We’ve just returned from a spontaneous three-night break to Paris and as usual we crammed a lot into the time that we spent there. So much so that I couldn’t possibly fit all of the key info into one blog post, so to start with, here’s a look at the itinerary that helped us see as much of the city as possible. Then to follow, I’ll be sharing my second ever travel vlog (did you see my first?), and a few photo-filled Paris neighbourhood guides.
Booking the trip
Flights: For city breaks, my go to for flights is always the SkyScanner app. We knew when we wanted to go, so I searched the “Everywhere” section within my chosen dates and et voila – up popped £66 return flights to Paris with EasyJet from London Luton Airport. I think being able to fly on a week day helped bring the cost down.
Hotel: I spent an absolute age looking at hotels because I’m super fussy, but I eventually settled on the Libertel Montmarte Opera hotel, a small but charming and modern hotel in Pigalle. What I didn’t know when I booked is that Pigalle is actually Paris’ red light district. More on that later. The hotel was booked via Expedia for approx. £260 all in.
Day One – Thursday 22 March
3am: Starting your day with a 3am alarm is never pretty, but when you’re going on holiday it’s somehow doable. We could have done without our house alarm having a melt down as we were leaving (sorry neighbours), but that’s the reality of going on holiday. Nothing ever goes smoothly. So anyway, we left at 4am and drove ourselves to London Luton Airport, dropped our car, cleared security and bought a strong coffee to pass the time as we waited for our 6.55am flight. At this point we were just relieved to even be there, because thanks to a French strike EasyJet were cancelling more and more flights by the hour. Better still – I bagged a window seat thanks to a no-show.
9am: After a quick 45-minute flight we landed and made our way to the train station for our next leg of the journey to Gare Du Nord. I thought I’d read that tickets to the city were about €2 per person. Turns out they’re actually about €10 per person, FYI. The train takes just under an hour though so I suppose that’s a normal price for a major city. Our hotel was about a 20-minute walk from Gare du Nord through an area of Paris which didn’t feel massively safe (which is fab given that we ended up walking the wrong way), but when we finally reached our hotel all was good again. Oh, and luckily their red light district was just a few dodgy shops, so nothing even close to the scale of Amsterdam.
12pm: We couldn’t check-in for a couple of hours so we dropped our bags and walked further into the town to grab some lunch. I still hadn’t even eaten breakfast by that point so a €4 cheese and ham baguette was all I needed. After scoffing that (and a sneaky pastry from the shop next door) we returned to the hotel to check-in, had a quick refresh in the room, and ventured back out for an afternoon of exploring Montmarte. But not before checking our the Moulin Rouge, which was literally one street away from our hotel.
5pm: Luckily we were only 20-minutes or so by foot from the heart of Montmarte, which is home to the must-visit Sacré-Cœur, so after spending a good few hours shuffling around the cobbled streets we decided to order ourselves some French fries, a Croque-Madame and a little drink at a restaurant in the square, finished nicely with a French Nutella crepe from one of the dessert shops nearby.
7pm: To end the day we spent a couple of hours sat by the Sacré-Cœur watching the sun go down over Paris as the city lit up around us. It was seriously cold that night, so before heading back down to the hotel for an early 9pm bedtime, I grabbed myself a piping hot vin chaud before tucking up into my marshmallow bed for a glorious 11-hour sleep.
Day Two – Friday 23 March
9am: On day two we were up and in search of a bakery breakfast bright and early, because even just plain old croissants are the dream in Paris. The weather sucked on this day, but thankfully we’d switched our plans around which meant a large part of the day would be spent inside instead. So, full to the brim with pastries and coffee, we continued our journey into the centre of Paris. I’d planned a basic route on Google Maps but we ended up wandering in and out of random streets and public attractions all morning.
11am: Before the lunch-time rush we stopped at Insta-hotspot, Angelina Paris for some of their famous chocolat chaud and (surprise surprise) another pastry. Can’t get enough. That hot chocolate was liquid gold, no word of a lie. Expensive, but worth every penny. Leaving in a sugar coma, we hopped across the road and joined the not-too-terrible queue for the Louvre, where we spent the next few hours. Despite spending most of our time there looking for a painting that ended up being off-limits to visitors on that day (typical), it was fun. Definitely a must-see.
3pm: After the Louvre we explored the rainy courtyard of the Palais Royal before stopping off at a restaurant for a late lunch, where we ordered two camembert baguettes. Bread was definitely becoming a theme! We were getting pretty cold and damp by this point so afterwards we had a brisk walk around the Notre Dame, the Pantheon and the Jardin du Luxembourg, before everything began to close for the day.
7pm: I’d heard that the Latin Quarter was fab for cheap eats, so we wandered over there and ordered ourselves a €15 three-cheese fondue, but unfortunately the restaurant wasn’t great. In fact, people actually entered and immediately left. Not great when you’re sat there waiting for your food. I can’t remember the name, but just avoid the one that has bizarre red heat lamps inside and a straw/hay bale vibe in the entrance.
8pm: To end the day we walked for about an hour to Le Marais to explore the area, which didn’t seem to have much of a vibe at night, before walking another hour or so back to our hotel, arriving at around 10pm. To say my feet hurt by the time we got back is a huge understatement. Plus I didn’t really appreciate the homeless guy that followed us for half of the journey.
Day 3 – Saturday 24 March
9am: For our last full day we got up nice and early again to begin another hour-long walk. I tried to find a cute Parisian bakery for breakfast but settled for a croissant and flat white from Pret instead, because hangry Katie needed another pastry ASAP. Shortly after we arrived at the Eiffel Tower and joined the queue, which didn’t take long because we joined the shorter of the two queues, assuming it was for people who wanted to buy the Walk/Lift tickets (i.e. us). It turns out both queues were the same, so people in the long queue were basically wasting their time.
12pm: When we made it through security we got our half-price tickets (yes to being under 25) and climbed up to level two of the tower, which I’d really recommend. It only takes 20-minutes or so to do this and it’s obviously very safe. You can’t walk higher than level two, so we got the lift right to the top and spent a small fortune on a plastic flute of champagne as we enjoyed the panoramic views. I was so glad we swapped our plans to do this on the only day that it was sunny.
2pm: Once back down on the ground we spent far too long looking for an affordable restaurant, and ended up settling for one where the service was once again abysmal. I think they didn’t like us because we shared our meal, which was French onion soup and French fries, but it’s desperate times when you’re running low on funds and have just spent a large proportion of your budget on bubbles. Still, at least the food was good.
4pm: After lunch we wandered around the area a bit more, watched a few street performers at the Palais de Chaillot and set off in search of The Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe. We didn’t spend too long in that area because we wanted to get back to the Eiffel for sunset, so after a quick visit we began the walk back to the place where it was all happening. To be honest after all the walking we’d done during the trip so far, we’d slightly lost our minds by this point.
6pm: For dinner we shared an amazing pizza and bowl of chips paired with teeny glasses of wine) at a restaurant called Mokus l’Écureuil, close to the Palais de Chaillot, before walking down to the Eiffel Tower just before the 7.15pm sunset. I could have stayed there for hours but we had to be up at 5am (technically 4am because of the clocks changing) to get to the airport for our 8.55am flight home to Luton, so we ditched the hour walk back and got the metro instead. We eventually made it back (stopping off for tomorrow’s breakfast pastries on the way) at around 9pm, packed our luggage, ate M&Ms in bed and crashed ahead of one last home-bound travel stint.
Paris in a nutshell
So what did I think of Paris? I loved a lot about the trip. The food, the views, the buildings, the nice neighbourhoods and the general vibe. The walking was tough, after all we did rack up 60km and 90,000 steps in three days, but that’s the best way to see a city isn’t it? Plus points aside, it wasn’t all peachy. I didn’t love the cost of the food/drinks, the rude restaurant service we experienced, the scary parts of the city, and the horrendous smell of pee on the streets, in the metro stations and believe it or not the airport. To be honest I was both shocked and sad about the amount of homeless people in the airport. However on the whole, it was a really great trip – and I’d happily return to Paris in the future. Now I’ve got a million more photos to sift through, so expect several other posts (and my second travel vlog) to follow soon. Au revoir!