How about a four-day trip to London and Paris, with two days in each city?
We agree that sounds way too short, given that between the two European capitals there are 177 Michelin restaurants, 325 museums and galleries, 371 theaters, and over 490 nightclubs.
But planning what London and Paris tourism experts have dubbed #oneepictrip is definitely possible. And embarking on this journey offers time- and budget-pressed travelers a shortcut to checking off two key cities on their bucket lists and gives veteran explorers a reason to revisit a pair of classics on the “Been There, Done That” map.
Getting there and back
To make this fast trip work, fly into one city and out of the other, and book a seat on the high-speed Eurostar train to travel between the two.
Plenty of airlines fly between the U.S. and both London and Paris and it is possible to find deals on a one-way or open-jaw ticket using tools on airline comparison sites or a knowledgeable travel advisor.
“Savvy travelers know there are increased air passenger duty taxes charged on flights departing from London,” said travel expert Ramsey Qubein. “This means fares are often higher for making a roundtrip flight into and out of London than flying into London and out of another airport."
British Airways currently offers up to 50 flights from the U.S. to London each day, depending on the season, from 26 U.S. gateways and will be adding flights from both Pittsburgh and Charleston to London in April 2019. The airline allows passengers to cut the cost of flights by using Avios points towards payment.
Air France currently offers more than 150 flights a week to Paris from 12 U.S. cities and is adding Dallas/Fort Worth as its 11th U.S. gateway on March 31, 2019. The French flag carrier offers flash fares to Paris (and other destinations) about once a month, so sign up to follow the carrier’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Eurostar trains make the trip from city center to city center, between London’s St. Pancras International Station and Gare du Nord in Paris, in just over two hours for a little as $60 each way. Eurostar ticket pricing fluctuates like airline tickets, with the lowest prices usually offered for midweek travel. Be sure to hold onto your boarding pass: it offers 2-for-1 entry to many museums and exhibitions in both cities.
Interested travelers might want to book their travel now. “After Thanksgiving and returning before Dec.15; and then again from Jan. 4 or so through the end of March have traditionally been the best time for bargains on airfare,” said Airfarewatchdog founder George Hobica. “Hotels are cheaper too.”
Where to stay and what to do
In London, there are lots of hotel to choose from right near St. Pancras International railway station, which is steps from the British Library and its many free events and exhibitions. Nearby is the Wellcome Collection, a hip and free science- and health-themed museum that markets itself to the “incurably curious.”
Coal Drops Yard, built in 1850 to handle the 8 million tons of coal delivered to London each year, has been transformed into the city’s newest trendy destination. Located in King’s Cross, just a few minutes’ walk from St. Pancras, the shopping and dining center boasts more than 50 stores, restaurants, and cafés, including the flagship store of Wolf & Badger, which gathers cool offerings from independent brands, and Casa Pastor, serving Mexican-inspired tacos, alongside mezcals, Mexican beers, and imaginative margaritas.
For convenience and a hefty dose of the historic, splurge on a two-night stay at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, inside St. Pancras station. The “Seat to Suite” package includes lounge access as well as a concierge escort between your room and your seat on the Eurostar train, which departs from St. Pancras station.
If you’ll be heading back to the states from Paris, find a hotel in the city center that offers easy access to museums, cafés, and other top attractions. The newly renovated 97-room Renaissance Paris Vendome Hotel, near the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre in the city’s historic 1st arrondissement, is a good option. Book a breakfast-included package (croissants galore!); seek out nearby “hidden gems” suggested by the hotel’s “Navigator”; and have the front desk book you a seat (preferably at the chef’s counter) in the hotel’s popular-with-locals Balagan Restaurant, which serves an ever-changing menu of Israeli-inspired Middle Eastern meals.
You can save time and money with a two-day Paris Museum Pass that not only gives you unlimited entry to the permanent collections of more than 50 of the city’s museums and monuments, but allows you save time and skip the often very long lines to purchase individual tickets. Do some research: most travelers find the cost of the pass is only worth it if they visit at least five museums in two days.
You can also pack a lot if you combine touring and fine dining by having lunch or dinner at Ducasse sur Seine, chef Alain Ducasse’s restaurant on an electric boat offering diners a 90-minute cruise on the Seine. Or board the Bustronome, a restaurant inside a double-decker bus that drives by many of the city’s top sights during a three-hour tour. (There’s a London version of this as well.)
And while you may not get your fill of croissants, baguettes, macarons, or other French pastries during a quick two-day visit, you’ll learn some professional French bakers’ tricks to take home during a gourmet walking tour or a French bread-making class organized by a local tour group such as Meeting the French.