Paris in January is chilly, and we did experience a few downpours – but that didn’t stop us having a great time, and cramming plenty into almost exactly 2 days. Here’s how we spent 48 hours in Paris.
Where did we stay?
We initially chose to base ourselves in Montmartre as doing some research beforehand, we learnt it was historically a very bohemian area, with artists like Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec attracted to the area the late 19th century.
This kind of area is right up our street. We always seem to stumble upon by accident, or intentionally seek out these cool little areas of cities, so it made perfect sense to actually base ourselves in not just any bohemian area, but one of the most famous ones, with so much history.
Montmartre itself did not disappoint. It really is a beautiful area. You don’t feel like you’re in the middle of one of Europe’s largest cities. In fact, you could have been in any typical old little French town as it came complete with picturesque hilled cobbled streets, tightly packed old houses mixed in with historic but pristine apartment buildings, a windmill or two, and more traditional bakeries, butcheries, cafes and restaurants that you would have time to visit if you were there for a 2 weeks, let alone 2 days.
We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb apartment right in the centre of Montmartre, and couldn’t have asked for a cosier little retreat after a long day of exploring the city.
And as if the beautiful Montmartre wasn’t enough by itself, it is also the home of Sacré-Cœur; a white dome shaped Roman catholic church that sits atop the highest hill in Paris. A quick five-minute walk from our apartment and we were on top of the world (or Paris, at least).
We first went after dark to get the best views of the city lights, and the Eiffel Tower. You can walk around inside the church too, for free until about 10pm. It is worth a wander in, if only for a few minutes to learn a little about the history of the building. On warmer days, I could picture people taking picnics to the top of the hill and admiring the views outside the church during the day.
Adjacent to Sacré-Cœur is small square with more little streets running off it. More restaurants can be found here, along with many caricature artists and tourist shops.
We had dinner here on our second and final night, at one of the oldest restaurants in Paris, La Mere Catherine – and I tried snails for the first time! If you get the chance, do it. They have a similar texture to mussels and in a garlic and parsley sauce, are pretty damn tasty.
We found getting around Paris incredibly easy. We jumped on the Metro a few times (Abbesses station on line 12 is in the middle of Montmartre, and only a few stops from Gard du Nord).
A single ticket (T+) is only 1.80 Euros, so a couple of times we got the Metro out to an area of the city and walked back, and vice versa. I’m a big believer that the best way to see a city is to walk it – we clocked up about 12 miles on our second day, which went some way to burn off the food and wine we were consuming.
Walking and the Metro are definitely the methods of transport I would recommend in Paris!
What else did we do?
We arrived at about 3pm on a Saturday and left at 5pm on Monday, so we had little over 48 hours to explore the city.
We visited the Moulin Rouge both at night and in the day. You can have dinner and watch a show inside for about 200 Euros each but as we were on a tight timescale, we settled on walking around the area and seeing it in all its glory from the outside.
Moulin Rouge is located on a fairly busy main road at the foot of Montmartre called Pigalle, about a 10 minute walk form our apartment so it was really convenient to take an after dinner walk down there.
Pigalle was a real contrast to the streets we were used to in Montmartre, where only the odd scooter would whizz by every now and again. Lining the road are sex shops, XXX cinemas, strip clubs and lingerie boutiques all with some pretty imaginative names! Despite the obvious touch of sleaze, there was a young crowd around filling the numerous cool bars dotted around the area.
On our first full day, we had a delicious breakfast in a beautiful café in Montmartre before catching the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe.
From there, we walked to the Eiffel Tower (about 20-30 minutes), taking in the sites and experiencing Paris as we went.
At the Eiffel Tower, you can pay to go up in the stairs of the lift (the lift being the more expensive option. You can also choose to go up the first level, which is still very much at the foot of the tower but will still provide good views. Or for a bit extra, you can go to the very top to get a panoramic view of the city. See full prices here.
From there we walked along the Seine stopping off for a coffee here and there, to read our books, watching and dodging the hundreds of runners getting their Sunday exercise in.
After another 20-30 minutes, we arrived at Notre Dame. This cathedral is also free to enter, and well worth popping in to have a look around.
It was then on towards the Latin Quarter, which is another great place to eat and drink and is located close the University and the Pantheon.
The Latin Quarter, like Montmartre is a small area of winding small streets lined with shops, bars and restaurants. Food and drink is cheap here (probably due to its proximity to the University), and there is not necessarily the historic feel of Montmartre, but a fun place to wile away a few hours for sure.
On our last morning, we embraced Montmartre life. After a late breakfast in a cafe and a final walk around the area (including another visit to the Moulin Rouge, this time in daylight) we brought some baguettes, meat and a bottle of wine from local, independent shops in Montmartre, and took them back to our apartment to enjoy after we had packed and had some down time before embarking on our journey home.
Before jumping on the train back to London, we stopped in The Hideout, a great, cheap Irish bar just outside the station, which is definitely worth a mention!
We spent an hour or so there reminiscing about our trip, and planning our next one!