Living just outside of London in Kent has its advantages. One of them being that – in normal times – it is very easy to get into Europe quickly from a plethora of airports and train stations, as well as numerous ferry terminals on the south coast.
And there is no city easier to get to on mainland Europe, from London, than the capital of France; Paris!
With a population of just over 2.1 million people, Paris is the largest city in France. Each year around 30 million tourists flock to the city to see it’s many sights and to sample some of the world’s best food.
And it’s not just about the food. Paris has a wealth of options to experience. From French history to high fashion; or renaissance art to modern sport, Paris really does have options that will suit everyone!
Described as the city of love, Paris is a popular honeymoon destination too with lovers jostling for positions in front of the Eiffel Tower or next to the River Seine in order to capture that memorable image from their time in France.
So whilst it wasn’t our honeymoon – nor my first time in the city – my girlfriend (as she was at the time) and I headed to Paris for a long weekend during a November. We had always put Paris high on our must-see list together, but it rushed further towards the top after Holly managed to win a competition on Heart FM giving us return flights and two nights in a hotel located centrally in the city itself. Perfect.
So what do you need to know as a visitor to Paris. Let’s start with some of the obvious stuff.
If you haven’t been to France for a long while (and have been living under a rock since then) then you may not be aware that the country moved from using the French Franc to the Euro. At the time of writing £1 could be transferred to around €1.10.
To make matters worse for a British traveller heading to Paris, the prices in the city are pretty comparable to those in London making the French capital not ideal for anyone looking for a cheap weekend away.
Paris also finds itself a time zone along from London so just remember to put those watches forward an hour when you arrive in France and back again when you return to the UK; although most devices do this automatically now anyway.
If you are looking for somewhere to escape the dreary English weather then Paris is probably not the venue for you. I think I’ve been to the city about four or five times in my life – at different times of the year – and on every occasion, without fail, I have got soaked through at least once per trip.
From this point of view, to me, it’s London but with French people. Your best bet is to travel in the summer months. July and August appear to be the best with average highs of around 25ºC and lows only dipping to near 15ºC.
It means if you are caught in a rain shower then at least you won’t be too cold.
If however, you travel as we did in November time then pack warm clothes and an umbrella. Average highs only reach around 10ºC while lows can dip to near freezing.
My tip, however, would be that no matter what time of year you go take your umbrella. I know I never go to Paris without it and while it may seem silly to pack one in the middle of a heatwave, the weather can change in the city very quickly.
It’s also handy to have at least a few French words in your arsenal for a trip to Paris. Neither Holly nor I (both of whom studied French at school) are proficient in the language but being able to ask for a few things in French, say please and thank you does actually help open some doors.
Growing up, I always remember being told that Parisian’s were unfriendly and unhelpful – and this coming from parents who grew up in London!
However, while you will come across some that just are not interested in helping out a lost tourist, there are many more who will do and will often have a stronger grasp of English than should be expected. After all you are in their country so good manners suggests you should try and speak to them in their native tongue where possible.
Also remember to take plug converters. There are two associated plug types for France; types C and E. Plug type C is the plug which has two round pins and plug type E is the plug which has two round pins and a hole for the socket’s male earthing pin. France operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.
While tourists can expect a safe and enjoyable trip to Paris, I would urge caution when using the Metro and around some of the popular sights.
During my last couple of visits to the city I have noticed more ‘gangs’ appearing in the Metro stations and at key sites. From my experience I’ve had one gang approach me outside of Sacré-Cœur and grab my wrist while trying to pick-pocket me (fortunately I managed to pull away and run off before they succeeded) and also witnessed a more subtle ‘attack’ on the Metro.
As the train stopped at one station. A lady and her small child (whose hand she was holding) were stood near the doors. They were staying onboard the train to another stop. As the doors opened at the stop we arrived at a group of six or seven young men boarded the train and squeezed in around the lady who tried to push them away as they were in her personal space and on top of her young child.
The men then just as the train was due to pull away all leapt out of the doors and back on the platform, letting the train doors close and the woman and the child behind on the train. It was only when the train had left the station and the lady had checked on the wellbeing of her child, that she noticed her purse had been opened and her money stolen.
So while this may not be the norm in Paris, I always use the Metro with a degree of caution and would urge others to do so too.
However, despite these rather unpleasant events, my time in Paris has always been an enjoyable one and I’ll now share with you a selection of some of my top things to see and do in the city of love.
There are two main ways to get to Paris from London; by train or by plane.
You can, should you want to, take a longer route which would involve catching a ferry from Dover on the south coast and then driving to Paris but I’d recommend one of the two options stated above.
So let’s look at the first option of the train, known as the Eurostar. To catch the Eurostar to Paris you can do so from a number of stations in and around London and Kent.
There are three in total that act as a starting point for the Eurostar London St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International. However, since the outbreak of Covid-19 there has been a temporary suspension to services from Ebbsfleet and Ashford until 2022.
For the purposes of this blog however, I will speak as if Ebbsfleet was still in operation as this was where I travelled from on my last trip to Paris by Eurostar.
Ebbsfleet is the closest station to me to get to Paris. Living just 15 minutes from the station it makes it very easy to get to the continent (normally) in a very short space of time. It always amuses me that I can get to Paris far quicker than I can to travel to many places in my own country!
How much it costs to travel on the Eurostar will depend on a number of factors. Where you travel from, what time of day you travel and what days you travel on. For instance, if you want to go from Friday to Sunday leaving the UK at around 10am, then it is likely to cost you more than if you were to travel on a Thursday early morning.
Yet from personal experience, the Eurostar is by the the most cost effective and time efficient way to travel to Paris. Why? well firstly you don’t have to spend hours at an airport going through security. Passport checks take place in England (or France if you are returning in the other direction) and you therefore don’t need to go through customs at the other end; nor wait for your luggage as it’s with you at all times.
Secondly, the station in Paris (Gare Du Nord) is located in the city centre meaning you don’t have to rely on airport transfers which can take a fair bit of time (more on that in a bit).
Price-wise you can find a decent bargain also if you are prepared to travel early in the morning. I’d suggest – to make your most of your time in France – that, for a long weekend in Paris – you leave early on a Friday morning and return late on a Sunday or Monday night. This way you get the best part of three or four days in the city and keep rail costs to a minimum.
For my trip we did just this. It meant that catching the 5:58am train from Ebbsfleet International got us in to Paris by 9:32am local time. For the return we left Paris on the Sunday at 20:13 and arrived back in England at 21:18 GMT. For this we paid a total of £137 for two people (£68.50 each).
The second option to explore is flying from one of London’s airports to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
For me I’ve only every done this once. I’ve personally never seen the point in flying to Paris when the option of the train is so close to hand. However, for some, flying may be a better option and the route is well serviced by flight providers including EasyJet, British Airways or the French national airline, Air France.
As I previously mentioned, this trip came courtesy of a prize win so the return flights from London Gatwick to Charles de Gaulle with EasyJet were free of charge for us. Normally though there would be a cost attributed to such a journey and – at the time of writing – can be found for as little as £61.85 for a return journey for one person on a November weekend.
So while that may be slightly cheaper than a Eurostar journey there are a few things to remember. Firstly, the time you’ll spend at airports either end and the parking of cars for the duration of the trip will add to the bill. Secondly, Charles de Gaulle is about 45 minutes to an hour outside of the centre of Paris; on a good day.
One this I remember about our airport transfers on this trip was that we ended up sitting in heavy traffic for a long time and that Parisian’s seemed to take the law into their own hands when it came to the rules of the road. Honestly, there were cars everywhere. I’m sure at times we were sat in a row of six or seven cars across what was only a two lane road!
However, the option is available should you need it but I’d always edge towards taking the train to Paris.
Where to stay
As you’d expect in a major city like Paris, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of options for accommodation to suit all budgets.
From hostels to AirBnBs; cheap hotels to five star luxury – the city really has something for everyone.
So while I try not to stay in the cheapest accommodation during a trip, I do tend to bulk at the prices of some of the more expensive establishments on offer.
So to satisfy a mid-budget traveller I’ll suggest two wonderful hotels that I’ve had the pleasure to stay in during a break in Paris.
The first is Hotel 34B – which confusingly sometimes still goes by its old name of Bergere Opera. Don’t worry if this latter name appears on your booking confirmations it is the same place. To make my booking I used the helpful GetARoom.com service although you can book directly if you require.
This three-star hotel is located on Rue Bergèrein – in the centre of the city to the north of the river between the Louvre Museum and Sacré-Cœur. It has easy access – within five to ten minutes walk – of at least five Metro stations with Grands Boulevards on lines 8 and 9 perhaps being the closest.
The hotel has style. Having been renovated in recent years (which led to the change in it’s name) the hotel offers good sized rooms and a delicious Continental breakfast to its guests as well as all the regular features you’d expect such as free wi-fi and air conditioning.
I stayed here for a night during March one year for a cost of £89.67. This was for a double-standard room for two people that included breakfast. From here, we were able to enjoy our time in the city.
My second recommendation is the four-star Hôtel Golden Tulip Opéra de Noailles.
The hotel is also centrally located, but situated further west in the city than Hotel 34B. It is serviced by two two immediate Metro stations; Opéra (which is on lines 3, 7 and 8) and Quatre-Septembre (on line 3).
I will find it harder to speak about the price of this hotel as this was where Holly and I stayed during our time in the city when she won the trip on the radio. However, looking at prices for a two night stay for two people, in a standard double room for November time I can see that, at the time of writing, you can expect to pay around £146.50 per night.
If this is like our trip, then this will also include a good, hearty continental breakfast as well.
The hotel itself is a mix of traditional Parisian fair with a quirky centre. Entering the building you’ll be welcomed by numerous, large, colourful snail and bear statues in the lobby and bar area. The reception desk is located near the door and from my experience the staff are superb.
During our stay they made sure we were comfortable in our room, gave good advice on places to eat and took the time to speak to us. There is also a small bar, next to reception, where Holly and I enjoyed a glass of wine or two before venturing out for our evening meals.
The more traditional side of the hotel is that you still leave your room key with reception when you leave the building and the lift to access the various floors is a small and intricate affair.
Opposite the reception desk the lift – which is quite slow – can hold about two people semi-comfortably. This becomes slightly harder to do if you have multiple bags to carry. However, with around six floors of rooms, if you are located at the top of the hotel it is a welcome alternative to the stairs after a long day walking around the city.
The rooms are pleasant as well and pretty spacious. Ours was the standard double in the hotel but came with a good-sized balcony which – on a nice day – would give you pleasing views of city life on the streets below.
Despite being in the centre of the city, the noise from the roads outside didn’t disturb us at all at night and we enjoyed a lovely couple of nights sleep during our stay.
Once you are in the centre of Paris you realise – if you didn’t already know it beforehand – that the city is extremely large.
To make matter worse, most of the main tourist attractions are quite spaced out from one another also so getting between them efficiently – especially if you are doing so on a tight timescale – is key to making sure you don’t miss out.
So while walking is a possibility should you wish it will take you a long time to navigate the streets to find your next destination. The Eiffel Tower, for instance, has a tendency to look a lot closer than it actually is from various points in the city and can then take a surprisingly long time to actually reach it!
The best bet here is to make the most of the Metro.
Earlier in this blog I said I had seen issues on the Metro, involving gangs and pick-pockets, but I want to point out that this is not a common occurrence and something you’d have to be very unlucky to encounter. It’s something that could happen to you on any metro, or underground, system anywhere in the world, so don’t let that put you off using the Parisian metro.
The Metro is a symbol of the city. It is known for its density within the city limits, uniform architecture and unique entrances influenced by Art Nouveau. It is 225.1 kilometres (139.9 mi) long and has 304 stations across 16 lines. In total 64 stations have transfers between lines.
One thing I did notice about the Metro in Paris is that the trains are pretty dated and not the most comfortable. Most still have a system where you have to hit a little lever on the door to make it open – something you can actually do even while the train is still slowing down. Safe I’m sure!
The Metro itself is pretty cheap to use (A single metro ticket costs €1.90 per person) – similar sort of price to that of the London Underground for those familiar with the UK. But, if like me you planned to use the Metro a lot over the course of a long weekend, then there is a good way to avoid having to route through your change each and every time you go underground.
The answer is to buy a Metro Pass from the helpful ParisInfo.com.
Offering a variety of tickets covering the various zones for between one and five days, this paper ticket gives you unlimited use of the Metro system within the designated zones for the time you selected, starting when you first use the ticket.
It’s a great system and works really well. For a long weekend, that you are spending just in Paris, I’d suggest suggest getting the three-day pass for zones one to three. This will cost you €29.40 per person. If you have plans to go beyond the cities boundaries then other options that will take you as far as the airport, Disneyland and Versailles are also available for slightly more money.
It’s easy to organise as well. Following the link provided above, select your preferred ticket options and the number of passes you want to buy then pay online. You then collect your tickets when you arrive in Paris for free or pay to have them delivered by post to you at home or to your accommodation in Paris.
It really doesn’t make sense to pay to collect the tickets so make your way to your selected collection point. There are two options available. The first is at Point d’accueil Hôtel de Ville (located at 29 rue de Rivoli 75004 Paris) and the second is Point de retrait Gare du Nord (located at 18 rue de Dunkerque 75010 Paris).
We chose the second option which is in the heart of the busy Gare du Nord; the location where the Eurostar finishes it’s journey into Paris from the UK.
To collect your tickets find your way to the Tourist Information Point situated near lines 7-9 for international arrivals. When you collect your tickets you’ll just need your confirmation email and a form of ID (you should still have your passport with you at this point I’d imagine). The whole process takes just five minutes and you’ll soon be on your way exploring Paris.
Paris is a city that is full to the brim with amazing places to visit, great things to see and fun things to do. It’s impossible to fit it all in just one long weekend.
So I’ve selected a few things that for more are ‘must-sees’ during a visit to this wonderful city – especially for those people reading who have never visited it before.
The first on everyone’s to-do list is the most obvious. The Eiffel Tower!
What possible trip to Paris would be complete without going to, and then going up, this magnificent monument to engineering and symbol to all things French?
Locally nicknamed “La dame de fer” (French for “Iron Lady”), it was constructed from 1887 to 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair and was initially criticised by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but it soon became a cultural icon of France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world.
It’s a sight that is obvious from many spots around the city and is impressive to see. When you arrive at the foot of the tower, it shoots up into the sky from four impressive legs – each housing it’s own lift.
To go up the structure you can choose to walk (yes there are stairs all the way to the top). However nowadays there are six lifts. Three go up to the second floor (Pillar East, North and West), two go up from the second to the third floor (the top of the tower) and the last, in the south pillar, is privative and allows you to go directly to the restaurant Jules Verne, which is at 1st floor, it is reserved for the customers of the restaurant.
Be warned – before entering the lifts from the ground you’ll go through the very thorough baggage checks and security which is sadly a by-product of necessity from the world we live in today.
You have two options for tickets (which I’d suggest you buy online before you travel). The first – and most pointless – is one that only takes you to the midway point of the tower. Why anyone would get that far and not go to the top is beyond me. This means that if you buy this ticket you’ll only go up the legs of the tower and into the main middle section. You’ll not get to go up the neck and to its highest point.
The second ticket is takes you to the summit – some 276m above the ground. For just €25.50 per adult (around £23) you can get these tickets and ascend to the top.
On your way up you will have to get off at the middle section (floor two), so do take your time here to take in these views before joining the queue for the lift to the top.
From the top – and on a clear day – you’ll get superb views across the city where you’ll be able to see many of the other sites you’ll probably be going to next.
On average – on a moderately busy day – you’ll probably be between one hour and two at the Eiffel Tower so make sure you give yourself enough time here to enjoy it.
Getting to the Eiffel Tower is easy to do. The closest Metro station is Passy on line 6 and it’s just a short walk across the Seine to get to the monument.
As a final tip, it’s also worth returning at night to see it lit up. At various points of the evening they put on impressive light displays which really make for some great videos and pictures.
The next stop for a trip to Paris should be Sacré-Cœur.
I’d advise using Anvers Metro station on line 2 as a good lace to arrive as it brings you out to the south of the basilica itself and gives you a pleasant walk (up hill) to the main entrance. Sacré-Cœur is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, which is the highest point in the city.
The basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was completed in 1914. The basilica was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.
One thing to be carefully about here is that it was in this park (in front of Sacré-Cœur that a gang of people tried to pick-pocket me. If you see large groups looking shifty, then I’d urge caution. They can be forceful and aggressive if you’re unlucky enough to encounter them. Chances are though you’ll be fine, and police to operate regularly in this area as a response to this behaviour.
You have two main options when visiting Sacré-Cœur. One is to just enter the main church and this is free. Inside you’ll see the main prayer and sermon areas and also get great views of the beautiful artwork making up the walls and windows. It’s truely spectacular.
The second thing you should do is pay €6 (about £5.30) to go up to the top of the basilica’s tower.
To get in the tower you leave the church and head around the side of the building, down some stairs and into a rather modest looking side-entrance where you’ll buy your ticket (this isn’t available to buy online).
It is quite a climb and there is not a lift. Some of the spiral stairways are pretty narrow also, so you need to be in reasonable health to make it to the top.
Once you’ve reached the highest point you g of the basilica – it’s dome – you get a lovely view across the city. Make sure you spend a good 10 minutes or so just sitting on the stone benches at this point to get your breath back and to drink in the views of the city.
Sadly, this next spot is one that is currently (at the time of writing anyway) one you can only do from the outside. The famous cathedral of Notre-Dame once welcomed guests in their thousands through its doors to view the beautiful architecture and stunning stained-glass windows it housed.
Then, on April 15, 2019, fire ransacked the building; gutting it from floor to ceiling – with much of its huge wooden roof collapsing in on itself, making it unsafe for tourists to visit.
While the inside is currently going through a huge repair and refurbishment programme, much of the outside of the building is intact and worth seeing.
The cathedral is located on a island in the middle of the River Seine. It’s easily accessible though as multiple roads cross to the island from either side of the river.
To get there, one of the closest Metro stations is Pont Maire on line 7. From here make the short five minute walk across the river and to the cathedral’s front. You can still walk around the perimeter of the cathedral taking it in from various sides. Hopefully, one day soon, it will reopen to the public once again.
While Notre-Dame remains out of bounds, a smaller and, until now, slightly overlooked church has remained off most people’s itinerary. Yet, I’d argue that Sainte-Chapelle is perhaps even more stunning than some of it’s larger and more famous neighbours.
Just a few minutes walk from Notre-Dame, Sainte-Chapelle is a modest church from the outside but one that holds some real hidden treasures behind it’s doors.
When Holly and I went, it was one of the first places we visited. Joining the queue in the street, I’d say to visitors to make sure you are in the right line. We stood in the queue for around 20 minutes before suddenly realising we were actually in line to enter the nearby court house! Realising our mistake we surreptitiously made our way out of the line and round the corner into the courtyard by the actual church to pay our entrance fee and head inside.
For just €10 (about £8.90) you get entrance to both the upper and lower chapels.
Sainte-Chapelle is a gothic-style gem and is considered a masterpiece of the thirteenth century architecture. In it’s lower chapel you’ll find the statue of the Virgin Mary, patron of this sanctuary. The interior polychrome decoration, which is mostly red and blue, recreates the original medieval decoration.
However, it’s the upper chapel that really is the show-stopper.
Built as a reliquary, the upper chapel was decorated lavishly with sculptures and enormous stained glass that fill the chapel with light and colour.
The fifteen stained-glass windows, which leave just enough room for the chapel’s columns, are made of 1,113 scenes that narrate the history of mankind from Genesis to the resurrection of Christ.
This room is reason enough to part with your €10. With stained-glass windows reaching almost from floor to ceiling, you end up with a crick in your neck from all the upward staring. Just make sure to occasionally look down to see where you’re going as it becomes very easy to find yourself walking into people.
Not too far from these two previous sites, is the world-famous Louvre Museum.
To date, it remains the world’s largest art museum and a central landmark of Paris. It is located on the right bank of the River Seine in the city’s first arrondissement (meaning district or ward). Its closest Metro station is Louvre – Rivoli on line 1.
It is home to approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century. These are exhibited over an area of 72,735 square meters. In 2019, the Louvre received 9.6 million visitors, making it the most visited museum in the world.
Entrance to Louvre is timed and you’ll have to select a time slot to enter when you buy your ticket online. These cost €17 (about £15) per adult. It’s important to remember that to get inside the Louvre (through it’s glass pyramid entrance) you’ll be in a long queue so factor this in for when you plan to arrive to meet your time slot. In the height of summer queue times can sky-rocket to a number of hours in length!
It’s important to remember that unless you want to spend every minute of your holiday in the Louvre, you won’t have time to see it all. The place is huge!
Taking this into consideration, Holly and I identified a number of exhibits we wanted to see and did them over the course of about two to three hours.
There are some obvious must-see for a first time visitor but they will be very busy. The first is the Mona Lisa – a small and quite frankly unremarkable portrait that still garners attention. To view this you’ll need to find the gallery it’s in (it’s well signposted inside) and then join the queue to get to the front for a short look at the painting.
Despite my best efforts they really don’t like you using a selfie-stick to take a picture of the painting from a distance. Not sure why to be honest as you are allowed to take photos of the painting when you have queued up for it.
The other must-see is the Venus de Milo statue. This ancient Greek statue is one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture and is impressive to see. There is no queueing system here so you just need to find a good position to see the statue to get a good look at it and to grab any pictures you can.
When you have had enough of battling the crowds, make your way back out the way you came and exit back onto the streets.
The final site I’d suggest making the effort to go and see is the Arc de Triomphe.
Standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle, juncture formed by its twelve radiating avenues. It’s a truely terrifying roadway so don’t try and cross it. You can get to the Arc de Triomphe using the Argentine Metro station on line 1 and using the underpasses to get to the centre of the roundabout.
Before visiting this site, I didn’t realise that you could actually go inside it or, indeed, up it.
I’m glad we did, as the inside of the monument is home to some interesting statues from French history while the top of the monument provides good panoramic views of the city.
For just €12 (about £10.60) you can climb the monument and take in the history and the views. It’s incredibly worthwhile and a joy to behold on a clear day.
If you are tired of normal tourist sites and want to try something fun then I’d highly recommend you drop by the One Hour Escape Room.
Spread across two locations, this horror-themed escape experience has four games to play. Two are located at its Charonne site (Lost Aslyum and Very Bad Night) and two are at its Voltaire site (The Slaughterhouse and Yakuza).
To access these locations go to Charonne Metro station on line 9 for the first site and Voltaire Metro station on line 9 for the second one.
Now I’ve done a lot of escape rooms in my time but the ones here (I’ve done both Lost Aslyum and The Slaughterhouse) crank up the fear-factor and make it a really immersive experience.
With live actors terrorising you as you play, it makes a special game. Even the most solid players with nerves of steel will jump a few times during these games.
Holly and I played The Slaughterhouse together and the game-master (who is also a live actor in the game itself) adapted his role depending on how well we were doing throughout.
The game is both challenging physically and psychologically and leaves you nervously laughing on many occasions.
It’s not a cheap experience. For two people it cost us €96 (about £85) in total, but given the attention to detail in the room and the fun it provides I considered this great value for money.
I think the greatest compliment I can pay One Hour Escape Rooms is that they have produced two of my favourite escape room experiences ever!
Try it – if you think your nerves will hold out!
Where to avoid
As mentioned, it’s best to remain vigilant if you are travelling on the Metro system in Paris as pick-pockets and gangs do operate. This is particularly the case if you are travelling alone, have lots of luggage with you that’s hard to personally keep hold of, or if you are travelling late at night when it is quieter. However, being vigilant does not mean avoiding.
When it comes to avoiding places in Paris there are not too many that come to mind. It’s a fun city with loads going on. However, I will point out a couple of things from my time there that you may want to take note of.
The first one is the Moulin Rouge.
The Moulin Rouge itself is steeped in history and is, perhaps, best known as the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance and its distinctive red windmill on the roof.
The original house was co-founded in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller but burned down in 1915 before being rebuilt and now hosts numerous shows each night.
So while the building itself is worth a flying visit (and maybe inside if you are inclined to catch a show) the area it is located is less than salubrious. Situated close to Montmartre in the Paris district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement (the closest Metro station is Blanche) there is definitely a seedy undertone to the area that really becomes apparent the later in the evening you visit.
So while Holly and I made a flying visit to see the building one night, it was not the sort of place we wanted to spend too long hanging around; nor will it be an area of Paris I’d be in any rush to return to.
My other suggestion of something that you could miss – albeit for much different reasons than the above – is the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes.
Opened in 1974, it is the second oldest zoological garden in the world. While it does not house large animals like elephants, there are a lot of rare smaller- and medium-sized mammals and a variety of birds and reptiles. Some of its animals also live in original 19th-century buildings.
On the site there are also greenhouses, a Gallery of Evolution, children’s galleries, the Gallery of Palaeontology and Anatomy and a mineral and geology gallery.
This small zoo and breeding center is located towards the south-east of the city along Rue Cuvier. Their are two metro stations suitable to use if you do visit here. The first is called Censier – Daubenton on line 7. Slightly closer to the zoo itself though is Jussieu on lines 7 and 10.
While it makes for a pleasant visit – although when I went it was pouring with rain which made the time there less enjoyable – there are both better zoos elsewhere and more interesting things to do in Paris; especially if time is precious during a trip to the city.
The zoo is very well kept and not too expensive. I paid €14 per adult for our entry and we spent around two hours in the grounds. Looking back, however, I think there are other things we could have done with our time in Paris that would have made for a more interesting trip.
If you are visiting with young children though, this may be one to keep them entertained for a short while.
Great places to eat
It goes without saying that there are literally thousands of great places to eat and drink in Paris. Good food and wine is about as French as it comes and you can almost guarantee that from the smallest side-street café to the largest Michelin starred restaurant (in 2019 it was reported that there were over 100 Michelin starred restaurants in Paris) the dining experience will be memorable.
So if you are maybe looking to root out a few affordable gems amongst the smorgasbord of options, I can recommend three great places to eat for modest city prices.
The first – and probably most costly of the trio is – Maceo. Slap bang in the middle of Paris – and just a heartbeat away from the Palais Royal Garden – this wonderful eatery is lovely place to spend the evening.
The restaurant describes itself as boasting a cosy yet airy space that can act as a pre-theatre dinner location or somewhere to have a reunion with family and friends. It’s equally suitable for an intimate tête à tête or business lunch; a romantic soirée or an extravagant celebration.
The food and service match the classy surroundings.
With first-class wine and a good variety of foods to suit both vegetarians and carnivores, an evening at Maceo will most likely set you back in the region of €150 for an excellent three-course dinner and a bottle of wine.
What you get for that money is top quality food, prepared by a skilled chef and wonderful surroundings that will live long in the memory after you’ve left the city to return home.
My next suggestion is Chez Delphine located on Rue Saint-Georges just a short walk away from Sacré-Cœur.
This quiet restaurant is unimposing and could be easily missed as being ‘just another restaurant serving French food’. Its positioning down a small city street amongst the other restaurants means it’s easy for visitors to pass by its doors without giving it a second glance.
That would be a mistake.
For a very reasonable price – around €100 for two people to enjoy a three-course dinner and wine – you get a great selection of food and top service to boot.
A must-have is the Burgundy snails for starters. If you’ve not tried snails before then this is a great introduction to this French delicacy. Also make sure you have room to try the suckling lamb main which will be cooked to perfection. Finally, sit back an finish off your wine with a classy desert like the Charlotte with chestnuts and coffee or the French classic profiteroles. Whatever you choose however, will leave you more than satisfied.
My final pick for a great place to eat is Vaudeville situated on the corner of Rue Vivienne near Opera.
With it’s tall marble walls and its rows of tables and seats, this brasserie is a lively and welcoming place to have a good lunch or evening meal.
For just €29 each, you can enjoy a starter, main course and dessert (wine or other drinks are not included in this price) from a menu that boasts superb seafood, an oyster bar and a wide range of meat and vegetarian dishes.
Again, a must have here is the snails. I think that no matter where we were during our Parisian stay, Holly and I always ordered at least one portion of snails per meal to enjoy.
The main meals here are both filling and well presented. The meats are tender and the sides that go with them are full of flavour.
The desserts though make this place somewhere to return to. The Floating Island – a dessert of grilled almonds and salted butter caramel was delicious while the cheese platter was also extremely tasty.
It’s fair to say that here – like most places in Paris – you’ll neither go unsatisfied nor hungry. The Parisian café and restaurant culture is something I enjoy greatly and sitting down in these welcoming establishments is a wonderful way to spend your time in this beautiful, popular city.