How to explore Paris in a weekend | The City of Light

The River Seine, Paris
The River Seine, Paris
The Eiffel Tower Paris
The Eiffel Tower Paris

How did we get to Paris?

There are a few different ways to get to Paris depending on where you’re coming from.   As we’re based in the UK we’ve previously travelled to Paris by train, by car and by plane however, for this weekend, to maximise the time spent in the city, we went by plane giving us more time to explore Paris. We flew from Manchester to Paris you can check out flights Here.  

The commute into the city from the airport is easily negotiated by using the train and the RER B train runs from Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) every 10 to 20 minutes, and takes around 50 minutes to reach the city centre. Tickets only cost 10€ one-way, and can be purchased at ticket booths in the arrivals terminal.

If you’re travelling  from the UK by train you have the Eurostar service from St Pancreas in London and if you’re travelling by car then you can take the Ferry across the channel or the Eurotunnel service from Ashford Kent to Calais.   The motorways in France are fantastic and you will be in Paris in a couple of hours after crossing the channel. 

Where did we stay?

We stayed at a hotel called CitizenM.  Its very much like an upmarket hostel with pod type stylish rooms and you can find them in several cities throughout the world from London to Kuala Lumpur.  They really are an excellent option when visiting a city as they’re fairly central, have everything you need for your stay and competitively priced.

They have 4 hotels in Paris and we chose the Gare du Lyon hotel as it was the best option for us to explore the city.  There are also sites in  La Defence, the airport  and a Champs Elysee hotel which is smack bang in the centre of all things cultural. 

They have a cool restaurant and rooftop bar with service 24 hrs and panoramic views of the Paris we see in the movies.  The beds are so comfortable and each room is equipped with an Ipad so you can select the ambiance you want for your stay, a big screen tv, toiletries and full blackout blinds.   Everything you could want for a weekend break to explore Paris. 

What did we do with our weekend in Paris?

As you are probably aware, Paris is oozing with culture and history and loads of sights to see but here’s some suggestions on how to explore Paris.

We visited the Pere Lachaise cemetery. 

Now you may think its odd to have a cemetery on your sightseeing list but this cemetery is exceptional. The Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Paris, France. With more than 3.5 million visitors annually, it is the most visited necropolis in the world. The Père Lachaise is located in the 20th arrondissement and was the first garden cemetery, as well as the first municipal cemetery in Paris.  The reason its so popular is that there are many historical, famous and infamous figures buried here and the cemetery itself is quite a beautiful place.  Admission is free for all and you can get guided tours at the weekend available in the tourist office by the main entrance.

Opening times
  • November to mid-March from 8am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, from 8.30am to 5.30pm on Saturday and from 9am to 5.30pm on Sundays and public holidays.
  • Mid-March to October: 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 6pm on Saturday and 9am to 6pm on Sundays and public holidays.
10 Graves not to miss on your visit: 

A map is available from the main office where you can work the routes out to each individual grave you want to visit. 

  • Jim Morrison 1943 – 1971
  • Edith Piaf – 1915 – 1953
  • Sarah Bernhardt: 1844-1925]
  • Isadora Duncan 1878 – 1927
  • Maria Callas – 1923 – 1977 (Memorial only her ashes were later removed)
  • Marcel Marceau – 1923 – 2007 
  • Oscar Wilde – 1854 – 1900
  • Frederick Chopin – 1810 – 1849
  • Gioacchino Rossini – 1792-1868
  • George Bizet – 1838 – 1875 
Pere Lachaise cemetery Paris
Pere Lachaise cemetery Paris
Pere Lachaise cemetery Paris
Pere Lachaise cemetery Paris

Take a river taxi along the River Seine to explore Paris by boat

A river taxi along the Seine is a typically touristic thing to do but its a wonderful way to see some of the most iconic sights of Paris as you slowly float past on one of the glass topped boats.   What can you see:

Notre-Dame de Paris

Referred to simply as Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The cathedral was consecrated to the Virgin Mary and considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.  We visited shortly after the recent fire and the steeple at the back was missing and the sight itself was closed off to the public.  Such a shame but I’m sure it will be restored to its former beauty soon. 

The Louvre

The Louvre with its glass courtyard pyramid is one of the places I love to visit in Paris but do pick your times as it can get extremely busy at peak times.   Try and get there for it opening or an hr before it closes and you’ll experience a much quieter visit.

The Musée d’Orsay

Found on the Left Bank of the Seine the museum is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography.  One of my favourite things to see there is Rodin’s sculpture – The Gates of Hell. 

The Tuileries Garden

The Jardin is a public garden located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, France. Created by Catherine de’ Medici as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564, it was eventually opened to the public in 1667 and became a public park after the French Revolution.

Seine Riverboat Cruise Paris
Seine Riverboat Cruise
Claude Monet Water Lily Paris
Claude Monet Water Lily

Explore Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower 

The Eiffel Tower or “The Trifle” as Chris calls it is I would say the most recognised sight of Paris.   You can ride to the top in one of the 4 elevator sections in each of the corners.  You can see a display of how the tower was created and its timeline from creation to present day.  You can visit the gift shop and you can get a refreshment at one of the takeaway cafes, however the quality of the food isn’t great and you’d be better off packing a picnic. 

Here’s 5 things not to miss when visiting the Eiffel Tower:
  • The glass floor platform on the 1st Floor where you can see Paris directly underneath your feet.
  • The elevator ride to the top from any of the 4 corners of the esplanade.  You can also access the stairs from any of the 4 legs if you’re feeling fit enough
  • The Top – Get spectacular views of the whole of Paris from the top of the tower and Gustaff Eiffels office which has been restored to its original condition
  • The stairway down the bottom section of the tower gives a wonderful perspective on the structure of the tower so I would advise to walk the last bit down by stairs to get a unique view.
  • The sparkling display of lights at nighttime.  Everynight, the tower sparkles with light for 5 mins on the hour every hour and a beacon shines over the city.  It really is a beautiful sight.
Chris and Lynne at the Eiffel Tower Paris
Chris and Lynne at the Eiffel Tower Paris
Montparnass from the Eiffel Tower Paris
Montparnass from the Eiffel Tower Paris

Visit Montmartre & Sacre Coeur 

Montmartre is a large hill in Paris’s 18th arrondissement. It is 130 m high and gives its name to the surrounding district, part of the Right Bank in the northern section of the city.   With its cobbled streets, stunning buildings, artists and quirky bistros it really is a haven for artists of all genres.  The majority of all famous French artists have made Montmatre their home at one time or another. 

In the heart of Montmarte at the highest point sits The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris – Sacre Coeur.  This is the most visible church in Paris and is visited by hundreds of people each year. The church is free to enter but you have to pay €6 to go up into the dome.

Sacre Coeur Paris
Sacre Coeur Paris
Montmartre Paris
Montmartre Paris

Explore Paris culture by going to the Opera

Chris and I love the opera and when we found out there was to be a performance of Carmen while we were in Paris we couldn’t resist getting some tickets. 

Anita Rachvelishvili was the lead and she absolutely brought the house down.  We would definitely see her in any opera again as she was fantastic. 

The performance was superb and just added to our cultural weekend.   Dress code is pretty casual so don’t worry about having to pack your evening gown.  Smart jeans and a top will do just fine. 

Unfortunately there aren’t many performances any more in the original beautiful Paris Opera House, Palais Garnier but the new opera house Opera Bastille was just magnificent. 

Paris Opera House
Paris Opera House
Carmen Champagne Paris
Carmen Champagne Paris

Six top tips for a fantastic weekend in Paris

1 – We loved to explore Paris on foot.  You see more of the city and get a better feel for the “real” Paris so definitely pack a comfortable pair of shoes.

2 – Try a Jambon Beurre which is a delicious ham sandwich with butter & I quite like mine with some cornichons – oh my goodness its so good and you’ll find one in most sandwich shops

3 – All Parisian museums and visitor attractions are free on the first Sunday of every month.  Arrive early though as you’ll find it very busy. 

4 – Pack a picnic.  There are many beautiful parks and gardens in the city centre so get to a deli for meats and cheeses and a bakery for some bread and you’ve got the makings of a fabulous picnic

5 – Explore Paris by bike. Dotted round the city are shared bikes you can pick up and leave wherever you like.  There are day and week passes you can buy and the bikes are widely accessible around the city. 

6 – Getting out of the city.   A 30 min train ride will get you to Disneyland Paris, The Palace of Versailles or The flea market of Saint Ouen.  All of which are definitely worth a visit. 

Jardin du Tuileries
Jardin du Tuileries
Arc du Triomphe Paris
Arc du Triomphe Paris
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