Travel guide: how to spend a weekend in Paris
For a sophisticated weekend filled with art, antiquities, show stopping architecture and delicious food, the French capital has it all
Just two hours and 20 minutes away from London St Pancras International station, Paris is the ultimate destination for last-minute weekend getaways. And, peppered with excellent museums, shopping, food and historic haunts, it’s easy to spend 48 hours ambling from place to place beside the winding Seine, a crêpe and a coffee in hand. This beautiful, speedy city offers key hotspots in spades – including a philosopher’s favourite restaurant, Marie Antoinette’s palace and the finest places for antiques-hunting…
9am See the sights
Start your day the French way with a flaky croissant and a café crème (an espresso with warm, frothy milk) from a local bistro. In the morning, most Parisians will stand up at the bar, which is cheaper than sitting at a table. Next, don comfy shoes and start with a visit to one (or both) of Paris’s largest museums, which are a stone’s throw away from each other: the Musée d’Orsay, €14 (musee-orsay.fr) or the Louvre, €17 (louvre.fr). To beat the inevitable queues at the Louvre, you can go in through one of the side entrances, avoiding the glass pyramid. The Louvre is almost two miles long, and the vast collection includes 380,000 pieces, so it’s worth looking up the artworks you’d like to visit ahead of time and planning your route.
A 15-minute stroll along the Seine and over the Pont Notre-Dame will lead you to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (notredamedeparis.fr), which is currently closed to visitors following the devastating fire in 2019. However, you can still admire the stunning, ornate western façade.
1pm Lunch on the go
For lunch, L’As du Fallafel (32-34 rue des Rosiers, 75004) is just another 15-minute stroll back over the river to the city’s Jewish quarter, Le Marais, and is a popular bolthole, offering pitta bread stuffed with falafel, hummus and other delicious treats for around €6. You may have to queue, but it’s wholly worthwhile. Over the river towards rue de la Bûcherie is Paris’s most famous independent bookshop, Shakespeare and Company which, alongside hosting events, also stocks an array of rare and antiquarian books. It’s a great pitstop en route to the Champs-Élysées, which is just a short journey away on the metro for €1.90. As you wind your way along Paris’s most charming avenue, towards the Arc de Triomphe, enjoy a spot of window-shopping at the flagship boutiques, explore the Grand Palais museum, entry is free excluding exhibitions, or ponder the puzzling Luxor Obelisk, the twin of which is situated outside Luxor Temple in Egypt.
6pm Historic supper
For good food and history combined, Le Procope on rue de l’Ancienne Comédie is Paris’s oldest cafe, having opened in 1686, and was a popular haunt of Napoléon Bonaparte, Voltaire and Victor Hugo. For an authentic supper, six large Burgundy snails will set you back €9.50, and the traditional ‘Ivre de Juliénas’ coq au vin costs €27.
Next, hop on the RER C train towards Pontoise to the Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel metro station, right next to the Eiffel Tower. Once there, tuck into a crêpe, think profound thoughts, or simply admire the twinkling lights that sparkle every hour on the hour, from sundown to 1am.
9am To the palace!
With so many of the main tourist attractions ticked off, do as the locals do and enjoy your second day at a leisurely pace. For a trip away from the city centre, jump on the RER C and the line will take you directly to Versailles, where Marie Antoinette’s lavish palace is just a short walk away. The train journey will take around 60-90 minutes. Tickets to the palace and gardens cost from €20 per person, and you can easily spend a day exploring the maze of opulent rooms and the colossal grounds – be sure not to miss a visit to the Grand Trianon, a smaller palace built at the request of King Louis XIV of France, or the chance to rent a rowing boat on the Grand Canal.
9am The antiques trail
If you’d prefer to stay within the city, why not hit up the wealth of antiques shops? Open since 1831, Deyrolle is a trove of fascinating antique taxidermy and curios, and a visit offers the perfect opportunity to explore the upmarket Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. Nearby Yveline Antiquités is legendary for its beautifully crafted furniture and artworks, plus it’s situated next door to the picturesque former home of French artist Eugène Delacroix, now the Musée national Eugène Delacroix, which costs €7 to visit.
3pm One for the road?
Before the Eurostar home, lunch calls for a Parisian institution – le jambon beurre. No, this is not merely a slice of ham betwixt floppy white bread – picture a crisp baguette, a slather of creamy, salty butter and thickly cut French ham with the rind left on. Pick one up at any good boulangerie, but hop over the river to Caractère de Cochon, which makes a particularly tasty offering for around €6.50 to take away.
Where to stay in Paris
A couple of nights in one of these three dreamy places during your time in the City of Lights will capture the joie de vivre that the French are renowned for...
Don’t be fooled by the minimal exterior, the decor of Bourg Tibourg is luxe and sumptuous – conjuring images of the heyday of cinema. Each room is filled with carefully chosen antiques, too. From €310 per night.
Rich, atmospheric and oh-so glamorous, the boutique Hôtel Providence has just 18 rooms, all of which ooze sophistication from every pore; from the statement wallpapers to the designer light switches. From €235 per night.
The Parisian offering in this world-famous chain of boutique hotels offers a range of different rooms – and each and every one is an Instagrammer’s dream. The beautiful greenhouse-like lobby provides the perfect setting for lounging with a G&T. From €99 per night.