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February 10, 2006 5:19 AM   Subscribe

EurostarFilter: Is it worth taking a day trip to Paris?

I have a friend coming over from the States for a short visit next month (we have 5 full days to explore London and the delights of Essex, not including the days she arrives and leaves). To make things extra-special I was thinking about going over to Paris on the Eurostar for a day trip on the Saturday of her visit (that's the only available day, due to theatre tickets and other social arrangements).

Have you done this? Was it worth 6 hours total travelling to have 7 or 8 hours in Paris?

And is Eurostar reliable, especially on a weekend (which is when engineering works are usually carried out to the track)? I don't want to spend hours on a train that's crawling through Kent because there's defective points or track, thus eating into our Paris time and making the whole trip unworkable.
posted by essexjan to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (18 answers total)
I live in London, and did just about exactly what you describe for my sister-in-law and teenage niece who were visiting from the States. They spent a week with us in London, but I know they consider the day we spent in Paris as the highlight of their trip. Part of that was certainly down to the fact that it was my niece's first trip to Europe, and they're unlikely to come over here very often. It IS a long day, and if your friend travels to Europe every year or two it may be a bit much.

But the main sights of Paris are so geographically compact that you can do an amazing amount in a day: we went to Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle, the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, the Galleries Lafayette, croques monsieurs in a cafe on the Seine, and the Eiffel Tower without feeling super-rushed.

The trains worked perfectly for us (though it was a weekday), and I'd say it's definitely worth it. Good luck!
posted by muhonnin at 5:47 AM on February 10, 2006

I would strongly advise against doing this. I ride the Eurostar from London to Paris fairly frequently. If I'm forced to travel on Saturday, the journey is always a hassle. Waterloo will be crowded and the train may be delayed due to any number of factors, such as the ones that you mention.

Once you're in Paris, it will take a good chunk of time to get to any of the tourist attractions, which will also be a' buzzin' with crowds. You'll queue for up to a couple of hours at the Eiffel Tower, or the Louvre.
posted by Optamystic at 5:52 AM on February 10, 2006

I've done this a couple of times and had a blast - but I've always taken a train that leaves around 5:30am from Waterloo. Less crowded at the station and I napped on the train both ways. Grab a coffee and baguette at Gare du Nord when you arrive and hit the metro with a day pass you can purchase when you buy your Eurostar ticket.

If you're going on a Saturday, you may have to forget the Louvre because the line up will be huge, but the Musee D'Orsay is wonderful (as is Musee Picasso and Musee Rodin) and I have never waited more than 45 mins to get into any of these.
posted by meerkatty at 5:57 AM on February 10, 2006

We did the contrary with my g/f : living in Paris, we woke up real early on a saturday and spent the day walking around Longon et going to most of the must-sees.
Woke up at 6am et got back around 11pm, exhausted, but it's a fond memory. Paris being much small than London, I'm sure you'll all find the day enjoyable. Just plan in advance what you want to do.

The Eurostar arrives in Gare du Nord, which has plenty of Metro lines coming and going regularly. If it's a sunny day, you might prefer to pass and take the bus (which there are also plenty of, but it's slower du to heavy traffic) and see the city itself. Just walking around the Ile de la Cité would make a good day. Also, try the Bateaux Mouche for a tour of the Seine.
posted by XiBe at 6:01 AM on February 10, 2006

If you decide to do this (and I would if I were you), you absolutely must order this card before you come over. It allows you to completely skip the lines at the museums. You'll save a ton of time that way.

I take the Eurostar a few times a year and it's only been significantly delayed for me once.
posted by hazyjane at 6:24 AM on February 10, 2006

I echo the positives above. Even if the only thing you do is hop on one of the Tourist Bus lines and see it all from the top deck, you will have a blast. Never underestimate the joy of being in a different culture and language in 2 plus hours. One of the stops lets you off next to the bateaux Mouche stop. You'll be tired but it will really be a high-light.
I've done it twice and now I have also done Brussels this way. Visitors love it but I have a shorter Eurostar hop - from Ashford in Kent. Over the last year I have made 10 + round trips and I had one, one-hour delay. That was on a Monday.
posted by Wilder at 7:01 AM on February 10, 2006

THAT (the small size) is the great thing about Europe is being able to go to Paris from london for a day trip. If you go, just skip the tourist attractions and enjoy the city. Crowds on the weekend guarantee cattle prods will be used. Unless you really like waiting in lines while paris waits you outside, or HAVE to go to Eiffel or the Louvre, I would only do one. Just hang out in a cafe, walk the streets, see a few churches. That is more memorable than the museum rush.
posted by _zed_ at 7:04 AM on February 10, 2006

If you do decide to visit the Louvre, try to get tickets or a pass in advance and enter through the Porte des Lions (in French, but with a map). The lines may be much shorter there, even on weekends.
posted by komilnefopa at 7:22 AM on February 10, 2006

I've taken the Eurostar probabaly 5 times roundtrip, and never had a significant delay (to any of the destinations).

I'd recommend against going up the Eiffel tower. The view isn't substantially better than that from the Arc de Triomphe, and always has huge lines. I've also never been in the Louvre, but the other museums mentioned by Meerkatty are quite good, and were, as advertisied, cheaper and less of wait.

If it's not too cold, I would recommend a stroll down the Champs Elysees from the Louvre to the Arc. You get to walk through the classicly French Touleries Gardens, see some wonderful buildings on either side (including, IIRC, the National Assembly building), plus the square where the revolution vigoriously removed people's heads. Once you get to the arc, there are a number of metro lines to take you every which way, or continue SW to the Eiffel tower. This won't take more than a few hours, and you get to see a lot of the major sites of the city without spending too much money. If you want to eat, it's worth getting off the beaten path, though; the cafes on the main drag are pretty touristy.
posted by heresiarch at 7:46 AM on February 10, 2006

I agree with _zed_ - for me, Paris is more about enjoying the city than doing specific tourist activities - it's a great great walking city. And you can totally go to The Louvre or The Eiffel Tower without actually going in/ getting in line for hours - they're spectacular enough from outside! Second walking the Champs Elysees through the Tuileries to the Louvre. And I'm sure if you put your American friends in Notre Dame their heads will explode.

If you're worried about Eurostar delays, why not flybmi?
posted by forallmankind at 8:00 AM on February 10, 2006

Best answer: I'll tell you on Sunday, I'm going tomorrow!
posted by ascullion at 8:07 AM on February 10, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks ascullion, my email is in my profile.
posted by essexjan at 9:02 AM on February 10, 2006

I did exactly this a little over a year ago and had a wonderful time. Like meerkatty, I caught the earliest train to Paris and the latest train back to London. I had no trouble with crowds and found the trip entirely pleasant (though I was exhausted by the time I returned to my hotel in London).

There's something absolutely amazing about boarding a train in the heart of London and emerging in the middle of Paris. It's a fundamentally different experience than flying into a somewhat distant airport and commuting into the city. It felt as though I'd been instantly transported into a different world. That alone made the whole thing worthwhile for me.

Do it! It's absolutely worth it.
posted by aladfar at 9:03 AM on February 10, 2006

I'll tell you on Sunday, I'm going tomorrow!

Huh, so am I, as fate would have it. essexjan, I'll let you know if there are any complications. and ascullion, perhaps I'll see you in Paris!
posted by ludwig_van at 9:41 AM on February 10, 2006

I'm American, I live in London and I've done this - always as a surprise - with several guests. As aladfar points out, there is something totally amazing about getting on a train in the centre of one major world capital and a short while later getting off in another.

I'd say go for it!
posted by Mutant at 3:21 PM on February 10, 2006

I travelled to Paris yesterday on the Eurostar, leaving London at 0634 GMT, and Paris at 1919 CET. I went to watch rugby, not sightsee, but had a fantastic time (bar the result of the game), met a lot of french people, drag some very good biere, and slept very well on the Eurostar home.

Travelling on the Eurostar is so delightful and relaxing, getting up so early doesn't even seem a chore. And both of my trains seemed to get in slightly early.

My only difficulty was figuring out how to use the transport systems in Paris - I'd suggest you research it in advance (turns out you can get a day travelcard, much like in London, but I had to queue at the Gare du Nord to get it - couldn't figure out how to buy one from an electronic machine).

Have a great time!
posted by ascullion at 10:03 AM on February 12, 2006

Ahem - "drank some very good biere", not "drag"..
posted by ascullion at 10:04 AM on February 12, 2006

Yeah, I had a very nice trip - much more comfortable than flying on a budget airline. There was room to move around, I could plug in my laptop, the food was good, and check-in was quick and easy. I even missed the train I was supposed to take because part of the jubilee line wasn't running and it took me an inordinately long time to get from New Cross Gate to Waterloo, but I was able to change my ticket to a later train for free. Two thumbs up. Although I was in first class on the way here and I think I'll be in standard going back this evening, so perhaps my opinion will change, but it still seems like a pretty good deal.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:29 AM on February 13, 2006

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