Emma Knock gives you an inside look at ‘the city of light’.
This year my friend Luke and I decided to embark upon a European city break tour. Our first stop was Amsterdam and in May we decided to do four days in Paris.
Thursday – Our Eurostar pulled in to Gare Du Nord at approximately 10am (Paris time) on Thursday morning. After a few hit or miss attempts at figuring out the Metro system we arrived in Montmartre and it couldn’t have been more perfect. As we ascended out of the station there was a woman busking with a guitar, the sunshine was beyond glorious and there were a few merchants selling watercolours on streets.
After checking into our hotel, Hotel Bonsejour (a great little hotel except we were on the top floor and there was no lift, but the view made it worth it), we walked up to the Sacré-Cœur, which was only a five-minute walk away. The views there are incredible. I would recommend watching a sunrise or sunset up there. The Sacré-Cœur itself is a piece of art. You can go inside, free of charge and you can visit the dome and crypt for €5.
Next we wandered over to the Arc de Triomphe (if you’re not a walker then the Metro system is easy to decipher), which is breathtaking. After you’ve checked out the Arc in all its glory, make sure you head down the champs-élysées, which is pretty much the Oxford Street of Paris, except beautiful. Some great shops and loads of restaurants- make sure you look out for the set menus (formule menu) where you can get a really nice two-course meal for cheap. We went to Ziti on a side street and had a set meal for €17.50. I would really recommend their t-bone steak.
It was a warm evening and took a walk along the Siene before settling to watch the Tour Eiffel light show (every hour on the hour once it is dark). Hoards of people (locals and tourists) were picnicking, drinking and playing instruments on the green behind the tour. Paris is definitely an outdoors city, with a great communal feel.
The next morning we went to the Catacombes de Paris, a huge underground cemetery, full of tunnels decorated with the bones of the dead. If you’re between this ages of 16 and 24 and a EU citizen, then you’re entry is shaved down to €4. If you have an issue with stairs and confined places, then I would not recommend it, but it is a unique and truly creepy experience.
A great way to eat cheaply in Paris is to buy food from the supermarkets. There we bought a baguette, a selection of cheeses and some salami for around €6 and ate it in the gardens of the Palais Du Luxembourg, which is stunning. Definitely a must see.
The Pantheon, which is only a short walk from the Palace, is another example of Paris’ beautiful architecture. Again, as a young EU citizen, you can get in for free.
No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Notre Dame de Paris, even if all you want to do is holler “sanctuary” inside. It is free to enter the main building and, if you are a 16-25 EU citizen, you can waver the €5 charge to go up to the bell tower. Again, lots of stairs, but well worth it for a photo opportunity with the gargoyles.
If you are a museum lover then you must visit the Musée du Louvre. Even if you are not then you probably should go just for the Mona Lisa. Free to enter for 16 to 25-year-olds again and it is absolutely huge. Another highlight is the Venis de Milo and the Pyramid (you’ll have seen it in The Davinci Code).
Just a two-minute walk from the Louvre is a gorgeous little restaurant called Le Petit Machon, which had the best salmon I have ever tasted!
Saturday – We headed down to the Seine for a river cruise (€12). It was a wonderful way to see Paris, learn a little about the history of the buildings and get a tan.
After the cruise, we went up the Tour Eiffel (make sure you pick a time to go when it is not too busy otherwise they shut it off- go either early morning or late evening). We walk up to the second floor, so it was a mere €3.80, which our 16-25 discount. It was an additional €4 to go to the top, but really a breath-taking view.
Next stop – the Moulin Rouge (go at night, because it looks simply dreadful during the day). The road it’s on is busy and has plenty of bars, just make sure you do not accidentally go into a strip bar, unless of course that is what you are looking for. We ended our final night at Le Chinon on the corner of Rue Burq (in Montmartre, right by our hotel), which is happy hour at 11pm. Whatever you do, don’t have the margarita, but the omlettes are first class.
My favourite thing about Paris in the Spring is the atmosphere. Everyone is out of the street, on the river banks and on the green- together. Not something you see very often in London, that’s for sure.