I really like Paris but then I do have a thing for museums and architecture. A lot of people consider Paris to be a romantic destination; however, the city of love can also be a fun and interesting destination for single travellers and families. There is so much on offer and all budgets are catered for.
By far the quickest and most hassle-free way to get to Paris from the UK is by Eurostar. Unless of course you live hours from London, in which case flying would probably be the best option. My journey from St Pancras to Gare du Nord took under 2 ½ hours. Seeing the countryside whizzing past is much more enjoyable than looking at clouds from the air. St Pancras is a pleasant terminal, not that you need to spend too much time there since it is possible to check in just 30 minutes before your train. The Eurostar deposits you neatly at Gare du Nord with little fuss. It’s easy to navigate your way on to the Metro and towards your accommodation.
The Parisian Metro is fun to use, especially working out how to open the doors! The trick is to watch the locals before you make your attempt. A quick flick of the wrist lifts the lever and opens the doors allowing you to hop from the train as it stops. The lines are coloured and numbered making navigation a breeze. Each metro station is different and there are some great places to visit just for the station! For example, Arts et Metiers gives you the feeling of being inside a giant steam engine and is reminiscent of a Jules Verne creation. The Metro gets you where you want to be but Paris is also a great walking city. You see so much more from street level. I walked from my accommodation in the 19th arrondissement towards the centre of Paris and stumbled upon a market and a very yummy crepe complet. On foot you can really get a feel for a place and you can take the time to look around. Due to the fact that I chose a hostel outside the centre of town I bought a Paris Visite ticket that gave me unlimited public transport within zones 1 to 3. This covers all the areas you need. The ticket is available to purchase at any station. It currently costs €9.75 for 1 day, €15.85 for 2, €21.60 for 3 and €31.15 for 5 days. The child fare is half price.
Some places to visit in Paris
General admission is €9 however it’s free for under 18s and 18-25 year olds who are EU citizens. On the first Sunday of every month admission is free for everyone. This museum used to be a railway station and the main hall is a vast space with a carved and glass curved ceiling. The museum’s collection is vast and contains many great works. I spent a good half day exploring. It was a rainy weekday in March so I didn’t need to push through any crowds.
The Eiffel Tower
You can’t go to Paris without going up the Eiffel Tower. The tower is synonymous with the city and a genuine travel icon. I walked to the 2nd level and have to say I was absolutely knackered once I got there! There’s a discount for children and 12-24 year olds. As I was 23 at the time of my trip I made the trek to the 2nd floor for a meagre €3.50. Adults pay €5 for stair access. The lift actually only costs €8 so it really depends on how fit you’re feeling. You can always get the lift up and walk down! I wish I had gone to the summit though. I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower twice now and never seen the view from the top. The lift ticket to the top costs €14 for adults aged 25 and over. Even from the 2nd floor the views are fabulous and there’s plenty to see up there to allow you time to catch your breath.
Le Sacre Coeur
Towering over the artists’ quarter of Montmartre is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. This beautiful place of worship commands an enviable position on the hill overlooking Paris. Less than €6 gives you access to climb the winding stairs to the dome. I highly recommend this for a bird’s eye view of the city. I didn’t enjoy visiting on my own as I found the staircases to be quite lonely and a little eerie! I can be a bit daft though and am easily scared. Next time I’ll take someone with me! Just a note of warning, on the bottom of the steps leading up to Sacre Coeur there are some hawkers selling items such as friendship bracelets. Unless you want to buy one at an extortionate price please don’t let them give you the bracelet! A man asked me to hold some thread and before I knew it he’d made the bracelet, tied it round my wrist and tried to charge me €10 for the privilege. I can assure you I didn’t pay him anywhere near that but it was still too much for something I didn’t want. I always seem to learn these lessons the hard way.
What to eat
There is no getting away from the fact that Paris is expensive. I ate simply and cheaply by visiting boulangeries and munching on fresh croissants. These served as breakfast and lunch for me. I ate one for breakfast, one mid-morning and one at midday! The boulangerie nearest to my hostel had a special offer for buying 3. Mid-afternoon I picked up a crepe or some other street food. For drinks I popped in to little supermarkets. Unfortunately, my hostel didn’t offer self-catering facilities, which is something I would look for on my next trip. Most restaurants offer a reasonably priced Menu du Jour that is available at lunchtime so it is much more cost effective to eat out for lunch rather than dinner. Also check out the value restaurant chain Flunch. They offer proper food, as opposed to fast food, for a very reasonable price. One day I splashed out and enjoyed a lovely lunch near Montmartre. The French really do know how to make good food. The best advice I can offer is to find eating places away from the main tourist areas with their inflated prices.