Paris is a carefree holiday destination for everyone with rail links to London.
Taking just over two hours from London’s St Pancras station, you’ll arrive in the beating heart of the French capital, where top hotels, restaurants and bars await.
THE festive fun is now in full swing and you’ll be treated to a free show at the Printemps Haussmann department store. The Christmas displays are nothing short of extraordinary – expect animatronic stuffed animals and singing, dancing puppets on strings.
If it’s a special occasion and you’re planning to travel this month, upgrade your Eurostar ticket to Business Premier and you’ll be treated to a limited edition menu designed by French chef Raymond Blanc. The dishes are inspired by his two Michelin star restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxford.
ARE THESE STREETS MADE FOR WALKING?
ARRIVAL at the Gare du Nord train station, you can tick off some of the main tourist attractions without hopping on a bus or metro. And exploring on foot is by far the best way to enjoy the Parisian architecture, ornate buildings and old-world cafes that make this city so special.
Montmartre Hill and the beautiful Sacre Coeur Basilica are less than 20 minutes’ walk from the station, and you’ll need comfortable shoes to climb the seemingly endless steps to the top (although you can catch the funicular for €1.90).
If you can manage it, go on foot – it’s part of the experience and your efforts will be rewarded with views that, in my opinion, surpass those of the Eiffel Tower.
The Champs-Elysees is also made for walking. This wide, tree-lined street is known for its shopping, with some of the poshest hotels and shops in its two-kilometer stretch.
Even if you can’t afford the lavish diamonds and couture displayed in the shop windows, the walk is entertainment in itself and ends at L’Arc de Triomphe, one of France’s most famous war memorials.
SOMETHING FOR THE BUCKET LIST?
THE world famous Moulin Rouge cabaret show is a favorite of Chef Raymond Blanc. It’s as raw as you’d imagine with feather-clad can-can dancers twirling on stage, red fabric draped over lights, and bejeweled costumes galore.
If you have money to spare after the Champs-Elysées, Galeries Lafayette is Paris’ answer to Harvey Nichols or Selfridges – only much better.
The flagship store is located on Boulevard Haussmann with a huge Christmas tree in the center, extending from the lower floor to a beautiful vaulted ceiling made of stained glass.
WHERE SHOULD I EAT?
BLANC recommends Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit cabaret club on Rue du Colisee for a classy setting. Or for typical French food on a budget, Brasserie La Coupole on Boulevard du Montparnasse does most of the classics, he tells me, including fresh seafood platters, chocolate-covered profiteroles and a cracking creme brulee for €7.50.
The French are known for their fromage, but you don’t have to go to a fancy place to sample some, says Blanc.
If you want to fill your suitcases with quality cheese, you can go to any supermarket.
I WANT A DRINK?
Meander down one of the narrow side streets and take your pick from one of the traditional bars and cafes all of which are almost guaranteed to serve fine wine by the liter – as long as you drink the French stuff.
After a specific cocktail? A few miles north of Notre Dame Cathedral, Bisou is on Boulevard du Temple, where the drinks are as decorative as the flower-covered exterior. It’s small and intimate and the staff will prepare whatever you want.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY?
THE M Social has injected color and fun into the once tired walls of this traditional hotel.
Old-fashioned gated elevators and large windows ensure that you still feel like you’re in classic Paris, but with modern comforts like soft pillows and a restaurant that serves classic dishes “en cocotte”.
Following a recent renovation, the rooms now feature ultra-comfortable beds splashed with emerald green and orange linens and sparkling ensuites stocked with glamorous L’Occitane toiletries.
You can request a room with a view of the Sacre Coeur at no extra cost, just a 20-minute walk away.
Go there: Paris
HOW TO GET THERE: The Eurostar runs from London St Pancras to Paris’ Gare du Nord from £39 each way. Anyone traveling with Business Premier before November 23 will be able to sample the limited edition menu curated by Raymond Blanc. See eurostar.com.
STAYING THERE: Alcove rooms at the M Social Hotel Opera Paris cost from £316.24 including breakfast. See millenniumhotels.com.