While a day trip to Paris might seem ambitious at first, it’s easy when the journey’s so quick and comfortable.
In fact, if you take the first Eurostar and come back on the last, you’ll have more than eleven hours to enjoy in the City of Light. And since Paris is one hour ahead of London, you’ll be back earlier than you might expect. In short, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the capital.
The real secret is to be prepared. So swap apps and websites for these tips from our local in-the-know guides.
Breakfast like a true Parisian
Hot foot it to the 6th arrondissement and grab a table on the terrace at Les Deux Magots Café. Steeped in history and oh-so-French, it’s perfect for a spot of people-watching. Breakfast like a true Parisian with a café crème and a fresh, flaky croissant or a tartine with lashings of Échiré butter. An indulgent petit déjeuner to set you up for the day.
Not the sort to linger?
Grab a croissant au beurre to go from the Pâtisserie Gérard Mulot and be on your merry way. From here you have two options: north or south.
If you’ve the appétit
Head south to Pierre Hermé: home of delicate macarons, indulgent Ispahan croissants and desserts that wouldn’t look out of place in the Louvre. Poilâne, with its signature sourdough loaf, and master chocolatier Patrick Roger are also good spots to pick up a tasty souvenir or two. A little further west, you’ll find Jacques Génin and the most divine caramels you’ll ever taste.
If you’re not quite ready for breakfast, go north
On your way to the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés pop into Ladurée for a box of scrumptious macarons. Wander the petite narrow streets, make your way east towards the Saint-Michel fountain, cross the bridge to Île de la Cité – and gaze at the majesty of Notre Dame.
Explore charming streets
Then, once you’ve had your fill of whispering “the bells” under your breath, continue into Le Marais: to explore charming streets, stumble upon stunning buildings, discover hidden gardens and relax in colourful cafés.
If there’s one tip to follow in the hunt for your dream déjeuner, it’s to eat where the locals eat. Luckily, there’s no shortage of choice, whether you’re vegetarian, visiting with kids or a romantic lunch à deux.
The classic French bistro
Just a ten-minute walk from the hustle and bustle of Gare du Nord, make yourself at home in La Maison Bleue. Their famous French bistro dishes look as fabulous as the mixture of modern and vintage French décor. Though if the sun has his chapeau on, it’s even lovelier to eat sur la terrasse.
The romantic lunch
If you’re hungry for amour, head over to Le 52, take a seat at one of their marble-topped tables and prepare to be wowed by the most sensational seasonal fish dishes you've ever tasted.
Travelling with kids?
Chez Jeanette serves up simple, quintessentially French food (our favourite’s the cheeseboard) as well as kid-friendly burgers and frites. Pizza-lovers should make a beeline for Lucky Luciano, along the pretty Cour des Petites Écuries.
The islands of Paris
Two natural islands sit proudly in the midst of this stretch of the River Seine. Île de la Cité, the larger of the two, is home to the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral.
But never discount the allure of its sister Île, Saint-Louis. A short jaunt from Le Marais, one of Paris’s most fashionable neighbourhoods, the Pont Louis Philippe bridge welcomes you to intimate island life, with pretty cobbled streets and a refreshing laid-back charm.
Fancy a café or an ice cream?
Pick a café – Saint-Régis is always a favourite – and linger over lunch with a glass of rosé, while nearby street musicians fill the air with song. Then, time for a different kind of glass: Crème glacée from Paris’s original artisanal ice cream shop, Berthillon. Indulge in a scoop or two as the sun starts to dip over Notre Dame, or pack a Parisian picnic of crusty bread, gooey cheese and – bien sûr – a bottle of red, all best served with a sunset. Santé!
Before you hop on the train back to London, why not sample some Parisian nightlife? If you book ahead, you could even catch a concert at the legendary, and newly-renovated, Elysée-Montmartre music hall.
Right now, though, Paris is all about craft beers. Try brews by Brasserie de la Goutte d'Or, Deck & Donohue and BapBap. On the Bassin de la Villette, in the 19th arrondissement, the Paname Brewing Company is a fun taproom which brews its own beer too.
Fancy some wine?
If you’re more of a wine-lover, raise a glass at an atmospheric bar like La Grande Crèmerie in St Germain. Across the Seine, Juveniles has fabulous food and, for one of the best cocktails in town, don’t miss Le Mary Celeste. If the weather’s nice, hit a rooftop bar like Le Perchoir and enjoy the view.
For the foodies
Serious epicureans are spoilt for choix. Some of our go-to Michelin-starred picks: Le Gabriel at La Réserve Paris, Epicure at Le Bristol and L’Abeille at the Shangri-La. Pressed for time? Try Champeaux and Restaurant AG – both in the newly-transformed Les Halles district.
See some art in the evening
Culture vultures should check out Palais de Tokyo. Europe’s largest contemporary art space is open until midnight every day except Tuesday. And that’s without mentioning the not-so-small matter of the Louvre. Show your Eurostar ticket to take a friend for free and stay until 9.45pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Paris is all about people watching, as you drink coffee on a café terrace.
Beer, waffles, chocolate and culture, and only 2 hrs from London by train.
At only 1 hr 30 mins from London, Lille is the perfect destination for a day trip or overnight stay.