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Where to Eat in Paris

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Paris is split into districts and each has its own unique style and often budget when it comes to restaurants. Like any major city you can eat a tasty lunch for as little as $5.00 or go to a Michelin star restaurant and pay $200.00 for three courses. So we can’t list all options here, but we can give you some advice on where to find certain types and budgets of restaurants, and also provide some ideas for non-restaurant eating which might save you some money and help you discover Paris in a different way.

Really with Paris restaurants you get what you pay for in general, but there are certain tourist hot-spots to avoid where second-rate food is sold at high prices.  So as a rule try to get away from the crowds to pick a restaurant, or look on-line to see what’s rated highly.  Some suggestions below for each district on which Paris restaurants you could visit during your Paris vacation:

Alternatives to Breakfast in your Hotel
When you look at booking a hotel in Paris you will likely find you have to pay more for breakfast, and this can often cost $15.00-$20.00 per person per night. If you’re planning to start your sight-seeing early everyday then you might be better advised to visit a cafe for breakfast instead as you can choose exactly what you want and likely pay half the price for it.

Picnics in Paris
The public parks in Paris are beautiful and so is the food from the deli shops in the side streets.  Why not combine the two and put together your own picnic for lunch one day?  There is nothing more relaxing than sitting on a bench on a sunny day in the Jardins du Luxembourg while breaking into a fresh baguette, and combining it with Brie or Camembert cheese, foie gras and cold cuts of meat.

Some of the best places to pick up your picnic essential items are:
L’Epicerie on Ile St-Louis – gourmet items
La Masion Lafitte on Ile St-Louis – foie gras specialist
Calixte on Ile St-Louis – croissants, pates, terrines and desserts
La Ferme Saint Aubin on Ile St-Louis – cheese

Eating in Ile St-Louis
You will find restaurants for all budgets on Ile St-Louis with several brasseries and bistros serving lunch and dinner.  Alongside french cuisine at places like L’Orangerie, Le Vieux Bistro and Chez Paul there is a good Japanese restaurant called Isami, and a tapas style tavern called Taverne Henry IV which serves wine with small plates of food.

One of the most famous eating establishments on Ile St-Luis is Berthillon the ice cream parlour where you can enjoy single scoops or glorious desserts combining several ices and cream.  If you like ice cream this is a must-visit!

Eating in Beaubourg & Les Halles
The areas of Beaubourg and Les Halles have some very good restaurants as well as pubs/ taverns.

There are several highly rated and highly priced haute cuisine restaurants of repute in this district such as Gerard Besson and Benoit.  Other restaurants of repute here are Au Pied de Cochon serving offal, steak and oysters; Chez Deniz open 24hrs a day and serving up large steaks; and Cafe L’Escargot Montorgueil for your first and maybe last taste of snails.

The pubs and taverns of Les Halles serve up some of the best beers in the world.  Irish bars like Guinness Tavern and Flann O’Brien’s serve draft Guinness and other ales, while The Frog & Rosbif is an English style pub with hearty meals and beers.  Cafe Oz is a noisy Australian bar serving Australian beer and wine, while Au Trappiste serves some of Belgium’s best beers.

One of my favourite places in Les Halles is Le Sous-Bock Tavern a Belgian tavern which has over 400 beers available, 200 whiskies and mussels (moules) to die for.  If you’re not able to add Belgium to your European itinerary then make sure you add this tavern and get a taste for Belgium…you’ll love it!

Eating out in Marais and the Bastille
The Marias and Bastille regions are trendy and in good condition having been revived in the 1990’s.  Amongst the museums and magnificent mansions you will find some of Paris’ best budget restaurants, many of which you will have to book ahead of time because of their popularity.  These include Gil Angeli an Italian restaurant renowned for its Carpaccio and Tiramisu; La Galoche d’Aurillac serving food from the Auvergne region of France with its hearty dishes including stuffed cabbage; Bofinger Pari’ oldest brasserie which has a good fixed price menu; and Bistrot les Sans-Culottesa steak restaurant serving good food at good prices.

Eating in the Tuileries and Opera Quarters
Once the home to the rich and famous these neighbouring quarters still accommodate some of the finest restaurants in Paris, expect to pay big dollars for world-class food.  Michelin star restaurants such as L’Esoandon, Le Grand Vefour, and Lucas Carton stand out here.

For those on a more modest budget you could try Chartier which serves up simple French food, or Les Bacchantes with its extensive wine list and fine menu.

Eating around the Champs-Elysees Quarter
During your visits to the designer shops along the Champs-Elysees you may find time to get lunch and you will certainly find plenty of equally expensive restaurants to match your shopping list.  Some of these are inflated due to their location, reeling in tired shoppers in need of refreshment.  But amongst them are some very good restaurants such as Alain Ducasse rated as one of the best chefs in Paris, Guy Savoy another top chef who serves experimental dishes, and Taillevent famous for its seafood and truffles.

Another favourite nestled at the eastern end of the Champs-Elysees is Angelina a grand Victorian-style tea room famous for its thick-thick hot chocolate (so thick they give you a glass of water to wash it down) and its delicious pastries.  Another Parisian experience not to be missed.

Eating in the Eiffel Tower and Invalides Districts
Due to the enormity of the Eiffel tower, and its expansive gardens at its footings, and the surrounding Invalides district being the home to embassies and government buildings there aren’t that many restaurants to pick from around here, but there are some options.

Le Divellec is renowned as one of the best seafood restaurants in Paris, L’Arpege is the home to a top chef and delightful menu, Altitude 95 on the 1st level of the Eiffel Tower has good views of course and a reasonably priced lunchtime menu, while Au Petit Tonneau is a budget bistro with meaty dishes.

Eating in the St-Germain, Latin and Luxembourg Quarters
Variety is the spice of life in these bustling quarters to the south of the Seine.  It is the home to Parisian cafe-culture, as you will soon discover as you realise every table and chair in every cafe faces outward while their occupants watch you as you pass by.  You’ll soon join them and watch in fascination as the city wonders by your seat as you sip a cafe-au-lait.

Some of Paris’ best chocolatiers reside in this area with Christian Constant, Caco et Chocolat and Jean-Paul Hevin being top destinations for chocolate-lovers.  Alongside these are many fine patisseries serving up mouth-melting macaroons, lemon and strawberry tarts.  Well-frequented patisseries are Gerard Mulot, and Gaulupeau.

The St-Germain and Latin Quarters are good places to find very good mid-priced restaurants, as there’s plenty of competition around here and the food has to be good and competitively priced.  Try L’Epi Dupin, Les Bookinistes, Alcazar, La Bastide Odeon, Le Coupe-Chou or Chez Henri au Moulin a Vent.  Dishes such as Chateaubriand, frogs legs, escargot, boeuf bourguignon, blanquette, risotto, and duck  a l’orange will all leave you craving French cuisine when you get back home.

Around the St Michel area you will also find some good late night eateries including street stalls serving kebabs and grilled meats…just in case you get peckish again after a few drinks.

Eating in the Jardin des Plantes Quarter
In this quieter district of Paris you will find the Jardin des Plantes which is an open public park which is a nice setting for a picnic.  Local patisseries, epicieries and boulangeries should suffice in providing the contents of a delicious picnic.

This area is another good location to find inexpensive good food.  Locals like places like Le Terroir, L’Aimant du Sud, Anacreon, Les Vieux Metiers de France, Chez Paul, Coco de Mer, L’Avant-Gout, and Le Zyriab.

Eating in the Chaillot Quarter
For an after-dinner stroll there are few more spectacular views than from the Palais de Chaillot on its hill overlooking the river and Eiffel Tower.  This alone should encourage you to eat dinner in this quarter one evening.

Les Bistrot des Vignes is a favorite of ours, a small bistro serving good food in an unpretentious manner.  Other favorites here are La Butte Chaillot, Le Scheffer, Le Petit Retro, Brasserie de la Poste, and Zebra Square.

Eating in the Montmartre & Pigalle Quarters
If you avoid the overly-expensive restaurants and bistros around Sacre-Coeur you’ll then be able to find a more reasonably priced and less-touristy restaurant with good food.  Le Moulin a Vins is famous for its duck a l’orange; while Chez Jean serves tasty fish dishes.  Chez Catherine the Provencal 1950’s style bistro is a contrast to Haynes a Mexican style restaurant with loud music.  La Table de las Fontaine is home to the mouth-watering oxtail stew, a flavour if never tried before shouldn’t be missed by meat-lovers.

We hope to add some more reviews here very soon but hopefully the suggestions above will get you started, and don’t forget to visit Trip Advisor to see what other visitors to Paris are saying about the restaurants they’ve visited.


Major Rome Attractions

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

The Rome attractions frequented by tourists are typically well-known, and often high on a European visit list.  There’s also some lesser known locations and attractions which are worth adding to your Rome trip itinerary, so please take a look through below and decide what’s worthy of your visit to Rome.

The Pantheon
This ancient temple in the centre of Italy is an architectural masterpiece and has survived for just under 2000 years.  The giant oculus in its ceiling is a viewpoint to the midday sun and the midnight stars as intended.

The Roman Forum
This collection of ancient ruins was once the centre of the Roman Empire and is rich in history.  The main sights and sites here are the Arch of Septimius Severus, Temple of Vesta, Curia Senate, Arch of Titus, Temple of Castor and Pollux, Basilica Maxentius, Temple of Vespasian, Temple of Saturn and Temple of Antonius.  A secondary site at the forum is Palatine Hill which houses the Palatine Museum.

The Colosseum and Imperial Forum
Next to the Roman Forum is the Colosseum and the Imperial Forum either end of via Del Fori Imperiali.  The Colosseum itself is a grand structure four storey’s high and mainly intact from the outside anyway.  The Imperial forum (or Fora as its plural) is a collection of forums containing Trajan’s Markets, Nero’s Golden House, Trajan’s Forum and Column, the Arch of  Constantine, Mamertine Prison, House of the Knights of Rhodes, Nerva Forum, Forum of Julius Caesar, and Forum of Augustus.

Villa Borghese and Spanish Steps
The Villa Borghese estate in the Northern part of the city is a large garden estate which contains the Galleria Borghese a collection of sculptures and paintings; the National Modern Art Gallery containing sculptures and paintings, and Villa Giulia a collection of pre-Roman art; and a small zoo.  The Spanish Steps are often visited en-route to the Villa Borghese and are another famous Rome attraction.

Vatican City
The Vatican City needs very little introduction, it is home to the Pope, the Sistine Chapel containing Michaelangelo’s famous ceiling, extensive museums, and is the smallest country in the World.

Piazza Navona
This pedestrianized square is the modern heart of Rome where tourists sit in cafes to watching the world go by.  Street performers and artists ply their trade amid the three fountains and bustling crowds.

Trevi Fountain
The most famous of Rome’s many fountains is the Trevi fountain which appears to morph from the Palazzo its attached to.  As a major tourist attraction you may struggle to find an opportunity to take a photograph when it’s not surrounded by people, but early morning might be your best bet to find some level of tranquillity here.


Getting from Fiumicino Airport to Rome

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

How to Get to Rome from Fiumicino Airport
The main airport in Rome is the Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino airport which is located 26km from Rome.  There are several ways to get to the city centre from the station.

Taxi or Private Transfer
From Fiumicino Airport to Rome by Taxi
The quickest and shortest way to get from the airport to your hotel in Rome is by taxi or private pre-booked transfer.  There is a set taxi rate of €48 for all journeys to the centre with a taxi.  The journey takes around 40-50 minutes.  Alternatively if you pre-book a private transfer you will likely pay more but the driver will wait for you in arrivals to accompany you to your vehicle and then drop you off at the door of your hotel.  Taxis drivers may drop you off at the top of the street your hotel is on if they don’t want to get stuck in the one-way system or down a tight cobbled road.

Train
From Fiumicino Airport to Rome by Train
There are two main city services from the railway station in Fiumicino Airport:

The Leonardo Express shuttle train – goes directly to the Termini station in the city centre taking 31mins.  From Termini you can take the metro or a bus to a local rea in the city.  Tickets cost €14.00 for adults, children under 14 travel free.  Departures are from 6.23am to 11.22pm.  Returns to the airport run from tracks 23 and 24 at Termini every 30mins from 5.35am to 10.35pm.

Regional LFL1 Line – takes 47mins to the Tiburtina station which is connected to metro line B.  This ticket costs €8 per adult and runs from 5.57am to 10.27pm.
Bus
From Fiumicino Airport to Rome by Bus
There are several options by bus to get indirectly or directly to the city.  The main more direct routes are as follows:

Cotral Lines – 1 hour from the bus stop in the airport to Termini station, Tiburtina station, or Cornelia station.  Cost €5.

SIT Bus Lines – 45 minutes from the airport to the Vatican, Via Crescenzio or Termini station.  Cost €6.

TAM Lines – 1 hour from the Airport to Termini station.  Cost €5.

Terravision Lines – 1 hour from the Airport to Termini via Marsala.  Cost €6.

Atral-Schiaffini Lines – 1 hour from the Airport to Termini station.  Cost €5.


Getting Around Rome

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Different Ways to Tour Rome

One of the first things to decide when planning your itinerary for Rome is how you are going to be getting around Rome.  There are different ways to tour Rome, and each has its merits, so often it’s a good idea to combine several.  There’s also some unusual ways and means to discover Rome, so if you’re staying a bit longer, or visiting Rome for a second time then it might be worth trying out one of those as well.

Bus Tour of Rome
There are 3 or 4 open top hop-on-hop-off bus tour operators in Rome.  They all operate roughly the same 8-10 stop route at the same price of €20 per day.  A full tour of all stops will take around 1h40mins and its worthwhile doing the whole tour first before getting off again.  The advantage of the open top tours is that you’re getting a high level view of all the main sights in the city, so you’ll get some great photos and also inf
ormation via the on-board recordings through your headset.  All of the operators have their main ticket office outside Termini train station, however you will find that across the city magazine stands also advertise sale of the tickets, so you can buy from them and then go to the nearest stop to board the next bus.  You can often buy from the sales representatives at the bus stops as well.  If you’re limited for time, say only in Rome for two days then this would be your best bet to get around most of the main attractions of Rome in a short period of time.  There is also a Christian bus tour “Roma Cristiana” which covers the main churches and the Vatican, departing from Termini station and Saint Peters.  www.graylinerome.com

Segway Tours of Rome
Starting at Piazza Navona there is a Segway tour of the main Rome sights.  The tours are expensive, but fun and will certainly give you a memorable view of Rome without too much walking!  Segway tours do have some limitations, they have a weight limit of 120kg (260 lb), age limit of 16-75 years old, and pregnant woman and those under the influence of alcohol aren’t allowed to ride.  The operators tend to run different day time and night time tours lasting 3 hours and the cost is around €70 per person.  Tour guides usually speak English.
www.segwayfunrome.com  www.segiteasy.com

Time Elevator Rome
This is a very different way to see Rome, but is ideal for kids as there are very few attractions for children in Rome, and this should put a smile on their faces.  Using 3 panoramic screens, flight simulation technology and surround sound you visit Rome from its beginnings 2750 years ago, until the present.  It’s a 45minute show and covers the main attractions showing what they could have looked like in the past, and what they look like now.  Cost is €12 per person.  www.time-elevator.it

Food Tour of Rome

For enthusiastic foodies this might be the gastronomic tour of choice.  This food crawl around Campo de Fiori, the Jewish Ghetto area, and Trastevere takes in espresso, gelato, street foods and lunch across the city.  The meeting point is Piazza Farnese and booking is recommended as numbers are limited.  www.gourmetaly.com

Bicycle Rental in Rome
Most of the old town is cycle friendly although can be a bit bumpy on the cobbles.  Hiring a bike will save your feet for sure and let you tour the main attractions in Rome in a much shorter period of time.  There are many cycle hire shops throughout the city, and your hotel will probably be able to arrange for one to be brought to the hotel for you, just ask your concierge.  Prices are around €10 a day.  One operator is Monkey Cycles on Via Della Vetrina, phone number is +39 347 89 61 658 if you wish to book.

Vespa Tours of Rome
Tour Rome like a local on a moped or ideally a Vespa!  Several operators rent out Vespas and several also do guided tours.  It’s a fun but daring way to discover the city, getting around Rome will never be so fast and furious.  One of the main operators is located at Termini station www.vespastyleroma.it

Rome Bus Network
For getting around Rome the bus network is good, although the well-known tourist routes are often very busy and have every tourist trap conceived.  They can also be slow on heavy traffic routes, stopping frequently at stops, so not always the fastest way to get around.  However tickets are cheap, around €1.50 per journey.

Metro and Tram Network
The Metro system in Rome isn’t that helpful if you’re a tourist wanting to see the main attractions in the old city as the Metro only serves the outskirts.  However if need to get from Termini station to your hotel then you will probably find a metro station relatively nearby to reduce your walking time.  The trains run from 5.30am to 11.30pm and on Friday and Saturday nights to 1.30am.  The tickets can be bought at each station and at newsstands throughout the city, and must be stamped when you get on the train to avoid a fine. The tram system again is limited and designed more for commuters.

Rome by Boat
The River Tiber runs to the west and North of the old city and passes several of the main buildings.  To be honest its nothing like a boat tour through Paris as the banks are deeper and you’re not going to see much on either shore, however if you like a river cruise or you have children who need entertaining then this might be an option for you.  There is a 75 minute hop-on-hop-off tour which covers all of the main bridges, and also a dinner cruise with live music.  This not really about getting around Rome but its a different way to see some of the city.  www.romeboatexperience.com

Taxis in Rome
Like with most cities taxi trips can be expensive especially at busy times where you can be sat in traffic with the meter running.  However, if you’re in a rush to get somewhere and want dropping at the door step then this is a good option.  However when I say ‘doorstep’ that is not always the case as some parts of the old town aren’t car friendly and there are one-way systems so a taxi driver may drop you at the top of the street for you to walk the rest.  SO for getting around Rome a taxi is one of your best options.

For trips to the airport a taxi can be a good idea because the train and bus system isn’t quite fragmented, meaning several changes and a long time to get to either airport.  From the city to Ciampino the cost is set at €30 and to Fiumicino the cost is set at €45.

Standard fares around the city are:
€3 fixed starting fare (€4.50 on holidays, €6.50 at night)
Then between €1.10 – €1.60 per km depending on the length of your journey.  The cost per km goes up the longer your journey.  Sometimes if it’s a long trip its worth negotiating a set charge at the beginning.

There are taxi ranks in most areas of the city often with a long queue of white licensed taxis waiting.  Beware of unlicensed taxis which won’t have a fixed Taxi sign on the roof, or aren’t white vehicles.  The standard of licensed taxis does vary, and you are expected to take the vehicle at the front of the line, but if it doesn’t meet your standards then don’t be scared to ignore them and go to another driver, it won’t win him favours with other drivers but he probably won’t turn you away.


Getting Around Paris

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

So you’ve arrived in Paris and you want to see as much of the City as possible, and take in all the best sights.  How do you get around Paris?

Paris Guided Bus Tour
Our suggestion on arriving in any City for the first time is to take a guided bus tour the first day.  Why?  Because its the quickest way to get orientated.  Stay on the bus for the full tour and you’ll see all the main sights, see what’s close to what, the actual distance between each sight…can be very different to what you see on a map because of hills, pedestrian traffic, etc.  After that (usually 2 hour) tour you’ll been pleased that you’ve seen everything from outside and feel comfortable then to use other means of transport on subsequent days.

One of the best things about the bus tours is that they’re open-top double decker buses so you see the city from a slightly higher perspective than a pedestrian or car, therefore you see the amazing buildings around you, these will be some of the best photos you take on your trip to Paris!

With a lot of the guided bus tours you can hop on and off during the day, so once you’ve done one full route stay on the bus and wait to jump off at one of the first stops you want to visit.  This way during that first day you will probably cover 3 or 4 of your major attractions all for the price of your guided bus tour.  Bus tour tickets often also give you discounted entry to other attractions to keep an eye out for this.

Walking around Paris
I know its old fashioned, but the best way to take in the sights, sounds and culture of a city is to walk around it like a local.  Don’t rush, take your time, open your eyes (even put your camera  phone away for awhile!) and take it all in.  You’ll soon relax and adjust to the pace of the City.  Paris like a lot of European cities is built for pedestrians, there are large open pedestrianised squares and parks, paths to follow, and you can easily walk around the main city centre without having to sue any transport.  You’ll also be able to stop and sit in a cafe for a drink every few hours, and do as the French do and people-watch.

Some of the nicest walks are along the river Seine, up the Champs Elysee, along the main shopping road Boulevard St Germain, through the Jardins du Luxembourg and across the Jardin des Tuileries to the Louvre.  The two islands Ile de la Cite and Ile St-Louis are nice places to walk around as well.

While you’re walking don’t forget to look up occasionally to take in the buildings around you.

Paris Metro
The Paris metro is good for the evenings are for later in your trip when you know your way around and there’s somewhere specific you want to be quickly.  It can also help if you’ve picked a hotel on the outskirts, to get into the center quickly.  It is a cheap way to travel longer distances and very quick as you’d expect.  Metro trains are regular and on time, often just a few minutes in between each one.  The service runs from around 6am to 1am most days with some fluctuation in operating times, so check timetables for your routes.  Late at night you are probably advised to take a taxi rather than the Metro unless you’re confident of the area at both ends of your journey.

Paris Metro tickets are also valid for the trains, trams, Montmartre cable car, and the buses.  A pack of 10 tickets (carnets) costs approximately $16.00 (€14.00).

Paris Train (RER)
For longer journeys outside of the city center you could use the RER train service.  Metro tickets cover zones 1 and 2, but you will need an RER ticket for travel further into the suburbs or to the airport.  We will soon be producing a further page on the train network and how to get to and from teh Airport via train, please be patient, hopefully it will be here soon.

Paris Buses
The bus system in Paris is good but can be slow compared to the metro because of the levels of traffic in the city.  You will also find it difficult to get a seat during peaks hours and when older residents are heading into the city between 9am and 10am.  Buses run from 6.30am to 8.30pm typically, with some night buses running later to major areas.  Bus route maps are available in Metro stations and on some buses.

Taxis in Paris
There are two ways to get a taxi in Paris, wait at a taxi rank or call from your hotel or restaurant for one to pick you up.  Its a slightly more expensive but direct way of getting around Paris, and probably a good option at night to make sure you get to your dinner booking on time, or get back home afterwards safe.  Taxis should have a meter running and best to ensure it is running before you set off so there’s no negotiation at the end!  If you’re going on a longer journey feel free to set a price with the driver upfront so there are no surprises.  A lot of drivers will speak English.

Some things to keep in mind are that some rivers only take a maximum of three passengers so all are sat in the back of the vehicle.  You will be charged extra for luggage, or if you’ve been picked up from a train station.

Cycling in Paris
An ever more popular way of getting a round Paris and most European cities is by rented bicycle.  You can now rent electric bikes, segways, mo-peds and standard bicycles.  The city caters for cyclists with cycle lanes allowing you priority over cars and sometimes pedestrians.  It can be a really nice way to see the city and cut down on walking.  Rental shops will also provide a local so you can secure your bike as you stop off at different places.  There are also bike rental services where you pay at a meter and then leave you bike at another meter to finish your journey.  Prices are around $16.00 (€14.00) per day for a standard bike but will be more for electric bikes.

Paris Boats along the Seine
Another nice way to see Paris is by boat on the river Seine.  The river cuts through the heart of the city and many major sights are on the shores.  The Batobus runs from may to September for peak tourist season and for a $18.00 (€16.00) day pass you can jump on and off the boats from 10am to 9pm to see major sights.

There are also other boat companies that do specific day-time river tours and dinner cruises at night, so if this is of interest its worth checking them out.  They can be busy during peak tourist seasons but ticket numbers are limited for safety reasons.  Interestingly there are also canal tours of Paris which take you deeper into the city.

Paris Tramway
The tram system in Paris is new, launched in 2006 and has four major lines connecting major parts of the large Paris city.  It is more for local city commuters than tourists as it doesn’t really cover the main tourist attractions, but its worth keeping in mind if you’re staying outside the city and want a quick, cheap and reliable route in each day.


How to Travel Between Countries in Europe

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Like the United States, Europe can be viewed as a one major country when it comes to travel.  Although border control is heavy for air traffic, it is less-so for car, train and ferry crossings.  Flights from one country to another can be viewed as domestic flights with typically 1-2 hour flight durations between major cities.  If you’ve got slightly more time on your hands and you want a more scenic journey then travelling by train can be a better option.  Or if you have several weeks and want to discover the real Europe then the best way is by rental car, stopping at towns and National Parks along the way to enjoy each European country at its best.

If you’re planning to just cover the major European capitals like London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam and Berlin you could combine several modes of transportation.  The Eurostar train between London and Paris is fast and convenient.  Ferry’s from England to Amsterdam are frequent and again convenient.  Meanwhile travel to the more Southern capitals such as Madrid, Athens and Rome are best approached by air due to distance.

Planes
European flights are now operated by several low-cost carriers which easily compete with train fares.  Quality is budget with reduced leg-room and baggage allowance (both of which can often be upgraded), however this is reflected in the price with single journeys from around $50-$150.  Something to note is that these budget airlines often achieve their lower prices by using early morning timeslots and secondary airports.  So make sure you’re happy with the travel times and have factored in city to airport transfer costs before deciding if this is better value for your money.

A good website for checking flight options with all operators is www.skyscanner.net.

Trains
Most European capitals are connected by train and with modern tracks and trains this can be the fastest mode of transport once you consider the check-in times at airports.  For example Edinburgh to London with Virgin on their Pendolino route takes 4 hours 20 mins for a 400 mile journey.  With a new service starting December 2016 this journey time will be reduced again to 3 hours 45 mins.

Utilising the Channel Tunnel the Eurostar route from London to Paris takes just over 2 hours.  This service also goes direct to Brussels the capital of Belgium and Disneyland Paris.

From Paris to Rome there is a high-speed rail service which stops in Milan with a total duration of 11 hours 15 mins.  The first leg from Paris to Milan is with the French TGV high-speed service, and then from Milan to Rome with La Frecce, the Italian high speed service.  There are also night train options which take longer but with you able to sleep some of the journey may work out better for some travellers.

Another popular train route is Madrid to Barcelona to take in the two iconic Spanish cities, with a duration of just under 3 hours.  The line is operated by AVE and takes you from one city center to the other.

Automobiles
One of the most relaxing ways to tour Europe if you have the time is to rent a vehicle – I say vehicle because this doesn’t have to be limited to a car, it could be a Campervan, Motorhome, or even motorcycle.  Cars are the cheapest option and so are stick-shift (manual geared) vehicles.


Major European Cities to Visit

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Deciding which cities to add to your European vacation?  Have a look below at a brief description of each city. For Paris and Rome we have more in-depth city guides, with other cities to be added later.

eiffel tower paris

Eiffel Tower

Paris

A true European capital combining a very unique and strong culture with a long history.  The combination of modern and old architecture flow seamlessly.  The Parisians love this city and although they arrogantly look down their noses at visitors, they can be proud of what is a beautifully preserved, laid-out and picturesque metropolis.  The Eiffel Tower is the vertical hub of the city with the River Seine dividing it horizontally.  World class restaurants, museums, art galleries, shopping districts and monuments distinguish Paris as one of Europe’s top visitor attractions.

Top attractions in Paris include:

  • The Eiffel Tower
  • Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame
  • Louvre Musuem
  • Sacre Coeur
  • Musee d’Orsay
  • Jardin du Luxembourg
  • Les Invalides
  • Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe

 

 

big ben london

London

The capital of England is one of the most densely populated and largest cities in Europe and truly cosmopolitan in nature.  It isn’t outstanding in any particular sense, only that it is London and has to be experienced.  Like New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris it just has its own style and ambience, addictive in its draw for visitors who feel they can never get enough because there is so much to do and so many experiences to be had.  Major tourist attractions in London are:

  • Buckingham Palace
  • The Tower of London
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Leicester Square
  • Parliament Square
  • The British Museum
  • South Bank and the London Eye
  • The West End theatres
  • The Shard

 

Rome

An untidy, rugged older brother of European capital cities.  While boasting some of the most distinctive and famous architecture in the world it stills continues to be a lived-in city, tourists taking photos while locals carry on with their lives.  Echoes of Ancient Rome still push through and every corner you turn will see a baroque fountain, crumbling ruin, church or sculptural masterpiece.  Some of Rome’s highlights are:

  • Pantheon
  • Musei Capitolini
  • Foro Romano and Palatine
  • Colosseo
  • Musei Vaticani
  • Trevi Fountain
  • The Spanish Steps
  • Piazza Navona

 

Madrid

The capital of Spain, despite some thinking it’s Barcelona.  It sits high up and enjoys sun most of the year.  Unlike other European capitals it lacks major architectural monoliths, it has no central river, and it’s not particularly a picturesque city.  However it is a buzzing city, the tapas bars and restaurants are welcoming, the beer is cold and crisp ideal for the warm days and evenings, and it has art collections most cities are envious of.  What to see in Madrid:

  • Museo del Prado
  • Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
  • Museo Reina Sofia
  • Palacio Real
  • Parque del Retiro
  • Bario de las Letras and Plaza Santa Ana
  • Plaza Mayor

 

Barcelona

Spain’s second city and Catalan Capital, everything a Mediterranean city should and could possibly be, it is a unmissable major European city destination.  Gaudi’s colourful and unique architecture dots the landscape between imposing Gothic buildings.  Something Barcelona has which very few other European cities have is the beach, the sun and therefore a dual destination in one place, city and beach creating a combine 21st Century culture not to be missed.  Some of Barcelona’s main tourist attractions are:

  • Les Rambles
  • Barri Gothic
  • Sagrada Familia
  • MACBA
  • Passeig de Gracia
  • Museu Picasso
  • Nou Camp Stadium

 

Berlin

The revived capital of Germany and renowned for its modern, young, hip lifestyle.  It is still struggling for an identity but attracts designers, artists, musicians and architects from multi-national backgrounds to help carve its future.  Visitors to Berlin are often drawn to:

  • Brandenburger Tor
  • Mitte and Tiergarten
  • Museuminsel
  • Gendarmenmarkt
  • Potsdamer Platz
  • Unter den Linden

 

Amsterdam

Due to it being set on drained marshland is a flat city with canals guiding its structure.  Cycle and foot traffic is the main means of commuting around the city.  Amsterdam is famous for its liberal attitude toward many moral issues, which attracts some while discouraging other visitors.  However, its rich art collections are worth a visit for sure.  Main visitor attractions in Amsterdam are:

  • Dam Square
  • Nieuwmarkt
  • Rembrandhuis
  • Anne Frank House
  • Rijksmuseum
  • Van Gogh Museum

 

Athens

Another capital city in transition, after having being overhauled for the 2004 Olympic Games, this home of the Olympics has since struggled under the pressures of the economic downturn.  However, the Greek capital still maintains it’s laid back and unique culture, welcoming tourists joyfully while trying to extract as much more from them as possible to fund its economy.  Athens boasts some of the tastiest food in Europe, a fun night-life and some of the best preserved ancient architecture in Europe.  Tourists to Athens come to see:

  • Acropolis and museum
  • Ancient Agora
  • Plaka
  • Benaki Museum
  • Byzantine Museum
  • Lycabettus Theatre

3 Day Paris Itinerary

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Here’s our suggested itinerary for 3 days in Paris, the things to do in Paris when you’ve got a limited time span and you want to cover the main Paris attractions.

Planning Ahead

The key to making the most of your 3 days in Paris is of course planning.  You probably want to find yourself a hotel in the city center or close to a metro stop which provides quick access to the center.  Start early every day, get breakfast out, something light.  Plan to visit the busiest attractions early in the day to avoid the queues.

To avoid queues at most attractions, to get around easily, and make big savings on attraction and travel tickets it’s a good idea to buy The Paris Pass prior to your trip.  These passes which can last for 2-6 days are a one-off payment but then give you unlimited travel on the metro, RER train system and buses; a hop on hop off bus tour of Paris and a river cruise; free entry to all major attractions including the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame, and Palace de Versailles; and even a wine tasting!  These are usually great value for money if you plan to pack your itinerary.

Look at the weather forecast a few days before your visit and make sure you swap your attraction visits around to accommodate rain in particular.  You really don’t want to be at the top of The Eiffel Tower on a cloudy day as you won’t see much at all.  If it’s going to rain there’s plenty to do indoors at the museums and art galleries so plan to be indoors if there are showers forecast.

Day 1

8am-10 am   Bus Tour
We always recommend taking a bus tour on your first day in any European city as you will cover most of the major sights within a couple of hours, and also orientated yourself so you can work out distances and directions from one major attraction to another.

Most bus tours start at The Eiffel Tower but you can usually join it at any stop if you already have your ticket.  As mentioned earlier you get a bus tour as part of The Paris Pass and you can have your ticket upfront so you can join that tour at the most convenient stop for you.

10am-12.00pm   Eiffel Tower and Chaillot
Join what should hopefully be short queues at this time of day for the tower.  The air should be a bit clearer now, but if its cloudy then leave the Tower for early evening.  Unless you’re feeling brave you’re probably best taking the elevator to the top rather than the stairs.  Take in the views, get your photos then head down again.

Now cross the main road toward the river crossing the Pont d’lena up through the terraced Jardins du Trocadero to the Palais de Chaillot.  The views from the Palace over toward the Eiffel Tower are some of the best in Paris.  If they take your fancy some of the museums at Chaillot could be worth a  brief tour, these include Musee de l’Homme, Musee des Monuments Francais and Musee de la Marine.  If you have time stop for a coffee at the Cafe outside the palace where you can watch everyone else rush by.

12pm-2 pm   Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees
Now work your way up Avenue d’lena toward the Arc de Triomphe.  If you just have to, then use your pass or pay to visit the top of the monument.  The views are good but you’ve already seen Paris from the Eiffel Tower so you’re not missing much.  Then head down Champs-Elysees, visiting any of the fancy stores and malls that take your fancy.  You could spend the rest of the day here if you want, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to stop at for refreshments along this main road and the side streets.  Leave some space for afternoon tea though…I’ll explain why in a minute.

2pm-3 pm   Place de la Concorde and Jardin des Tuileries
Presuming you’ve stopped for lunch already on the Champs-Elysees, it’s now a chance to burn off some calories with a leisurely stroll up the remainder of the Champs-Elysees to Place de la Concorde, before crossing into the Jardin des Tuileries.  After a good look around the Place and Jardin it’s probably time for afternoon tea so walk North to the Rue deRivoli where you will find the famous Angelina Tea Rooms at number 226.  Indulge in pastries and a thick hot chocolate.

3pm-6pm   The Louvre
Depending on your appetite for museums and art galleries you may want to spend a  whole day or a just a couple of hours in the Louvre, but nonetheless there’s plenty to see.  Again, if you’ve bought The Paris Pass already you will have free access and can avoid the ticket queues.  Up to you what you see in the Louvre but most people usually want to see Venus do Milo, the Glass Pyramid, the Slaves, the Medieval Moats, and Perrault’s Colonnade on the ground floor.  The Mona Lisa, The Raft of the Medusa, and The Winged Victory of Samothrace on the first floor.  Then up to the second floor to see The Lacemaker.

6pm-7pm  Rest
The early evening is probably a good time to take a rest in a cafe or head back to your hotel to refresh and re-dress for a night out in the city.

7pm onward
If Moulin Rouge is to your taste then book in for the pre-show dinner before settling down to watch the 60 dancing-girls.  Then take a walk around Pigalle and take your choice of night spot for drinks and dancing.

If you’d prefer a quieter more romantic evening then head to one of the many outstanding restaurants in the Invalides area just to the east of The Eiffel Tower.  Most you will need to book in advance, but here you will experience French cuisine at its very best (See our Where to Eat in Paris guide for restaurant ideas).  If the evening is light enough head back up toward the Eiffel Tower which will now be lit up, and over to Chaillot again to see the Tower in its midnight dress, a contrasting but equally spectacular view to the one you saw this morning.

Day 2

9am-12pm   Notre-Dame and the Iles
After a long and tiring day yesterday we’ll allow you a lie-in and a more leisurely day today!  Head to Notre-Dame on Ile de la Cite first thing today to climb the tower if you’re able where you will have a bird’s-eye view of the city.  Then walk along the river to Saint-Chapelle.  Cross the river to the South bank to boulevard Saint-Michel and East along Boulevard Saint Germain to stop at a cafe or look in some of the boutique shops.   When you arrive at the river again cross onto Ile St-Louis and head to Berthillon at 31 Rue St-Louis for ice cream to die for.  Explore the streets of the small island picking up food and drink for a picnic at any epicerie, patisserie, boulangerie or charcuterie that excites your taste buds.

12pm – 2pm   Jardin du Luxembourg
Once you’ve gathered the contents of your picnic head South down Boulevard Saint Michel toward Jardin du Luxembourg.  If it’s not picnic weather then stop off at a restaurant along Boulevard Saint Michel where there’s plenty of choice in terms of good value restaurants.  Otherwise head straight to Jardin du Luxembourg to enjoy your picnic on a bench or sat on your jacket under a tree.  Take an early afternoon stroll around the park and visit the Palais du Luxembourg if you have time.

2pm – 5pm   Pantheon and Latin Quarter
Cross back over Boulevard Saint Michel to the Pantheon which is worth a visit, before exploring the winding streets to the Rue Monge and visiting the Roman Arenes de Lutece.  Stop for a mint tea at one of the cafes before heading into the Jardin des Plantes and the National Museum of Natural History.

5pm – 7pm  Centre Georges Pompidou
Use the Metro or a bus to head North to the Pompidou Centre to spend an hour in the modern art galleries and discover the fountains outside.

7pm onward   Dinner in the Latin Quarter
Walk back down toward Saint Michel and the Iles exploring shops along the way.  Slowly make your way back toward the Seine and pick a restaurant in Saint Germain, Ile St-Louis or Ile de la Cite to your taste and budget (See our Where to Eat in Paris guide for restaurant ideas).  After dinner join a river cruise or visit some of the bars and clubs in the Saint Germain area, whatever floats your boat.

Day 3

9am-12pm   Old Paris
Starting at Pont Neuf take a boat trip (included in The Paris Pass if you have it) along the Seine taking in the city from a new perspective.  When you return to the starting point near Pont Neuf walk along the river side West to Musee d’Orsay to visit the Impressionist galleries to see paintings by Monet and Van Gogh.

12pm – 2pm   Lunch
Have lunch in teh Musee d’Orsay or walk along Rue de Bellechasse to find a restaurant or cafe to your liking.

2pm – 5pm   Les Invalides
After lunch head to the Musee Rodin and visit its beautiful gardens.  After this continue to Les Invalides before heading North toward the river and crossing at Pont Alexandre III.  You can then visit the Grand and Petit Palais.

5pm onward
Time to fill in the gaps if there’s anything you’ve not already seen or missed out.  Other additonal locations people like to visit are Sacre-Coeur via the cable car; Opera de Paris; Galleries La Fayette department store; the Conciergerie; and Place des Vosges.


Major Attractions in Paris

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Eiffel Tower

The major Paris tourist attractions, the ones you’ll regret not having seen are:

  • The Eiffel Tower – which you can’t really miss wherever you stand in Paris!  But its well worth a trip to the top of it on a clear day to see the rest of Paris and take in it’s towering grandeur at the center of the city.  There are several vantage points from which you can best admire the tower, probably the best from Place du Trocadéro.  You should also definitely see the tower by night which is beautifully lit up and quite romantic.
  • Arc de Triomphe – is one of those iconic land marks that has historical significance but isn’t that impressive unless you approach it from the right direction.  Best to start at the bottom of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and walk up past all of the luxury shops towards the Arc.  For a real treat start your walk at Angelina’s café on Rue de Rivoli sampling the thick luxurious drinking chocolate (so thick they give you a glass of water to wash it down).
  • The Louvre – is the famous home of the Mona Lisa, but houses several major art and museum collections.  Around 30,000 exhibits are spread over four floors on three wings, making this the largest museum in the World.  Therefore some planning is required to decide on what to visit and which floors and wings to leave until later.
  • Sacre Coeur – sits above the city and offers stunning views in many directions.  Access to this hill in Montmartre is via terraced steps up its terraced gardens or by cable car, best to take the latter up and former down.  Those visiting the basilica will have the second highest view in Paris (after the Eiffel tower) from the terrace around the dome, with dawn and dusk usually having the most spectacular panoramas.  Montmartre itself is a real tourist trap with artists drawing portraits and caricatures, street artists, plenty of tacky gifts and expensive restaurants and cafes.
  • Jardin du Luxembourg – is an idyllic park in the center of Paris containing the Palais du Luxembourg, a large pond, tree-lined paths, terraced gardens, and an observatory.  Much like the large parks of most cities its a focal point for joggers at all times of day, dog-walkers, sun-bathers in summer months, chess players, book readers, and children playing and riding donkeys.  It also contains several sculptures, fountains, band stand, a bee-keeping school, and an Orangery.
  • Place de la Concorde – is a buzzing hub of traffic, pedestrians, fountains and statues at the Eastern end of Champs Elysees.  At the center of the square is a 3000 year old Egyptian obelisk overlooking eight statues symbolising eight French cities.  Either side of the obelisk are two ornate water fountains.  This is a good starting point for your stroll up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe at the far end, a distance of around 1.5 miles which can be taken very leisurely to soak in the sights along the way.

Paris Museums

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Paris has over 150 Museums dedicated to everything from music to submarines, natural history, the Bible and art. You could easily spend a full day in some of them while others are a brief one-hour discovery.

The most popular Museums to visit are:

Musee du Louvre – where you will find 12th to 19th Century European sculptures, art, paintings, and antiquities. The Louvres is the World’s largest Museum set across three floors containing over 300,000 objects. Among them are Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, Marly Horses, The Raft of the Medusa, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, The Lacemaker, Michelangelo’s sculpture of The Slaves, a Medieval Moat excavation, and Perrault’s Colonnade.

Musee Carnavalet – is a much-visited mansion holding Parisian decorative arts including paintings, furniture, sculptures, and vases. The house is set out like a 17th Century residence and is in excellent condition.

Musee National d’Histoire Naturelle – is Paris’ indoor and outdoor natural history museum located in the Jardins des Pantes.  It has collections of animal skeletons, plant fossils, and dinosaur models.  It is a must-see for any children with an interest in animals and dinosaurs.

Musee del’Homme – is a fascinating and eye-opening collection of ethnological and anthropological artefacts which will delight adults and children alike.  Items such as mummies, shrunken heads and other human rituals are on display, cataloguing human’s history on Earth.

Musee de Montmartre – is a home set in the famous art district which once homed artists as famous as Renoir.  It shows life in the 19th Century along with artefacts of the period.  the surrounding gardens are also beautiful and provide a view over Montmartre.

For a full list of Paris Museums please visit:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_museums_in_Paris


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