How to Plan the Perfect Paris Day Trip from London
Paris is one of those destinations that almost everyone wants to visit at least once in their travels. It has something for everyone: food, culture, history, art, the outdoors, great public transit, and – unmissably – the Parisian people. Whatever appeals to you, you might wonder whether it’s possible to visit Paris during your trip to London – or in addition to visiting London. Short answer? Absolutely! You can plan a Paris day trip from London or add it to the end of your London itinerary.
Despite how far apart they appear on a map, there’s an easy way to travel between Paris and London that makes it a viable day trip destination from London. You can rise early, soak in a lot of what Paris has to offer, and return late to London with a full heart and head of memories.
If you’re sold on trying to make a Paris day trip work during your trip to London, read on. In this post, you’ll discover how to reach Paris from London, all the best things to do in Paris during your day, and the optimal Paris day trip itinerary. Ready to go? Bon voyage!
Note: Some photos in this post were taken before the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. As such, your experience when visiting will look different than it odes
How to Get from London to Paris
There are numerous ways to get from Paris to London. I’ll cover the primary and best one: Eurostar. Why? Because taking this train makes sense time-wise, which matters when you only have a day to explore a new place.
Most people would hesitate to plan a Paris day trip from London given the distance between the two capital cities. However, the Eurostar train only takes two hours and 20 minutes to reach the French capital from London. The Eurostar website recommends taking the first train from London and the last train from Paris to make the most of your quick getaway.
The first Eurostar train departs from London’s St. Pancras station at 5:40 am, and the last one departs from Paris’s Gare du Nord at 9:13 pm (Timetable subject to change, try to book as soon as possible to secure the first and last services). Following this timetable will leave you eleven hours to explore Paris. Plus, the train goes underwater beneath the English Channel!
While in most European countries, there are no passport border checks in most European countries, you will need your passport or European ID to go from London to Paris (and to return back at the end of the day!).
The Best Things to Do for One Day in Paris
Like London, Paris is a vibrant city with attractions and activities galore. As you can expect, this best-things-to-do list is quite long, so we better get right into it.
Explore the Île de la Cité
The Île de la Cité is one of two natural islands in the River Seine, right in the center of Paris. The island is rich in history, dating back over 2000 years. Today, it is the location of some of the most important sites in Paris, including Notre Dame Cathedral, St. Chapelle, and Conciergerie, the remains of Palais de la Cité – the first Royal Palace in Paris. You’ll also find impressive statues, small parks, squares, and famous bridges, such as Pont Neuf and Pont St. Louis, connecting the island to Île de la Saint Louis.
Visit Notre Dame
Notre Dame Cathedral is one of Paris’s unmissable attractions. It is arguably the finest example of French Gothic architecture. Notre Dame remains closed after the devastating fire it suffered in 2019; however, guests can still visit it as the outside is open for site-seeing. To be honest, a visit just to look at the facade is worth it.
The building’s grandness and sheer art are just dazzling. Thousands of little details, symbols, saints, gargoyles, and more make up this magnificent cathedral. Numerous photos depict the disaster that caused the cathedral to shut down along the northern side.
Ascend Eiffel Tower
Is there anything more irrefutably Parisian than this man-made structure? I don’t think so. I’m sure you expected to find the Eiffel Tower at some point on the list. The truth is that no day trip to Paris from London would be complete without it.
The Eiffel Tower invites visitors to indulge in fabulous views of the city from the tower’s second floor. You have several options with pricing and difficulty levels to get to the top.
You can either climb up its 674 steps leading to the second floor for 10.70 euros or take the access lift for 17.10 euros.
Visitors can also reach the very top floor by either purchasing a ticket for the access lift to the top for 26.80 euros or buying a ticket with access stairs to the second floor plus a lift to the top for 20.40 euros.
Take in the View from Sacre Cœur Basilica
Besides being an absolutely gorgeous piece of architecture, the Sacre Cœur Basilica is a vantage point offering breathtaking views of the city. It sits on top of the hill of Montmartre, which is such a stunning district of Paris you’ve likely seen in many movies.
To reach the basilica, you need to take a cable car uphill. The tickets cost the same as a subway fare each way. You can also look inside the basilica; it is free, and you might catch a live mass.
Wander through Montmartre
A hotbed of art and culture, Montmartre has an enviable artistic heritage, having been home to renowned artists during the Belle Époque, such as Renoir and Degas calling it home.
Montmartre’s bohemian charm hasn’t gone anywhere. Winding roads, cobblestone alleys, old buildings, little paths, and narrow stairways still define this stunning area.
Montmartre has two different areas: Place Pigalle, where the controversial cabarets and brothels that kept many Parisians at bay during the 19th Century are, and the Place du Tertre, where you can find rows of restaurants and stalls selling art.
Admire Art at the Louvre
The Louvre itself is a work of art, with its halls lined with priceless art and sculptures. The world’s most-visited museum, the Louvre, houses some of the finest artworks in the world, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, just to name a few.
Visiting the museum isn’t a slight affair, quite the opposite. It is a multiple-day endeavor. However, you can selectively stop for specific masterpieces and then decide to see other exhibitions.
Should you include a visit to the museum in your day trip to Paris from London, you must buy your tickets online for a specific entry time, so plan your visit carefully.
Walk Along the Left Bank
Here’s where you channel the flâneur in you. The Left Bank, or Rive Gauche, refers to the southern bank of the river Seine in Paris. It governs six arrondissements which are considered Paris’ bohemian district.
The area has always been historically relevant given its links to notable philosophers and writers who shaped much of Paris’ rebellious way of thinking. So much so that the area’s origin story formed the basis of the saying, “Paris ‘learned to think’ on the Left Bank.” I could tell you to stop at the Sorbonne or other attractions, but my best advice is that you saunter down the bank and enjoy unexpected surprises the city has for you.
Visit the Arc de Triomphe
Inaugurated in 1836 by the French King Louis-Philippe, the Arc de Triomphe is the mother of all war memorials. It commemorates the victories of his Grande Armée and has given birth to many other arches around the world.
Those up for a challenge can dare climb the 284 steps to the top. If that many steps seem too much of a daunting task, you can content yourself with looking at the Arc de Triomphe from solid ground, and it will be equally amusing.
Explore the Père Lachaise Cemetery
Explore the spooky side of Paris at the Père Lachaise Cemetery. The largest cemetery in Paris, France, Père Lachaise Cemetery, is also the most visited necropolis in the world.
This cemetery is almost like a museum. It is the burial place of notable people, and you can find the graves and tombstones of Frédéric Chopin, Édith Piaf, Marcel Proust, and Sarah Bernhardt. However, I recommend just wandering around instead of sightseeing.’ It is a beautiful cemetery with very impressive sepultures; some even look like chapels.
Stand on the Rose Line at Saint-Sulpice
The Rose Line is the Parisian Meridian – once a close contender to the Greenwich Meridian. It rose to popularity after Dan Brown mentioned it in his novel The Da Vinci Code as the key’s hiding place to the Holy Grail. While the story surrounding it is purely fictional, the Rose Line does exist. It sits inside Saint-Sulpice, a quiet church in the Saint Germain quarters of Paris.
Enjoy Fresh French Pastries from a Boulangerie
I’m pretty sure I don’t need to introduce you to France’s enormous culinary heritage. Here’s the thing, though. It’s always interesting to sample cuisine from a new place. However, in France, food is more than just a combination of ingredients. The country and its people have a long-lived idyll with food, and it’s a vital component of everyday life.
I also don’t need to mention that French chefs excel at preparing many dishes, one being pastries. Head to the first boulangerie you find on the streets. It will be your opportunity to practice your French while asking for the famous croissant or that decadent pain au chocolat that’s tantalizing you from the display case.
Snag a Bottle of Cheap (Delicious) French Wine
Ah, yes, another perk of visiting France: just like the most unassuming boulangerie makes unbelievably delicious pastries, the cheapest French wine on the counter is to die for; it truly is heaven in a bottle.
Bring out the bon vivant in you by preparing a basket and a blanket and head to the nearer green space. Sipping a glass of wine under the Eiffel Tower or parks is a common pastime among locals, so don’t worry about being inappropriate.
Savor Sweet Macarons from Pierre Hermé
Pierre Hermé is a French pastry chef and chocolatier who has mastered l’art du macaron. He has numerous stores spread around the city. Hermé’s macarons are famous for their unusual flavor combinations. The pastry chef offers limited edition macarons on special occasions, such as Valentine’s Day.
The Perfect Paris Day Trip Itinerary
Let’s be honest. As much as you’d like to, there’s no way you can visit all these places in one day. Nor should you attempt to do it. My advice is that you spend a considerable time in the areas that interest you instead of trying to squeeze in as many as you can. Below is an itinerary to help ideate your own Paris day trip from London.
- Arrive at Gare du Nord early in the morning; depending on your departure time, you may arrive as early as 8am – perfect for a full-day of exploration!
- Take a bus to Notre Dame and then explore Ilê de la Cite. If you need a pick-up, grab a coffee and crêpe from one of the street vendors
- Next, catch the metro up to Montmartre. Find a boulangerie along the way and grab a croissant.
- Once in Montmartre, ascend to Sacre Cœur for sweeping views of Paris.
- Then, come back down for lunch in Montmartre. Remember you’ll find many restaurants near the Place du Tertre.
- From Montmartre, head to Saint Sulpice to see the Rose Line and then to the Eiffel Tower as the sun starts to go down. On the way, pop into a cafe or restaurant that catches your eye for a quick dinner.
- To end on a high note, pop into a Monoprix for wine as a souvenir, and then make your way back to Gare du Nord to catch the train back to London.
Sounds perfect, right? Paris is great for a day trip from London and now you know it’s totally possible and how to make the most of it. Have any questions about planning a Paris day trip? Let me know in the comments.