So here’s the thing about visiting Paris from London, the Eurostar has made it so convenient that going for a long weekend seems like the most sensible of ideas… in fact it would be rude not to when you can reach the city of lights faster than you can get to Exeter!
The only problem then is trying to nail down your itinerary. You could easily spend a week in Paris and not see all of the museums, cathedrals and districts that are recommended… so if you’re on a time constraint and want to see a bit of everything I’ve picked out a few of my favourite activities and sights (don’t say I never gave you anything!)
GET THE BEST EIFFEL TOWER VIEW
Jardins du Trocadero
You can’t go to Paris without seeing the most iconic building of all and although initially you might think you want to go up it I’d argue this might not be the best use of time if yours is limited… after all you can’t see the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Eiffel Tower (hands up who’s made that mistake with Empire State Building in New York).
For an excellent view of the Paris icon up close head to Trocadero metro stop. As you exit the station, take the Eiffel Tower exit and you’re greeted with the perfect photo opportunity.
MARVEL AT THE ARCHITECTURE
Notre-Dame de Paris
The Notre Dame is a huge tourist attraction for a reason, and it has a fast-enough-moving queue to justify the time spent to get a look at the amazing interiors. Surprisingly upon entering I found it to be a lot less busy and overwhelming than the Sacre-Coeur, which again made it a much more pleasurable experience where you felt you could wander around at your own pace.
The exterior of the cathedral is as intricate and incredible as it looks to be in photos so make sure you spend time examining little sections as there are many stories held in the carvings.
EXPERIENCE BOHEMIAN PARIS
A skip and a hop from Paris’s red light district is Montmartre, the bohemian district that previously was home to the artists, performers and misfits of the city. It has retained it’s artistic flair with an array of quirky craft shops, cobbled streets, trendy cafes and a square full of street artists and performers.
Whilst in Montmartre head up to the Sacre-Coeur which is perched high above the city and offers spectacular surrounding views. The bascilica is exceptionally popular but worth looking inside despite the sheer number of people queuing to get in… no photos are allowed (not that anybody takes much notice) so you’ll have to take my word for it that it’s absolutely beautiful.
VISIT THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ART COLLECTION
Yes the Lourve has a great glass pyramid but the Musee D’Orsayjust across the river is a converted old railway station that proves as much a piece of art as any of the works it holds.
Inside you’ll find all the greats… and really if you’re rushed for time it’s a much more manageable amount of art to see than the intimidating Lourve, plus you won’t queue for a quarter as much time. I actually turned up in the middle of the day on a weekend when it was raining, I didn’t pre-book and was in within 30 minutes! Is it really worth the 3 hours to fight your way through a bunch of tourists to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa? Maybe one day… but not when you’ve only got 48 hours!
EXPLORE THE CITY’S MOST UNUSUAL MUSEUM
Catacombs de Paris
Who would have thought that one of the strangest and unconventional “museums” to visit in Paris is the one that lies beneath your feet. While it may not be for everyone, if you’re not easily spooked the Catacombs are one of the most fascinating historical remnants of the city.
Back in the18th century Paris had two big problems… overcrowded graveyards and a network of disused mining tunnels that threatened to cave in, sometimes swallowing whole streets in a flash. The solution settled upon was to transport the bones of six million (!) Parisians and use them to help retain the structure of the tunnels.
Upon entering the tunnel network what is most striking is how the remains are arranged neatly and tidily and in a notable pattern. This is the work of the director of the mine service from 1810, Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury, who first had the idea to transform the underground tunnels into a mausoleum that would be open to the public.
What would be your must-do activity whilst in Paris? Let me know in the comments below!