My husband and I are going to Paris in May for a week, and I’m thinking that might be enough time to go to London too. We’ve never been to either country and don’t speak any French. What do you think?
Mary L. Smith
I think it’s a great idea, Mary, as long as you move efficiently within and between the two cities, so that you can see and do as much as possible during your short window of time. Don’t worry about not speaking French; most people you meet in Paris will speak English. For that matter, most Brits you meet in London won’t think you speak their language either! Seriously, though, communication won’t be an issue: Both cities are accustomed to serving tourists from dozens of countries. Weather won’t be an issue either: London and Paris are lovely in May, with long days that yield plenty of daylight hours for sightseeing. One week is enough to give you a good feel for both places, as long as you maximize your precious time. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Compare your flight and train options. The easiest way to get between London and Paris is the Eurostar train. Consider an “open-jaw” airline ticket, to London and back from Paris (or vice-versa) and buy a one-way train ticket in between. If you’ve already purchased round-trip airfare to Paris, take the Eurostar to London and either return by train or, if you can coordinate it, fly back to Paris so as to conveniently connect to your flight home. (Make sure to fly into the same Paris airport you’re flying out of.)
- Split your week so that you’re in each city on days when the sites you want to see are open. Check museum, monument and activity opening days and hours. If one of your London goals is to see shows, for instance, keep in mind that most London theaters are dark on Sundays. If one of your Paris goals is to hit the famous Marché aux Puces (flea market), that’s best done on a weekend. If you want to do both, you might choose Sunday morning for the train ride from London to Paris: That way you could catch a Saturday night show in London and still make the Paris flea market on Sunday afternoon.
- Book centrally located hotels close to a public-transit hub. You’ll be trying to see and do as much as possible in each city, and you’ll likely be zipping around by bus or subway (or on foot), so choose a hotel near several bus or subway lines. Here’s a London Tube map, and here’s a Paris Métro map.
- Make a tentative itinerary. Take note of the top-rated things to do in Paris and the same for London. Also check out these guides for and 3 Days in Paris and 3 Days in London.
- Buy show or event tickets in advance. For Paris opera and ballet, the least expensive tickets may be available only on the day of the performance, but you can buy discounted tickets for London theater before leaving home, so as not to waste precious time in London doing so.
- Consider buying a city pass that gets you past the lines. The London Pass gives you Fast Track Entry at these top attractions; the Paris Museum Pass lets you skip the line at more than 50 museums and monuments. Such passes can save you money too, if you hit enough of the included sites daily to offset the cost of the pass.
- Consider skip-the-line tickets and tours. You can buy a fast-track ticket for The London Eye, for example, or a skip-the-line Eiffel Tower ticket or Musée d’Orsay tour in Paris.
- Visit museums at night. They are usually much less crowded at night, so you can move through them briskly. In London, the Tate Modern is open until 10:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, for example, and the Musée du Louvre in Paris is open until 9:45 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.
- Stroll the streets at sunrise. That’s when they’re not jammed with tourists, so you can get an authentic taste of the city as you observe the locals going about their morning routines. The “golden hour” just after sunrise is when the light is great for photography too.
Bon voyage, Mary, and blow a kiss to Trafalgar Square for me!
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