A WEEK IN LONDON AND PARIS
Seeing the Eiffel Tower has always been on the list, and we finally set up a trip to see it. Paris and London were everything we could've hoped for and then some.
If you feel like being in a city with lots to eat, drink and see. You'll love this trip. You can shop, see history, sit at cafes to relax and people watch, eat incredible food, and experience the local culture.
There's an endless amount of things to do in these two cities. We did as much as we could, and already know a few things we want to do on our next visit.
We booked 8 days, but it turned into 7 because of a flight cancellation. So you'll notice London kind of crams some things in. Our hotels were central to where we wanted to be, and we just walked or took trains everywhere. It's easy there, and we'll have some tips on how to buy tickets in both places, where to stay, etc.
Let's talk about the trip!
Day 1: Travel. DEN to LHR
Day 2: Arrive at LHR in the morning. Day in London
Day 3: Travel to Paris-Eurostar-Arrive early evening (lose an hour)
Day 4: Paris-Walking all over, Eiffel, Lourve, etc.
Day 5: Paris-Walking around, Arc de Triomph, Montmartre
Day 6: Paris-Montparnasse, St. Germain de Pres, Historic sites, etc.
Day 7: Travel from Paris to London. Second half of day in London
Day 8: Fly home mid-day
DAY 1/2-TRAVEL DAY DEN TO LHR, DAY IN LONDON
Our real Day 1 (Friday) was ruined by a flight cancellation. Fast forward and we got on a flight Saturday that got us to London around Sunday morning (flew from Salt Lake to Orlando then to London + big time change).
We flew Delta/Virgin Atlantic and they took care of us with the cancelation, and the flights had good food and entertainment. We always recommend Delta and Delta Partners if it's an option.
When we got through customs in London, we got train tickets and hopped on the train from inside Heathrow. That took us to a stop 5 minutes from our hotel in the heart of London-Covent Garden. We stayed at The Resident Covent Garden. It was about an hour train ride, and 13 pounds a person. London transportation was much more expensive, but it's pretty nice.
We only bought single tickets-if you're in either city for more than 2 or 3 days, it's worth it to get a pass. Trains in London are more expensive than Paris. Train tickets to the airport were 13 pounds each, and a typical ride was around 7. I'm sure a pass could get that lower. Here is a good resource to learn more.
After cleaning up and getting settled in, we went out to see some sights and find some fish and chips. You'll see signs at pubs saying they have fish and chips, but we actually got them from a food truck down by the river/the lastminute.com London Eye. It was really good, and we got curry sauce over the chips, because Maddie heard on Tiktok that some locals do that. So good!
We walked past Trafalgar Square, across the Hungerford and Golden Jubilee Bridges, past Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster, past Buckingham Palace and back to our hotel. What a day!
Make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes on this trip. One day we walked almost 17 miles and 30,000 steps, and we weren't far off from that on our other days. You can save steps by taking the train, but there is so much to see everywhere it's fun to walk around and soak it all in.
We stopped at a wine bar before heading to dinner called Lady of the Grapes, a great cafe/wine bar feel in a happening alley. We got dinner at a restaurant called Roka (Charlotte Street), recommended to us by a friend who lives in London. Roka is a sushi spot, and it was phenomenal. The only place we've had a raw scallop as good as the ones in Oregon. You walk through some really unique neighborhoods, there was an open art gallery, and just a lot going on in Londontown!
Afterward, we got some much-needed sleep. In the morning we'd have time to explore a little bit, grab coffee and a bite to eat, and then head to the Eurostar for Paris.
DAY 3-MORNING IN LONDON, TRAVEL TO PARIS ON THE EUROSTAR
We arrived and to be honest, getting off the train into a busy train stop (Gare du Nord and then Les Halles), busy mall, and busy area was overwhelming with our suitcases. It is worth it to get a ride if it's later in the day and things are busy. Could be with a cab or your hotel might offer a shuttle/setting up a cab service.
Once we got to our hotel Le Presbytere, we cooled down and cleaned up. This hotel is connected to a 17th-century church, and our room literally had arches from the church going through it. It was really nice, comfortable, and close to everything including transportation.
Ready to get on the town we got a recommendation for a cafe. We were on the edge of Le Marais so there were cafes and shops everywhere. We got a recommendation for a great cafe like 100 steps from our hotel called l'Alchimiste Brasserie. It was exactly what we wanted in Paris.
We just enjoyed wine, frites, and then made our way to dinner at Lombardi where we drank more wine and had a great meal. Lots of burrata and italian on this trip, along with French food. It was a perfect welcome to Paris.
DAY 4: PARIS-EIFFEL AND OTHER SIGHTSEEING
Our first full day in Paris. We were ready to cover some ground and did just that.
18 miles and nearly 30,000 steps. We walked from Les Halles to the Eiffel Tower, back through the city streets, Esplanade des Invalides, Jardin des Tuileries, the Louvre, and back to our hotel before dinner. What an incredible day.
To start things off we had to walk an hour to the Eiffel Tower. It went quickly because of all the cool things and places we stumbled on. Vintage vendors in the streets, folks hanging out on the river and already filling up the cafes, amazing architecture, the river with bridges going over it, and historic buildings alongside. Paris is constantly entertaining.
Eiffel Tower tips: We didn't go up in the tower or make a dinner reservation, we opted for a less crowded, taller tower that looks out to the entire city, including the Eiffel Tower. We'll talk about that soon. When under the Eiffel, beware of pickpockets. They are around.
The Eiffel Tower is as impressive as you'd imagine. It was kind of surreal standing below it looking up. We walked around, took some pictures on a side street, hung out on the lawn for a bit, and started to make our way back.
We ended up at Le Centenaire. It's on an active corner and we really enjoyed the beef tartare and french onion soup, along with a delicious Blonde beer and Stout. Our server was funny.
We didn't have an issue with the language barrier. A lot of people speak English, and if they don't, they usually understand enough that you can order things in English. We used Babbel to learn some French before the trip.
After relaxing for a bit and cleaning up, we headed out for a drink at a really awesome plaza. We had drinks at L'Etincelle and Le Gribouille in this plaza on separate nights. Great drinks and a fun place to hang out.
We stumbled on a really good restaurant that had French food: Au Bourguignon du Marais. This place was so good. We started with deviled eggs and a French wine. I had beef bourguignon and Maddie had a filet. They give you baguettes, and we also had some creme brulee. So good!!! The outside seating area was on a quieter street, and had a really good calm energy about it.
A lot of cafes and restaurants, it seems like you should just walk in and sit down. However, we could tell as the trip went on that they definitely preferr for you to wait and be seated. Always sit outside if the weather is good, no locals ever sit inside. Why would you with everything you could see and look at on the street?
We were absolutely exhausted afterward and decided to call it a night.
DAY 5: PARIS-ARC DE TRIOMPHE AND MONTMARTRE, LE MARAIS SHOPPING
After that insane day of walking, we decided to utilize the trains a little bit more in Paris. They're really easy to understand, and getting tickets or a Navigo card at a kiosk is also easy. Worst case, they have service counters at some of the stations with a person that will help.
Trains are pretty cheap in Paris. Like 2 euros for a one way, per person. That being said, we regret not getting the navigo card. You probably only need the core zones, and it's like 30 euros for the week. They even have some day passes that would save you money. Some of these days we probably spent like 20 euros each on train tickets going all over, so it pays for itself if you're going to be using the trains for probably 3+ days.
We started with the Arc de Triomphe, then tried to build in Le Galeria but kind of missed it, and headed to Montmartre.
When you go up to Montmartre, be ready for some inclines. If you go in there the right way, you'll end up in the middle of the town. Take the lift from the bottom-tons of stairs still. Once there, it's easy to find cafes and walk around the picturesque town. There is a tram you can take up to Sacré-Cœur Basilica to get a great view and see more of Montmartre as well.
All of this walking and the trains had us thirsty. Paris has fountains all over the place and the water is good, no need to buy bottles if you manage your water appropriately and fill up when you see a water fountain.
We ate at a great little cafe on a busy corner called Le Bimbo. Someone ended up playing the accordion in the background, we had some great food (burrata, seafood ravioli, olives) and drinks, and our server was really nice. We took the funicular up to the basilica, explored, and made our way back through town to the train and hotel.
Once we got cleaned up, we did some shopping. Bookstores, cheap sunglasses that are really good, Vintage designer stores, vintage clothing stores, Paris really has it all. Maddie was in heaven.
We ended the day by going to the plaza again, then to a phenomenal dinner recommendation Le Colimaçon. This place was outstanding. Cozy, a really nice server, great environment. We had a great bottle of French red wine, followed by our first Escargot-SO good. One entree with duck breast, the other a seafood dish-both were unreal. We finished it off with some French toast. One of the best meals we've ever had.
DAY 6: MONTPARNASSE TOWER, ST GERMAIN DE PRES, LATIN QUARTER, MORE SHOPPING
We ate breakfast at a cafe every morning. You could do this, or go to a shop that has pastries. Both are great options. In retrospect We would've liked to have grabbed more coffee/pastries to go, and sat on the river or street bench. We enjoyed the cafes more at night.
We got a recommendation to go to the top of Montparnasse Tower, rather than the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was about 20 euros a person, and you go to the top of the tallest building in Paris. It has a rooftop viewing deck too. 360 view of all of Paris, and not crowded! We would strongly recommend this to anyone. It also gave some cool history about Paris, formerly "Lutece".
We took a quick Train from Montparnasse to St Germain des Pres, and walked around. A lot of famous places like Les Deux Magots over there, awesome cafes and shops. We went in a bookstore and got a coffee table book (Maddie was seeking these out!)
We probably could've spent more time in St Germain, but we'll do that next time. We walked over to the Latin Quarter and got lunch at an Italian place called Quartier Latin. They ended up being from the region Maddie's grandparents are from. They immigrated to France, started a restaurant, and now are successful! Great food and they brought us out a limoncello shot to do together. We also met some folks sitting next to us who live part of the year in Colorado. Small world.
We ended up going to Arenes de Lutece after we read about it at the tower. It was a theater that held 15,000 people in the 1st century AD, gladiators would fight there. You could walk right in. It's outside of Latin Quarter, where we also saw the Pantheon and a really cool cathedral. We're not normally history buffs, but thought this was pretty cool. Walking around and seeing all the history, you can't help but wonder how they got to the current.
Then we made our way back to the hotel for a break before our last shopping fix, cafes and dinner. I wanted to get a French watch. Most of them are simply not affordable, but I found a cool store called Merci. It had watches, clothes, home goods, and even a pop up shop (with Gant) for Paris Fashion Week next door. We got a few things here, and Maddie stopped back at The Room, where she got a bag and jacket that she was dreaming of. We found another vintage shop that had vintage Chanel watches, but they were simply too expensive. It is definitely worth saving some money and space in your suitcase to do some shopping in Paris. You will find things you want, I promise.
Somehow, Maddie managed to find food that might have topped last night-Les Foodies. This place had Cordon Bleu-trained chefs on a cool back street right across from Eataly. We got a bottle of wine (this became a standard for the trip), and started with 2 apps. Scallops in this light cream sauce with cucumbers and mackrel caviar, then a ceviche with a honey mustard sauce. Sounds like it wouldn't work, but it not only worked, it overachieved. After eating those, we weren't sure how our entrees could get much better but they somehow did. I had a mushroom Risotto with a mushroom foam and chanterelles, delicious. Maddie had a seafood stuffed pasta in another light cream sauce. Just packed with the best flavors, it was so good.
From dinner, we took the train to the Eiffel Tower for the main event-the Eiffel sparkling at night. Although it is a tourist haven, the atmosphere and energy there was alive as much of Paris always is. Just being lit up alone was beautiful, but the 5 minute twinkle took it to new heights. A surreal moment!
A quick train ride home, and we had to call it a night. We wanted to go to a Jazz bar, but it just didn't fit in this trip. It will be one of the things at the top of our list next time. Le Caveau de la Huchette was recommended by multiple people.
DAY 7: PARIS BREAKFAST, TRAVEL BACK TO LONDON, HALF DAY IN LONDON
On our last day we were sort of forced into the "to go" breakfast, and that was what made us wish we did that more often. Just the best pastries, picked up some Macaroons for my sister, and had good coffee as always. This was right outside of our hotel, at Maison Marnay.
We took a quick 5-minute walk to the train station, had a quick ride to Gare du Nord, then hopped on the Eurostar back to London.
These international train stations are like airports. You have to get your passport checked multiple times and go through security. It's worth it to get there a bit early.
Arriving back in London, we took a train to our hotel near Marylebone, The Grafton Arms Rooms and Pub. Still a really happening area of London, and it was such a nice room. Right above a classic British pub, what more could you ask for?
We got settled in, then hopped back on the train to go across town to the Borough market.
Borough Market is an amazing place. Tons of people just eating every kind of food you could imagine. We had Bao, Oysters, Croquettes, Gyoza, and Donuts as we explored.
After a couple hours there, we had to get back to the hotel, dinner was in a couple of hours (ate so much this day). Delamania was another recommendation to us. Really good Mediterranean. We got our last bottle of wine for the trip, and enjoyed a variety of dishes that were new to us, and delicious. We of course got some classic Beef Kafta too.
Our feet were in pain from so much walking, but we enjoyed the walk back to the hotel through the cool London city streets, and reminisced on an incredible trip.
DAY 8: TRAVEL HOME
Initially, we had a flight to New York, a 5-hour layover, then a flight back to Denver. Thankfully we were flying Delta, and their customer support is amazing. I was able to switch to a flight to Minneapolis earlier in the day, with a much shorter layover and flight back to Denver. We got home at 3 PM instead of 11 PM.
We always recommend flying Delta internationally. They will take care of you if something goes wrong. Also the more we fly, the more we hate stops. More opportunity for issues. If you see non-stop flights and it's not that much more expensive, you will not regret spending that extra money. Last thing on the flights-try to get rows of 2, or at least a window/aisle. You don't want to be stuck in a bad seat for 8 hours. Another area it's usually worth it to spend a little more money for significant benefit.
We had a phenomenal trip and can't wait to go back. Strongly recommend to anyone. If you're a first-time international traveler, London would be a great option. Paris is a must see at some point, especially for couples.
Packing List/To Do's
Expected spend breakdown
Flights: $750 each round trip
Trains: $100 each
Food/Drinks: $1750 total (probably can get this lower, just depends)
Lodging: $2500 total (probably can get lower, was expensive for Paris Fashion Week/NFL London Game and other events going on. We also strongly believe it's worth it to pay the premium to be central)
Shopping: At your discretion
You could bring Euros and Pounds for street vendors, but most places, including food trucks, accept credit cards
Passport-Check that it's up to date
See tips throughout the blog in italics on trains, flights, language and more