If you ever find yourself in London with some extra time on your hands, do yourself a favor and take the Eurostar to Paris for the day and have a solo woman adventure. I did just that several years ago while on a business trip with my husband and it remains one of my all-time favorite solo travel adventure memories.
I departed from Town Hall Hotel in the East End of London after grabbing a quick café and headed to London St Pancras International taking the early morning high speed train to Paris Gare du Nord. Train schedules start as early at 5:40am going to Paris via Eurostar and return trains back to London end at 9:18pm.
Taking the train to Paris is easy and enjoyable and takes just over 2 hours to get there. Be sure to start the trip early and give yourself at least an hour and half (90 minutes) before departure time to get through border controls and security. There are ticket prices at various budget levels and free wi-fi for everyone. The journey takes you through some beautiful landscape and I loved taking photos and absorbing the views out my window. The train brings you right into Paris Gare du Nord and since all passport checks are done before leaving UK, you can hop right off the train and start your day in Paris.
I had a few places I knew I wanted to see but otherwise really embraced the adventure of getting lost in the City of Light. Public transportation is plentiful in Paris, and you have your choice of going by foot, bike, bus, metro underground or taxi/uber. From the train station I hopped on a bus that took me towards Le Marais area.
1. Getting lost in the Le Marais area during the month of December is probably as good as it gets. This area is the old medieval village section of Paris with pre-Revolutionary buildings. The crooked, narrow medieval lanes, cobblestone alleys are alive with bakeries, hip boutiques, restaurants, hotels, trendy shops, art galleries, museums and more. By the time I got to this area I was able to do a decent amount of window shopping of beautifully crafted pastries, fashion and more. By walking around, I really got to enjoy this magical area during the holiday month.
2. For lunch I found Dame Tartine which is right around the corner from Centre Pompidou. It offers reasonable prices and a bistro type vibe and menu. The day I visited, I couldn’t resist ordering the juiciest beef burger that came dripping with caramelized onions and cheese with a side of pommes frites.
3. I’m a huge art lover so I knew I wanted to experience Centre Pompidou – it is open every day except Tuesdays from 11am – 10pm. It is in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement near Marais and you can’t miss it. This massive building is made of glass and metal and decorated in bright primary colors—its modern design sticks out with all the historical buildings surrounding it. Four hours can easily be spent walking the halls and levels of this art center. It has great views the city at the top level, including vistas of the Eiffel Tower.
4. Place los Vosges is a 15-minute walk from Centre Pompidou and is a beautiful square. Once you walk through the triple arches, it is so peaceful compared to the busyness of Paris. The building surrounding this square is picturesque and something out of a movie or painting. This is a nice area to people watch, relax and drink in the beauty.
5. Don’t leave Paris without grabbing a crepe from a local food vendor. If you like chocolate, get the Nutella and banana crepe. After enjoying one, then start walking towards the Seine River. I hit this part of my day at dusk and really took in a Paris sunset to remember.
Before I hopped on the metro back to Guy Du Nord to catch the train back to London, I was approached by a Frenchwoman who asked me for directions. It was one of those travel moments you don’t forget. Once she learned I didn’t speak French she broke into English, and she said I looked like a local. After we exchanged pleasantries, I walked away realizing two very important tips when doing a day trip to Paris.
- If you wear jeans, boots and a blue and white pin striped shirt with a scarf and a trench coat over it, you might just fit in.
- French people are more friendly than they say.
What to pack in your daypack for a day trip to Paris:
- Good comfortable walking shoes or boots
- Credit card and cash
- GPS system, I phone with a good camera and/or old school paper maps
- Umbrella (in December)
- Water bottle
- Lip balm
- Adventurous spirit