A day trip to Paris – Friend in France style
10 hours in Paris…
The first train from London is at 6.18am and arrives in Paris at 09.47am. The last train back to London is 8pm so you will have just over 10 hours in Paris and you won’t want to squander a minute. Here’s how we would make best use of those hours and not follow the usual path and fall into the tourist traps that might tempt you because of limited time. We will show you how to see some sights but without the queues and minus the crowds.
It’s our aim to provide you with all you want for a trip to Paris, some delicious food, some great wine, a bit of culture thrown in the mix and to go home with a couple of goodies while your at it.
Here’s our perfect 10 hours in Paris.
You arrive a little bleary eyed off the train not quite sure where you’re heading but don’t worry you just take a look at Friend in France’s ideas and remind yourself that this easy to follow guide will make sure you have a day of fun.
If you want to guarantee that every minute of your time spent in Paris is above ground – so you can enjoy the sights while traveling – buying a Velib day pass would be a great idea. This is a city bike rental service much like the one in London – the one in London, dubbed Boris bikes after the floppy-haired Mayor Boris Johnson who launched them, is actually idea pinched from Paris Velib.
Lucky for you there is a Velib station just at the front of Gare du Nord. Bear in mind that the machines only accept chip and pin cards. A day pass costs €1.70 and once you take the bike out the first half an hour of your ride is free. If you are clever about it you could get around the whole city for €1.70 as you can drop off your bike before the half hour is up – if you go over half an hour you will be charged €1. If you plan to do this buy a map called Carte de Velo from any magazine shop inside the station or from a lot of the big magazine kiosks.
Now you may be keen for some delicious pastries or perhaps some eggs for the more savoury toothed, and my advice is to get in a good sturdy breakfast before gallivanting around Paris. The best thing to do is cycle towards Montmartre. This may be up hill but when you reach the top you will be rewarded. Head down Rue d’Orsel, which is filled with wonderful fabric shops that could inspire any budding seamstress. Drop your bike off on Rue Ronsard and walk past the beautiful Sacre Coeur.
Head towards metro Abbesse and wonder through these fabulous cobbled streets that have been made famous by films like ‘Amelie’ but you will be there early so it won’t be too busy but will still have an enjoyably bustling atmosphere.
Our advice is to stop and have a late breakfast at Coquelicot (24 rue des Abbesses, closed Sundays and Mondays). They have an award-winning bakery.
Now that you are refreshed and well stocked with caffeine and carbs you are ready for the rest of the day ahead.
The options are either to head back the way you came and cycle down Boulvard Magenta so that you can stop off at the indoor market, Saint Quentin Market, to stock up on macaroons and other delicious treats. Or you can head towards place de Clichy and glide down the hill, rue d’Amsterdam, until you reach Printemps department store. This is a great opportunity to get a fabulous view without the queue. If you head all the way to the top of the store there is a viewing platform and in my opinion it’s the best spot to take in the Parisian panorama. You have a beautiful view of the Eiffel tower and Sacre Coeur, and excellently there’s a café there where you can buy a glass of wine, as it must be wine o’clock by now surely?
Once you’ve managed to drag yourself away from the view, you will wonder through the department store, ogle the €2000 coffee machines that would make your life complete and perhaps buy some perfume on your way out – hop back on your bikes and head towards Place de la Concorde.
You will be lucky to cycle around and admire Madeleine church. It was built in the 18th Century and was where they held Chopin’s funeral. There aren’t a huge amount of Velib stops around Concorde so you are probably best to drop your bikes off next to Madeleine church and walk to Place de la Concorde. Here you can admire this impressive square steeped in history and see the oldest monument in Paris – the obelisk.
My advice would be to walk through the tuileries gardens and to go to L’Orangerie museum, as it’s the perfect size for a day trip. You will get to see the painter Monet’s famous water lilies, and see them as Monet would have wanted – he designed part of the museum himself. You can book your tickets online at home before you come to save queuing time.
Once you’ve had your dose of culture walk through the carefully manicured Tuilerie gardens and you will get to see the stunning Louvre and enjoy this impressive structure. Then walk over the river on Pont Royale where you will also get a wonderful view up and down the river.
Well after all that culture and cycling, it’s now time to head for a good lunch.
You will have a few options here. If you would like to have a classic French lunch then you can head to Le Cinq Mars to fill yourselves with delicious treats from foi gras to mi-cuit. If you fancy a steak and a buzzing atmosphere then you can’t go wrong with Le Relais de l’Entrecôte where your only option is how your want your steak cooked. Here you will start your meal with a delicious but simple salad topped with walnuts and to follow superbly cooked beef with a delicious secret sauce. If it’s a sunny day you may want to head to Les Climats as they have a fantastic terrace and it’s worth the trip for this alone, but you can also enjoy very elegant surroundings and superb modern French cuisine and a quality wine list all of which is from burgundy.
Perhaps a good long lunch, and access to those wine menus, has given you the courage to flex your credit cards. If so, walk up Rue du Bac for a fantastic shopping experience. This is a great street to shop, as there is a wide range of vendors from antiques, clothes, patisseries, chocolate shops and it’s a quiet road so no need to get through crowds of tourists you will only be rubbing shoulders with locals.
If you didn’t have desert with lunch or just feel like round two, you can stop at le Bac a Glace for a fantastic crepe or just a scoop of ice cream.
At the top of the road there is Le Bon Marche, which is the oldest department stall in Paris and is like the Harrods of Paris. It has a fantastic food hall, which will have plenty of treats for you to take back home with you.
By now it is probably cocktail hour. To go somewhere a little different, and without the tourists, head to Le Perchoir. What’s great about this place is you’ll get a feel for another side and style of Paris. Set apart from the classic French monuments and Housmann apartment blocks, the bar is tucked away in the 11th far, from the tourist trail. Hidden away in an apartment block you would have no idea that the bar was there unless someone helpful, someone like us at Friend in France, told you about it. It’s a roof top bar with a fantastic view so you will be able to watch the sun set over the city drinking a glass of Rose while chatting about the fantastic day you’ve had. They do serve food here so you can have a snackeroo if you haven’t quite had your fill of French food yet; after all you’ll need something to keep you going for the train journey back surely!
If you are planning a day trip to Paris, in order to make the most of your time it is best to avoid a Sunday Monday or Tuesday. Although there’s still masses to do, if you only have a day in Paris you may miss out since a lot of the museums are closed on Monday and Tuesday and most restaurants and shops will be closed on a Sunday. If you do come on a Sunday, head to Le Marais as since, it being the Jewish district, there’s tends to be more open.