London and Paris, despite the famous rift between the English and French, go together like tea and pastries. They are the perfect contrasts to each other and make an excellent first trip to Europe. If you are worried that you’ll get bored spending five or more days in either city, don’t be. You could, and many residents do, spend your whole life here and still find new things to experience.
Day 1-5: London
Day 1: The English are famous for their stiff upper lip. Follow suit by not giving into jet lag: stroll through hyde Park, take a cab to see Big Ben, then visit a local pub for fish and chips. Just don’t fall asleep!
Day 2: Royalty: It’s pomp, it’s circumstance, it’s time to see the Queen. Or at least the Queen’s house. See the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Get there 20-30 minutes early for the best spot. Then head across the river to see Queen’s old house, the Tower of London that stores the Queen’s Jewels.
Day 3: High Culture: London does theater better and cheaper than any other European city. You can get front row at Les Miserables for the same price as back row in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (true fact). But if you are on a tight budget, just walk through the theater district when shows are about to open and ask for discounted last-minute tickets. Start the day the National Gallery, make sure to see the Rosetta Stone. Best of all it’s free.
Day 4: WWII History: The Churchill War Rooms shows Churchill’s operating center exactly as it was at the end of the war. Black pins representing ships in maps of the Atlantic, red telephones with lines to Washington and half-smoked cigars as if Churchill just left. You’ll feel like you were there. Then head over to the Imperial War Musuem to learn even more about WWII and other past conflicts.
Day 5: Church and Shopping. Westminster Abby is one of Europe’s great churches. Its rising spires held strong through the war and its dark exterior hides its bright interior. Just down the street from Westminster is Harrods department store, a great place to grab a souvenir or two before heading to Paris.
Transport to Pairs: The Chunnel from London to Paris is takes just a little over two hours and is much more pleasant than the security line at Heathrow airport.
Day 6-10: Paris
Day 6: Modern Art: Paris is known for its art and its food. Whet your art appetite with Monet’s Orangerie and the Orsay. Then stop at one of the many wonderful cafes in the Marais area of the city.
Day 7: Views: See Paris from its highest hill, Montmartre. Ride to the top of its most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower. Finish the night by shopping at the Galeries Lafayette and seeing the Eiffel tower sparkle from its top floor.
Day 8: Grand Palaces: Versailles, its name oozes over indulgence and the end of an era. Its grand palace and grander gardens take a full day to enjoy. Get there early to beat the tourist crowds.
Day 9: The Louvre: No place in the world has as much quality art from as many eras. You will not be able to see everything, and don’t worry too much about seeing Mona, she is often too crowded to actually see and somewhat underwhelming.
Day 10: The Seine and Notre Dame: Wait your turn to see the old lady, then wander down the Seine taking in Paris at its best and savor your final day in Paris.
Ten days in London and Paris is an excellent first trip to Europe. You get all the art, grandiose architecture, cuisine and history with very little logistical concerns. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get travelling!