People often say how lucky Londoners are – they are just a quick inner-city flight or fast-train away from many incredible European cities.
One minute you could be tucking into a buttery croissant at your Park Grand London Kensington breakfast buffet, and by lunch-time, you could be perched at a little café overlooking the Eiffel Tower.
Here is the perfect itinerary to make sure you take the most incredible trip to France within a 12-hour turnaround while visiting London.
Breakfast is served at the Park Grand Hotel Kensington from 7 AM on weekdays and 7.30 AM on weekends. Make sure you get there as soon as it opens. You have the option of the breakfast buffet, with a selection of fresh fruits, differently cooked eggs and continental bits, or you can order from the a la carte menu which has crowd-favourites like Eggs Benedict as well as some more exciting options, like the Spicy Masala Omelette. Either way, fill up on this great spread because you have got a day of adventure ahead. Keep it to a max of half an hour and then head to the train station St Pancras – if you get there before the hour, you are likely to be able to be on the next train out. But booking in advance is more advised.
The flights between various London airports and Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport take an hour and 15 minutes – barely anything, right? However, flying can take up much more time than you realise when you factor in passport control, getting to the airport and other time-consuming facets.
The train, on the other hand, arguably requires far less effort and takes two hours and 16 minutes. These high-speed trains jet off from St Pancras Station – book now and say merci! Take in the views, buy some drinks and snacks and prepare to be in Paris after some fast-passing greenery and probably a few sheep in the meadows.
Whichever mode of transport you choose, you’ll be able to quickly (and easily!) get there from the Park Grand Hotel Kensington.
Do you know what the French do brilliantly mid-morning? You guessed it: crêpes. Paris’ Latin Quarter is known as the home to bookshops, the Jardin des Plantes botanical gardens, the National Museum of Natural History and the Panthéon building. Within walking distance of all of this, as well as proffering an awe-inspiring view of the Panthéon from your sidewalk café perch, is La Crêperie. They come in huge serving sizes, dripping with whatever delicious toppings you have decided on. An often-ordered crowd-pleaser is their salted caramel crêpe. Imagine it: you, your crêpe and a selfie with the Panthéon in the background. Instagrammable perfection!
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You won’t need lunch for a while after tucking into some of La Crêperie’s heart-melting crêpes, so it is time to go explore some of the sights. You can take a long walk through the Jardin des Plantes. As the primary botanical garden in Paris, it’s an unmissable, beautiful destination if you appreciate the potential for artistry in gardening – parts of it look too perfect to be of nature, but it all is. Dating back to 1635, when it was a medicinal garden for Louis XIII, it is also culturally significant.
Paris’ Panthéon is an exquisite architectural sight to behold. It was once a church dedicated to St Genevieve but is now a secular mausoleum which contains the remains of acclaimed French citizens. It‘s a true neo-classic triumph on the eyes, and you can buy tickets to explore within.
For book lovers, this area is a show-stopper. It’s named the Latin Quarter because it was primarily a student area until recently, as it contains the University of Paris, which was founded in the 12th century, and therefore was quite literally a place where Latin was learnt for a significant number of years. It’s, therefore, an inherently literary place which is littered with quaint bookstores and boutiques. There are several famous book shops worth visiting, but the most notable is the famed independent English-language bookstore Shakespeare & Company.
Though it may seem cliché – you are in Paris for a short 12 hours, so there’s no shame in going full-tourist on your day. So head to Café de l’Homme seasonal French delicacies with a sensational view of the Eiffel Tower. Order something quintessentially French like the Burgundy snails or the duck foie gras and gawk at the majestic wrought-iron masterpiece in front of you.
Bikes are available for hire throughout Paris, but there are stations right by the Eiffel Tower for you to rent. Due to the short time you are in Paris, you want to make the most of your surroundings at a slightly faster pace than walking, without feeling like you are rushing. Well, cruising about the city on a bike is the perfect way to do this. Ride down to the Seine river and cycle along, ticking off the iconic landmarks as you pass them and then cutting across the Pont de l’Alma towards the Champs-Élysées so you don’t miss out on anything.
Get dinner near the train station, so that you can drag it out as long as possible before needing to get the last train back to London. The last train leaves Gare du Nord at 9.13, but double-check before you dine on frogs legs and steak tartar into the evening light. Chez Casimir is an excellent Parisian bistro with views of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. It serves up Brittany-inspired meat and seafood dishes from the rustic-looking dining room and three-course menu deals are on offer. It’s simple yet delicate.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end – but who’d have thought you could pack a whole day of exploring Paris into just 12 daylight hours?
Especially when you consider you’re staying at the Park Grand Hotel in Kensington, London! The trip might take a lot out of you, but rest assured knowing that your soft bed and crisp hotel linens await you at the other end.