I recently spent some time in London for work, and I thought it would be good to start and finish with something fun. With the week ending with the TLFL event, I decided to attempt a day trip from London to Paris on the first day. Although I love flying, the idea of going through airport security twice a day didn’t sound appealing, so I booked a return train trip with Eurostar instead.
My reasons behind the trip were to tick Paris off my bucket list and see as much of the city as possible in a day – with the hope of returning someday to see the sights I missed. So, is a day trip from London to Paris worth it? Here’s everything you need to know.
Travelling to London
I started my journey right at the bottom of Cornwall in St Ives and boarded the 9:55 pm Night Riviera Sleeper Train from St Erth. You can read my review of one of my past trips on the Night Riviera here.
The train was due to arrive in London at 5:30 am, but when I woke up at 5:45, we were stuck 10 minutes out of Paddington with an engine issue.
Luckily it was fixed in time, and minus a shower, I dropped my luggage off at The Chilworth Hotel (review coming soon) and boarded the London Underground to London St Pancras. I wasn’t too worried about being late because I now know how Eurostar check-in works from a previous trip to Brussels in September. You can read my full review here, comparing Standard and Standard Premier classes.
I got through security in 5 minutes and had 1 hour to spare. I highly recommend booking an EARLY Eurostar ticket to avoid the huge queues I encountered mid-afternoon on my previous trip!
I had a ticket for the 8:01 am train, which travels directly to Paris at 11:20 am (10:20 am UK time). The total journey time from London to Paris is 2 hours and 19 minutes. I booked a ticket in Standard due to the relatively late booking 11 days before departure.
One Day in Paris
I booked the Tootbus hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Arriving at Gare De Nord station, there weren’t any stops nearby, so I got a taxi to the stop directly outside the Eiffel Tower. Because this was my first time in Paris, the goal was to see all the major sights, visit some shops and try some French cuisine.
You would also have time to book the River Cruise add-on for one day in Paris, but I wanted to leave some time free in case I found something spontaneously on the day.
This enabled me to see all the major sights and even get off for a look around the Arc de Triomphe Area. I ended up trying food at a local bakery and going to Subway. However, if you wanted to eat at a restaurant, you would still have time. I saw lots of the touristy areas in Paris and the landmarks, but I know that having one day to explore Paris, I missed out on some hidden gems.
To get back to Gare De Nord, I took the tube. It was a longer route with two changes, but it still got me to Gare De Nord on time. It’s recommended that you get to the Eurostar terminal 90 minutes before your train’s scheduled departure (or 45-60 minutes for Business Premier).
The Train Home – Eurostar from Paris to London
The train back to London was 19:13-20:36. security took a bit longer in Paris than in London, but it was still much faster than when I travelled to Brussels in the summer. There were some lovely cafes, duty-free shops, and a convenient waiting room with plugs upstairs. I even managed to do a work meeting between going through security and getting on the train!
The Eurostar journey ran smoothly and on time, and I was soon back at The Chilworth Hotel before 21:15.
Working Remotely on the Eurostar
I was also expected to do a full day of work during this trip, with the idea of working in the waiting rooms and Eurostar each way. I thought this was completely feasible due to the large amount of travel time. I also planned to arrive at Gare De Nord early for my work meeting before going through security. I ended up working out the time difference wrong and doing the meeting after security.
The WIFI and signal on the Eurostar were much worse than on other trains. I’ve travelled on, especially when you add in the signal break when travelling through the channel tunnel. If you plan to work on the Eurostar, I recommend doing something offline or downloading what you need before your journey. You could even open the tabs you need while there’s a good signal so you can carry on working in the tunnel.
The Cost of a Day Trip from London to Paris
– Ticket from London to Paris – Tickets range from £39-£240 depending on how far in advance you book. The average cost is around £79.
– Ticket from Paris to London – ‘Same as above’.
– Toot Toot Bus Paris – £34.85
– Food and Drink – £10+
– Transport in Paris – Metro 2.40 + Taxi £18
– The London Underground – £6
How to Plan a Day Trip to Paris on the Eurostar
- Book Your Tickets in Advance – There’s a huge price range on Eurostar tickets, and one of the main factors that affect this is how far in advance you buy your ticket.
- Book Cancellable Tours with Get Your Guide – I always use the Get Your Guide app to add the attractions/tours I like to my wishlist. When the trip comes closer, I book my favourite ones and read the cancellation policy.
- Look at the weather before you travel – The week I travelled, it was a rainy week in London. Luckily, the day I booked Paris, the weather looked much better. If you’re going on a day trip, the last thing you need is extra packing, such as coats you don’t end up wearing.
- Bring a European Adapter – This one catches lots of people out. Although most seats on the Eurostar have both plug sockets available, this doesn’t apply in the city, and if you haven’t printed off your tickets, you’ll need a good phone battery to get through the ticket barriers!
- Read up on the sights you want to see before you travel – If you have one day in Paris, I highly recommend writing a list of what you want to know so you can plan your day accordingly. If you want to be more spontaneous about the day, book a hop-on hop-off bus ticket and get off at your best spots.
- Look ahead to how to travel to St Pancras from your starting destination – If you’re familiar with London, this one won’t apply, but if you’re like me (who always gets on the tube the wrong way etc.), it’s good to leave extra time and have a plan of exactly how to get from A to B. I usually use Google maps for this.
Other Ways to Travel from London to Paris on a Day Trip
There are always plenty of cheap flights from London to Paris. With London having four airports and Paris 2, I’m sure you would be able to find a good deal on your travel day!
If your companion voucher is due to run out or you’ve accumulated a high Avios balance, I highly recommend a day trip from London to Paris. Going through security twice in one day would be easier in first class or Club class, where you can use the lounges and fast-track through security. Having travelled both ways on the Eurostar, it might have been good to mix things up a bit and fly one way. However, you should keep in mind that the airports in Paris are much further away from the city centre than Gare de Nord.
However, it’s not possible to drive to Paris from London for a day trip. The journey duration is around 5 hours and 47 minutes, which would not work for a day trip! The same applies to bus travel (8 hours, 47 minutes!).
Final Words – Is a Day Trip from London to Paris Worth it?
It’s definitely possible to travel to Paris and back to London in a day while still having plenty of time to see Paris. Considering the time needed to get through security on the way back to London, you should have around 6 hours in Paris.
However, if you caught the first and last Eurostar, you would have 11 hours to enjoy Paris, and you could see the Eiffel tower at night!
It’s not typically cheaper to do a same-day return journey on the Eurostar (unless there’s a special offer). I recommend staying one night in Paris, so you can enjoy an evening and have two days to explore the city.
If I’d had more time and didn’t have to be back in London early the next day, I would have preferred to spend 1-4 nights in Paris. For a first-time visitor, this is enough time to see all the major sights in Paris, have a nice Lunch and maybe even visit an attraction. It may even be a good idea to mix it up a bit and fly to Paris and get the Eurostar home again.
Have you ever been on a day trip from London to Paris? Let me know in the comments below.
Lovely report, Sylvie
But Subway? Why oh why – what a waste with so many Parisian options all around you?
My wife did a day trip to Paris with a friend in the early days of Eurostar when one didn’t have to go through Security! They enjoyed it.
Imagine going to Paris and eating Subway 🙄
We’re going for my Wifes 40th Tomorrow! Well it was just tomorrow, but the 4am start didn’t appeal so I changed the outbound ticket to this evening at no extra charge. Eurostars ticket flexibility is great
Did you just say you went to Paris and ate Subway
I went on a day trip specifically to go to a recital that a friend in Paris was giving a couple of years ago. I decided to go quite last minute and so Eurostar was horrifically expensive (£300) compared to the cost of a return BA flight (£100). It was a Sunday so I drove to Osterley and parked there (free on a Sunday). I had timed everything and checked that all transport links were planned to be working properly, However you can’t legislate for unplanned engineering works which happened to be the case for the RER from Charles De Gaulle to Gare du Nord. So we had to catch a shuttle bus to the other branch. As my friend lives a few minutes walk from Gare du Nord that was not a problem. We had lunch in a local bistro, took the tube to the Champs Elysee afterwards and attended an afternoon piano recital in the American Cathedral, then made our way to Isle St Louis for the recital. Timing was very tight for my return so I decided to take a taxi back to the Airport. The cost of the day out was considerably less than the Eurostar ticket would have been.
I know Paris pretty well, it is very walkable so if it is your first time download some walks that take you past the sights you want to see and buy a 10 contactless t+ ticket pass for the metro to get you to the right area. The ticket machines have instructions in English, and you can put an app on your phone. If you want to have a genuine French gourmet experience you will need to do some research and possibly book. Neighbourhood restaurants are often the best value in Paris, but they are not always immediately apparent, and as in any large city there are plenty of culinary tourist traps!
Do you like cakes? Next time in Paris, visit Fauchon. Steer clear of Subway.
I will keep that in mind! I will be passing Paris by train on the way to Switzerland next week.
Nice report. Did the mad day in Paris several years ago. First train out, next to last train back. I have been to Paris quite a few times and know the city well enough to get around. As others have said – it is very walkable. A carnet of 10 tickets for the Metro and a rough idea of what the folks traveling with me wanted to see and we were off. Was it exhausting? Absolutely. Did we have fun? Absolutely. I dont know that I’ll ever fly between London and Paris again – I do enjoy the Eurostar, though I’ve never tried to work on the train. Yes, there are times when tickets can get expensive, but a little planning can (usually) mitigate that.
Like the others, though, I do have to question…Subway? In Paris?
I drove many times on business for a day trip to Paris. Catching the early morning ferry from Newhaven over to Dieppe..easy drive to Paris for a few hours in the office, and back to catch the last ferry back to Newhaven and home to Brighton.
Interesting review! Don’t forget City Mapper app – very good for checking all transport options in an area.
Before HS1 was opened we took my mother-in-law to Paris for her 80th birthday lunch. The reason for this was that she met her late husband at St Germain-en-Laye when they were both in the Navy in WWII; she was in Paris on VE-Day. A fine regulating decision saw us following a stopping train on a diversionary route (it was a Sunday), so we averaged 30.5 mph from Waterloo (then) to the Tunnel. The French chef-du-train was very smug when he announced that the train was now travelling at 186 mph, because of course it was in France. Nonetheless it was an excellent trip, even though we only crossed the square outside the Gare du Nord to the excellent Terminus Restaurant, where we had a table for 20 or so. (I think that the restaurant is still operating). It’s such a pity that the line didn’t go into Gare d’Austerlitz; the trains would then have run from a station named after Napoleon’s greatest victory to one named after his greatest defeat.
If travelling to/from Gare du Nord, the brasserie at Terminus du Nord directly opposite is an excellent gastronomic introduction or farewell to Paris.
Subway?! Perish the thought.
Early 2020 I did a hybrid day trip to Delft in Netherlands in order to catch an Art Exhibition that was about to close. Was not long that Eurostar service had been running to Rotterdam – then a local train from there to Delft, took in the show, tram to The Hague for another gallery, train to Schipol, evening flight to Gatwick! Great fun!
Can’t believe Subway is even legal in France
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