Tips for Taking Day Trips from London to Paris by Train

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Plan a day trip from London to Paris by train aboard the Eurostar chunnel train. See the City of Lights in a whirlwind visit by using our best strategies for maximizing your time.

A mom takes a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Her family stands in the back and are pointing up.

When we were planning the itinerary for our 6 days in London over spring break, my husband had the wild suggestion that we tack on a day trip to Paris by train.

The same man who has never expressed any interest in visiting Paris was offering to take me to the City of Love, in springtime nonetheless? I was floored.

Turns out it wasn’t the Eiffel tower and a bakery filled with baguettes he was imagining, it was all about the train ride itself. My engineer husband has been absolutely fascinated by the modern marvel that is the English channel tunnel train since it first opened and he was thrilled to experience it firsthand.

Whatever your own reasons are for wanting to visit Paris, here are the tips you need to know for planning your day trip from London.

Timing Considerations

Once I started researching the train timetables for the London to Paris route, I quickly discovered that the general recommendation is for arriving up to 2 hours in advance to board the train.

This could potentially mean that in one day trip you would spend 4 hours just at the train station for a one-day round trip. Then add on another 5 hours of train travel itself since each way takes about 2.5 hours.

That’s 9 hours just for the transportation round trip. This leaves very little time to explore Paris in one day.

Additionally I calculated that to take the first train in the morning, we’d have to wake up at 3 am to get ready in order to get to the train station in time. 3 am is not exactly a vacation-friendly number to me.

Instead, we decided that traveling late at night the night before, finding a simple place to sleep and shower, and waking up in Paris, sounded like a lot more fun.

We spent the day in Paris and went “home” to London after dinner.

This ended up being a brilliant idea because late-evening train tickets are much cheaper than morning tickets. We booked the last train from London to Paris on Day 1 and the last train from Paris to London on Day 2.

For our family of four, the money we saved on train tickets nearly paid for the overlapping hotel stay for one night since we had already booked our London AirBNB for the whole week.

Where to Stay Overnight

If you decide to stay one night in Paris, all you really need is a very simple hotel with a clean bed and bath for a shower in the morning.

I asked a friend of mine who works in Paris for a recommendation and he suggested Hotel de Flore. I had too book two separate rooms to have enough room for all four of us but the hotel was exactly what we needed.

A simple hotel room in Paris.
Our room at Hotel de Flore in Paris.

Meanwhile, our neighbors just happened to be doing a day trip to Paris from London on the exact same day as we did. We ran into them just outside the Louvre.

They chose to stay at a hotel right at the train station and said it was simple and safe and worked out well for their party of two.

How to Store Your Overnight Bags

If you stay overnight and in a simple hotel as we did, you may not feel comfortable leaving your overnight bag with the hotel. Carrying everything around all day isn’t a fun option either.

We booked a locker at City Locker near the train station. One locker held all four of our small travel bags so that we didn’t need to lug them all around town all day.

The entry window to City Locker in Paris.

The Gare du Nord City Locker location is only a 6 minute walk away from the train station so it was very easy to pick up our belongings and head straight to our train at the end of the day.

A backpack inside a locker with the door open.

How We Spent the Day

After all the planning I put into our London itinerary, I was overwhelmed with how we should spend our day in Paris.

There is just so much to see and I wasn’t sure how we’d be feeling or what the weather would be.

So I made the biggest mistake of the trip: I didn’t really have any sort of plan.

I thought we could just “walk around and see things” and decide while we were there. I didn’t realize how faaaarrrrr apart all the major sites in Paris are from each other if you plan to walk between them.

Two girls stand in front of the Louvre.

We spent the entire day on foot and walked from:

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Over the Pont de Arts Bridge (where we ran into our neighbors)
  3. Towards the Louvre
  4. Through the Jardin des Tuileries
  5. Past the Place de la Concorde
  6. Down the Champs-Elysees
  7. Over the Pont Alexandre III Bridge
  8. Stopped at a Cafe for Lunch
  9. Over to the Eiffel Tower
  10. And then back traced our route along the Seine until my feet finally gave out completely somewhere near the Champs-Elysees

We ubered back to the train station because I couldn’t move one step more. We walked 30,000+ steps that day and it was totally, completely, physically exhausting.

Two red cafe chairs and a small table in front of a cafe in Paris.

The other huge mistake I made was not having a specific plan for where we wanted to eat during our visit.

With just one main meal in Paris, there was a lot of pressure for the food to be good.

Thankfully, we happened upon an excellent choice. You can read more about what to eat in Paris here.

A young girl poses in front of the river in Paris.

Despite the lack of planning for our day, we had an amazing time in Paris.

Our feet were hurting so much by the time we made it to the Eiffel tower, we had to make our way very slowly back towards the city center.

We stopped and looked in windows, stopped to sit and enjoy an afternoon treat, and paused as often as we wanted for lots of pictures.

Two glasses of champagne are held in a toast.

What You Could Do Better

If I had to do it all over again, there are several things I would do differently for a day in Paris. Here are my biggest recommendations for you:

  1. Consider a Hop On, Hop Off Bus: The Big Red Bus travels through all the biggest sites in Paris and would save you So Much Walking. After the sticker shock on our Eurostar tickets, I just couldn’t bring myself to pay for this added expense for our family of 4 but it would be an excellent strategy if you have more money than time and seeing everything is super important to you.
  2. Plan to See ONE Thing: Consider choosing one very special thing, like the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay, reserve timed tickets, and then take your time enjoying it along with a special lunch. You’ll have a more relaxing day in Paris and actually feel like you appreciated something you’ll remember instead of a wild game of tag through the city.
  3. Be Flexible but Realistic: If you want to do like we did and just decide on the fly when you get there, be prepared for sooooo much walking. Paris is a HUGE city and things are pretty spread out, this is not a small European town. Choose an area of focus and try to find a few restaurant options that meet your needs nearby before you go.

Leave Enough Time for the Train Station

Once your day in Paris begins to wind down, be sure to plan a lot of time to get back to the train station area, especially if you are picking up an overnight bag at City Locker.

The Eurostar train is parked at the station in Paris.

Arrive to the station, ready to check in, two hours before your train departs.

You’ll be served dinner on the train back to London, but you can also bring on some French pastries or desserts if you prefer a taste of Paris for your ride back.

Is It Worth It?

4 round-trip tickets on the Eurostar = $1000+
2 hotel rooms to fit our family of four = $300-ish
1 City Locker to hold our stuff = $15
Food and beverage don’t count because we would have spent that same money back in London.

Was our day in Paris worth that additional expense?

Riding the chunnel train was a childhood dream for my husband. It was his ONE BIG THING he wanted to do on our family vacation. So to see him giddy as the train dove down under the ocean? Absolutely, this experience was worth it.

For me, this is what travel is all about — an adventure that makes your heart sing even if it isn’t the most practical thing on paper.

If I had planned the day better and we had focused more on one lasting experience, I think I would have felt a little better about the time we spent away from London. We all just loved London so much, I wonder what more we might have experienced there without the Paris excursion.

But my kids can now say they’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, they were in the city that’s hosting this summer’s Olympics, they saw Notre Dame before it is completely renovated and reopened to the public. Paris in this moment is different than the Paris they might visit in the future. It is hard to have any regrets about that.

Whether or not a day trip from London to Paris is worth it for you and your family will all depend on your vacation goals, dreams, attitude, and budget.

For my family, we would absolutely choose to do it again on our first trip but we would not choose to do it a second time. The next time we see France will include a full visit to Paris itself so we can dive deeper into what the city has to offer and not just a “drive-by” day trip.

The photo collage shows a family by the eiffel tower next to a photo of the commuter train from London.

One Comment

  1. Sounds like a crazy long day but totally worth! I think adding it to your trip was a great idea!

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