12 April 2014

Paris Travel Guide (updated for 2018)


Eurostar from St Pancras, London to Gare du Nord, Paris
Standard Premier often available, with meal and drinks included

British Airways from Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle

Catch the RER B from the airport - a single ticket is €10.30

Navigo ticket: this runs Monday to Sunday, and is WAY cheaper than a 5 or even 3 day Paris Visite pass. You need a passport photo, but a b&w photocopy of your passport photo will do. Get it for 5 zones and it will get you back to CdG airport, Disneyland Paris, Versailles, Fontainebleau, etc (but not Paris Orly)

When arriving at Paris Gare du Nord, turn left and follow signs down to the Metro
You can join the long queue at the ticket office, or just carry on to the much quieter ticket machines about 100 metres further on


Holiday Inn Express, Paris-Canal de la Villette
great views over the canal basin, free breakfast, close to Parc de la Vilette & Cité des Sciences
5 minutes from Riquet on line 7, or 10 minutes from Laumiere on line 5
there are supermarkets between the hotel and each station, or for a larger shop, use the Monoprix at Castorama only 5 minutes away

Adagio Aparthotel Philippe Auguste
at Philippe Auguste Metro, turn right at top of stairs and cross pedestrian crossing and bike lane; the road in front of you is Rue Pierre Bayle, and the Adagio is at the top of the road on the corner

Tourist Cards

Travel card: Paris Visite
1, 2, 3 or 5 days (not 24 hour periods, but actual dates, can purchase in advance)
Metro, bus, RER, funicular at Montmartre, SNCF Transilien
small discounts at Arc du Triomphe and other sights
get Zone 1-3 as this covers everywhere apart from Versailles and Disneyland – it’s cheaper to buy separate tickets to those

best iPhone app: SNCF Transilien – gives real-time suggestions for travel routes

Museum card: Paris Museum Pass
60 museums and monuments free for 2, 4, or 6 days (Sundays usually free anyway)
You do not need to queue to go into the museum (well, only with other Museum Pass holders!)
It is not valid for temporary exhibitions, so if there’s something you particularly want to see, you may have to pay full admission anyway
Note that some museums are shut on Mondays and others on Tuesdays, so check carefully.

There is a “City Passport” which combines both of these, but is not as good value. It additionally offers a free Bateaux Mouches boat trip, and a Cars Rouges bus tour, which may sway you, but we didn’t find it worth it.

Tourist Information

There is a tourist office near Opera at 25 rue des Pyramides
City Hall
Gare de l’Est has a small welcome centre, and so does Gare du Nord/Gare de Lyon


Les Cocottes de Christian Constant
135 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris, 2 blocks from Eiffel Tower
fantastic tiny restaurant serving every dish in a Staub cocotte (ceramic dish) from starters to puddings, no reservations necessary or possible
opens at noon, but if you fancy a drink beforehand pop into Le Campanella at the East end of the street

Cafe L'Industrie


Paris Plages (riverside beaches), July to August
along the Seine, and at Porte de la Villette, near Metro Stalingrad or Jaures
café, dancing, lanterns, showers, deckchairs, petanque, pedalos

Eiffel Tower
Metro Trocadero and walk across Pont d’Iena, or one of the RER or Metro nearby
buy tickets online to avoid ridiculous queues, it’s definitely worth getting tickets to the top

Louvre Museum
Rue de Rivoli, Metro Palais-Royal–Musée du Louvre
The ultimate Parisian art gallery. There’s too much to see in a day, so plan your visit on the website and pick an artist or period to track down

Musée D’Orsay
1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, RER Musee d’Orsay or Metro Solferino
An amazing building, and an art collection split into the high art (Roman-style nudes) and the low art (Impressionism and working-class nudes)
Eurostar tickets give you 2-for-1 entry, or use your Museum Pass

Notre Dame Cathedral
Place Jean-Paul II, Metro Cité, RER Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame
free entry

2 boulevard de Paris, on Ile de la Cité, Metro Cité
A royal palace used as a prison during the French Revolution, with a recreation of Marie Antoinette’s cell

Bateaux Mouches boat trip
Boarding and landing are at the North-East corner of Pont de l’Alma

Paris Canal trip

Sacre Coeur
Metro Anvers
A beautiful church at the top of a very steep hill! Climb if you want, or use a Metro ticket on the funicular, or take a bus to the top.

Maison Européenne de la Photographie
5-7 rue de Fourcy, Metro Saint-Paul
The French equivalent to London’s Photographers’ Gallery, with a variety of exhibitions. Free on Wednesday evening.

Pompidou Centre
Place Georges-Pompidou, Metro Rambuteau
Great views from the top, a permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, and guest exhibitions

Institut du Monde Arabe
1 rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard, near Pont de Sully, Metro Jussieu
A beautiful building, with exhibitions and displays from Arab cultures

Arc de Triomphe
Place de l’Etoile, RER line A and Metro Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile
Always worth a climb in order to see Haussmann’s city layout of radial streets beneath you


Carrousel du Louvre
Entrance to this underground shopping centre is on the Rue de Rivoli, along the north side of the Louvre, next to the archways leading through to the Museum courtyard
Also has an international food court with good deals
Top shop: Delfonics, the best Japanese stationery - http://delfonics.fr/top.html?lang=en

83 Quai de Valmy, Canal St Martin’s West bank
Almost every craft, artist and design idea seems to be in this extensive design bookstore

Day Trips

La Défense
RER line A and Metro line 1 to Grande Arche de La Défense
This cluster of modern skyscrapers has its own charm, and is worth visiting as the equivalent of LA’s Downtown or London’s Docklands
When outside, you will see CNIT as a domed shopping centre to the North, and 4Temps as a block to the South. Both have lots of high-class shops.
CNIT has a “rest area” where every seat has its own power socket, so take your charger and replenish your phone while you chill.
To the East is a view all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. To the West is the Grand Arche, which sadly since 2010 has been closed to the public, but is impressive in its scale.
Restaurants nearby include our recommendations Vapiano and Chipotle, as well as many other cafes and international cuisine.

Palace of Versailles
get a ticket valid to Zone 4 or 5, and take RER C to Versailles Rive Gauche – the trains often have Versailles-inspired decoration!
There are 2 other stations using SNCF Transilien: Versailles Rive Droite (from Saint-Lazare and La Défense) and Versailles Chantiers (from Montparnasse) – all are within 10 minutes walk of the palace
Though it means an early start, if you can get there by 9am you will avoid the queues. Arrive after 11am and you will have a long wait. Though rucksacks are meant to be checked in, after security just show them to the cloakroom attendant and you should get waved through. Food and drink are not meant to be allowed but checking is perfunctory.
See the apartments first, which will take a few hours. In the gardens, there are cafes and toilets, on each side, just past the steps and the fountain, at the edge of the hedging.
If you have time after your visit, the town of Versailles has many interesting buildings.


Strasbourg Travel Guide

Getting here:
The direct train from Paris Gare d’Est is a TGV non-stop, taking around 2h20 and costing £35 second class, £60 first class, each way. The tram stop at the station is 3 levels down – check which platform takes you into town so you don’t go the wrong way!

Travel deal:
If there’s 2 of you, get a Trio ticket from the ticket machine. This lasts 24 hours from first validation, for 3 people, on all the buses and trams. It costs €6. That’s right, only €6 for 3 people!
For one person, there is a €4.10 ticket called Alsa+ which does the same thing.

We’ve got three for you, which you choose depends on how adventurous/cheap you are!

Hotel Hannong, 15 Rue de 22 November
A luxury boutique hotel, which my sister stayed in. Over £100 a night, but literally inches away from all of the high-end shops, close to tram stop, and has reduced deal for next door’s very safe
car park.

Adagio Aparthotel, 106 Avenue de Strasbourg
Only 20 minutes tram-ride from the city centre, literally at the main tram stop. Under £50 per night, this is our cheap-but-great recommendation. Has internet and self-catering facilities too.

Holiday Inn Illkirch, Boulevard Sebastien Brandt, Parc d'Innovation, Illkirch
This is out of town, in a research park in nearby Illkirch. We stayed here because of the great deals you can get on Reward Nights from IHG – 15,000 points for a Junior Suite – trust me, this is a bargain! The room had 2 TVs, a king-size bed and separate lounge. The hotel is a 10 minute walk from the tram stop Campus D’Illkirch, which is on the A line 25 minutes out of town.
If you decide to stay here, let us know and we’ll give you info on food, nearby shops and clear directions. It’s not hard!

Tourist Information:

There is a tourist office in the rail station. This has all of the information you need.
There is also a tourist office at 17 Place de la Cathédrale, which has a souvenir shop as well. You can get 30% discount in the shop with the Strasbourg Pass (see below).
Both open 9am – 7pm.

Strasbourg Pass:
This could well be the best value pass ever. For €15 you get:
Free entry to one museum (worth €7) and half price entry to another
Free boat trip (not between 2pm and 4pm inclusive) worth €12.50
Half-price ride on mini-train showing sights around town
Free cycle hire for half a day
Free viewing of Cathedral’s astronomical clock as it chimes at 12.30pm (arrive East Door 11:35am)
Free entry to Cathedral tower – a big climb but worth it!


Alsacien specialities:
Choucroute is a plate of sauerkraut (big enough for 2 people) as well as sausages and other meats. Flammeküche or flams, a wafer thin pizza made with onion-cream sauce, Baeckeoffe, beef and pork stew cooked, with potatoes and carrots, usually served for two or more persons and Fleischnackas, mixed beef meat presented like spirals and served with salads.

Flams, rue des Frères near the Cathedral. A sort of Pizza Hut version of flam. Strictly for tourists after an easy life or families who want a fun cheap eat. It is not great, but serves a great variety of flams and their “all you an eat” deal is a good one. Try to find somewhere more authentic, though.

Le Foyer Des Pêcheurs
The BEST place for flams is out of town, in a small forest near the Campus D’Illkirch tram stop. It’s walkable but is unlit at night, so you may want to take a taxi. They cook their flams in an outdoor oven, while you sit under the stars, and keep bringing you food until you beg for mercy. An Alsacien delight.
1 Chemin du Routoir, 67400 ILLKIRCH
Tel: 03 88 66 14 85

Maison Kammerzell is next to the Cathedral and is a tourist trap par excellence. The half-timbered building dates back to 1427, and the décor includes pre-WW1 murals. The food is local specialities, but it’s not the best you can get. Ask your hotel for their top tips.

For a healthy and delicious lunch, OUR top tip is Vertuose, 19 rue d'Austerlitz
Salads, wraps, sandwiches, wine … all with excellent service. To eat in (or outside) or to go, you will love your lunch and your body will love you too!

Other places we used for an easy bite:
McDonalds – in the city centre just SE of Place Kleber
Café de l’Ill – outdoor café on Place du Marche aux Cochons de Lait
Kohler Rehm – outdoor café in Place Kleber
Comptoir Kanter – nice café in the main station with a good breakfast offering


Boat trip: Batorama tours are available from the quay behind the Palais des Rohan. They last about 90 min and go through Petite France and up to the European institutions.

Mini-train: a 40 minute ride, starting in Place Gutenberg, taking you through the historical parts of town, which you can visit on foot later.

Cathédrale Notre Dame: with a 142 metre tower (the highest in France).
The tower has over 330 steps and is worth it. The Astronomical Clock in the cathedral is open all day, but rings noon at 12.30pm (don’t ask). The cathedral closes when it is ringing, you have to queue separately.
Nearby on place du Château is the Musée de l'Oeuvre Notre Dame – a museum of medieval religious art related to the cathedral (closed Monday)

All museums are open 6 days a week from 10am to 6pm

Palais des Rohan:
Museum of Fine Arts, the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Applied Arts (all closed Tuesday)
nearby, the Historical Museum (closed Monday)
Musée Alsacien, quai Saint-Nicolas: (closed Tuesday). This museum features articles from the daily lives of Alsatian peoples from the 13th to 19th centuries: clothing, furniture, toys, tools of artisans and farmers, and religious objects used in Christian, Jewish, and even pagan rites. The exhibits are in rooms connected by wooden staircases and balconies in adjacent houses around a central courtyard. A fantastic historical visit.

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, 1 place Hans-Jean Arp (Closed Monday)
Works by Kandinsky, Max Ernst and Picasso, and temporary exhibitions. It is also home to the first-floor Art Café with views across the canals, good food and cheerful service

Petite France: the area of the city between the rivers, home to some of Strasbourg's prettiest and most photogenic streets and buildings, with half-timbered townhouses. On Saturdays there is a fleamarket stretching from Petite France to the Palais des Rohan, in front of the Bourse.

Take tramline E to Droit de l’Homme and walk from here to see:

Parc de l’Orangerie: avoid the zoo, which is small, instead look for the storks nesting around the Orangerie building.

European institutions: Council of Europe (Le Palais de l'Europe) (1977), built by Henry Bernard; European Court of Human Rights (1995), built by Richard Rogers; European Parliament (1999), built by Architecture Studio

Place Kléber, the largest in the city and home to the renovated L'Aubette building with its 1920s De Stijl interior, which is only open Wed-Sat 2-5pm


Shopping centres:
Place des Halles, 24, place des Halles, with over 100 shops and restaurants north of the city centre, tram stop Ancienne Synagogue Les Halles.
Rivetoile, opened at the end of 2008 at Place d'Etoile, at Etoile Bourse tram
Auchun hypermarket and other shops, at Baggersee tram stop on the A line south of town.

Gingerbread: an Alsacien speciality. The best shop for it is Pain d’Epices, 14 rue des Dentelles, run by Mireille Oster. She has over 15 different flavours of what would be unfairly described as gingerbread – the name Pain d’Epices really means honey spice cake. You will buy all of your take-home gifts here!