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A Weekend in Paris - Tips on travel and attractions in Paris

Updated on July 23, 2015
Tips for visiting Paris
Tips for visiting Paris

Me and my husband Jon recently decided to take a last minute trip to Paris for our 2nd Wedding Anniversary. Neither of us have ever really been there before, both have passed through on the way to other places, so neither of us really knew what it was going to be like. It was a total spur of the moment decision to book it after realising we could get the Megabus from Cardiff to Paris (and back!) for only £20 each, and we felt we both needed a little break after some mega busy time at work. The megabus to Europe routes are all relatively knew so it was a bit of a gamble but we figured it would be a fun trip.

We decided to only go for one night even though the journey each way would take us around 15 hours. We timed it so we swould get 2 full days and just have to sleep on the bus there and back and book a hotel room for the one night - this helped keep our costs down to as we were on a bit of a tight budget too.

Getting there (and back!)

So we left at 3pm on Tuesday had a 3 hour wait at London (Vistoria Bus Station) for the connection so went for coffee, due to a reference number screw up we missed our ferry, so took a later one. Once we docked we carried on driving via Boulonge, and eventually arrived at Porte Malliot bus station at 10am on Wednesday morning (only 2.5hours later than expect).

Our return route was pretty similar (minus the missed ferry!) We left Paris at 11:00pm on Thursday (via Boulonge again) took a 3:45am Ferry, switched at London to a megabus for Cardiff via Bristol and were back in Cardiff by 1:15pm Friday - a little tired and achy but having had a great trip!

The Megabus from Cardiff to London was pretty quiet and with a whole double decker for only 8 passengers we all had plenty of room - and even a table in some cases. London to Paris was a pretty busy bus with 43 seats taken and only a normal single level bus being used. It takes about 2.5hrs to get from Victoria Bus Station to Dover on the bus so it's not really too long. You usually have a short wait to board but nothing major as they time it well (usually!) Once on the Ferry you can get out have a wander, shop and have some food if you wish. Callis to Paris take about 3.5 hours and goes via Boulonge but that doesn't take up much extra time. You will arrive in Porte Malliot bus station just outside Paris City Centre - not too far from the Arch de Triomphe, and can walk or metro into the town.

The return journey was pretty similar to be honest, although the buses were a little busier coming back.

Obviously you could just fly which would be far quicker but also far more expensive. Drive yourself if you fancy tackling french roads and traffic on your own! or euro star is also an option.

Map of Paris

show route and directions
A markerPorte Malliot - Bus Station -
Porte Maillot, 75116 Paris, France
get directions

B markerEiffel Tower -
Eiffel Tower, Avenue Gustave Eiffel, 75007 Paris, France
get directions

C markerArc de Triomphe -
Arc de Triomphe, Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France
get directions

D markerThe Louvre -
Hôtel Du Louvre, 75001 Paris, France
get directions

E markerThe Champs Elysees -
Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris, France
get directions

F markerNotre Dame Cathedral -
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, 75004 Paris, France
get directions

Travellling in Paris

By far the easiest and quickest way to travel in and around Paris is via the public transport system of Metro and RER (underground and overground trains). Paris has a great public transport system and it is easy to travel around Paris without the need of a car or paying for taxi's (which are pricy). Although all the major attractions are fairly local to central Paris, it is still a pretty big city and walking it all would be difficult, tiring and time consuming.

So when taking the metro/RER you first have to buy a ticket at a booth or ticket machine. What is great is that most of the ticket machines have an english translation button, making using the machine a lot easier if you have none or basic french language skills. We found the easiest and most cost effective thing to do was to buy a carnet - a pack of 10 single journey ticktets that can be split between a group of people. You literally get issued 10 loose single tickets so they can be shared easily between a couple, family or group. One ticket is $1.70 whereas 10 tickets are $12.50. You do need change and not notes to use the machines though or you can use a bank card if you are really stuck. Not all stations have manned booths so paying with notes isn't always an option.

What is also great about the transport system is that each ticket can be used on both RER and Metro and between different lines. So if you need to get across the city but need to take 3 RER/Metro to do it, it all counts as one journey. It pretty much works that if you don't come out of the station you can keep travelling on that one ticket. So if you take the wrong line and end up in the wrong place, don't worry you haven't wasted that ticket just hop to the line in the reverse direction and go back again.

The tickets can also be used on the buses and trams as well, but cannot be counted in the 1 journey rule. so you can't hop between bus and metro on one ticket.

The only tricky thing is working out which direction you want the line to go in. So you work out which line you want, most are numbered and colour coded on the maps but then you need to know which direction you want to go, to do this you need to find out what is the end station for that line and see which direction to go from where you are. The signs only give the end stop. I know this is true of the systems in other cities but when they are in another language it's a little harder as some names are very similar to others - we only got it wrong once, but I did have to think hard a few times to make sure we went the right way.

The Metro/RER are very frequent, we never waited more than 10 minutes for a train and they run from early in the morning to around 11:30 at night, so are hugely practical if you wish to go for dinner or make a super early start. They do get very busy around rush hour in the morning and evening though - but again this is true of every city I think.

Where to stay in Paris

To be honest there isn't really a perfect place to stay in Paris - simple because the public transport system is so good. Originally we figured being close to the center of the city - near the Eiffel Tower - would be the best as we could walk to a few places if we needed to, but then realised that you can metro/RER everywhere so being further out wasn't so much of an issue. And if you wanted to save money on accommodation then going a little further out would be a good idea.

We actually stayed in an Ibis only streets from the Eiffel Tower and paid £119 for the 2 of us for the night and for a continental breakfast. The rooms were small but clean and comfortable, and when your only crashing for the night it really shouldn't matter how big the room is. We had a friend who spoke french book the room instead of doing it online or trying to do it ourselves. Although when we arrived most of the staff spoke good english anyway.

There are a number of great hostels just on the outskirts of the city that can be booked for as little as $35 a night. And european hostels are actually of a much better standard than hostels in the UK they are more like small hotels usually - but with dorms and a shared kitchen area. They are nearly always ensuite though which is a plus. But for us we thought they may be a little noisy and we didn't mind paying the extra.

What I will say is shop around when booking as some of the online sites vary greatly in price, and if you can book direct as you don't end up paying the bit extra that the sites make as commission. Although sometimes sites have offer prices which may make them cheap.

The Louvre
The Louvre
The Louvre
The Louvre
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral | Source
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower | Source

Making the most of your short trip

A short trip to Paris shouldn't be a highly active trip or anything too hectic, although you will want to cram a lot into a small space of time. You want to actually have time to enjoy yourself, time to chill and relax - or shop in some cases.

Parisians favourite past time is to sit in a pavement cafe (on the pavement if possible) drink coffee, wine or beer (and smoke) and people watch. So give yourself the chance to sit down and watch the world go buy over a nice drink and a chat with your travelling companion.

The Attractions in Paris

This is what we decided to see, obviously there are far more attractions in Paris but we wanted to see the main ones as we were on a tight time schedule, but actually wanted to also have time to just chill and not be rushing around everywhere.

  • The Louvre - One of the biggest museums/art galleries in the world, this place is truly amazing and totally spectacular. With floors dedicated to sculpture, classical art, egyptian art, african art and whole other collection of art you could get lost in the maze of a gallery. Of course the Mona Lisa is the highlight for most people and it gets very busy around it. We got there just after 10.30 and the queue was huge to get in, it took around 30 minutes. (Hint: Under 26's get in for free to the permanent exhibitions, no queuing once you get inside just flash your passport! Plus leave your bags and coats at one of the check in counters to make it easier to move through the crowds)
  • The Eiffel Tower - MASSIVE QUEUES! Be Warned! We got there pretty early and still had to queue for 2.5 hours! But it was well worth it, the views from the top are spectacular. Around €14 to get to the top. If you can pre buy your tickets so you don't have to queue do it. (Hint: To get some great photos take a stroll through the gardens opposite, you can get the whole tower in shots a lot easier)
  • The Arc de Triomphe - A sight to see, we didn't pay to go to the top as it was late in the day, and didn't really see the point, but the Arch itself is very interesting, so different from other things I have seen. Lots of people just seem to chill around it, lovely place to sit in the shade and watch the world go round.
  • The Champs Elysees - Shopping capital, more or less just a huge shopping street but with some of the highest end stores out there. You can literally buy anything on this street. It is again just a lovely place to walk and people watch. (Hint: Fancy a cheap but majorly yummy Macaroon? McDonalds! Honestly! 6 for €5 as good as any of the pricier ones we tried)
  • Notre Dame Cathedral - We didn't have time to go inside the Cathedral but we decided we wanted to see it in the evening anyway as we wanted to photograph it with all the lights on. So we went for dinner in a lovely local restaurant (Cafe Le Petit Pont) and waited for the sun to go down (10pm in May!) then we got some beautiful shots.

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    • visite parisienne profile image

      visite parisienne 16 months ago from Paris

      Nice advises. Indeed it is always complicated to plan a short term trip in a city full of treasures !

      My hub is on the same topic, take a look some time :)

    • Kate Mcguire profile image

      Kate Mcguire 2 years ago from London, United Kingdom

      I was never one of those people who always wanted to go Paris... and I guess this changed when I watched Midnight in Paris movie. I hope I'll use your useful advices one day :)

    • erorantes profile image

      Ana Maria Orantes 2 years ago from Miami Florida

      Thank you for writing about Paris. It is a wonderful place to visit. It is a romaantic place to keep the love going. I like your pictures and your writing. Paris is exclusive for a special occasion. Sometimes, I wonder . The people who live there think about Paris.

    • Padamyar profile image

      Padamyar 3 years ago

      Your trip to Paris sounds like an amazing trip. It makes my wish of visiting to Paris stronger. Good tips and thank u!

    • Nikol Zeljko profile image

      Nikolina 3 years ago from Široki Brijeg

      I will definitely follow your plan as I am only staying for three days in Paris. Thank for sharing these tips.

    • daisydayz profile image
      Author

      Chantele Cross-Jones 3 years ago from Cardiff

      Hi Toytasting, glad I could help!

    • Toytasting profile image

      Toy Tasting 3 years ago from Mumbai

      It was great to know so much about Paris. Thanks for sharing the information. It would be of great help, whenever I am travelling to Paris.

    • daisydayz profile image
      Author

      Chantele Cross-Jones 4 years ago from Cardiff

      @FlourishAnyway I hope you love it there!! Have a nice trip!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Very useful info. Planning a June trip now and appreciate your viewpoint.

    • daisydayz profile image
      Author

      Chantele Cross-Jones 4 years ago from Cardiff

      Oh it'll be lovely this time of year! I hope you enjoy it. It really isn't too bad to navigate round pnce you start to get your bearings!

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 4 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      A very timely hub find for me, as I am going to Paris next week. I shall travel on Eurostar - but have taken in your advice on transport in Paris.

    • UrbanTG profile image

      UrbanTG 4 years ago

      Great write

    • daisydayz profile image
      Author

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      No problem Im glad you liked my hub and I hope you get to visit there too one day

    • daisydayz profile image
      Author

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      Aww I'm glad I could help, it really is pretty easy to navigate! And it's all pretty close together. I hope you decide to go one day, I bet you'll love it!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Hi daisydayz, I come from a family of travelers and I'm the only one in my family who has not visited Paris. I had some misconceptions about Paris, but after reading your review, I have a new attitude. My major fear was the transportation system and your review was very helpful in downgrading my fear. Thank you for writing such a thorough and helpful hub.

    • daisydayz profile image
      Author

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      It was a great short trip, I would love to go for longer one day, but we had such fun and saw so much considering. If your hubby is french you should definitely go! Thanks

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Your trip to Paris sounds like a marvelous trip. It was very helpful to read about the transportation skills needed to maneuver about the city. Some day, I would like to go to Paris. My husband is a French man and desires for me to see The Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe, where he says the name of a relative is engraved. Excellent review!

    • daisydayz profile image
      Author

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      Thank you! Glad you like it. Aww you should definitely try to go! It can be done on a budget, maybe stay with your friends. Well I shall be doing a post of our China tour at some point in the future so you can live through that one too, and discover another part of the world!

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

      TIMETRAVELER2 5 years ago

      I've always wanted to visit Paris, but since I live in the US such a vacation is beyond my financial means...so thanks for the tour! I liked the pix, also. I actually have friends who live in Paris part of the year and have always envied them that. Oh well...guess I'll have to resort to living through hubs like yours! Nice job!!

    • daisydayz profile image
      Author

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      It is a lovely place. I really advise people to visit even if its only for a few days

    • wrenfrost56 profile image

      wrenfrost56 5 years ago from U.K.

      What a great hub :) I have always wanted to visit Paris and reading this has just reinforced it. Thank-you for sharing. :D

    • daisydayz profile image
      Author

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      You should do it! Paris is a great place, and you could do it on a budget if you want, with great hostels and plenty of small cafe's for food you don't have to spend a fortune there. Glad you like the hub.

    • daisydayz profile image
      Author

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      Thanks for the extra info. I know there are loads of other places, I just thought the places I mentioned where the most well know highlights and were where we went on our short trip.

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 5 years ago from The City of Generals

      This makes me all the more wishing to plan a trip to Paris, but that's a lot of saving up to do for now. The routes are very helpful, and the megabus is worth-wishing, I've always wanted a little quiet and relaxing ride. I'm bookmarking this! Thank you daisy.

      Great tips maxoxam, thank you!

    • maxoxam41 profile image

      Deforest 5 years ago from USA

      You can also buy transportation cards for the week (cheaper than daily)that are valid for the metro as well for buses. When the subway closes at 11.30 pm, the buses still run non stop.

      And don't forget Montparnasse, Montmartre, St Germain, Les Halles, Barbes, Canal St Martin...