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Excerpt from the guidebook Practical Paris (Everything You Need To Know About Paris But Didn’t Know To Ask), available on Amazon.com:
Many people coming to the London Olympics 2012 will want to include a quick Paris trip. My favourite way to get from London to Paris is via the Eurostar high speed train instead of flying. Why? Getting to and from these mega city airports can take a lot of time and expense and takes away from valuable sight-seeing and joie de vivre time! Flights could be delayed or worse, cancelled. The most fun way to get between the two cities is on the EuroStar, the trip is just over two hours long and many departures are offered daily.
Catch the Eurostar in Central London at the historically significant and restored St Pancras International station.
Arrive from London at the EuroStar platform in Paris at Gare du Nord International. You will want to immediately take a taxi or the metro out of this area as this part of Paris is not a tourist destination by any means.
Go online to RailEurope or Eurostar websites and check out deals and if possible, pre-book this jaunt as much in advance as possible. People vastly under-estimate the sheer numbers of travelers in Europe and you don’t want to be disappointed or end up having to pay a premium rate because you didn’t book far enough in advance. There is no need to pay for a first class ticket as the journey is so short and there is not much difference between first class and regular seating and services. Visit the bar car or bring your own snacks.
Over the years, we have greeted many adventurers from the Gare du Nord who had arrived for a one day whirlwind Paris visit. Of course, it’s better if you can stay longer but one day in Paris is possible especially if you have a strategic plan. Remember, Central Paris is compact and is quite small area-wise compared to other cities. See our tried-and-true strategic plan below.
To get the full, delicious flavour of the city, the itinerary for this tour is best done by metro and walking, but you could also take a taxi if you want to speed things up and don’t mind spending more money. Walking the crooked, cobblestoned streets of Paris is part of the charm of this beautiful city.
Self-Guided Tour Highlights
*Follow our annotated map.
Shakespeare and Company bookstore
The Seine River
The Louvre Courtyards and Grounds
Place de la Concorde (from a distance)
Arc de Triomphe
Champs-Elysées + peak-a-boo Eiffel Tower
(Marais or Montmartre if time allows)
#1. Book your Eurostar ticket for as early in the morning as possible so that you land in Paris Gare du Nord before 11AM (preferably around 9 or 10 AM). Book your return for as late at night as possible, around 9 to 11 PM. Get yourself to the train station with ample time to get through customs and security and don’t forget your passport!
#2. Hopefully you already have with you a complete map book (Paris Plan) that you can highlight with the route detailed below during your journey or save or print out our annotated map. Or, use the GPS on your phone.
#3. Once you arrive at Gare du Nord, go directly to the metro ticket station and buy the one day Mobilis metro pass for each member of your party which allows you unlimited metro/bus/RER travel for the day. Also ask for metro maps.
#4. You can either take the metro to our first itinerary stop, or take a taxi. Simply head out of the station to the taxi stands and ask to be taken to Cathedral Notre-Dame on the Île de la Cité. If you choose to take the metro, head to the Metro Line 4 (Porte d’Orleans direction) and depart at station Cité (8 stops). From here, we will take you through some key monument highlights and fun streets of the Right and Left Banks.
Tip! The Line 4 metro is degrees hotter than other lines so it’s best to dress in layers.
#5. Climb out of the Cité metro station and find the Rue de la Cité and walk until the cathedral Notre-Dame comes into view. Go straight into the cathedral if desired (usually there is a long line but it goes fast). After doing your power visit, come out of Notre-Dame, and note the famous “Bouquinistes” book sellers along the Quai, then turn left onto the Petit Pont (bridge). After crossing the busy Promenade, look to your left and for literary lovers you can duck into the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore (37 rue Bucherie). This is also the place to grab a copy of FUSAC Magazine, the “bible” for English-speaking expats and visitors.
#6. Now continue into the Latin Quarter. Head back and cross Rue du Petit Pont onto the cobblestone pedestrian street Rue de la Huchette. This is a very touristy area but is fun to walk through as restaurant owners good-naturedly try to entice you to eat at their establishments. It’s also a good place to buy souvenirs. You will soon come to the Fontaine St-Michel and the square in front of it (a popular meeting place for Parisians).
#7. At the fountain facing the splashing water, keep walking past the monument and around the metro station and find the cobblestone street named Rue Saint André des Arts. This charming, winding street will lead you to the 6th arrondissement in the district of St-Germain-des-Prés and to Rue de Buci.
#8. Rue de Buci is a fantastic, lively street to take a lunch or coffee break and watch the parade of people streaming by. TIP! Make sure to take your washroom break as public restrooms are far and few between in Paris.
#9. Next, from Rue de Buci turn right and head up the quieter Rue de Seine, walking towards the Seine and not the opposite way.
#10. Poke your head into any number of galleries and other unique shops along Rue de Seine. After a few blocks, you will end up at the regal-looking French Institute with French flag flying and the Seine River once again.
#11. In front of the French Institute, cross the busy Quai again and find the pedestrian bridge (to the right, not left). This is the Pont des Arts where many people gather day and night, and which features art shows and venues. You can leave a padlock with your love message here. Look to the east to view the lovely Île de la Cité where you started from and is also home to the stunning Eglise Saint-Chapelle and the Conciergerie prison, where poor Marie Antoinette awaited execution in 1793. The bridge you see on this island is the Pont Neuf, Paris’ oldest bridge and the lovely Square du Vert-Galant point.
#12. At the other end of the bridge, cross the Quai Francois Mitterand and go through the high wrought iron gates with gold tops to the first Louvre courtyard: the Cour Carrée. Turn left and enter the jaw-dropping Louvre Palace courtyard, featuring the glass pyramid. Many people are stunned by the sheer size of this world famous museum, which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. Even if it didn’t contain some of the world’s most significant and important art pieces, the Louvre would still be a completely impressive structure!
#13. Walk past the pyramid and cross to the mini arch that you see. Go up close and stand directly in the middle of it. The Arc de Triomphe du Carroussel and was built by Napoleon at the same time as the larger, more famous arch. Standing directly between the arch, look straight ahead. Directly in front of you on either side is the Tuileries Gardens, then the Place de la Concorde with fountains, then you should see the grand Arc de Triomphe at the circle on the Champs-Elysées from which 12 grand avenues stem. Later in this tour, we will be getting up and close and personal with L’Arc, so you will get to experience the full impact of this structure. TIP! Just ignore the people who come up and ask if you speak English or try to sell you things etc. Simply don’t respond and move on and they will too.
#14. I wouldn’t recommend walking through the whole Tuileries as it is huge. Back at the mini Arc, face toward the glass pyramid and turn left to go through the very high arches. If you’re lucky, you will get to watch as huge buses drive through with just inches to spare on either side. We are now going to pop down into the Carrousel du Louvre “underground mall” filled with some very nice souvenir options and possibly the most magnificent Apple store in the world. If you are having any issues with your Mac devices, telling folks back home that you got help at Apple Louvre will elicit envy, especially from other Apple staff around the world.
#15. Enter the Carrousel du Louvre from the side entrance, take the escalator down and if you need a potty break, be sure to stop at Point WC. This is the luxury public washroom featuring a myriad of designer toilet paper colors, gold seat covers and other posh toilette accessories. It’s worth the small entrance fee you have to pay. Take a swing around to look at all the shops. Keeners can have a Louvre power visit by buying a museum ticket and racing around to see the Mona Lisa and other notable works, but more time and another day are recommended for this adventure.
#16. From the Carrousel du Louvre, come back up the escalator and out of this building where you will come out onto the busy street of Rue de Rivoli. Look for the Palais Royal Musée de Louvre metro sign and scoot down to the platform.
This is Metro Line 1, the main metro line where the metro stops are announced by a lovely accented Parisian. You are going to take the train in the direction La Défense and get off at station Franklin D. Roosevelt (4 stops). Climb out of the metro station and you are now on the famous Champs-Elysées!
#17. Have fun checking out the exclusive offerings on this grand avenue as you walk toward the looming Arc de Triomphe. Again, visitors are astounded at the sheer size of this monument that honours those who fought and died during the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars. We could stand for hours watching the traffic whip around the Etoile at high speeds, criss-crossing and weaving between lanes. A glimpse of the Eiffel Tower can also be seen. Give yourself ample time to take a taxi or the metro back to the Gare du Nord (Line 4).
If time allows once you get to this point, the full version of this self-guided tour in our book details how you can see even more of Paris including a closer view of the Eiffel Tower, from the special vantage point at Trocadéro. Many power visitors also end this one day extravaganza in the Marais or Montmartre; both areas strategically place you in a good position to get yourself back to the Gare du Nord.
*View the annotated map to add the Eiffel Tower and Marais to your tour
*View the annotated map to add the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre to your tour
* Follow our Pinterest boards
Karen Henrich is the publisher of TapBooksPublishing.com and is also an author of books and apps about her beloved adopted city, Paris. Henrich spends her time between Vancouver, Canada and Paris, France and can also be found writing in various other exotic locales throughout the world.
Eurostar photo by Steve Cadman [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Cathedral Notre-Dame photo by Tristan Nitot [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Rue de la Huchette photo by Mbzt [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel photo by Bangin [CC BY-SA 3.0],
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