48 hours in… Paris

valentine's day first class rail holiday 2016

48 hours in Paris – Of course it’s not enough, but if you’re in France’s capital for 2 days, we’ve highlighted some of the top interests and attractions to see and do.

Paris – Sophisticated, glamourous, elegant and most of all romantic, A city that exudes art, history, fashion, architecture, landmarks, mouth-watering cuisine, fine wines and chic hotels. There is so much to see and do in Paris.

With 48 hours in Paris how do you decide where to start? Below are some ideas of how you can plan your visit and places you may like to see during your stay in the city.

Ideas for planning your visit…

  • Create a list of the top 5 places you would like to visit during your stay. Make a plan of how best to use your time and the best way to travel between points of interest. Don’t forget to include time for food and to soak up the atmosphere of this beautiful city.
  • If this is a return trip to Paris think about what you have seen before and what is meaningful to you, maybe a certain landmark holds special memories. Try new experiences, take in new sights and add in a visit to the one place that holds those moments you treasure.
  • To see as much as you can, then taking to the River Seine by boat is an excellent way to soak up the city and sights. Many of the famous landmarks can be seen from the river, examples being the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Pont Alexandre III Bridge and the Musée d’Orsay (which you’ll spot by the architecture was originally built as a train station in 1900.)

Landmarks to see – The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is an iconic landmark of the world and not just Paris and France. Built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Exposition Universelle to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the French revolution, the tower took 2 years, 2 months and 5 days to complete and is a breath taking lattice of iron work that was an architectural triumph. As grand from the ground as the view is from the top it is a must see whether from the ground or by climbing the tower itself.

Today the tower has evolved to include many viewing platforms and levels along with options of travel to the top. The tower also boasts a glass floor 57 meters above the ground and provides an experience of walking on air.

By exploring the tower from up above you can experience the wonder of the structure and it’s hard not to appreciate the skill involved in creating such a masterpiece. You’ll also have the unique opportunity to discover the hidden restaurants and bars that nestle neatly in the tower’s design. The 58 Tour Eiffel serves chic picnic style lunches by day and by evening is a cosy brasserie. If a more formal dining experience is required then the private lift to the second floor will allow you to dine at the Jules Verne Purveys, a Michelin starred gastronomy by Alain Ducasse, open day or night. The Eiffel Tower experience can’t be beaten by sipping a glass of champagne from the champagne bar 300m up taking in the amazing views of Paris.

Landmarks to see – Notre Dame

The Cathedral of Notre Dame is a stunning example of French Gothic architecture and is amongst the largest and best known Catholic Church buildings in France, not to mention the world. The Cathedral is awe inspiring in design.

The statues, arches, shapes and structures that make up the design are unique and the detailing is architecturally stunning. Stained glass windows sparkle with details telling stories of wonder. Notre Dame is memorable as a landmark whether viewed inside or out. The Cathedral is free to visit but no baggage is allowed inside so ensure you consider this if incorporating it into a visit, perhaps after shopping, for example.

One of the best times to see Notre Dame is in the evening where it is lit from below and the light and shadows add even more drama to the Gothic design elements.

Landmarks to see – The Sacré-Cœur

In complete contrast to Notre Dame’s Gothic architecture is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, a grand design that is immaculately white, classic to the Romano-Byzantine style, and has a much softer appearance than the bold shapes and forms of the cathedral. The inside of the Basilica has an atmosphere of harmony and peace and is a light and airy space focusing on the Apse, the place of celebration and adoration of the Holy Sacrament. The Apse mosaic that adorns the inside of the Basilica is a beautiful piece of art that you will remember long after your visit.

Landmarks to see – The Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle is breath-taking. Another example of grand Gothic architecture. Inside, it’s vital to take time to appreciate the stained glass windows. The windows cover 15 windows in all, each a towering 15 meters in height and depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testament. With stories recounting the history of the world until the arrival of the relics in Paris, this Royal chapel will leave you speechless.

Landmarks to see – the Louvre

Some of the greatest known pieces by masters art have a home in Paris, so it is of little wonder that artists are drawn to the city streets and galleries.

Paris provides many opportunities to view art, both in terms of world-class historical pieces as well as modern/contemporary works.

As testament to this, the world’s biggest museum, the Louvre resides in Frances capital. The Louvre was originally built as a simple defensive fortress and for a long time was the main residence of French Kings. It now houses one of the largest art collections, and boasts a staggering 8 miles of corridors. The collections are grouped into 8 curatorial departments and include Egyptian Antiques, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiques, Near Eastern Antiques, Islamic Art, Paintings, Sculptures, Decorative Arts and Prints and Drawings. With this in mind it is clear to see why the Louvre would take a day alone to enjoy and explore.

Our recommendation would be that if you do indeed have 48 hours in Paris, the best advice is to research pieces of interest you would like to see before arriving and then you can enjoy the experience more fully.

Don’t forget the Louvre is home to one of the world’s most famous paintings, ‘The Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci. Which can and does get busy.

Ensure to check opening times and tickets as the Louvre closes on a Tuesday.

Landparks to see – Musée d’Orsay

The Musée d’Orsay is a truly unique museum, not least because originally the building was a train station. It was built for the universal Exhibition of 1900 and now displays some of the finest pieces of art Paris has to offer.

The building itself is a feat of engineering and architectural prowess with its sculptured ceilings and dramatic clock. However it is the classic masterpieces within that draw people to the Musée d’Orsay.

Included in the vast collections of art are famous paintings of Monet, Renoir, Van Gough and Degas – an art lovers dream experience and one not to be missed.

More examples of art can be found at the The Musée Picasso, an art gallery located in the Hôtel Salé in rue de Thorigny, in the Marais district of Paris.

Also, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, a museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art of the 20th and 21st centuries, and Centre Georges Pompidou, a modern art gallery featuring fine examples of contemporary works, are definitely worth considering during your visit.

Paris, being the fashion capital of the world, can easily provide a wonderful array of shops and boutiques for you to explore. From the Place de la Concorde meander along the ChampsÉlysées, famous for its cafes, theatres and luxury shops towards the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located. Other spectacular shopping opportunities can be found in SaintGermain and Rue des FrancsBourgeois.

Top Tips…

  • Be sure to check opening and closing times of places you would like to visit. Some attractions close on certain days.
  • Where possible purchase entry tickets in advance and check whether luggage or bags are allowed, most places will complete a bag search before entry too.
  • The best way to see the city is on foot but the metro and busses run a reliable and frequent service to help you get further, another option is the Velib bike hire scheme.
  • For the first 5 minutes of every hour after dusk the Eiffel Tower sparkles with lights. It is a spectacular sight to see this iconic landmark all lit up.
  • Enjoy a coffee or picnic lunch in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
  • If you happen to have some spare time, wander the city admiring its beauty or take a moment on a carousel and swirl around immersing yourself in the sounds of the music and thoughts of the city.

However you choose to use your 48 hours in Paris you can be sure of an experience that will stay with you forever.