Every December we take a family trip to a European city and run around for 36 hours. The goal is to do as much for free or as little cost as possible before returning home. So here is a guide to a speedy 36 hours in Paris, with a bonus interactive pinned map at the end.
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Guide to getting to Paris
I found flights using trusty sky scanner for only £60 each. To capitalise on the hours, we always fly before 8am in the morning and return the next day after 8pm. This usually allows enough time to get a taster of the destination.
The quickest and easiest way to get to the city is by catching the RER B Train from the airport – it’s very well sign posted. It takes you to the centre in 30-50 minutes, depending on the one you catch. They run every 10 minutes and it costs £10 one way. We bought our tickets from the automated machines in the arrivals terminal. Easy peasy.
Once in a city, we explore for the day with our backpacks in tow and check into accommodation in the evening. We stayed in the ibis Paris Alesia Montparnasse, which was a decent price. We always pack ultra light as it gives us more time to explore – it’s only 36 hours remember! No wait for luggage, need to check in or payment for storage. All about being cheap cheap cheap.
This medieval cathedral is one of the most iconic buildings in Paris – this guide wouldn’t be complete without it. But who doesn’t think of Hunchback of the Notre Dame when you see this? Disney certainly put it on the map and we chose it as our first stop. You can go inside and climb the 422 steps for views of the city, however that costs 10 euro and we were doing it cheap, so we admired the fine gothic architecture from outside. It was smaller than I was expecting but way more detailed than I imagined.
On our way to the next iconic building, we made a quick stop at the Lock Bridge on Pont Neuf, which is next to Statue equestre d’henri IV. Some people disagree with doing this, but I think of it as a tourist installation. All those memories and people connected in a public artwork. The locks are regularly removed to avoid any real damage. We paid 5 euro for a lock from one of the many men near the statue.
You can not come to Paris without seeing the Louvre. Again, we didn’t go in as that’s money money money (9 euro) and we are all about freebies. Entrance is actually free for under 26 year olds on Friday evenings but we didn’t qualify as clearly we’re old now.
Louvre is the world’s largest art museum with hundreds of thousands of masterpieces. Including the Mona Lisa of course. It is absolutely massive from the outside but it’s the glass pyramid that steals the show. Only completed in 1989 it’s a fairly new addition in the main court and looks stunning. It really is beautiful. Great for typical tourist pics too.
Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
There are three arcs in Paris and Louvre is the location for one third of them. It’s another example of gorgeous French design that stands at an impressive 19 metre high. What’s even more impressive, is this one sits at the end of Champs Elysees, a 1.2 mile long avenue known for its prestige and beauty.
By now we were cold, all walked out and tiring so we stopped at a small restaurant near the Louvre, Cafe Rivoli Park. We tucked into OK priced dinner before heading to the hotel to rest and sleep.
Up bright and early, we had a big breakfast at Paris Orleans, opting for eggs, ham and lots of buttered bread, before setting off on another busy day of sightseeing. This restaurant was right next to the Porte d’Orleans metro stop, which we needed to get to the next place in our Paris guide.
Getting the metro
This was the first time we took the metro on our trip. It’s about 2 euro for a single ticket but you can get 10 for 15 euro. That allows you on buses too so it’s worth getting. We would have used the metro more but my mum was in a wheelchair and Paris IS REALLY NOT ACCESSIBLE. Like at all. There’s only a few stations that even have a lift down from the road. The buses were more reliable for wheelchair access.
Montparnasse is an area in Paris, where you will find a 210 metre sky scraper hiding a panoramic observation deck. One of my favourite things to do is get up high and enjoy a birds eye view of a city. And this is by far the best place to see Paris and gives you a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. You also take the fastest elevator in Europe up to the 56th floor, with a journey of only 38 seconds. It’s on the priceier side costing 18 euro each but I think it is well worth it.
Another short metro trip took us to the gem of Paris. This iron metal lattice tower was constructed as a grand entrance to the 1889 World Fair and has in turn become the most recognisable trait of the city. It’s apparently the most visited paid monument in the world and we made sure to make time for it.
We bought tickets in advance for a specific time slot as it books up super quick and you also get priority access with it, so no or very little queues. There are four ticket options, so make sure to choose the right one for you.
We opted for the most expensive at 25 euro, which allowed elevator access to all floors, including the top. You can walk to the second floor if you’re fit enough for 10 euro. Unfortunately it was too windy to get right to the top on our visit but the company automatically refunded that part of our ticket. Very happy with that!
To finish our trip, we jumped on a bus to the most famous arc in Paris. It’s the central point of a crazy roundabout made up of 12 avenues. I’m not joking when I say it is a shocking example of road safety. No lanes and the vehicles do what they want. It’s fascinating but terrifying to witness. I wouldn’t want to drive around it that’s for sure! The Arc de Triomphe is a colossal 49.5 metres high and you can walk up to the top for 12 euros. We did not but we could see tiny people roaming about up there.
A handy pinned map of everything
So, that is how we ran around the city in only 36 hours and saw lots of sights in Paris. The whole trip was cheap as chips, and the attractions mostly free! Just how we like it. Do let me know below if you have ever visited Paris, or if you want to after reading my guide.