With coach fares starting from just £12 one-way, affordable travel to Paris could be just as seductive as the city of love itself. If you’re able to be flexible with journey times and book in advance, you could enjoy savings on your coach journey, even if you’re only booking up to three days in advance.
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Start planning your trip to include iconic attractions, such as the Mona Lisa or the Eiffel Tower, and then discover the rest of what Paris has to offer.
Check out our recommendations below for inspiration for how to fill your time (and plate).
La Crêperie de Josselin
Head south of the Seine for the Josselin crêperie, an affordable establishment in Montparnasse. Although usually to be found with a queue out of the door, Josselin remains a firm local favourite for their buttery savoury galettes and sweet filled crêpes. Our British pancakes with sugar and lemon juice can seem somewhat simple compared to French classics, such as le complète – with ham, cheese and egg.
Liberté Patisserie Boulangerie
If you’re looking for an alternative to the prim patisseries of Rue de Bac, fear not. Liberté holds court inside a pared back interior, with an open-plan kitchen allowing you to watch their pastry chefs at work. In a taste survey of Parisian madeleines, Liberté’s offering was a close contestant, coming in at a very respectable fourth, as well as being the second cheapest on the list.
Le Relais de L’Entrecote
When a restaurant only serves steak-frites on the menu for mains, you’d be assured that it does them very well. In fact, the only choices you need to consider at Le Relais de L’Entrecote are how rare you’d like your beef to be, and what to have afterwards from the dessert menu.
Wander along the Canal Saint-Martin
A favourite for hip locals, known as bobos – or the bohemian bourgeoisie, once-derelict Canal Saint-Martin now has all the buzz of London’s Shoreditch with bars and chic cafés along the canal side. Sip on an artisan beer brewed in-house at the Paname Brewery Company, or visit Le Méduse (‘the jellyfish’ in French) for heady cocktails.
Seek out a speakeasy in Le Marais
Famed for housing the aristocracy, the district of Le Marais is now home to several great bars. Stop in at Candelaria for tacos, before sneaking through the broom cupboard for some mixology wizardry at Paris’ most popular speakeasy. Or if you’re looking for somewhere slightly easier to spot, head through the red door of Little Red Door for cocktails galore.
Have your beer and drink it in Bastille
Turns out Marie Antoinette actually proclaimed “Let them eat croissant” before she was imprisoned in the Bastille during the French Revolution, since replaced by a namesake square – Place de la Bastille. Straddling the 4th, 11th and 12th arrondissements, or Parisian neighbourhood districts, Bastille offers many places to order a pint. Trendy joint Charlie serves up a half for 2€ – the cheapest you’ll find in the capital. Alternatively, head over to the Bottle Shop for a wide selection of brews.
Snapping a chic shot outside concept store Merci would be perfect for any Instagram account with its branded classic car. Inside, you’ll find a wide curation of items for sale, from fashion to furniture, as well as the adjoining Cantine-Merci, serving fresh food.
Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen
Wander through Europe’s largest flea market, and make sure to practise your French banter in order to bag yourself some bargains. Remember to take cash, as some vendors remain old school and card-free, but keep an eye out for pickpockets.
Purchase or simply peruse at the high-end fashion department store Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussman. The interior architecture and Art Déco façades are a gorgeous sight, even before ascending to the rooftop terrace (free to access) with panoramic views over the city.
Take a peek at the Mona Lisa and other classics, such as the statue of the Venus de Milo or the striking French revolution painting ‘Liberty Leading the People’. And don’t forget to visit the outdoor court of the Palais Royal next door to see the Instagram-worthy yet controversial Colonnes de Buren.
Le Sacré-Coeur Basilica
Take the stairs if you’re wanting to stretch your legs, or hop on the funicular up to the Basilica for stunning views of the skyline. By the way, if you’re feeling a sense of déjà vu, it’s because popular French film Amélie was filmed here. You can even climb up further inside the Basilica itself to the domed roof.
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower, or Tour Eiffel as you’ll hear in Paris, was completed in 1889 and is still one of the most culturally recognised landmarks in the world. Brave the queues to buy elevator tickets on the day, and be whisked up to either the second level or viewing platform at the summit.
Fill them with joie de vivre at the Ile de la Cité flower and pet market
Not far from Notre Dame, Île de la Cité - the island in the middle of the Seine, has a market that every Sunday transforms into a menagerie. Although known as the Marché aux Oiseaux, or bird market, many other domesticated animals are also on display.
Enchant them at the Musee de Magie
With a magic show, over a hundred automatons, and artefacts from the world of illusion, there will be something to entice even the most technology-savvy child away from their iPad.
Enjoy discounted – or free – arts and culture
Most of Paris big galleries and famous monuments, such as the Centre Pompidou, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe offer free entry to under-25s from the EU. Theatre tickets are also available for 10€ every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to under-26s.
It might seem like a bit of a stretch to visit all the sights, but don’t let that put you off. Here are our top recommendations for a day out in Paris if it’s your first time in the city.
Choose between either the Musee D’Orsay or the Louvre
The Louvre is huge, and you won’t be able to see all of it in a day, let alone fit in sightseeing around the rest of Paris. Either hit up the entrance queue early when it opens to dash in for the Mona Lisa, or make a pit stop outside to take your photos for social media with the iconic glass pyramid in the Napoleon courtyard. The Musee D’Orsay usually closes at 6pm, but the listed building (formerly a magnificent train station) is easier to stride through and has many incredible impressionist paintings permanently on show.
Visit the island of Île de la Cité and see Notre-Dame
This island is the historical heart of Paris with ‘point zero’ marked – the centre point from where they used to measure the city outwards. With its gothic architecture, the Paris cathedral is even more splendid in real life than as portrayed in cartoon form. You can also buy a ticket to climb up to the roof for the views and a selfie with a gargoyle.
Stock up on patisserie on Rue de Bac
Although sometimes a bit pricey, the Rue de Bac, or Rue de Sucre (Sugar Road) will be a showstopper for any fans of baking. The pretty boxes you’ll undoubtedly collect, each containing Paris’s finest pastries, will ensure you get them home in one piece – if you can bear not to eat them.
Île aux Cygnes
This artificial island built in the middle of the Seine has a public walkway along the middle, with a workout space and climbing wall. As well as home to swans as the name would suggest, there is also a 22 metre replica of the Statue of Liberty, gifted by the Parisian community in the United States.
Ballon Air de Paris
Near the outskirts of the city is the world’s largest tethered hot air balloon. Weather permitting, it lifts viewers up into the sky every day of the year to the second highest altitude in the city after the Eiffel Tower.
Although the network of underground tunnels stretch under a vast area of Paris, only the ossuary displaying patterned stacks of human skulls and bones are open to the public.
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