London and Paris are two of the most-visited cities in Europe; two of the most-visited cities in the world, in fact! And the great news is that you can absolutely visit them both on one amazing trip to Europe.
If you're looking to plan a bucket list trip to Europe that doesn't require a ton of travel time (or a ton of time off work), then a London and Paris trip is an excellent choice. These two cities aren't that far apart, but are quite different in history, culture, and overall vibe.
You could of course spend weeks or months in either London or Paris and still not see/do every single thing. But if you've got limited time, you can pack all the highlights into one epic 10-day trip.
My husband Elliot and I did just that earlier this year, and now of course I'm going to share all the details with you!
The Perfect 10 Days in London and Paris Itinerary
After cumulative months spent in London and two separate trips to Paris, I think this itinerary really encapsulates the best of both cities! It DOES pack a lot into just 10 days, but what can I say? I tend to be a “do-it-all” type of traveler. If you aren't, then feel free to tweak this itinerary however you see fit.
(This itinerary also includes suggestions for some guided tours and day trips; if you're not into those, you don't have to take them!)
I recommend booking a multi-city flight where you fly in to London and home from Paris, which helps you maximize your time. (You could also reverse this and fly into Paris and home from London, but my husband enjoyed starting in London, which he was more familiar with, and then going to Paris second.)
Day 1: Iconic London
Highlights of Day 1 include: Westminster Abbey, Big Ben/Parliament, London Eye, Southbank, and optional St. Paul's
If you're traveling to London from North America, then chances are you'll arrive quite early in the morning. I'm therefore not going to suggest you pack in *too much* today, in case you're like me and have trouble sleeping on planes.
(I do, however, recommend trying to avoid taking a really long nap today, as it'll help you adjust to the time change a lot faster!)
After arriving, you'll probably want to drop your bags off at your hotel. You likely won't be able to check in yet, but almost all hotels will hold your luggage for you until your room is ready. (More on hotel suggestions a bit later.)
Pro tip: You have several options for getting from the Heathrow airport to central London. You can take the Piccadilly Line (Tube) right from Heathrow if you're on a budget. Or you can opt for the new Elizabeth Line, which currently will take you as far as Paddington Station, where you can transfer to other Tube lines or grab a taxi outside. The Heathrow Express also goes from Heathrow to Paddington with no stops. Just note that I do NOT recommend taking a taxi all the way from Heathrow. Allow at least 2.5 hours from when you land to get through immigration and into the city.
Then you can head to the nearest Tube station and head to Westminster to start your first day of London sightseeing! (Westminster is on the Circle, District, and Jubilee Tube lines.)
A note on getting around in London
London has a good public transport system, with the most famous part being the Tube or Underground, which consists of 11 different underground train lines connecting all corners of London. London also has buses (those red double-deckers), overground trains, and taxis/rideshares.
In the past, the best way to use the Tube was to purchase a pay-as-you-go Oyster Card (either at a station in London, or in advance before your trip), which you could then top up as needed and use for all public transport. But now the Tube has gone contactless, and accepts contactless card payments and even Apple Pay/Google Pay at most of its stations.
To help navigate, apps like Citymapper are great for public transit (and usually used more by locals than Google Maps), and I use my AllSubway app whenever I need to quickly consult the whole London Tube map. (Both of these apps can also be used offline.) TFL also has a special app for Oyster Cards/contactless payments.
1. Westminster Abbey and Parliament
When you get to Westminster station, I always suggest exiting through Exit 4 (Bridge Street exit). You'll climb a flight of stairs and pop out at street level to see Elizabeth Tower (which houses the bell known as Big Ben) towering over you. It's got the wow factor for sure!
While this view is stunning, it's not the best for getting photos of the tower. For that, head to your right towards Parliament Square Garden, which offers up better views of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
If you want the Insta-famous photo of you in front of a red phone booth with Big Ben in the background, those phone booths are along Great George Street across from Parliament Square Garden.
From here, it's time to visit Westminster Abbey, which is the gothic cathedral where kings and queens have been crowned (and sometimes buried) since 1066. If you're only going to visit one famous church in London, it should probably be this one as it's stunning and filled with history both inside and out.
Booking tickets for Westminster Abbey in advance is advised (book a ticket here), and going earlier in the morning is always a good idea (which is perfect since you probably arrived early today anyway!). Allow at least 1.5 hours to see everything inside.
From Westminster Abbey, head across the Thames via the Westminster Bridge on foot.
Stay on the side of the road closest to Parliament when you cross, and then take the staircase down on your right when you get to the other side. Here there's a pathway (The Queen's Walk) alongside the Thames that offers up my personal favorite view of Big Ben and Parliament.
2. London Eye and South Bank
After snapping some photos, you can follow the tunnel under the bridge to the South Bank, which is one of my favorite parts of London.
Depending on what time it is, you may either want to grab a meal now, or you may want to squeeze in a ride on the London Eye. The London Eye is one of the world's largest observation wheels, and you can't miss it in the skyline in this part of London.
A ride on the London Eye takes place in large circular pods (each one can hold up to 25 people) and lasts half an hour. It's not an absolute must-do in London for me, but it is for many others! If it's on your London bucket list, I highly recommend booking Fast Track tickets in advance in order to avoid long lines.
Afterwards, have a stroll down the South Bank. If you haven't had food yet, there are a variety of pubs and pop-up cafes to choose from, especially during the summer months.
3. Millennium Bridge and St. Paul's (optional)
If you're up for a bit of a walk, I recommend walking about a mile (20-25 minutes) along the Queen's Walk to the Millennium Bridge. You'll pass so much along the way, including a beach! Once you get to the Millennium Bridge, you have a few options depending on how you're feeling*.
*If you arrived in London before today, then you'll probably have the energy to spend more time exploring the South Bank and maybe even visit one or two more attractions. If not, then I recommend crossing the bridge and hopping back on the Tube at either Blackfriars (Central/District lines) or St. Paul's (Central Line) to head back to your hotel.
If you're in a museum mood, the Tate Modern is nearby and free to visit (and has great skyline views from its rooftop observation deck). Shakespeare's Globe theater is also nearby, as is its attached restaurant/pub called The Swan.
The Swan actually has a lovely afternoon tea that's lightly Shakespeare-themed and affordable (though I'll recommend another afternoon tea later in this itinerary).
Ultimately, though, you'll want to cross the Thames via the very cool Millennium Bridge when you're ready, which will deliver you near St. Paul's Cathedral.
If you're going to visit a second famous church in London, then it should probably be St. Paul's, the masterpiece with the giant dome that was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It's impressive even just from the outside, but is also worth visiting inside if you're so inclined. (Just note that it's only open until 4:30 p.m., with the last entry at 4 p.m.) You can pre-book St. Paul's tickets here.
By now you'll have had a very full first day in London, so it's time to head back towards your hotel, have some dinner, and get a good night's sleep to gear up for the rest of your trip!
Where to stay in London
I've been to London MANY times and have stayed in several different neighborhoods. Here are a handful of London hotel suggestions for you to suit different budgets. Ones with * are the ones I've personally stayed at. The rest are hotels I've bookmarked for future trips.
Neighborhoods I personally enjoy staying in include Kensington, Paddington, and South Bank. The below list is (loosely) grouped based on where in London you'll find each hotel.
- Northern London hotels – Great Northern Hotel*, Point A Hotel London Paddington*, Royal Lancaster London
- Central London hotels – Park Plaza Westminster Bridge*, The Resident Covent Garden (top London hotel on TripAdvisor), Sea Containers London, The Hoxton Southwark, Bankside Hotel
- East London hotels – The Tower Hotel (some rooms with Tower Bridge views), Clayton Hotel City of London, The Hoxton Shoreditch, The Montcalm Royal London House, The Corner London City*
- Western London hotels – The Ampersand*, 11 Cadogan Gardens Hotel & Apartments, The Chesterfield Mayfair, Georgian House Hotel* (this one has Harry Potter-themed rooms!)
- Luxury hotels in London: Shangri-La The Shard*, Claridge's, The Lanesborough, The Savoy, One Aldwych
When looking for accommodation in London, I always pay attention to how close hotels are to a Tube station, whether the rooms have air conditioning (a requirement for me, personally, in the summer), and what's included in the room rate (such as wifi, breakfast, etc).
Day 2: Parks, palaces, and museums
Highlights of Day 2 include: Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James' Park, Buckingham Palace, Changing of the Guard, Trafalgar Square, Churchill War Rooms, British Museum, Covent Garden, and an optional West End show
1. The Royal parks
There are four royal parks surrounding Buckingham Palace, with the largest one being Hyde Park. I love going for a nice long stroll in Hyde Park, and that's where I recommend you start your morning.
For a truly long and leisurely stroll, take the Central Line to either Marble Arch (near Speakers' Corner) or Lancaster Gate (near the Italian Gardens), and walk all the way through Hyde Park to Hyde Park Corner (it will probably take you about 30 minutes*). Then you can cross over into Green Park and eventually stop to see Buckingham Palace.
*If you're not up for that long of a walk, you can take the Piccadilly Line to either the Hyde Park Corner or Green Park stop and start your walk in Green Park.
Green Park connects to St. James' Park, which is also really lovely and offers up some cool views of Westminster.
2. Changing of the Guard
Watching the Changing of the Guard in front of Buckingham Palace is on a lot of peoples' London bucket lists, but hear me out: it's one London tourist attraction that I don't think is worth it!
The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place in front of Buckingham Palace at 10:45 a.m. every day in June and July, but only on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays from August-May (weather-dependent).
In the summer months, you usually only get a good view of the ceremony if you arrive an hour (or more) in advance, meaning you'll spend at least 2 hours of your day here, if not more.
Instead, I recommend taking your photos of Buckingham Palace, and then walking through St. James' Park to Horse Guards Parade. Here, the Changing of the King’s Life Guard ceremony happens at at 11 a.m. during the week and 10 a.m. on Sundays, and is almost never as crowded as the one at Buckingham Palace. (Plus, this one has horses!)
From Horse Guards Parade, you can also pop by to see No. 10 Downing Street if you want, or visit one of the various war memorials between here and the Embankment. (Elliot's great-uncle's name is listed on the Monument to the RAF along the Thames, so I always stop by to see this.)
3. Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a must-see for most people in London, and it's less than a 10-minute walk from Horse Guards Parade.
Along with admiring Nelson's Column and the other things in this giant square, this is a good place to grab a quick lunch. (I personally would probably do a quick grab from Pret A Manger because I love Pret, but there are a bunch of cafes and pubs to choose from – usually I just go by Google reviews to choose a spot!)
Pro tip: Looking to save some money on food in London? Get to know the Meal Deal, which is offered at most supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury's. For less than £5 (usually the price is £3.50), you can get a cold sandwich, wrap, or salad, a bag of chips (crisps in the UK), and a drink. Perfect for a meal on the go!
4. Afternoon museum visit
There are SO many great options when it comes to museums and historical places to visit in London, but I personally would choose between these three options today, depending on your interests:
- Churchill War Rooms – Not far from 10 Downing Street you can visit the underground offices where Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his staff plotted Allied military campaigns (and eventual victory) during World War II. Referred to now as the “Churchill War Rooms,” this collection of basement offices is extra unique in that many rooms look exactly as they did when the War Cabinet left them at the end of the war. A must for history lovers! (Definitely book ahead.)
- Buckingham Palace State Rooms – For 10 weeks each summer/fall, Buckingham Palace opens up its opulent State Rooms for tours. My sister and I did this tour one summer, and it was pretty cool to get a glimpse into the seat of British royalty. Timed tickets are required. My tip? Get a ticket that includes the State Rooms and the Royal Mews (the stables/carriage house). Book a ticket here.
- British Museum – This iconic museum houses more than 13 million artifacts from the ancient world, from Assyria to China to Egypt and beyond. There's been some recent controversy about whether the British Museum should give some of these (mostly stolen) artifacts back, but even if they do they're still going to have millions of things on display. This museum is free to visit, but it's recommended you book a visit time online.
5. Covent Garden and/or Soho
Your museum visit will take you into the late afternoon, and I recommend spending the rest of your day in and around Covent Garden. (It's technically walkable, or you can take the Tube to Covent Garden station.)
Covent Garden has tons of restaurants and pubs, along with some popular markets like the Apple Market and the always-Instagrammable Neal's Yard. If you want a unique drinks experience in Covent Garden, Elliot and I both loved the inventive cocktails at The Alchemist on St Martin's Lane.
For dinner, there are lots of options in Covent Garden, or you can head over into nearby Soho, which has even more restaurants. (Reservations recommended at most spots.)
This area is also London's theater district, so if seeing a West End show (London's equivalent to Broadway) is on your list, this would be a good night to book one! See what's playing here.
Day 3: A mix of old and new
Highlights of Day 3 include: Tower of London, Tower Bridge, The Shard, Borough Market, St. Dunstan-in-the-East, the Skygarden, and a walking tour in the East End
1. Tower of London
Start your day today with an opening time tour of the Tower of London, one of my favorite historical sites in the whole city. (Take the District or Circle line to Tower Hill.)
The Tower of London (or, more officially, His Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London) was first conceived in 1066, and the White Tower at the complex's center was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. The Tower was built as a royal residence, but is generally more infamous as a prison and place of torture – and today is known for being home to the Crown Jewels.
You don't *have* to take a fully guided tour at the Tower of London. You could always just book your ticket and then join one of the free tours with one of the Yeomen Warders i.e. the Beefeaters.
But if you want to do something really unique, check out this Tower of London Early Access + Opening Ceremony and Crown Jewels tour.
This tour is really cool; you get to be first into the Tower, and get to watch the Opening Ceremony where the Chief Yeoman Warder unlocks the Tower gates for the day. Then you get to see the Crown Jewels before the lines form, and get a fully guided tour of the Tower of London. Book this tour here.
2. Tower Bridge
From the Tower of London, it's a short walk over to Tower Bridge. This bascule + suspension bridge is iconic in London, and on average carries 40,000 people across the Thames every single day.
You could just walk across and snap some photos, but it's also worth it to get a ticket for the The Tower Bridge Exhibition, which is a small museum located inside the Neo-Gothic towers and skywalks of the bridge. The museum covers how and why the bridge was originally built, and you can walk/sit/lay down on glass floors inside the skywalks and also visit the old Victorian-era engine rooms.
3. Lunch at The Shard or Borough Market
It will likely be around lunchtime by now, and you have two options depending on your budget. Both require you to continue over Tower Bridge back to the south bank of the Thames.
The first option is to book lunch (or perhaps even a themed afternoon tea) at Aqua Shard, a restaurant on the 31st floor of The Shard.
Some London itineraries would probably tell you to do the View from the Shard observation deck today, but honestly I think the tickets are pricier than the experience is worth, and you can get the same views by booking a meal at one of the restaurants in The Shard.
Aqua Shard is a somewhat pricy restaurant, but it's the most affordable spot inside The Shard that offers lunch. They have a set lunch menu that starts at £39 per person for a 3-course meal, and all tables have excellent views out of floor-to-ceiling windows. (They also offer a fun Peter Pan-themed afternoon tea; you can read more about that here.)
The other option for lunch is to continue on past The Shard to Borough Market, which is one of London's most famous food markets. It's located underneath the south end of London Bridge, and will be bustling at lunchtime.
There are various vendors to purchase food from inside the market, as well as several pubs and cafes just outside.
4. St. Dunstan-in-the-East
After lunch, make your way across the Thames again via London Bridge (Yes, you're kind of just making a loop today! It doesn't make sense to use the Tube for this portion of Day 3, so I recommend going on foot or getting a taxi/Uber.)
Once you're across the river, stop in to see St. Dunstan-in-the-East, a former church that’s now a beautiful public garden.
The church here has gone through many iterations and tragedies, including the Great Fire of London in 1666, being rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren (of St. Paul's fame), and then being severely damaged again during The Blitz in 1941.
Instead of rebuilding the church after WWII, the City of London decided to turn the ruins of St. Dunstan’s into a public park. They planted trees and a lawn, and today it’s a place that locals come to read or chat or enjoy a quiet lunch outdoors. It's free to visit, and definitely worth seeing!
5. Sky Garden or Garden at 120
If you want to get some great London skyline views that don't cost as much as the observation deck at The Shard, there are two to choose from very close to each other on this side of the Thames.
The first is the Sky Garden, which is a mostly-indoor garden and observation deck inside the “Walkie Talkie” building at 20 Fenchurch Street. Most people will tell you to go here, as it's free to visit (though you do need to reserve a timeslot online in advance.)
I'll be honest with you though: I've been to the Sky Garden twice, and while it does have a novelty factor to it, I don't personally love it. The view from the small observation deck isn't the best, and it can often get quite crowded.
If the weather is nice, I would actually opt to visit the Garden at 120 (located atop the building at 120 Fenchurch St.) instead. This outdoor rooftop garden is also free to visit, but you don't need to make a reservation. This one is all open-air and offers up some unique views.
On the floor right below the Garden at 120, there's also a cool restaurant and bar called 14 Hills that has similarly nice views. If the weather is bad, you could always opt to grab a drink at the bar here, which feels like an indoor garden.
6. Leadenhall Market
This is an optional extra stop, but if you have the time, Leadenhall Market isn't far from Fenchurch Street (it's literally like a 3-minute walk).
Leadenhall Market is a beautiful Victorian-era indoor market, with little boutiques alongside restaurants and pubs. If you're interested in Harry Potter filming locations in London, this was one! And even if you're not, it's still a really beautiful market to see.
7a. East End and Jack the Ripper tour
Next we're heading to London's East End, which isn't always an area people will tell you to visit on your first trip to London. But I actually think it's a great place to grab dinner and then go on a walking tour.
The heart of the East End is about a 20-minute walk from Leadenhall Market if your feet aren't already dead, or you can catch a taxi/Uber or take the Tube to either Liverpool Street or Aldgate East.
Once in the heart of the East End, you can pop into Old Spitalfields market for some browsing, and look for street art on Brick Lane. (Brick Lane is also known for its food, especially curries, so this is a good option for dinner.)
This evening, if you're into true crime and not really squeamish, you can book a Jack the Ripper walking tour like this one.
Jack the Ripper was a (still as-yet unidentified) serial killer who terrorized the Whitechapel area in 1888. His murders have always been intriguing in a grisly sort of way, and most Jack the Ripper walking tours wind through the streets of Whitechapel after dark, telling the stories of the women he killed while you stand sometimes in the exact spots where their bodies were found.
7b. Thames cruise
If Jack the Ripper doesn't really interest you (I've been on two tours and loved them, but I totally get that the true crime craze hasn't ensnared everyone), another option for this evening would be to stay in central London and take an evening cruise on the Thames.
The Thames is, in my opinion, not the most beautiful of rivers to cruise on, but doing so does give you a different perspective of London. I don't recommend a dinner cruise, but an evening cruise with a glass of bubbly like this one could be nice.
It IS cool to see London all lit up after sunset.
Day 4: Pretty neighborhoods + afternoon tea
Highlights of Day 4 include: Neighborhoods like Notting Hill and Kensington, afternoon tea, Camden Town, and the Regent's Canal
Today is going to be a more relaxing day spent exploring some of my favorite London neighborhoods, starting with arguably some of the prettiest ones, and then moving on to a slightly edgier one.
1. Notting Hill
If you're into the London Instagram aesthetic of pastel-painted row houses, charming mews, and antique shops, then I would recommend starting your day in Notting Hill. (Notting Hill Gate on the District, Circle, and Central lines, or Ladbroke Grove on the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines make good starting points.)
In Notting Hill you can grab breakfast or brunch, shop for antiques and vintage clothing at the Portobello Road Market, and just soak up this charming neighborhood. (Just remember, though, that people live in the pretty pastel houses, so be respectful if you're taking photos.)
2. Kensington/South Kensington
From Notting Hill, it's a lovely walk south through Kensington to South Kensington (or you could hop on the Tube to High Street Kensington or South Kensington).
If you walk, you can stop by the Instagram-famous Churchill Arms pub. And if you happen to be visiting in the spring (usually in late April/early May), then this is the part of London that experiences “wisteria hysteria,” when the wisteria vines burst into purple blooms in areas like Bedford Gardens and Kynance Mews.
If the weather isn't great, South Kensington is home to several excellent (and free) museums, including the Natural History Museum (exhibits on dinosaurs, volcanoes, gemstones, and more) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (one of the largest applied art and design museums in the world).
3. Afternoon tea
I know I've already mentioned several afternoon tea options in this itinerary (like the one at The Swan, and the one at Aqua Shard), but today I suggest definitely setting aside time for a proper afternoon tea.
There are two in this part of London that you can never go wrong with:
- Tea at The Lanesborough – The Lanesborough hotel in Knightsbridge offers up a beautiful and elegant afternoon tea in a gorgeous conservatory-style tea room. (This one might win “prettiest London afternoon tea” from me.) The afternoon tea here is both fancy and delicious, and starts at £65 per person. Closest Tube station: Hyde Park Corner.
- Science Tea at The Ampersand – The science-themed tea at the Drawing Rooms inside The Ampersand hotel is one of my all-time favorites. The tea tray comes out bubbling with dry ice, and the themed treats are so fun. Tea is around £50 for adults and £35 for kids. Closest Tube station: South Kensington.
Advanced bookings for both of these afternoon teas is highly recommended, and can be done online.
4. Camden Town
After your tea experience, hop on the Tube to Camden Town, a cool neighborhood north of central London known for its distinct alternative, punk-ish feel (they even have the first Wendy's in the world where Wendy got a punk/emo makeover).
Explore the colorful Camden Market, and perhaps head up to the park on Primrose Hill for great London views.
The Regent's Canal also runs right through Camden. If you have the time, you can take a canal boat ride from Camden to an area called Little Venice, which is super lovely. (You can pre-book waterbus tickets here.)
If you're hungry for dinner tonight (depending on when you had your afternoon tea, you may not be very hungry!), there are some nice spots in Little Venice, or you could head into nearby Paddington.
Day 5: Day trip time!
After four very full days in London, you'll have had the chance to see most of the city's highlights. So today I recommend taking advantage of the fact that London is close to a lot of other really cool things!
Whether you want to soak up more history, visit a castle, go out into the countryside, or immerse yourself in some movie magic, there's a London day trip option for you.
I can't tell you which day trip you should take, because your interests might be different from mine. But here are a handful of day trips to consider (all the most popular ones are included here):
Option 1: Spend a day in Greenwich
Greenwich is technically still a borough of London, located along the Thames to the southeast of the city center. You can take a boat to Greenwich, and then spend the day exploring all sorts of maritime history.
Top things to do here include visiting the Old Royal Naval College and National Maritime Museum, touring the Cutty Sark ship, going to the Royal Observatory to straddle the Prime Meridian, and relaxing in Greenwich Park. (Definitely get a Greenwich museum pass for this day!)
Option 2: Harry Potter Studio Tour
The majority of the Harry Potter films were shot in film studios in Leavesden just north of London, and the studios have now been transformed into a museum-like experience for fans.
You can see actual film sets, costumes, props, and concept art from the movies, and enjoy interactive experiences that capture the magic of the Harry Potter world. This is a must do for most Harry Potter fans and 100% worth it. (Book tickets with transport here.)
Option 3: Windsor Castle
If you want to get a further taste of British royalty, then a day trip out to Windsor might be right for you. You can explore the cute town of Windsor, and tour the ornate State Apartments and gothic St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle is the oldest continuously-occupied castle in Europe, dating back to the 11th century.
You can take the train to Windsor on your own and just get a castle entrance ticket, book a tour with bus transport, or pair up a visit to Windsor with some other locations on a full-day tour like this one.
Option 4: Bath and Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a must-visit for many people traveling to the UK, but I'll be honest with you: it's not worth making a trip to see it on its own. Instead, I would pair up a visit to Stonehenge with a day trip to another location like nearby Bath.
The whole city of Bath was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, and it's known for its ancient Roman baths, the beautiful Bath Abbey, pretty parks and gardens, the symmetrical Georgian-style Royal Crescent, and Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon.
Option 5: Oxford
Lastly, the university town of Oxford also makes a great day trip from London. You can wander in and out of the shops in town, and also visit some of the university's most famous colleges. (There's even an Oxford Harry Potter walking tour, where you can see filming locations and the dining hall that's said to have inspired the Great Hall in Hogwarts.)
READ MORE: The Best Day Trips to Take From London
Day 6: Off to Paris
Highlights of Day 6 include: Train to Paris, Arc de Triomphe, the Seine river, and the Eiffel Tower
1. Eurostar to Paris
Today it's time to bid farewell to London and head to Paris! I recommend traveling via the Eurostar this morning, which is the high-speed train that travels beneath the English Channel via the Channel Tunnel (AKA The Chunnel). It will get you to Paris in just under 2.5 hours.
Now, could you book a flight on a budget airline that would be cheaper than traveling via Eurostar? Sure, you probably could. But traveling via train is more relaxed (no stressful airport or fears of lost luggage here!), AND it's the most environmentally-friendly way to travel long distances in Europe.
Plus, the Eurostar is far more comfortable than a budget airline. If you splurge for a Standard Premier seat (the middle ticket option), you'll get a wide seat with lots of legroom, plus a meal (complete with wine!) served at your seat. (Search for Eurostar tickets here.)
You'll depart from London's St. Pancras International station, and arrive in Paris at Gare du Nord. From there, you can either get a taxi or take the Metro to your hotel.
Note: Remember that London uses British Pounds and Paris uses the Euro for currency. But, to be honest, contactless payments are ubiquitous in both cities. We only used cash during a couple taxi rides in Paris, but that was just because it's what drivers prefer, not because you can't pay with a card.
A note on getting around in Paris
Paris also has an underground metro that will get you just about everywhere you'd want to go in Paris, along with taxis/Ubers. The Metro lines in Paris are numbered and color-coded, and you can find stations marked with the letter M, or the words Métro or Métropolitain.
The Paris Metro has NOT gone paperless or contactless just yet (though it's supposed to happen soon), so for now your best bet is to purchase either a 5-day travel pass (€38.35 for Zones 1-3, which is all you'll need), or simply get a packet of 10 paper Metro tickets (you save 25% by buying 10 at once)*.
*The paper tickets were supposed to be phased out at the end of 2021, but as of May 2022 they were still what was being sold. Once they are phased out, you'll still be able to purchase a set of 10 contactless tickets, or to load money onto a reusable Navigo Easy pass.
For help navigating, the Citymapper and AllSubway apps are what we used in Paris, too!
Paris' neighborhoods are called arrondissements, and are numbered in a spiraling pattern starting in the center of the city. There are 20 arrondissements in total. Paris is also usually divided into the Right Bank (north of the River Seine) and Left Bank (south of the River Seine).
Read these tips for your first time in Paris!
2. Arc de Triomphe
After you check in to (or at least drop your luggage off at) your hotel (more on where to stay later), I recommend hopping on the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe. This iconic triumphal arch isn't really close to any other major attractions, so you may as well start here!
The closest Metro stop is Charles de Gaulle – Étoile, which is on the 1, 2, and 6 Metro lines. When you get there and exit to the street, DO NOT try to cross the 8-lane roundabout that encircles the Arc. Look for signs directing you to the pedestrian underpass.
Once you come up beneath the Arc, you can either simply walk around it to take some photos, or you can get a ticket to climb the 284 steps to the top. From the top, you'll have incredible views out over Paris and towards the Eiffel Tower. (Purchase skip-the-line tickets for the Arc de Triomphe here.)
Note: There are lots of cafes and brasseries near the Arc and along the Champs-Élysées for lunch, either before or after your visit.
2. Jardins du Trocadéro
Next you can make your way to the Trocadero, which offers up some of the most famous views of the Eiffel Tower across the Seine. You can either walk here from the Arc (20 minutes), or hop on the 6 Metro line to Trocadero station.
Then it's a short walk across the Seine via the Pont d'Iéna.
Pro tip: The area in front of the Eiffel Tower is ALWAYS busy with people. This is one of many touristy spots in Paris where petty theft like pickpocketing is common, so be aware of your surroundings and don't keep your wallet or valuables in a back pocket or open purse. I recommend traveling in big cities with a theft-proof cross-body bag or backpack.
3. Seine cruise
Whereas I don't necessarily consider a river cruise in London to be a must-do, I DO consider a cruise on the Seine in Paris to be something you don't want to skip. Paris is a beautiful city, and the banks of the Seine are iconically romantic.
I recommend doing a cruise before dinner. The two main companies that offer Seine sightseeing cruises operate on the Left Bank of the Seine, right in front of the Eiffel Tower.
If you plan to visit both the Arc de Triomphe and do a Seine cruise today, you can actually buy this combo ticket, which lets you do both activities at your leisure. (The cruise will be with Bateaux Parisiens, and include an audioguide onboard for your 1-hour cruise.)
There are LOTS of restaurants in the 7th arrondissement near the Eiffel Tower. Many are pretty touristy and serve up just-okay food, but there are plenty of good ones, too. (My tip? The smaller the restaurant, the better in many cases!)
A few spots that we either tried or had recommended to us that serve up French food (because of course you'll want French food your first night in Paris!) include:
- De la Tour
- Les Cocottes
- La Fontaine de Mars
- Le Café de Mars
- Les Ombres
Pro tip: You'll want to make reservations for most restaurants in Paris, especially for dinner and especially near any popular tourist spots. In Paris, many restaurants use an app called TheFork for reservations; this is what I used most of the time!
The other option for tonight is to visit a supermarket to pick up bread, meats, cheeses, and wine and have a picnic dinner on the Champ de Mars within view of the Eiffel Tower. This of course is VERY popular in the summer months, so just be aware if you go this route that you'll be picnicking with hundreds of other people.
5. Eiffel Tower
Okay okay, you've been in view of the Eiffel Tower most of the day – let's finally talk about visiting it, and seeing it lit up at night!
If you want my honest opinion, I really DON'T think it's worth it to go up the Eiffel Tower. Even if you buy a skip-the-line ticket in advance (highly recommended), you'll still have to queue up to board the elevator. And once you're up on the tower, you obviously can't SEE the Eiffel Tower in the Paris skyline.
Elliot and I went up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower, and while the views are nice, I think there are better views of Paris. (Plus, Eiffel Tower tickets are not cheap!)
Instead, I would suggest that you enjoy your dinner like a Parisian (which means slowly and probably with multiple glasses of wine), and wait for darkness to fall.
The Eiffel Tower is illuminated after dark, and “sparkles” for 5 minutes on the hour every hour from sunset to 1 a.m. (Just note that in the summer, it doesn't get dark until nearly 10 p.m. in Paris!)
Where to stay in Paris
Did you know that there are more than 1,500 hotels in Paris?? It's no wonder that it can be overwhelming to decide where to stay. I'm not going to inundate you with hundreds of suggestions. Instead, here are a couple dozen hotel options, roughly organized by where in Paris they're located.
(I personally have stayed in the 9th, 18th, and 16th arrondissements, and have enjoyed them all! The most popular neighborhoods to stay in for tourists are usually the 4th, 5th, and 6th.)
- Saint-Germain hotels (6th arr.) – Hotel Relais Saint-Germain, Hotel Le Six, Hotel d'Aubusson, Relais Christine
- Latin Quarter hotels (5th arr.) – Hotel Monge, Hotel Abbatial, Hôtel Les Dames du Panthéon, Hotel du College de France
- Montmartre hotels (18th arr.) – Terrass” Hotel, Mom'Art Hotel, Hotel le Chat Noir
- Élysée hotels (8th arr.) – Hotel Astoria – Asotel, Le Belleval, La Villa Haussmann, La Demeure Montaigne
- Opera hotels (9th arr.) – Lyric Hotel Paris*, Hotel 34B – Astotel, Hotel Prelude Opera, Hôtel Saint-Pétersbourg Opéra & Spa, Hotel Chopin, Quartier Libre Saint Georges (apartment hotel)
- Other Paris hotels – Grand Hôtel Du Palais Royal (1st), Hotel Cambon (1st), Hotel des Grands Boulevards (2nd), Hotel Malte – Astotel (2nd) (top-rated Paris hotel on TripAdvisor), Hotel Britannique (3rd), Cler Hotel (7th), 25hours Hotel Terminus Nord (10th), Hotel Le Milie Rose (10th), Hotel Maison FL* (16th), Saint James Paris (16th), Passy Eiffel (16th)
- Paris hotels with Eiffel Tower Views: Hotel Le Walt (7th), Rayz Eiffel (7th), Citadines Tour Eiffel Paris (15th), Le Parisis Paris Tour Eiffel (15th), Hôtel Plaza Étoile (17th)
- Best Paris luxury hotels: Shangri-La Paris (16th), The Peninsula Paris (16th), Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris (8th), Mandarin Oriental Paris (1st)
Some things to consider when booking a Paris hotel include location (i.e. which arrondissement and how close it is to a Metro station), whether the hotel allows smoking in the rooms (yes, lots of people still smoke in Paris), whether the hotel has amenities like air conditioning and an elevator (not all do), and what's included (like wifi and breakfast).
On this trip, I also looked for hotel rooms with balconies, because is there anything more Parisian?
Day 7: The best of central Paris
Highlights of Day 7 include: Île de la Cité, Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, Jardin des Tuileries, Musée de l'Orangerie, The Louvre, and Saint-Germain-des-Prés
1. Ile de la Cite
We're going to start the morning in the place where Paris itself began: on the Île de la Cité, one of the islands in the middle of the Seine. It was here that Paris was originally founded more than 2,000 years ago.
(You can take the Metro line 4 right to the Cité station, or you can travel to the Châtelet, Pont Neuf, or Saint-Michel Notre-Dame station and walk over to the island.)
On the island, you can stroll through the beautiful Place Dauphine on one end, and see the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris on the other. (Notre Dame is still undergoing restoration work after the 2019 fire, and is not currently open to the public.)
Since Notre Dame is closed, the next-most-popular church to visit in this part of Paris is also on the island. It's called Sainte-Chapelle, and it's a small Gothic-style chapel within what used to be the royal residence of the kings of France. (Today, the former palace houses the Palais de Justice, one of the main judicial centers in Paris.)
Sainte-Chapelle is a marvel. It was built in the 1200s for King Louis IX to hold his collection of Passion relics, including the alleged Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus. The chapel features stunning 50-foot-tall stained glass windows that depict different scenes from the Bible, most of which are original from the 13th century.
Visiting Sainte-Chapelle won't take you long, but I promise you won't regret seeing this masterpiece. (But do book your ticket in advance, as morning lines here can get long.)
2. Jardin des Tuileries and Musée de l'Orangerie
From the Île de la Cité, it's either a 25-minute walk along the Right Bank of the Seine, or you can get on the 1 Line at Châtelet and ride the few stops to Tuileries.
This might be a good time to stop for some famous hot chocolate at Angelina Paris (IF you can get a table reservation), or stop in to Ladurée for some macarons. Then you can head into the beautiful Tuileries Gardens, which date back to the 17th century.
These formal gardens are large, with multiple fountains and walking paths through rows of manicured trees.
At the far southwestern corner of the gardens, you'll find the Musée de l'Orangerie, which is a small art museum famous for housing 8 of Monet's giant Water Lilies murals.
This was the first art museum Elliot and I visited in Paris, and it's a great intro museum. There's a small collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings here, and then the rooms that were specially designed by Monet to display some of his Water Lilies panels.
The Monet pieces are stunning (and SO much bigger than you probably realize), and I like that this museum is smaller; you really probably only need an hour here. (Though booking tickets in advance is recommended; note that it's closed on Tuesdays.)
3. Lunch + photo ops
It will be time for a late lunch now. There are SO many cafes and brasseries in Paris, but if you want a few recommended that are close to your next stop, try Café Le Nemours or Baguett's Café. Juveniles is also an option, though they are only open for lunch from noon-1:30 p.m.
These are all close to the Jardin du Palais-Royal, another pretty garden, and the famous Colonnes de Buren/Les Deux Plateaux, which is a permanent outdoor art installation that's always good for a few Instagram photos.
4. Louvre tour
You'll notice that everything today has been skirting the massive complex of former royal palace buildings that today house The Louvre, the largest, most famous, and most-visited art museum in the world.
The Louvre displays 35,000+ pieces of artwork (out of a collection that totals more than 500,000 pieces) in hundreds of rooms. And while you can certainly tackle The Louvre on your own if you want, this is the one museum in Paris where I really recommend you explore with a guide.
The tour I recommend here is a special one; it's called Closing Time at the Louvre: Mona Lisa at Her Most Peaceful, and it takes you to The Louvre in the late afternoon right before closing, allowing you to experience the museum with less people.
The group for this tour will be small (15 people max), and you'll be with a guide who's an expert in art history. You'll see all the famous pieces inside the Louvre like the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, and also other works that you've probably never heard of.
I really can't recommend a tour like this enough! (You can book this exact one here; note that it does not run on Tuesdays when The Louvre is closed.)
5. Evening in Saint-Germain
The Louvre tour runs from 3-6 p.m., so after you're done I recommend taking your Louvre Pyramid photos and then heading across the Seine once more (perhaps via the Pont des Arts) and into Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the 6th arrondissement.
Saint-Germain is a hip, artsy neighborhood that everyone usually loves, making it a great area to explore for the rest of the evening. This is one of the neighborhoods romanticized in movies like Midnight in Paris, where artists, writers, and other intellectuals lived, worked, and gathered in the late 19th and early 20th century.
If you want to channel your inner Hemingway or Fitzgerald, consider sitting down for a drink at either Les Deux Magots or Café de Flore (they are basically across the street from one another). The terrace tables at both these spots are cramped and the cocktails are overpriced, but it's something to check off your touristy bucket list. (If you're staying in Saint-Germain, both spots are perhaps better for an early breakfast.)
The streets here are always nice to stroll, and the very pretty Jardin du Luxembourg is also not far away.
For dinner tonight, I got SO many restaurant suggestions in this neighborhood, so here are a few to look into in the 6th:
- L'Avant Comptoir du Marché (popular wine bar serving small plates)
- Le Procope
- Avant Comptoir de la Terre
- Le Colvert (we ate here and loved it)
- La Jacobine
- Le Relais de L’Entrecôte (only one thing on the menu here: steak frites)
- Castor Club (for coktails)
Pro tip: Most restaurants don't even open for dinner until 7 or 7:30 p.m. in Paris, so be prepared to eat a bit late! If you haven't had time to make dinner reservations, however, a good bet is to get to a restaurant right when it opens – your chances of getting a table are much higher before 8 p.m. (in my experience, at least).
Day 8: Montmartre and the 9th
Highlights of Day 8 include: Montmartre, Sacré-Coeur, Palais Garnier, Galeries Lafayette, and a famous bar
1. Morning in Montmartre
Paris' 18th arrondissement – also known as Montmartre – is my favorite part of Paris. It at one time was a separate city to the north of Paris, and was where many starving artists with names like Picasso, Van Gogh, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec lived and worked.
Montmartre is a very popular neighborhood at night, with hundreds if not thousands of people gathering on the steps in front of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica to drink and watch the sunset each evening. But if you want to experience Montmartre during its quieter, less-crowded hours, you want to go in the morning. (Start at Anvers Metro stop, on the Line 2.)
This neighborhood is one that begs to be explored on foot. You can go inside the Sacré-Coeur Basilica for free (and be sure to see the view of it from the Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet), watch artists working and selling their wares in the charming Place du Tertre, and just wander the narrow streets.
If you want to take a neighborhood walking tour, Montmartre would be the neighborhood I would suggest. (And this 2-hour morning walking tour is a great option, focusing on some off-the-beaten-track sights that you might otherwise miss.)
2. Galeries Lafayette
From Montmartre, head south into the 9th arrondissement. This area of Paris is filled with hotels, restaurants, and shopping, and is definitely worth a visit.
Head to the Galeries Lafayette shopping mall, whether you want to shop or not. (Closest Metro stations are Chaussée d'Antin – La Fayette and Opera.)
Not only does this mall have an incredible domed interior, but it also has a free rooftop observation deck you can visit for some very cool views out over the nearby Opera Garnier and all the way to the Eiffel Tower. (No purchase necessary to visit this rooftop!)
There are also tons of cafes and restaurants in this area for lunch if you didn't already eat in Montmartre. If you want something very French, head to a little hole-in-the-wall spot called Crêperie Traditionnelle (2 Rue de Hanovre) for fresh crepes.
3. Palais Garnier
Another must-do in this neighborhood is to visit the Palais Garnier, or Opera Garnier. This opulent, Italian-style building was built in the late 1800s at the request of Emperor Napoleon III to house the Paris Opera. It was designed by architect Charles Garnier (hence the name), and still operates as a performance venue today, now mostly showing ballets.
During the day, you can visit the Palais Garnier and wander through all its splendid rooms and lobbies. I'll admit: the interior of this place absolutely blew me away!
You'll see the impressive marble staircase, the gold-coated Grand Foyer, and even the box that “belongs” to the Phantom of the Opera. On most days, you can also peek into the luxurious 1,979-seat auditorium with its famous painted ceiling. (There were signs saying no photos outside the auditorium doors, though, so I didn't take any in there.)
You can book your self-guided tour tickets in advance, and then I highly recommend upgrading to the audio guide when you get there. It has a cool visual element to it that you'll use as you walk around.
4. Drinks at Harry's Bar
From the Opera Garnier, it's a short walk to a spot called Harry's New York Bar. This cozy wood-paneled bar dates back to 1911, and literally came from New York City (they dismantled an entire bar in Manhattan, and had it shipped to Paris!).
Harry's Bar in Paris was a popular haunt for the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, and many others, and is said to have invented some of the world's most famous cocktails including the Bloody Mary, SideCar, French 75, and more.
The bar can make hundreds of cocktails, and also has an extensive whisky collection. They have live music starting at 10 p.m. every night in their piano bar, but if you go for a pre-dinner drink, there's a chance it won't be that busy.
The 9th is filled with all sorts of restaurants. Some options to consider tonight include:
- Le Minet Galant
- Le Petit Vendôme
- Chez Delphine
- Restaurant Kozo
Day 9: Versailles day trip
It's day trip time today! And while there are several options to choose from (for example, you could take a day trip to Champagne country, or go to Monet's home in Giverny), I think a first trip to Paris calls for a visit to Versailles.
The Palace of Versailles began as a small country hunting lodge used by King Louis XIII. It was transformed by his son and successor, King Louis XIV (the Sun King), in the mid-1600s into a sprawling, gold-coated palace with more than 2000 rooms. The palace was the official royal residence of the kings of France from 1682 until the French Revolution.
You absolutely can go to Versailles on your own by taking an RER train from Paris and pre-booking a Versailles entrance ticket. But this is another one of those outings that I really, truly feel is best done with a guide.
We booked this tour with Boutique Bike Tours, which included a quick train ride to Versailles, a guided tour of the palace as soon as it opened to beat the crowds, a guided walk around the gardens and fountains, time to shop for lunch at a local market, and a picnic alongside the Grand Canal at Versailles.
Because we were traveling by bike, we also had time to visit the Petit Trianon and Queen's Hamlet. This was originally built as a vacation home for King Louis XV's favorite mistress, but was more famously embraced by King Louis XVI's bride, Marie Antoinette.
Bike riding in Versailles is not super strenuous, and I'd highly recommend this tour if you're able to do it! (Book this exact tour here.)
(If, however, a bike tour sounds awful to you but you'd still like to do a guided tour, another option would be this afternoon tour of Versailles with transport from Paris, or this skip-the-line palace tour that requires you to get yourself to Versailles.)
Pro tip: Whether you book a bike tour or walking tour today, wear good shoes – Versailles is HUGE and requires lots of walking to see it all.
Day 10: Le Marais and everything else
Highlights of Day 10 include Le Marais, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the Catacombs, Montparnasse Tower, and whatever else is on your to-do list!
1. Le Marais food tour
It's your last day in Paris, and you may as well go out on a high! Start your morning with a food tour around Paris' trendy Le Marais neighborhood (I recommend this one). You'll visit the Marche des Enfants Rouges, the the oldest covered market in Paris, and stop at several different places to sample everything from cheese to chocolate to wine.
Food tours are a great way to get to know a neighborhood, and this area of Paris is one of the main ones you haven't spent much time in yet! (Book a food tour here.)
After the food tour (if you go on the 10:30 a.m. tour, you'll be done around 2 p.m.), you have a couple different options depending on your interests.
2a. Get to know the dead
All the way out in the 20th arrondissement lies Père Lachaise Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Paris (and also perhaps the most-visited cemetery in the world). As someone who loves visiting cemeteries when I travel, Pere Lachaise was a must-visit for me!
Some famous people who are buried here include Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Frédéric Chopin, Édith Piaf, and Marcel Proust.
The main entrance to the cemetery is on Boulevard de Ménilmontant, with the nearest Metro stop being Philippe-Auguste on Line 2.
To continue this vein, you could next head to the Paris Catacombs (near Denfert-Rochereau station on Line 6), which are underground tunnels filled with the bones of the dead. You can either book a ticket with an audio guide, or go on a guided tour here (this one runs on some days at 5 p.m., which would be perfect timing).
Just note that the Paris Catacombs are generally dark and damp – I don't personally think this one is a must-do in Paris, but many people love it!
2b. Another museum visit
If the macabre of cemeteries and catacombs doesn't appeal to you, then you could use this afternoon to visit another museum that I haven't yet mentioned.
The other two most-popular Paris museums that you haven't visited yet are the Musée d'Orsay (an art museum housed in a former train station) and the Musée Rodin (which comprises both an indoor museum and outdoor sculpture garden).
Both of these museums are smaller and more manageable than The Louvre; you can see the highlights in 1-2 hours at each.
3. Le Train Bleu
If you're looking for an over-the-top dinner tonight, lots of people recommend dining at Le Train Bleu. This restaurant is located inside the Gare de Lyon train station in the 12th arrondissement. It serves up classic French dishes, and is known for its opulent decor of frescoes and chandeliers.
You'll definitely want to book this one in advance!
If Le Train Bleu doesn't appeal to you (or if you can't get a table), then I suggest finding dinner somewhere either in Le Marais (4th arrondissement) or the Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement). Some suggested spots include:
- Pain Vin fromages (for fondue!)
- L'As du Fallafel (for takeaway; expect a line)
- Le Mary Celeste
- Chez Janou
- Chez Mademoiselle
- Aux Anysetiers Du Roy (on Île Saint-Louis)
4. Montparnasse Tower
Regardless of where you have dinner, take the Metro to Edgar Quinet (Line 6) and walk to the Tour Montparnasse, or Montparnasse Tower. This tall black tower is generally considered to be an eyesore in the Paris skyline by most locals, but it offers up arguably one of the best views in the entire city.
From the observation deck on the 56th floor, you get 360-degree views of Paris. From here you can see the Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur, Notre-Dame, The Louvre, and everything else. The tower is open until 11:30 p.m., too, meaning you can either go up before sunset, or wait until after dark.
(As with everything else in Paris, booking your ticket in advance is highly recommended!)
This is the perfect spot to soak up the views and make one final core memory on your last night in Paris.
When to visit London and Paris
This exact itinerary is designed for spring, summer, or early fall in London and Paris. You can of course plan a trip to these cities at any time of year, but you won't always find all these suggested tours running or attractions open as long during the colder months of the year.
Late spring (late April-early June) and early fall (September into early October) are ideal if you want nice weather with less crowds. Elliot and I did this trip together in mid-May, for example, and it was perfect!
Note that mid-June and July are the busiest times to travel in Europe. July and August are the hottest months – and not all hotels in London and Paris have air conditioning!
Also note that August is the month when many Europeans go on vacation; you may find some smaller restaurants and shops (especially in Paris) closed if you visit in August.
I think 10,000 words encompasses all the wisdom I can impart upon you to help you plan a bucket list trip to London and Paris.
If you have more time, you could easily spend many more days in each city, do more day trips, or add on a third destination entirely (easy additions include Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Brugge/Brussels, or the south of France, all of which can be reached by train from either London or Paris).
If you steal this itinerary to plan your own 10 days in London and Paris trip, definitely let me know how it goes!
Have you ever taken a London and Paris trip? If not, is it on your Europe bucket list?
Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!