Where can you go that’s only a 2.5-hour train journey from London? No, we’re not talking about Bristol; we’re talking about Paris, the heart of France and famously the city of love. Whether you’re into art, sport, history, food or architecture – Paris is a prime location for keen travellers. Here’s our guide to exploring the vast corners of this beautiful city and how to fit it all into a tight schedule.
How to get to Paris
Nowadays, London to Paris is an exceptionally easy journey. You can drive, fly, sail or get the train; we decided on the latter. The Eurostar itself is very clean and well equipped – what you would expect with a modern high-speed train service. The journey takes around 2 hours 30 minutes from London St Pancreas International to Paris Gare du Nord, meaning you have more time to explore the bustling city! Also, the time travels by if you have a good book or podcast to listen to.
Parisian food stops
With a loaded itinerary, we decided first to get breakfast at a typically Parisian café; where better than the highly acclaimed Les Deux Magots, famously a rendezvous point for artists and philosophers. There are two options on where to sit: outside, where you have Abbaye de Saint-Germain, one of Paris’ oldest churches, directly in your view. Or you can sit inside, on the comfort of grand red leather seats and handsome mahogany tables.
If it is an exclusively Parisian sweet treat you’re looking for, Odette, is considered by many the pièce de résistance of patisseries.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to experience a typical French marketplace, Rueil-Malmaison would be an apt choice. The main square hosts a splendid market, which offers an abundance of French delicacies. Feeling a tad peckish, we decided to indulge in a box of oysters. Thankfully, the marketplace accepted contactless payments, meaning I could use my Caxton multi-currency card card to make the transaction. Buying the oysters was simple – eating them, however, was not so effortless.
Art and museums in Paris
There is a plethora of things to do and see in Paris. You have the usual tourist hotspots: Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Pont Neuf, Louvre etc. However, if crowds and sightseeing are not for you, you’re still in luck.
Just around the corner from Saint-Germain-des-Prés, there is Shakespeare & Company, the best book shop in Paris, and arguably the world. The store is unique from other bookshops, as not only does it offer a vast range of books but is also a free reading library open to the public.
We also visited Château de Malmaison, formerly Napoleon Bonaparte’s residence in 1815. The house itself is stunning and has distinct imperial character. Not only is the house a showroom of how the elite lived, but it is also an art gallery hosting a number of neo-classical portraits (mainly, as one would expect, of Napoleon). Seeing Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps was most definitely the highlight of the visit.
One of our final cultural stops was Musée Bourdelle, formerly the house and workshop of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. The museum exhibits over 500 pieces of art ranging from marble sculptures to fresco sketches. The sculpture gardens are particularly majestic and (in my opinion) contain some of the most impressive pieces in the museum.
Paris Saint Germain
To finish of the trip, on our final evening, we decided to go to see a football game. Paris Saint Germain are the most famous team in Paris and the reigning champions of the entire country. With world stars such as Neymar, Cavanni and M’bappe, it would be a crime for any football fan to go to Paris and not watch PSG grace Le Parc des Princes. The stadium can hold nearly 48,000 at full capacity and is also used for the French national Rugby team. One thing that I did find peculiar about going to a French football game was half time; in England, similarly to many other football fans, I get a pukka pie and a pint of lager at half time. In France, it’s ham and cheese baguettes and espressos - quite the contrast.
Travel Money in Paris
The currency used in Paris is the the Euro, which is a preloadable currency on Caxton's multi-currency card. Travel experts recommend loading and bringing your plastic with you on your travels as pickpocketing is Paris' most common crime, so carrying around wads of cash is not safe or smart. That being said, bringing a small amount of local currency is always a good idea when hailing taxis, tipping for service or in the odd-few cash-only places.
Paris is a hot spot for food and wine lovers, art enthusiasts, fashionistas and avid Paris Saint Germain fans. If you’re craving a break away but also not wanting to travel too far – Paris would be a great option.
What more could you want from your next holiday destination?
Before you jet off, make sure you've topped up your Caxton multi-currency card in advance, so that you can enjoy your exploration of Paris, without having to worry about sourcing travel money on the go.