As Audrey Hepburn once said: Paris is always a good idea. Whether you’re there for 11 hours or 11 years, there’s always something to see, do and, most importantly, taste.
A few years ago, I set myself a challenge of seeing as much of Paris in just 11 short hours. I caught the Eurostar from London St Pancras at 7:10am, which got me to Paris Nord station for 10:17am (local time). I then had 11 hours of sightseeing before jumping on the 9:13pm train back to London.
Crazy? Maybe. Ambitious? Absolutely! And you can definitely do the same. Although this was back in 2012, a few of my friends have expressed shock/horror/disbelief at how I managed to fit so much in. In the 11 hours I was there, I managed to see:
- Eiffel Tower
- The Avenue des Champs-Élysées
- Notre Dame
- Arc de Triomphe
- Louvre Pyramid
- Pompidou Center
- A few French supermarkets and shops
- …and we also had a lovely meal out in McDonalds
I’m not going to lie, in 11 hours you’re not going to be able to really delve into the Parisian lifestyle as much as you might like. However, if you’re short on time and money (both of which apply to me…) it’s still possible to get a taste of the city with a day trip. And if you would like to follow my itinerary, here’s how – just make sure you wear a solid pair of walking shoes and take a copy of this metro map with you.
Morning – Montmartre, Sacré-Cœur and Arc de Triomphe
The Eurostar train drops you off rather centrally at Gare du Nord. From here, you’ll be heading over to Montmartre, home to the Sacré-Cœur as well as many of the scenes from Amelie.
From Gare du Nord, you can take line 4 of the metro in the direction of Porte de Clignancourt. You’ll need to change once in order to alight at the nearest station to Montmartre, which is either Abbesses (my recommended stop), or Anvers.
Alternatively, it’s quite easy to walk from Gare du Nord straight to Sacré-Cœur if you have a good eye for directions! We didn’t have a map on us, so we got pretty lost, but with dozens of quaint streets to get lost down we didn’t mind so much. Google maps says that it’s just a 17-minute walk from the station to Sacré-Cœur, so if you’re feeling confident I would definitely recommend a little stroll.
Sacré-Cœur itself sits on top of a big hill which you’ll have to climb if you want to be treated to some of the best views across Parisian rooftops.
In front of the Sacré-Cœur you’ll also find the carousel that featured in the film Amelie. Get your cameras ready as you’ll want to snap as many photos as you can!
Once you’ve satisfied your inner shutter-bug, head towards Pigalle or Anvers station and take line 2 to Charles de Gaulle – Étoile. When you come above ground here, you’ll have the Arc de Triomphe pretty much right in front of you. It’s located in the middle of a roundabout so it can be hard to get some snaps without unsightly cars in the background, especially if you’re visiting on a weekend like we were.
One of the many roads that lead off from the Arc de Triomphe is the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. We didn’t spend that much time walking down it because we didn’t have too much money on us and didn’t want to get tempted. But if you have some cash to burn you may want to take some time out to pop into a few shops.
Once you’re ready to move on, take line 6 from Charles de Gaulle – Étoile to Trocadéro.
Afternoon – Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame
Trocadéro, in my experience, is actually the best spot from which to get those prized Eiffel Tower pictures. Not only will you be able to get the full Tower in photos, but you’ll also have a view across the beautiful Jardins du Trocadero with its iconic Warsaw fountains.
After Instagramming a few pictures of the Iron Lady, simply walk down the steps, past the Jardins du Trocadero and across the bridge. Around the Eiffel Tower there’s a grassy area for you to sit if you fancy a little picnic.
Following the Seine round, make your way towards Pont de l’Alma (it’s around a 10-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower). Here you’ll be able to pick up the RER C line to go two stops to Musee d’Orsay. You can walk between the stations if you’re not feeling too tired by this point, but it’s around a 25-minute walk.
From Musee d’Orsay, simply walk along the bridge, turn right and you’ll see the Louvre pyramid. Sadly, we didn’t have time to go around the Louvre itself, but that’s definitely on my list for when I return.
Round off the evening by heading towards Notre-Dame. From either the Palais Royal or Louvre – Rivoli station, take line 1 to Châtelet train station. Once back above ground, walk towards the Seine and across one of the bridges where you will find the towering Notre Dame.
Evening – Pompidou Centre
By early evening, both my boyfriend and I were absolutely shattered. It even left me wishing I had booked earlier return tickets. However, we still had around three hours to make use of so we decided to push on. On the way back to Gare du Nord we took line 11 from Châtelet, and went over to Rambuteau. It was around here where we just had a lazy walk around the Pompidou centre’s park area out the front with quirky graffiti and water features to boot.
Around here we ducked into a nearby McDonalds for some dinner and a drink. Afterwards, we jumped back on line 11, changing at République to take line 5 back to Gare du Nord. Phew.
As you can see, the 11-hour itinerary I followed isn’t for the faint-hearted. Looking back at my day, I still can’t quite believe I managed to fit so many sights in! I remember being extremely ready for bed by the time I stumbled onto the Eurostar back to London.
There are still plenty of things I have yet to see in Paris, including the Catacombs, Moulin Rouge, Père Lachaise Cemetery and Pont Des Arts bridge. However, after ticking off so much in just 11 hours I feel like I’ll be able to tick off a lot of these sights on a return visit. And, with such easy access to Paris from London, I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m back.
Things to Know…
- Return Eurostar tickets are available from £69
- The train journey takes just over 2 hours
- 10 single ride metro tickets can be purchased at train stations for €13,70 (just over £10, or $15)