Paris, London, Switzerland in a week - recommendations?
January 10, 2007 10:16 PM   Subscribe

I want to do Paris/daytrips (1-2 days), Switzerland (4-5 days), and London/daytrips (1-2 days), all late this January. I'll be traveling alone. I'd love some advice.

I've done a lot of the main Paris/London touristy stuff, and also seen Nice, but I've never visited Switzerland.

Recommendations in my itinerary for great:
-hostels/B&Bs/budget hotels?
-must-see scenery?
-must-see attractions?
-must-taste restaurants/pubs/wineries/etc.?
-amazing classical music/other concerts/film festivals/etc.?
-other must-sees on your personal list, in whatever category?

Oh, and -- a great travel guide or two I should buy before I leave? Any other tips welcome too.

posted by Malad to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I travel alone quite a bit because so few people I know are as into travel as I am or can get away. In April I had a full day layover in Paris. I was exhausted by the time I got on the plane to leave, but it was fun.

In 2003 I spent 5 days in London. I was very low on cash so I stayed at the Kensington Gardens Hotel for 60 pounds a night. My room was tiny, but I didn't spend much time in it. The neighborhood was great so it was a really good choice.

I usually take a few guidebooks because no one has everything. That said, this one might be good for you for London if you haven't been before. And this is a pretty good pocket sized Paris guide, really.

Haven't been in Switzerland in the last ten years so I don't want to steer you the wrong way there... I'm sure you'll get other great advice.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:17 PM on January 10, 2007

Wow I live in London and have visited Paris dozens of times (I was dating someone who lived there) but you're going to have to nail this down to a specific duration and specific dates, as well as stating if you've been to these cities before in order to get you' the kind of advise ("must-see") you're seeking.

That being said, if I had one day to spend in both Paris and London (dates unknown), I'd hop on those tour buses that roll around the city, letting you get on and off as you like.

Paris: top two would be Eiffel Tower with a leisurely meal in The Latin Quarter.

London: Tower Bridge / Tower of London, with a leisurely meal some place one the South Bank with a view of The Thames.

Until you select dates can't really recommend festivals / etc.
posted by Mutant at 11:18 PM on January 10, 2007

Oh yeah, and if you're only going to be in Paris for one day, you can still check your bags at Charles DeGaulle. Makes life easier if you don't want to lug them around the city.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:19 PM on January 10, 2007

I also suggest the tour buses. Easiest way to get around the city the first time.
posted by k8t at 11:22 PM on January 10, 2007

Good call k8t, I second that... the hop on/hop off doubledeck bus in London is actually a great introduction to the city. Helps you get your bearings.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:26 PM on January 10, 2007

"...check your bags at Charles DeGaulle..."

If you're only going to Paris for a day or two please don't fly; the EuroStar only takes about three hours, city centre to city centre. And its far more pleasant.

I have never take a flight between London and Paris and given the security BS going on now air travel is to be avoided, if at all possible. Also for Switzerland I'd suggest you book a flight out of City Airport.

I'm in Amsterdam every other week on biz and always fly by City. It's still relatively civilised and tranquil, compared to the stories I get from colleagues who travel via Heathrow.
posted by Mutant at 11:35 PM on January 10, 2007

I did a day trip to Chamonix and took the cable car up Mont Blanc many years ago, definitely a memorable experience.
posted by Osmanthus at 11:54 PM on January 10, 2007

Oooh, good call! Since I was heading to Cairo after Paris I didn't have that option.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:56 PM on January 10, 2007

Have you been to Brighton? It's 1hr from London by train, good for a daytrip.
posted by randomination at 3:57 AM on January 11, 2007

You'd think after all the years I lived there, I could come up with a few suggestions. In January, the cities will generally be grey, damp and cold. Something between 2-5 degrees centigrade. Still, the lights should be up in Zurich after the holiday season and I always loved walking around the city in the evenings with a cup of mulled wine and some roasted chestnuts.

January in or around the Alps always means skiing is an option. But, don't worry if that isn't your thing. I would still recommend taking a train into the mountains. I always loved being in the Berner Oberland. Or head to Graubunden, also on the train. The scenery is magical and the hospitality will be great.

Email me from my profile and I'll try to shake loose some recommendations on specific restaurants and villages worth a visit.
posted by michswiss at 4:07 AM on January 11, 2007

Have you been to Brighton? It's 1hr from London by train, good for a daytrip.

Yeah, Brighton is cool. Interesting stuff to see (The Royal Pavillion, the piers, the North Laines) and way easier to get round than London (you can walk pretty much everywhere).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:41 AM on January 11, 2007

Zurich is really the only city in Switzerland worth spending more than a day in, especially at this time of year. There are however plenty of very nice train trips to do. You could perhaps aim to travel between Zurich and Geneva by train. The main line out runs along the north coast of Lake Geneva with some fantastic views of the Alps to the south. It goes through Bern so maybe stop there for a few hours. Or you could detour via Montreux and do a day trip to the Rochers de Naye which overlook the lake. There is also a train from Montreux which heads through the mountains to Interlaken and Lucerne. At Interlaken there are some lovely mountain trains through the valleys, and heading up the Jungfraujoch.

All this of course depends on the weather, but if it stays like it is, then mountain sightseeing is your best bet.

If you do come through Geneva, feel free to drop me a line to anything at my username .com and I can give you some more specific info if you need it.
posted by jontyjago at 5:16 AM on January 11, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the info so far! Just to clarify, I've seen a lot of the main touristy stuff in Paris/London already (Louvre, Eiffel tower, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, etc.) and I'm looking for cool, special stuff that might just be slightly off-beat there.

In Switzerland, though, I need the basics... Thanks.
posted by Malad at 5:48 AM on January 11, 2007

We loved this hostel in Gryon - see this discussion for details.
posted by true at 6:00 AM on January 11, 2007

In Paris, the many of the big museums are free to enter the first Sunday of each month.
posted by mzurer at 6:34 AM on January 11, 2007

The best part of my trip to London and Paris a few years was back was the unscheduled part. I set aside some time to just walk through really old parts cities, listen to people talk, watch them go about, look at the cobble stone, absorb the ancientness and modernness of it all.

Also awesome: the Eiffel Tower, the British Museum.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:11 AM on January 11, 2007

In London I really enjoyed the Tate Modern.
posted by mmascolino at 7:27 AM on January 11, 2007

Yeees, come to Brighton, it's lovely!!!

May I also recommend HRS for very good deals on hotels (world-wide actually).

Concert-wise, in Paris, I often like to go to the performances (classical, gospel, jazz...) that happen almost every night in churches around town. You'll see posters advertising them all over the place when you get there. Particularly impressive - the Ste Chapelle (on the Ile de la Cité). Unfortunately that one is also quite pricey.

You could also go to the cute little Square Récamier in the 7th arrondissement (caution tho - this is closed when it's windy) and combine it with a visit to the Espace Electra next door which always has interesting exhibitions and is free.

If you're into cemeteries don't miss the Père Lachaise. Cimetière de Montmarte is also interesting (as is the rest of the quarter - even if it's always swamped by tourists). Butte Montmartre also has the Espace Dali (a Dali museum, as the name suggests).

And yes, definitely do the Tate Modern in London! It's great, it's free, and you can go on the sliiiides! (you have to get there in the AM tho to get tickets for the slides.)

I'll stop now. Oh, just one more thing - Eurostar is fast, but really quite expensive if you don't get a special deal! Flying may work out cheaper.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 7:45 AM on January 11, 2007

In London, I really took advantage of the museums and while I am a big fan of Renaissance art, there's other part of the city that you can enjoy...look through europe tour book (not too heavy) with few great places in it throughout each countries and pick 3-4 and spend the rest of the day walking around London. With one day underground pass, you can go from here to there easily. Unlike in paris..

I really didn't like Paris too much except the scenery...I'd try to enjoy a restaurant near downtown area around Arc de Triumphe and the Eiffel Tower, even if it's a small meal, sit down, etc. It takes about half an hour by train to go to Versaille...that was impressive for me, but it is a big land of greed. I also went to museums in Paris and I really liked it.

In Switzerland, I only went to Interlocken which should be freezing in January. It was more expensive than London. While I was back packing it was only in Switzerland that I bought a loaf of bread and jam because retailers gear towards the tourists. Get lots of chocolate in Switzerland and enjoy the train ride going's breathtaking.

Hope you have a great time and not follow too many museums or get chased by time since you only have so much time anyway. Pick one or two and try to sit in a warm day at a cafe and read a book, enjoy interesting cheese and bread. Cucumber sandwich in London is only good in London, and not anywhere else.
posted by icollectpurses at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2007

Lucerne was one of my favorite places in the whole world - very charming small city with enough to do to fill a day, but not so much that it's overwhelming or not relaxing. I haven't been there since '92, but we stayed at the Hotel Rebstock and spent several lovely, leisurely days there.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:08 AM on January 11, 2007

I know you said you've done the "main" stuff, but if that list didn't include the Musee d'Orsay then you should definitely check it out. Also I highly recommend the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, it's got a great view, and then you can walk down and hang out on the Boulevard de Clichy and check out the Moulin Rouge.
posted by thethirdman at 9:56 AM on January 11, 2007

I highly recommend Interlaken - it was one of my favorite places after spending two months in Europe this summer. Funny Farm hostel is actually a decent hotel in the winter, with a great common area complete with a fireplace.

And all museums in London are free. I agree that the Tate is amazing, as is the Victoria and Albert. And "Sushi Yo" is cheap, conveyer belt, delicious sushi on practically every corner.

Have a great time!
posted by enaira at 1:08 PM on January 11, 2007

I swear by the "Lets Go" guides too
posted by enaira at 1:10 PM on January 11, 2007


Head down Rue des Bernardins towards la Ile de la Cité, take the Quai de l'Archevêché right by Notre-Dame, cross le Pont Saint-Louis to la Ile Saint-Louis, and at the end of the bridge you will find the finest ice cream shop in the entire universe.

Buy one with two scoops, and walk down the ramp to the side of the Seine and watch the boats go by.
posted by Coda at 12:33 AM on January 12, 2007

It's at 48°51'9.99"N, 2°21'12.15"E if you've got Google Earth handy.

(It's some good ice cream.)
posted by Coda at 12:38 AM on January 12, 2007

Paris: get a canal boat from Bastille up to Parc de La Villette - where the butchers used to be, now a science park. The boat goes under (yes, under) boulevard Richard Lenoir then emerges into daylight a little further north. The tour guide was very interesting when we did it, and it's somewhat off the beaten track. In the science park there are a few cool things (a submarine turned into a museum, for example) and some mad french architecture. Just north of there towards pont de pantin metro station there are some cool arabic grocers selling felafel and the like.

The tea shop underneath the institude du monde arabe is also worth a visit, as is the institute itself for the very cool metal shutter system. flickr photos tagged with arabinstitute. Apparently there's also a restaurant on the top floor but it was shut when we tried to go...

London: The big parks, if it's not raining - Richmond, Regents Park, Hampstead Heath. Tate Modern if it is. Get the train to Charing X then cross the river at the footbridge and walk along the south bank of the thames to Tate Modern. Once you're done gallerying, continue along the south bank till you hit southwark cathedral, then find The George for a historic pint, cross to borough market for some fresh veg or some sort of gastro-snack (borough market being rather posh these days), and a pint in the Market Porter (but don't expect a seat).

Greenwich is also worth a visit. Get the DLR from Bank to Island Gardens and walk under the foot tunnel. Cutty Sark, Maritime museum, craft markets, lots to do. And the DLR journey is something else, taking you through the "regenerated" east end.
posted by handee at 2:45 AM on January 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oops, messed up the link to The George. Sorry.
posted by handee at 2:47 AM on January 12, 2007

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