48 Hours in Paris
Paris’ compact size and classic good looks make it a city that’s ideal for walking. So pack some sturdy shoes as well as your glad rags, and follow us on a tour of the city’s highlights both above and below ground. If you’ve only got 48 hours, this is our pick of the unmissables. And if you need somewhere to stay, here’s our curated selection of hotels.
Let’s start with a panorama of what you’re about to conquer. From Anvers Métro, you can either climb the 200+ steps, or take the funicular to Sacré Coeur. From here you can see the whole city, and what lies ahead. Just round the corner, there’s a small museum with gardens to celebrate Montmartre’s artistic past. You’ll find paintings from Toulouse-Lautrec and the colorful history of the Moulin Rouge. You can weave back down through the cobbled streets to rue des Abbesses. If you fancy some breakfast, there are plenty of cafés en route.
From here, we have a quick film fans’ interlude. Follow rue Lépic past the Café des Deux Moulins, workplace of waitress “Amélie” in the 2001 film. These streets are packed with fishmongers, greengrocers, fromageries and boulangeries. At the bottom of the hill is the Moulin Rouge itself.
Hop on the Métro (line 2) at Blanche, away from the red-light district and straight to Charles de Gaulle Etoile, where you’ll find the Arc de Triomphe, which sits in the middle of a 12-pronged roundabout. At the bottom is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where a flame is rekindled every night in memory of the dead from World War I.
You can climb the Arc de Triomphe, and it’s well worth doing this for a bird’s eye view of the cross section that slices in both directions from your current spot, out to La Défense, the business district of Paris, through the Champs Elysées and Place de la Concorde all the way to Bastille.
Back on terra firma, it’s a 30-minute walk to the base of the Eiffel Tower, down Avenue Marceau and past the Flamme de la Liberté, unofficial shrine to Princess Diana. On the other side of the river you’ll find the Sewers of Paris museum – only recommended for the strong of stomach and weak of nose – it will give you an insight to the history and the engineering of this actual working sewer. Be prepared for the smell.
Follow the crowds to the Eiffel Tower. Climb it if you must, or stop for a sandwich on the Champs de Mars, the gardens at the bottom, picnic hot spot in the summer, popular for lingering well into the evening.
Half an hour further along the Seine, you’ll find the Parc André Citroen, on the site of the former Citroen manufacturing plant. It’s a modernist park with bold glass structures, a big reflection pool, and unexpectedly, a tethered helium balloon, which in good weather offers 10-minute “flights” to 150 metres for up to 30 people at a time. Be aware, they won’ t fly if there’s the slightest wind, so keep an eye on the website, as there’s not much else round here.
Hop back on the Métro at Balard (line 8). Get out at Invalides and potter along the Seine (left bank) all the way to the Marais, past the Musée D’Orsay and Notre Dame where you can cross the river through Ile de la Cité, the origins of the city. If you’re tired, head by Métro for Hotel de Ville. Your evening’s entertainment will be in the Marais for some good French food and people watching. Try Les Philosophes for a no-nonsense steak, then pull up a pew on one of the outside terraces along Rue Vielle du Temple, where you can watch the world go by and gather your strength for day two.
Why not start with a leisurely stroll along the recently spruced up and refilled Canal St Martin? Start off at Jaurès on Métro line 2, and from here, you can follow the boho strip of waterway criss-crossed with iron bridges, lined with a few bars and cafés and home to the Hotel du Nord from the film of the same name.
The canal ends up in Boulevard Richard Lenoir, where you’ll find a busy market on a Thursday or a Sunday. Ten minutes or so further on, you’ll find a small indoor/outdoor market called Aligre, which is much more of a local affair, and good spot for a coffee, a spot of breakfast and maybe to pick up some provisions for a picnic.
From here you’re only about 700m from the start of the Promenade Plantée, Paris’ diminutive answer to the High Line in New York . It’s set along the top of an abandoned railway viaduct, lined with a riot of plants and trees and juts between typical Haussmanian boulevards and modern apartment blocks, eventually winding down to ground level, passing through several tunnels and ending up, 2.8 miles later, at the very border of Paris. My favorite thing about the Promenade Plantée? There a signs at regular intervals which in a very Parisian dismissal of exercise, remind everyone that jogging is tolerated, provided it doesn’t bother the walkers.
Provided you’ve made it to Bois de Vincennes, now is a great time for your picnic. Once you’re suitably watered, fed and rested, and if it’s a weekend day before July 31, the Paris Jazz Festival has concerts in the Parc Floral, part of the Bois de Vincennes for 6€, it’s a good half hour away on foot. Alternatively, the Chateau de Vincennes, a 14th-century beast of a castle and former royal residence, where you can take guided tours, is right next to it. Chateau de Vincennes has its own Métro stop (line 1) which will whisk you back into town.
If you’re in town for another night, head to the restaurants and bars around the 11th arrondissement, heading away from Bastille, towards Nation.