So, what do you do in one of the most magical places on earth?
First off, don’t ever go to Paris for just 48 hours, it’s the biggest tease! One week or longer would be ideal in order to take in all the sights, history, and beauty of this city but if a couple of days is all you can squeeze in, then by all means go! You’re in for a treat! Below are my highlights and recommendations of how I hit the ground running and made the most of my 2-day adventure in Paris, completely on my own. I know, solo travel sounds scary at first but if I can do it, so can you!
Never have I traveled solo until my first Euro tour in 2014. Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind; I have too much family across the globe to even consider this as an option. But on this trip, while I was visiting family in Europe, I took a quick getaway from London to Paris, alone, for about 48 hours. The third stop on my four country tour which started in Frankfurt, then London, Paris, and finally Stockholm, there’s no way I was going to be that close and not make a stop in the City of Lights! I was determined to go, even if I didn’t know anyone, even if it was solo, and I don’t regret a thing!
Figuring out where to stay; how to take the train across countries and throughout the city; and of course, experiencing as much as I can in less than 48 hours was a challenge but I still managed to see a lot. My adventures included biking all over the city, an evening boat tour on the Seine River, going all the way up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and visiting historical landmarks along the way. I’m so grateful for this experience and now feel empowered to do anything! Seriously, I’ve gained so much confidence in my abilities to explore, problem solve, and navigate in a foreign land that I’m no longer afraid to travel solo.
I actually want to do this more often; there’s something about completely relying on yourself, while utilizing the right resources to stay safe but also have the time of your life. I hope that in sharing my travel story that some of you will challenge yourself to explore and take a trip, completely solo.
Now for the details. Below is an overview of how I went about planning a solo trip and my itinerary for an adventurous time in Paris!
Before the trip, I contacted friends and family who have traveled to Paris for recommendations. Luckily, my co-worker was also planning to be there at the same time and like me, she’s a researcher, so she shared her itinerary, God Bless Researchers!
Tip 1: If you’re traveling to a new place, by yourself, remember it’s efficient to ask and utilize other people’s recommendations if you don’t know where to start.
Additionally, my cousin in London also visited Paris multiple times and she was such a big help. Not only did she give me detailed instructions on how to get there by train, she also gave me practical suggestions of what to do given my limited time there. After some pre-planning, I felt ready to explore the magical city of Paris on my own!
However, I was concerned about one thing, how would I communicate with the locals since I haven’t studied French in over 15 years? Despite growing up in Canada where French is the official second language and studying French for 2 years in High School in the U.S., I thought my 2.5 hour train ride from London to Paris would be enough time to get caught up on my French skills, I was totally wrong!
I also hoped that once I was immersed in the culture I would be able to pick up the language relatively quickly. Needless to say, I kept my mouth shut most of the time because 48 hours was not enough time to get reacquainted with the beautiful language.
While that was a little discouraging, I did come across kind restaurant servers along the way who understood enough English to take my order and offer guidance. This was mostly in touristy areas (near the Eiffel) so I can’t speak for the response across the board.
If you’re already in Europe, I suggest taking the train to Paris. While you could also fly fairly easily, my cousin highly recommended this mode of transportation (from London) as it would actually save more time overall. About a 2.5 hour train ride from London, the train stations are pretty central in both London (Kings Cross) and Paris (Gard du Nord). That means less travel time considering the airport in London is quite a ways away, and with the train you only need to be at the station 30 minutes prior to departure, skipping the early check-in time and long security lines at the airport.
Tip 2: Book your train tickets in advance! I purchased my train tickets with Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) last minute and ended up paying nearly double the normal price.
~ 2-Day Paris Itinerary ~
Trains & More Trains: I started the day off early, taking a 5:40am Eurostar train ride from London (St. Pancras International) to Paris (Gare du Nord). I arrived at Gare du Nord station just after 9:00am and I was ready to make my way to my hotel. I packed light for this 2-day getaway and decided to take the local metro train to my hotel from Gare du Nord terminal. Following the signs for “Metro & RER” I bought my train ticket and asked for directions since I knew what stop I needed to get to. Exiting at metro station “Ecole Militaire” (line 8), this is when the real navigation began. Luckily, I had data on my phone and used the maps feature to find my way. However, I still managed to get lost but I didn’t care, I was in freaking Paris!!
Hotel: At last, I arrived at Hotel de Londres Eiffel, where I would stay for one night. I ended up dropping my bag off before the check-in time and went out to explore. Hotel de Londres came highly recommended by my good friend and it was central to everything, just a 2 minute walk from the Eiffel tower. I was willing to spend a little more considering this was the only hotel I stayed at for my whole Euro tour (thanks to family) but it was worth the € 240 per night!
While my room was small compared to U.S. standards, I didn’t spend much time there anyway, and it was just me so it worked out fine. If you’re solo, I highly recommend this hotel located at 1 rue Augereau, Paris 75007; the hotel has a super cute and charming vibe.
Lunch: I stopped by a cute cafe on the corner near the hotel for bite to eat. I ordered a traditional french dish, which included Pâté, that my server recommended. I honestly didn’t love the Pâté and didn’t really know what it was at the time but this was probably the only real meal I had on the first day. I was busy trying to see everything and didn’t take the time to sit and enjoy any other meals I consumed after that.
Bike Tour: I booked this experience with Fat Tire Tours, Paris Day Bike Tour for € 30.00. Starting at 3:00pm, I spent about 3.5 hours pedaling all over the city and saw many historic sites. With the limited time I had, a bike tour was honestly one of the best choices to maximize and cover a lot of ground! We even got to take a mini break at a cafe in the Tuileries Garden, next to the Louvre Museum. Since it’s a group tour, you end up making friends along the way and people gladly offered to take my picture in front of all the cool places we visited. Here’s a look at what we covered on the tour:
Boat Tour on the Seine: I ended the day with an evening tour on the beautiful Seine River. I bought my ticket upon arrival, about €13.00, and jumped on the Bateaux Mouches River Cruise, located at Port de la Conférence, 75008 Paris, France. Departing every 30 minutes, the tour was just over an hour and is a great way to get another perspective of the city. If there’s anything I missed on the bike tour, this tour filled in the gaps covering many iconic landmarks, including, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Conciergerie, the Musée d’Orsay, and more!
The best part of doing an evening boat tour is getting an up-close view of the Eiffel Tower Light Show. The Eiffel lights up every hour for 5 minutes beginning at sunset and is a spectacular sight you don’t want to miss.
Tour Eiffel: No doubt you will see the Eiffel Tower from various points in the city but to take the experience a step further, try going up to the top for amazing views of Paris. You have the option of going to the very top or stopping midway at a lower deck on the 2nd floor; of course, I went all the way up! But honestly, I preferred the view from the middle platform. A regular adult ticket to go to the very top will run about €17.00.
Tip 3: If you’re looking to go up but want to save a few bucks and still enjoy a great view, purchase your ticket for the middle platform (2nd floor). You can either take the stairs to the middle platform, 704 stairs to be exact, for just €7.00 or the elevator for €11.00.
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées: One of the most famous avenue’s in the world, Champs-Élysées is a must see for tourists. Stretched over a mile between the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées is lined with restaurants, museums, adorable cafe’s, and high-end shops.
My first stop on the avenue was visiting the famous French bakery, Ladurée Paris. I’m not big on sweets but I was told that Ladurée has the world’s best macarons, so I picked up a box. They were pretty delicious and if you have more time, try eating lunch at their restaurant.
After some window shopping and walking around, I made it to the end of the avenue to see the glorious Arc de Triomphe! It was an amazing structure which stands at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. By this point I was exhausted, having walked all over Paris, so this was a great way to end my amazing tour of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
Coffee; Getting Caught in the Rain; and Last Train to London: If you know me, you know I love coffee, so much so, I made it a point to visit a Starbucks store in every country on my Euro tour. It was just a little challenge I had for myself being that I’m a Seattleite and love Starbucks. I was doing pretty good until I got to Paris. Too busy for any stops on the first day, I made it a point to get my coffee fix before I left. So, on my second and last day, I decided to walk to the nearest Starbucks, which wasn’t that close. I got my Caramel Macchiato and started to head back to my hotel but it started to rain.
Now, pressed for time since I had to catch the train back to London, I had to figure out if I could wait it out or just keep walking. I decided to continue walking since it wasn’t that bad, I’m from Seattle remember, but out of no where the light drizzle turned into a torrential downpour! With no umbrella, I tried to find cover under a building; I stayed there for a while but it wasn’t letting up, so I ran to the hotel. I hate getting caught off guard when it comes to rain! I made it to the hotel, completely soaked, thinking that was such a bad idea but at least it will be an experience to remember!
I caught the train around 8:00pm from the Gare du Nord station in Paris to make my way back to London. I may have been a little damp from the rain but my heart was so full after what I just experienced over the last 2-days.
I wish I had more time in this city but I will definitely return. So much to see and do, I could easily spend a couple of weeks in Paris. Until next time.
Where’s your favorite solo destination?