If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I went to Paris about a month ago, so I thought it was time I write you a Paris Travel Diary to summarise my time there. This post ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated it to be, as it’s more of a diary than a city guide.
I have included some information at the start of this post which you may find useful in planning your own trip to Paris and then the second half of this post is about what we got up to on our trip including some pictures. If you’ve not got time to read the whole post you can use the below links to jump to the sections you want to read:
- Getting to Paris
- Where to stay in Paris
- How to use the Metro
- Travel diary
- Things I’d like to do next time
Getting to Paris
When we started to plan our Paris trip we were looking at flights on Skyscanner from London airports to Paris Charles de Gaulle and these were working out around £60 return which wasn’t bad. Now, the first thing people asked when I spoke about my Paris trip was “why don’t you want to travel via the Eurostar?” Put simply, this was working out way too expensive, with a roundtrip priced at over £100 per person.
However, closer to the time we wanted to go, Eurostar did a sale on their tickets, and we managed to get a return journey for £29 each way! Not only did this mean it was slightly cheaper than the flight, but it was better for the environment, and it meant we would arrive in the centre of Paris and wouldn’t need to organise travel from the airport to the city centre.
If you’re looking to go to Paris by Eurostar then I’d highly recommend signing up to their newsletter here so you can receive updates on their seat sales that they host throughout the year.
On the way to Paris our train was at 11.30am and arrived at 3pm local time (2.5 hour journey). On the way back we had an evening train leaving Paris at 7.15pm and arriving in London at 8.50pm. The Eurostar was fairly enjoyable but I think we had a new train going out and an older train coming back which generally wasn’t very clean or comfortable. The new train on the way out as well was so smooth and actually made me feel a bit sick! But generally, it was a great way to travel.
Where to stay in Paris
When we first looked at going to Paris we were exploring the option of staying in an Airbnb because there were three of us going and we wanted to be able to chill in the same. Also, staying in a cute Parisian apartment would have been an experience in itself!
However, when we started looking at booking the trip, one of us had access to a discount with Accor hotels and we managed to get 2 nights in the Ibis Paris Bastille Faubourg-Saint-Antoine 11eme for €87 each. What’s more is that the room we had was a duplex style room so that we were all close by and could sleep in the same room/talk to each other.
If you’re looking to book this hotel make sure you don’t make the same mistake as me… I confused this hotel with the other Ibis which is based in Bastille; Ibis Paris Bastille Opera 11eme. We arrived at this hotel first and the receptionist couldn’t find our booking on the system, and then we realised we were at the completely wrong hotel! Luckily it was only a 15 minute walk to the right hotel! However, I’d also recommend this other hotel as it looked really nice.
I wasn’t sure which area we should stay in whilst visiting Paris because the city is so big and a lot of the attractions are spaced out. After doing some research I was able to see which areas in Paris are good for different things, and I found that for a budget trip with good access to Metro stations, it was a good option for us to stay near Bastille in the 11th Arrondissement.
How to use the Metro
Using the Metro system is quite easy in Paris, the only thing I despise is the barriers they use to get onto the platforms! They’re like a turnstile with a flap at the end you have to push past, so you can imagine how impossible this was trying to get on the Metro with a suitcase.
The lines are named numbers attached to them and you work out the direction you want to go in by using the name of the station at the end of the line. Tickets can be purchased at most Metro stations, and it costs €1.90 per journey. You can bulk buy tickets but if you’re heading away for just the weekend I’d recommend purchasing the tickets on the day of travel, as and when you need to. The easiest way to buy them is by card, and I’d recommend using a card service such as Monzo whilst abroad.
Travel Diary Day 1:
We arrived into Paris at 3pm and headed straight for the hotel. After directing us to the wrong hotel, we used Google Maps to get us to the right hotel, dumped our bags and went out for a walk.
From our hotel we passed many restaurants, flower shops and then we approached the Opera and the Bastille monument. After taking some pictures and continuing our walk we came across a restaurant in which people were having wine and cheese, and it looked AMAZING. It’s called La Maison Plisson and is located on Boulevard Beaumarchais, a short walk away from the Bastille Monument.
We decided to stop as we weren’t in any rush and taking things easy, plus we were a bit peckish. We ordered a bottle of red wine and a meat and cheese sharing platter and it was so tasty! We had completely forgotten it was the end of Paris Fashion Week until we saw Alexa Chung walk in… that was a nice surprise for one of my friends who is a big fan, and it shows we were eating in a trendy/popular place!
After sinking lots of wine we decided to venture inside the restaurant which was actually a market and bakery. It looked like a great place to pick up fresh ingredients if you were staying locally.
We then had a slow stroll back to the hotel and stopped for some drinks at Bistro Les Cousins, one of the many Bistro’s in the area offering €5 cocktails during happy hour. It was during this time that we started to think about what we were going to do about dinner… we’d had some afternoon snacks at Maison Plisson so we weren’t in any rush to have dinner which ended up being a good thing as we didn’t end up being seated for dinner until 11pm!
Dinner and drinks
Before we visited Paris we had a few recommendations to eat at a new Italian chain restaurant called the Big Mamma group. I know it’s not the traditional thing to eat Italian cuisine in France, but if you get the chance to eat here, I couldn’t recommend it enough!
This place is so popular that you can’t pre-book a table, you have to queue up when the restaurant opens to put your name down for later in the evening. This is something that we overlooked, so when we went there at about 7pm to put our names down, we then didn’t get given a table until 10.30pm.
They were quite nice people though and they recommended that we visit a nearby bar to help the time pass. After getting ready at the hotel we headed out to the bar they recommend; a small place called Bluebird. We could tell when we walked in that this place was a very local bar, and full of Parisiennes, which is actually a good thing because it meant it wasn’t touristy! This bar was very quirky in the sense that it didn’t have a traditional cocktail menu, it was all a surprise. You choose your drink depending on how fragrant and strong you want the drink to be and you get given a brief description of the drink, but you’re not told the ingredients! Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the 11th arrondissement.
We arrived at our dinner booking time at East Mamma and they still weren’t ready for us and we were waiting outside for a further 20 minutes until I told them I wanted to wait inside as it was so cold. Despite the awkwardness of them running extremely late and being extremely busy, they pulled it back by giving us free drinks with our meal, and the table service was really good…
We ordered a pinky bruschetta to start which was a twist on the classic bruschetta with the addition of bacon/pastrami – very nice! For the mains, we couldn’t decide what to have and we all wanted a bit of everything so we ordered a pizza and pasta dish to share. The pizza was covered in lots of cheese and nduja (spicy sausage – a bit too spicy for me) and the pasta was coated in truffle, and I can’t even explain to you how amazing this pasta was. We were all in a food coma afterwards but that didn’t stop us from buying a portion of tiramisu to take away and share back at the hotel.
Travel Diary Day 2:
On our second day in Paris we headed to Forty Six and Third, a small brunch place located in the 3rd Arrondissement on Rue de Turbigo. We had come across this page on Sup Paris’ Instagram which is full of amazing food places in Paris, and we really wanted to brunch here one day as it looked so good.
We turned up at about 10:30am without a booking and this seemed to be a problem as the waiters struggled to seat us although the restaurant was virtually empty. Turns out this was because they had bookings from 12pm onwards so didn’t want to rush us too much, but we assured them we could finish within an hour and a half.
Once we had been given a table we ordered and could not wait for our food to arrive. They’ve got an open kitchen and there was only one chef working so you could see everything he was making. They kept bringing out food for other tables and I was getting serious food envy over the sweet and savoury brunch dishes being turned out.
Our food came and we were amazed… the amount of detail that goes into their dishes is amazing. Their little tagline is “we love to serve you” and that is definitely true!
I’d highly recommend this place for brunch and initially my advice would be to book a table because this place is extremely busy and popular, but whilst we were out there they actually changed their weekend booking process and announced they were accepting walk-ins only on the day. So, my advice has now changed to GET THERE EARLY!
It won’t be the cheapest meal you’ll eat in Paris, with breakfast and a drink costing around €20 each, but it’s definitely worth it.
After brunch we wanted to see some of the key sights including the Louvre, but as expected from the weather forecast, it started hammering it down with rain! This was extremely inconvenient with lots of the Paris key sights being outdoors, but we tried to make the best out of a bad situation.
We walked about 20 minutes from the brunch place to the Louvre and we had already decided we just wanted to see the outside, and we weren’t too bothered about the inside. It’s a good thing we weren’t bothered about the inside…. The Louvre had been closed because of coronavirus (and we didn’t find this out until later that night!) and there was loaaaads of people just stood outside the Louvre in the pouring rain.
After taking a few pics in front of the iconic glass pyramids we decided we needed to retreat indoors so headed towards the Galeries Lafayette, an up-market French department store. The shopping centre sure did shield us from the rain for an hour or so whilst we had a browse around the clothes and make-up stands, and we even stopped for a Joe and the Juice which was rather refreshing! On the top floor of the shopping centre you’ll also find a viewing platform which looks over towards the Eiffel Tower, which I imagine would be great in the summer months but was pretty dire in the rain. Nonetheless, we saw some nice views under the grey skies!
We weren’t sure what else we could do whilst it was peeing down with rain but I remembered that one of my colleagues had recommended the Centre Pompidou for modern art, so we decided to venture there. This was the pinnacle of our time in Paris with regards to rain, because the queue to get into this place was HUGE and it was just completely tipping it down. At this point we didn’t know two key things:
- The Louvre was closed
- Entrance to the Centre Pompidou is free on the first Sunday of every month (the date was Sunday 1st March)
So, understandably the combination of the rain and these two factors meant that EVERYONE in Paris had flocked to this museum!
After waiting for about an hour and a half in the pouring rain, we were very happy to get inside the warm museum, but we were less than impressed with being soaked through. There’s a couple of floors you can wander around for free, and a few exhibitions you can pay for. We decided to stick to the free galleries and here’s some of my favourite pieces from the gallery:
It was just typical that whilst we were in the museum the weather started to clear up and the sun even started to come out… so when leaving the museum we decided to head towards the Notre Dame Cathedral as it’s not a long walk from the Centre Pompidou.
Considering that a massive blaze broke out at Notre Dame in 2019 resulting in the spire collapsing, it’s not possible to go inside the Cathedral and there is a large construction site built around the premises. The construction walls have information on the fire and restoration process so this is interesting for those who want to learn more about that. But generally speaking it’s just a nice area to visit and have a walk around.
Dinner and drinks
I’d been recommended by a colleague to visit the St Martin’s Canal as this is supposed to be a cute, quiet and more local area of Paris. We were also wanting to try some local French cuisine, so we thought this would be a good place to go – indeed it was.
We ate at the cutest French brasserie called La Marine and I highly recommend this restaurant for anyone looking for an indulgent evening. It wasn’t cheap with the bill coming to around €50 each, but it was the best meal we had whilst we were in Paris, and this did include starters, mains, a bottle of (very nice) red wine, and a creme brûlée to share.
For starters we chose to try snails as this is something we knew we wanted to do in Paris, and safe to say, we all enjoyed them! Mains was a traditional steak frites meal, very delicious. The atmosphere in this restaurant was just lovely and the staff were very welcoming. Again, we didn’t have a booking for this restaurant and they were very busy on a Sunday, but they managed to seat us straight away. I’d recommend booking a table in advance if you’re going on a Friday or Saturday night.
We’d been recommended prior to coming to Paris to try a bar called Le Comptoir General, and when we asked our waiter where we should go for a drink after dinner, he also recommended this bar. It’s a quirky bar located just off the canal, a short walk from the restaurant. I don’t want to ruin it for you because it is a quirky place and you have to go there to experience it yourself, but it’s a dimly lit, multi-room venue with a great cocktail list, and a beer garden which is open during the day. Part of the venue was closed when we were there, presumably because it was a Sunday, but I reckon this place would be really good on a Friday or Saturday night.
Travel Diary Day 3:
On our last day in Paris we had one final thing to do – see the Eiffel Tower! We’d mainly been putting this off because of the weather but on this final day we had to just bite the bullet and go for it. We started our day at Le Chat Bossu, a small bistro at the end of the road we were staying on, and had a quick croissant and coffee before heading out.
The Eiffel Tower is probably the furthest away attraction from where we were staying so it took us a good 40 minutes to get there. And even when you do get there, there’s a lot of walking involved. I’d say if you were looking to go up the Eiffel Tower too then you’d want to allow half a day for this in total.
We wandered around the Eiffel Tower for a bit and then headed up to the Trocadero steps which is a great place to take pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower. Be warned though, this can get very busy and we also noticed there was building work going on when we visited so this could spoil the pictures!
After leaving here we headed towards the Marais to do a spot of shopping! My friend wanted to head to the flagship Veja store for some new trainers, and generally having a walk in this area was pretty nice.
After much wandering we were working up an appetite and fancied something a bit different. We came across a Thai restaurant called Suan Thai, and this was such a good shout. They had an express lunch menu which you could have a starter and a main for €15 (I think that’s how much it was). I opted for the spring rolls to start and the green thai curry for mains. It was so yummy, very filling and reasonably priced!
Then, we were on the hunt for macaroons and visited the Pierre Herme store which was directly opposite the thai restaurant. They must be the most iconic macaroon company in Paris as their prices are extortionate but they did look amazing. If I remember correctly it was €2.90 per macaroon, and if you wanted a box it went up to about €20 for 6 macaroons… crazy, right? But, if you’re after traditional Paris gifts this is probably the place to go for the best macaroons in town.
That basically brings me to the end of our trip in Paris! After this we headed back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and went to Gare du Nord to catch our train back to London. All in all, it was a fantastic girls weekend away in Paris that was much needed, and if you’ve not been with your gal pals, I highly recommend it!
Things I’d like to do next time
As with any trip I go on, I always find that there are more and more things to do, which is a perfect excuse to go back! Here’s the things I would love to do when I next go back to Paris.
This is a place in the northern part of Paris which we didn’t get a chance to visit, but it’s definitely on my list for next time I visit Paris. It’s got gorgeous cobbled streets and we had seen a brunch place called the Hardware Societe that I’d loved to have eaten at. There’s also a famous optical illusion called the sinking house which would have been fun to get a pic of. And last but not least it would have been nice to visit the Sacre Coeur, a stunning basilica located at the top of the hill.
Located just next to the Louvre you’ll find the Palais Royal. Whilst I would have been interested in visiting here, I think I would have only been interested in visiting the gardens, which would have been no good in the weather we were graced with!
Taking a river cruise down the River Seine would have been a good activity, again only if the weather had been good enough. I think this would have been a gorgeous way to see some of the Paris landmarks at night, and I found some good information about river tours on the Time Out website.
Go up the Eiffel Tower
We saw the Eiffel Tower from the ground, but it would have been so good to see it from above too. We saw some cool igloo shaped things half way up too and it turns out this was a restaurant and bar called La Bulle Parisienne, so this sort of thing maybe in the evening would be something I’d consider for next time. I’ve been to the top before and whilst this was nice, I don’t think I’d do it again, but the dinner and drinks in the igloos would be a nice touch.
Arc de Triomphe
We didn’t visit the Arc de Triomphe on this trip, but I have seen it before. I learnt before we visited this time that you can actually go up the Arc de Triomphe, so perhaps next time I visit that would be a good experience too.
Latin Quarter for drinks/night out
Lastly, I’d love to visit the Latin Quarter for the nightlife! We stayed pretty local to us when we were out in the evenings on this trip and that was a lot of fun, but I’ve also heard good things about the nightlife in the Latin Quarter so this would be fun to give that a go.
Have you been to Paris? What did you see when you were there? Let me know in the comments and play my Paris Travel Checklist! Tag me on Instagram so I can see your scores @adventuresxlil.