I’m going to be brutally honest here. Paris is not my favourite city in the world. In fact it isn’t in my top five favourite cities in France. I have my reasons, some of which go back to weekly business trips to an office that was in “the centre of Paris” but was actually not. Bit like saying Croydon is in the centre of London. You form an impression over time and it takes some serious phychology to get it out of your system. But I am trying and each visit to the City of Lights slowly warms my heart. I wouldn’t say I am falling in love yet, but the whiff of amore is certainly in my nostrils.
Quite why so many airlines offer flights from London/South East to Paris is a mystery to me when the Eurostar effortlessly covers the 240-odd miles in around 2 hours and delivers you right in the city centre. If you get in fast then you can pick up tickets for just £29.50 each way as well, less than it will cost to park at Heathrow for 3 minutes. For those living outside of the metropolis then virtually every regional airport has flights to Paris (Easyjet, City Jet, Jet 2, FlyBe and Air France being the main carriers) although bear in mind Paris Beauvais is some 70km from the city centre.
So you have 24 hours in Paris – what can you do? Well, with a bit of planning, quite a lot actually. There is an argument that the best way to see Paris is not from the top of the Eiffel Tower, not only is it expensive but unless you have booked a long way in advance, queues can be massive, but from one of the other high vantage points in the city. The Tour Montparnasse offers outstanding views for just €15, is easy to reach and the queues are relatively short, whilst the Grande Arche de la Defense, a strange cube-like structure in the business district, offers a view straight down the Champs Élysée to the Louvre for just €10. It also houses the Computer and Video Game Museum which is a great way to relive your misspent youth (or is that just me?).
I’m not going to dwell on a visit to the Louvre – it is so vast that you could have 24 hours in there alone. The story here is after queuing for ages, paying €12 (free on first Sunday of month between October and March), rushing past all the exhibits to get to the Mona Lisa then finding out that any pictures you take are rubbish due to the thick bullet-proof glass and the lighting. Head over the Seine to the Musée d’Orsay, located in an old railway station for a better and more relaxed viewing experience if Monet and Van Gogh are your thing.
For those of you who have been to New York and walked the High Line, Paris has a similar and older trail to explore – the Promenade Plantée runs along an old railway track from Opera Bastille for around 5km and is a great way to spend a few hours in the fine weather. For something a little more dark, head to the Conciergerie on Ile de la Cité, one of the oldest prisons in the city and where Marie Antoinette spent her last days and nights.
Located on rue des Beaux-Arts, just a short distance from Musée d’Orsay and Louvre is L’Hôtel, one of the most exclusive hotels in the city and where Oscar Wilde died in one of the bedrooms. The hotel not only has a Michelin starred restaurant but if you want to wow the person of your dreams you can hire the stone grotto, complete with pool and steam room by the hour.
Obviously in a county that is famed for its food, finding a decent restaurant isn’t hard. Finding one that wont break the bank is a bit more of a challenge. If you want a decent (and cheap) steak and chips then head to Le Clos Bourguignon at 39 Rue de Caumartin. No more than a five minute walk away is a classic pavement cafe that does a mean duck in pepper sauce – Triadou Haussmann. On the South Bank Le Reminet is well worth a visit on Rue des Grands Degrés. If you are arriving at Gare du Nord then step outside the chaos and head across the road to Terminus Nord which is a pretty decent, if expensive Bistro.
In terms places to lay your head for the night, again there are too many hotels to mention. Every brand is represented in multiple locations across the city and rates depend on time of year and how far in advance you book. Two options outside of this that are in good locations and are recommended are Villathena in Rue d’Athènes and Hôtel du Léman,20 Rue de Trévise.
Leave your perceptions at home and come enjoy the joie de vivre.