of the world’s most beautiful boulevards and although it did lose some of its lustre in the latter part of the 20th century, it has since recovered its former cachet.

 

The Petit Palais is home to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris

The Petit Palais, originally built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, is now home to the Paris museum of fine arts

 

At the northwest end of the avenue is the massive Arc de Triomphe that Napoleon commissioned to celebrate his 1805 victory at Austerlitz.  It was completed in 1836 and the viewing platform at the top provides stunning views of the city.

 

Underneath the arch is the tomb of the unknown soldier and there's a small museum charting the history of the monument. Map

 

Hôtel des Invalides is a magnificent and vast complex of buildings built by Louis XIV as a home for disabled, old and destitute soldiers; and it still serves that purpose for a small number of soldiers today.

 

Highlights include the stunning Dome church, which houses Napoléon’s tomb, and the Musée de l'Armée, one of the largest military museums in the world. Map

 

The magnificent Dome church of Hôtel des Invalides

The magnificent Dome Church of Hôtel des Invalides

 

For more information about the city’s attractions, click here. To find an address that’s not listed on this page, click here.

 

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Eating

 

Anyone prepared to take pot luck when it comes to eating out, should also be prepared to be disappointed, no matter which city or country they are visiting.

 

But at least in Paris, the gastronomic capital of France, and some would say the world, the odds are stacked in your favour.

 

The bell tower of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois - Click for map

The bell tower of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois

There are hundreds of excellent restaurants, brasseries, bistros, and cafés and you don’t have to spend a fortune. There are still places serving tasty fixed price lunches for as little as €10.

 

If you’re more interested in somewhere with stars after its name, Paris is the Michelin capital of the world. It has over 60 restaurants with one star or more, and nine with three.

 

There aren’t really any Parisian speciality dishes, as the city doesn’t have a cuisine of its own; instead you’ll find menus that draw on a wide range of French regional influences. If you want to book a restaurant, the dialling code for France is 00 33.

 

Michel Rostang is one of the city’s best chefs and the minute you walk into his elegant and welcoming restaurant you instinctively feel that your taste buds are in for a treat. The two Michelin stars also give you a slight clue - virtual tour. Lunch menus from €80. Closed Sunday, and Monday and Saturday lunch. Map 

 

Taillevent - set in an elegant 1852 townhouse and former embassy, this luxurious three-star Michelin restaurant offers one of the best dining experiences in Paris. Set lunches from around €80 and wine from €30 a bottle. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Map

 

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Jules Verne - a window seat in this one-star Michelin restaurant on the second level of the Eiffel Tower provides stunning views.

 

There’s a two-month wait for dinner but you can snag lunch with just a few days notice, or a week or so for a window table. There’s a private access lift in the south pillar and fixed price menus from around €80. Map

 

La Fontaine Saint-Michel opposite Pont St. Michel - Click for map

La Fontaine Saint-Michel opposite Pont St. Michel

58 Eiffel Tower is on the first tier of the Eiffel Tower and is less expensive than its more elevated stable mate, but the food is still good, as are the views.

 

It’s spread over two floors with a bar on the lower level, and you need to book to get a window table. Set lunches from €40. Map

 

Restaurant Lapérouse - this gorgeous restaurant with its river views and intimate private rooms has been a magnet for politicians and artists since it opened in 1766.

 

The scratches and graffiti on some of the mirrors were apparently put there by women testing the quality of the diamonds given to them by their lovers. Good food, romantic surroundings and fixed price lunches from €45. Map

 

Brasserie Bofinger is said to be the oldest brasserie in Paris and is everything you’d expect from a traditional French brasserie - tiled floors, leather banquettes, vast mirrors and wood panelling everywhere.

 

The stunning art nouveau interior and stained-glass dome are now a protected national monument. Set menus from about €30. Map

 

Brasserie Balzar - this famous and traditional brasserie near the Sorbonne may have seen better days but it still serves good value dishes such as onion soup, steak au poivre and pan-fried calves liver. Its fans have included Sartre, Camus and James Thurber. Set lunches from €26. Map

 

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A guilded statue on Pont Alexandre III: the city's most picturesque bridge - Click for map

A guilded statue on Pont Alexandre III: the city's most picturesque bridge

Aux Crus de Bourgogne is an-old fashioned, family run bistro complete with chequered tablecloths and waiters in bow ties and aprons. It's in a pedestrian precinct, so you can sit on its terrace without worrying about traffic whizzing by your table.

 

House specialties include lobster and foie gras, and set menus start at €24. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Map

 

L'Ourcine - this fabulous but small gastro-bistro serves modern variations on classic French dishes. The food is excellent and beautifully presented, and the menu changes almost daily.

 

Everything looks so good it’s hard to know what to have. Set meals from around €35. Closed Monday and Sunday - 92 rue Broca - 01 47071365. Map

 

Aux Deux Canards (Chez Catherine) is named after the two resistance newspapers that were printed here during WWII. It’s small and cosy and there can few places in Paris more welcoming.

 

Try the excellent mussel soufflé, and the duck, the house speciality. Also sample the home-produced spirit made from orange rind. The house red is great value and set lunches start around €40. Closed Sunday, and Monday and Saturday lunch. Map

 

The Sully Pavilion of the The Musée du Louvre

The Sully Pavilion of the The Musée du Louvre

 

Lunch and dinner Cruises - combining a sightseeing cruise with lunch is a great way to enjoy Paris. You can either book these lunch cruises directly with companies such as Bateaux Parisians and Bateaux-Mouches, or through third-party organisers such as Discount Paris and France Tourisme, who can sometimes be marginally cheaper.

 

More Restaurants

 

Tips and service charges

 

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Drinking

 

Wherever you are in Paris, you’re never far from a café or bar. Whether you want a coffee or aperitif, a snack or something more substantial, these are great places to relax and recharge. Here are some suggestions.

 

Café de la Paix - the opulent interior of this city landmark was designed by the architect of the stunning opera house across from its terrace. It’s not the cheapest place for a coffee, but it’s definitely one of the most beautiful - 12 boulevard des Capucines. Map

 

One of the reliefs on the Arc De Triomphe - Click for map

One of the reliefs on the Arc De Triomphe

Café Marly - if you’re in the vicinity of the Louvre and you fancy a break, this café in the Richelieu wing of the museum is a great place to take the weight off. If the weather’s good, grab a table in the arcade terrace, it overlooks the glass pyramid - 93 rue de Rivoli. Map

 

Pictural Café - the bar in this lively canalside café with a terrace stays open till 5am depending on how busy it is. It hosts regular photography and painting exhibitions, and music evenings - 40 boulevard de la Bastille. Map

 

Les Deux Magots - Oscar Wilde, Hemingway and Picasso, among others, were all regulars at this famous literary haunt named after the two wooden statues that dominate the interior. The café has been awarding an annual prize for literature since 1933. Map

 

Café de Flore - like its neighbour and rival, Les Deux Magots, this café was also a favourite of artists and intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Salvador Dali and Albert Camus. Not cheap but worth it for the surroundings and atmosphere. Map

 

Le Sous-Bock Tavern is a must for beer lovers. It keeps almost 400 different varieties including several from small French breweries. They also do great moules et frites (mussels and chips) if you’re feeling peckish - 49 rue St-Honoré. Map

 

Gard Du Nord railway station

Gard Du Nord is the Eurostar terminal for Paris

 

Le Baron Rouge - if grapes are more your thing, then this small wine bar in a old wine cellar is well worth a visit. There is a large selection of wines by the glass, and some are served straight from wooden barrels that clutter this small and popular bar at 1 rue Théophile-Roussel. Map

 

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Events

 

Here are some of the highlights of the city's programme of festivals and events. For a complete guide, click here.

 

AprilMarathon de Paris - watch 35,000 people getting the kind of exercise we all dream about in our New Year’s resolutions.

 

July 14Bastille Day - Parisians celebrate the storming of the Bastille with a morning parade along the Champs Élysées, fireworks at the Trocadéro, and some serious partying.

 

One of the beautifully ornate lamposts on Pont Alexandre III - Click for map

One of the beautifully ornate lamposts on Pont Alexandre III

July/AugustLe Tour de France - the Champs Élysées is the final stage of the world’s best known and most punishing cycle race. Thousands pack the famous boulevard to cheer the riders to the finishing line.

 

SeptemberLes Journées du Patrimoine - on the third weekend of the month buildings that are normally off limits to the public, such as the Elysée Palace, throw open their doors to anyone who fancies a peek.

 

September to December - Festival d’Automne - a major festival of dance, music and drama that takes place in venues across the city.

 

November - Fête du Beaujolais Nouveau - on the third Thursday of the month Paris, like the rest of France, celebrates the arrival of the new vintage of this wine by drinking it in any café, bar or restaurant displaying a Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive sign.

 

NovemberMois de la Photo - every two years the city hosts a wide range of themed photographic exhibitions, screenings, workshops and lectures organised by the Maison Européenne de la Photographie.

 

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Shopping

 

Although Paris has its share of chain stores, it seems to have managed better than others to resist the homogenisation of its shopping areas. There's still a thriving independent sector of specialists shops.

 

The city is also fond of its arcades and galleries, and there are some wonderful 19th-century examples around the Palais Royal, such as Galeries Vivienne, Colbert and Véro-Dodat. Map

 

Candles in Notre Dame Cathedral on Ile de la Cité

Candles in Notre Dame Cathedral on the Ile de la Cité

 

For modern counterparts head for the Passage du Havre, near the Gare Saint-Lazare - map - or the glass arcade in place du Marché Saint-Honoré. Map

 

Paris also has a few department stores that are worth visiting just to look at their façades and interiors.

 

Galeries Lafayette - the city’s best known, biggest and most spectacular department store is crowned by a magnificent steel and glass dome. The store reputedly has the largest menswear department in Europe. Map

 

Printemps Haussmann is Lafayette’s main rival and was opened in 1865. The building façade and the art nouveau stained-glass dome over the sixth-floor tearoom are listed historical monuments. Map

 

Hard to miss this shop and even harder not to buy something from it

Hard to miss this shop and even harder not to buy something from it

 

Le Bon Marché - described by Zola as a ‘cathedral of commerce for a congregation of customers’, the city’s first department store owes part of its stylish design to Gustave Eiffel. Map

 

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Place de la Madeleine - if you want to pick up a few epicurean treats, this little square contains some excellent speciality food shops.

 

These include two wonderful gourmet supermarkets, the famous Fauchon, and its smaller rival, Hédiard. Both have good restaurants and tearooms. Map

 

There is also a daily flower market in the square (except Monday) on the east side of the beautiful La Madeleine church.

 

The Sacré-Coeur (sacred heart) church on Montmartre was finished in 1914 - Click for map

The Sacré-Coeur (sacred heart) church on Montmartre was finished in 1914

La Madeleine was started in 1764 but not consecrated until 1845: it's built in the form of a Greek temple and is surrounded by 52 Corinthian columns.

 

Paris also has some great markets; here’s a selection.

 

Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, north of the centre, is the world’s largest antique market. It’s actually a sprawl of 15 markets comprising over 2000 shops and stalls.

 

Although some parts are always open, the official opening times are Saturday to Monday, 10am to 5pm. Map

 

Rue Mouffetard near the Pantheon in the Latin quarter is one of the city’s oldest street markets and is said to date back to 1350. The stalls mainly sell food and the market is open every morning except Tuesday. Map

 

Marché d'Aligre in place d’Aligre near Gare de Lyon is one of the most fascinating in Paris, and the only one with an outdoor and indoor section.

 

Food is the big draw, especially the staggering choice of fruit and veg, but there’s also a flea market. Open every morning, except Monday, 7.30 to 12.30am. Map

 

For more information on shopping in Paris, click here.

 

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Practical Info

 

Part of an alfresco fresco on the Grand Palais - Click for map

Part of an alfresco fresco on the Grand Palais

Paris is a relatively safe city, but at night you should be careful in quiet and unlit out of the way areas.

 

Muggings are rare but petty theft such as pickpocketing is not, so you should always be vigilant in crowded places, especially the metro and busy tourist areas. Always look after your valuables wherever you are.

 

Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the city and there are plenty of ATM machines. The currency is the Euro.

 

Tips and service charges - a service charge of up to 15% is standard in most restaurants and its inclusion is normally indicated somewhere on the bill - service compris - but it’s customary to leave a small tip for the waiter if the service has been good.

 

If service is not included, and depending on how you rated your experience, anywhere between 10 and 15% is reasonable. You don’t have to tip taxi drivers, but it’s customary to give them around 10%.

 

Public transport tickets should be stamped at the beginning of a journey and retained until its end. If you are caught without a valid ticket, you'll be subject to an on the spot fine. For local time and other useful information click here.

 

The lower chapel of the stunning Sainte-Chapelle

The lower chapel of the stunning Sainte-Chapelle

 

Learning the language - if you'd like to brush up on your French, or you'd just like to learn some basic phrases, you might find these sites useful.

 

BBC Languages - multimedia courses for beginners and the more advanced.

 

Fodors - a range of useful phrases with audio and written pronunciation guides.

 

Ielanguages - basic to more advanced French with pronunciation guides.

 

 

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