Trains to Paris whisk you to the beating heart of the French capital, arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. “What other city offers as much as you leave a train?”, asked Margaret Anderson. Its six main stations (Gares du Nord, de l’Est, de Lyon, d’Austerlitz, Montparnasse, Saint-Lazare) are surrounded by key landmarks – which means you can easily sip coffee in the charming neighbourhood of Montmartre, go shopping on Champs-Elysées, or take that Eiffel Tower snap as you set foot in the City of Lights. What’s more, Paris is but a 2h 30m train away from London, and just over 3 hours from Amsterdam and Marseille.
Parisian railway stations double up as metro stations. The one exception is Gare d’Orsay on the chic left bank; instead, this Beaux-Arts style building is home to the famous impressionist collections of the Musée d’Orsay. On the right bank, Gare du Nord is another neoclassical architectural masterpiece. As its name suggests, it serves northern cities, including London, and is located minutes from Montmartre.
Dominated by the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Montmartre looks just like a postcard with its cobbled, meandering streets. A 40-minute walk south of Montmartre will take you down the hip streets of Pigalle. Particularly popular here is Rue des Martyrs – a heaven for foodies, lined with trendy restaurants, bakeries and delis. Heading east leads to the vibey Canal Saint-Martin, and to the République/Belleville area where the party awaits.
Walk south towards the historical centre and you’ll stumble upon the famous Père-Lachaise cemetery – the largest cemetery in Paris, it's also the resting place of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde. From there, it’s on to Gare de Lyon, a Belle Epoque station.
The nearby Bastille and Le Marais areas, parallel to the Seine banks, brim with private mansions, hip bistros, vintage shops such as Noir Kennedy, and concept stores like Merci. Follow the Seine to the west to find the Centre Pompidou, held together by colourful tubes and hosting modern masterpieces by Miró and Picasso. 5 minutes away the must-see gothic cathedral Notre Dame stands imposing and beautiful. And let’s not forget the Louvre, gathering antiques, modern and classical art, and, of course, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa under its glass pyramid.
On the left bank, the “bourgeois” area between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Gare Montparnasse is dotted with theatres, cinemas, historical literary cafes, and brasseries like Les Deux Magots. The charming Luxembourg Gardens attract nearby Sorbonne students and families.
A walk west alongside the left bank leads to the Eiffel Tower. The Iron Lady faces the river and the grandiose Trocadéro hill on the right bank, with its fountains, gardens, and museums. There the avenue Kléber leads to the prestigious Champs Elysées. Among high street and luxury fashion shops, La Durée is a go-to place for macarons and afternoon tea. C’est si bon...