At the start of October, my boyfriend and I spent a weekend in Paris, a trip, that I am not ashamed to admit, was motivated almost entirely by Eurostar’s summer sale. Among the world-renowned streets of striped café awnings, boulangeries and keen Instagrammers, we made the most of our pre-purchased discount tickets with museum mooching, canalside strolling, bar hopping and excessive cheese.
The weekend of our visit also happened to coincide with Paris’ annual Nuit Blanche, when museums, galleries, religious buildings and cafés across the city stay open all night to showcase art installations and unique events, and so with this firmly on our radar, we waved London bon voyage.
Transport: £68 each for a return Eurostar ticket from London (£29 out, £39 back) purchased during the summer sale (tickets at full price are considerably more).
Accommodation: £316.76 through Airbnb for three nights. This cost was split evenly between my boyfriend and I at £158.38 each. We opted to stay in Montmartre, Paris’ 18th Arrondissement, which allowed us good transport links into the centre, as well as being a popular area of the city in its own right – think lively bars, ivy swathed walls, ornate street lamps illuminating steep, cobbled streets and killer skyline views from the majestic Sacre Coeur.
A quick-fire guide to Paris arrondissements
On the ground
4pm: After narrowly avoiding missing our train due to a fire alert at Kings Cross St Pancras, we decide to unwind with a coffee in the Eurostar’s dining carriage. We hand over €10.46 for two lattes, some biscuits and a KitKat (this trip was classy from the get-go).
9pm: Having walked to our Airbnb from Gare du Nord and swigged down a welcome beer each (smuggled in our luggage) on the apartment’s swanky balcony, we head into Montmartre. Hunger and need for further beer causes us to stop at one of the first cafés we find. We order two happy hour bières at €5 each and a medium cheese selection (€9.90), much to the chagrin of our waiter who tries to push for the larger option.
10:30pm: We relocate to a busier bar, Le Village, further into Montmartre, and order two small beers and fresh sardine paté with crusty bread (€15). The barman here is unusually keen for chat – luckily my French is très bien.
Midnight: We wrap up the evening in another café after checking out the view of the Sacre Coeur, spending €9 on two more small beers, and glancing lustfully at a sizeable croque madame sandwich being eaten by the effortlessly chic French gent at the table next to ours. Sadly for us, the café has just stopped serving food.
1am: After asking almost every weary café owner we pass on the way back if their kitchen is still open, we spend €20.84 in a corner shop on bread, eggs, cheese and ham. We then drunkenly attempt to cook our own croque madames in the apartment’s tiny kitchen. When in Paris…
1pm: We allow ourselves a lazy start this morning, and grab a couple of croissants (what else?) for €2.40 from a boulangerie en route to our desired destination, the Louvre. Although we could easily have jumped on the metro, we opt to walk instead, taking in the sights along the way, which include the world-famous Moulin Rouge cabaret house and its surrounding sex shops.
1:30pm: The croissants not having done much to satiate our hunger, we stop at another boulangerie for two goat’s cheese tarts and two chocolate beignets (€8.60).
3pm: Thanks to a bit of pre-trip research, we manage to avoid the monumental queues outside the Louvre’s main entrance by sneaking in via its underground shopping centre. Unfortunately, we're greeted with a sign informing us that tickets for the day have sold out, and only tickets purchased online are being admitted. Undeterred, we quickly snap up two online tickets for 5:30pm using the museum’s free WiFi (€40.25).
4pm: We opt to fill the time before our Louvre slot by wandering along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. After walking for half an hour we realise we have grossly misjudged the distance, and speed along the process by renting two Lime electric scooters (€8.68) for the remaining journey.
5pm: This time conceding the metro is superior to both walking and scooting in terms of efficiency and speed, we purchase two single fares and a large bottle of water at a kiosk in the station (€6.80). The Louvre proves worth the low-key hassle to get in, and after dining out on artistic delicacies from Rembrandt, Monet and Cezanne among others, we finally follow the museum’s incessant directional signs and head towards the Mona Lisa. A solid 1.5 hours of queuing follows, before our allotted 30 second Mona-viewing window, which we share with a group of enthusiastic Japanese tourists.
8pm: After leaving Mona and the Louvre behind, we wander in the opposite direction along the Seine past the hauntingly charred Notre Dame towards the Latin Quarter. Having somehow not eaten a full meal since we arrived in Paris, the need for food is strong. We decide to splurge a little, and head to Le Petit Pontoise, a cosy, lace-curtained bistro serving traditional French cuisine. Our hearts briefly break when we are informed there are no tables available inside, but peace is restored when the waitress willingly fires up the outdoor heaters and seats us under the awning outside. We order a bottle of Sauvignon (€30), a large bottle of water (which regrettably ends up costing €8), and a shared starter of Ravioles du Dauphiné (baked stuffed pasta parcels in a cheese sauce) for €14. I opt for sea bass in vanilla sauce (€26), and my boyfriend for spiced braised pig cheeks (€26). We also push the restaurant’s free bread offering to limits it seems the waitstaff have not previously encountered.
10:30pm: Feeling fuller than possibly ever before in our young lives, we opt to Uber back to the apartment (€13).
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10:30am: Whilst munching down bowlfuls of cereal purchased during the croque madame episode (Miel Pops, if you’re interested), we book two tickets for the Rodin Museum online (€26). We then walk to the nearest metro stop and hop on (€3.80).
12pm: We spend an extra €12 on audio guides once at the museum, and wander our way through the grand chateau and gardens that Rodin’s works, including his revered Thinker, are housed in.
2:30pm: The energy provided by the morning’s Miel Pops waining, we venture to Zia, a trendy brunch spot nearby. We have to wait for a table as the cafe is minute, but soon enough we’re seated and ordering a gargantuan breakfast burrito (€16), veggie Dutch pancakes (€16), one chai latte (€5) and a freshly squeezed orange juice (€5). After devouring both platefuls, we get chatting to the cafe owner, and take the opportunity to pick his brain about the impending Nuit Blanche festivities, as we haven’t yet been able to ascertain exactly where to find them. Despite being a self-proclaimed fanatic, he provides very few specific details, and we leave none the wiser, if newly enthused.
4:30pm: We take the metro (€3.80) to the Canal Saint-Martin neighbourhood, and wander along the canal’s edge and over its bridges, before grabbing two lattes and a small sandwich in a boulangerie for €10.
6:30pm: On the way back to the apartment, we swing by a cornershop for a couple of beers to drink on the balcony (€6.20), and ready ourselves for the unspecified Nuit Blanche activities.
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9pm: Jump on the metro back towards the Latin Quarter, and head straight into a café where we order a cheese plate, a beer and a glass of red wine for €26.90. Whilst spreading particularly fragrant brie on yet more crusty bread, we hatch a plan to visit a nearby cathedral hosting a Nuit Blanche exhibition, before heading to Place de la Bastille to catch the end of the parade, which is, as far as we’ve been able to deduce, the main feature of the night.
11:30pm: Finding the queue to enter the exhibit at the cathedral nearing Mona Lisa levels, we proceed to Place de la Bastille, only to find the parade has already ended. We take refuge in a nearby bar with a small beer and a glass of white wine (€9.90), and indulge in the ultimate Parisian pastime – people watching. It’s fair to say the people of Paris are probably more worth watching tonight than usual, as they dance and revel in the streets with bottles of alcohol.
12:30am: We move back towards the Latin Quarter again, stopping to sample live choral singing in a church en route. We then settle at a café with one large and one small beer (€13.90), and a shared cigarette donated to us by a charitable waitress, who obviously felt we were damaging the café’s image with our non-smoking nonsense.
1:30am: After buying a beer for the road in a nearby off-license (€3.60), we revisit the cathedral and this time manage to get into the exhibit. I can’t honestly say it was worth the effort, but there was something somewhat magical about being inside the ancient building after dark. Plus, it was free.
2am: We duck into one of a few bars in the Latin Quarter still looking lively, and share a carafe of red wine (€12) whilst watching a live singer and accompanying pianist belt out hearty traditional French tunes. They then segue into a Grease medley and audience participation is seemingly mandatory.
3:30am: A final beer each in a rowdy Spanish bar sets us back another (€9.90), and we then brave a wince-inducing surcharge to Uber back to the apartment for €33.
8am: We trudge through a lethal combination of heavy rain and our own hangovers on the half hour walk through Montmartre towards Gare du Nord, to catch our 9:13am train back to London. Cheap tickets, ironically, come at a price.
The final tally
€471.93 + Eurostar (£168) + accommodation (£316.76) = €1,032.93/£891 (we split the cost evenly between us)
Notes: We made a significant saving on our Eurostar tickets, but you can still get flights from London to Paris for less than the amount we paid to take the train. Savings can also be made if you opt to stay somewhere less well-known than Montmartre – try Belleville, which isn’t as much of a tourist favourite, but has a reputation for being trendy and lively. You can also spend significantly less than we did on beer.
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