This is the story of how I travelled to Paris and back home in a day without flying. I arrived in Paris before 11AM, and left town just after dinner. Paris is perhaps one of my favourite cities on the planet, so I try to go back as often as I can! Here’s how it went.
7:58 – Thalys departure from Rotterdam Central Station
That’s right. I took a train to Paris. I’m fully used to short-distance train trips as the Dutch government gives me free domestic train travel on weekdays during my time at uni, but I weirdly enough never got around to taking a high speed train. Instead of having to be at the Airport at some time that most definitely should be spent sleeping, I arrived at Rotterdam Central Station just 10 minutes before the train to Paris was scheduled to leave. Talk about an easy extra hour of sleep! Just 10 minutes after leaving the station, we were zipping trough Dutch countrysides at around 250 kilometres per hour, entering Belgium just 20 minutes after leaving the station.
2 hours and 50 minutes later, we were in Paris. Not Charles de Gaulle airport, we were right in the city, at Gare du Nord. Way faster than we would’ve been if we would have flown there!
10:50 – Thalys Arrival at Paris Gare du Nord
So, now you are in Paris. Now what? My idea was to plan some sort of itinerary on the train, but I was in Paris before I realized it, and didn’t get around to it. Here’s to exploring Paris on the fly! I had been to Paris a couple times before, so at least I was familiar with the city layout and metro system.
First stop: Sacré-Cœur. This roman basilica is a feat on itself, but also comes with sweeping views of Paris. At least, usually it does. It was foggy when I got there, no views for me. Anyway, I’d seen it before, no big deal.
The Sacré-Cœur is built on top of Montmartre, a big hill and city district in Paris known for it’s “Artsy Parisian Vibe”. Full of boulangeries and Salles à manger, this area is full of tourists and tourist traps. We were greeted by friendly people who wished us all the best and “gave” us a bracelet before we knew it. When they learned that we didn’t have any cash on us, the mood changed to “go to hell”. Be mindful of these – and plenty of other – tourist traps, or you’ll be out of money rather quickly.
Lunchtime! Paris – and France in general – is known for freshly baked bread. Head into any boulangerie and bite into croissants better than what you are used to. Pretty much guaranteed. There are so many different bakeries all over the city, that we recommend just finding one of your own. Have a coffee or jus d’orange alongside your meal and enjoy your amazing budget lunch. If you’re made of money, just ask for the nearest cuisses de grenouilles or escargots.
14:00 – More sightseeing
After lunch we got in the Metro. The Parisian Metro Network is a great way of getting around the city quickly. We hopped on the train to Assemblée Nationale, on the other side of the Seine River. The Seine is an excellent starting point to see a big chunk of the city in a short time. Walk along the boulevards, cross the many bridges, and just take it all in.
Following the river, you’ll find the Jardin des Tuileries, the louvre, the Royal Palace, Pont Neuf and the Notre Dame (Yes, the one that was on fire). All of these are must-see places if you’ve never been before, and their proximity to each other makes that rather easy.
17:00 – Back to the train station
After the last pics for the gram, and the last quick look at Parisian architecture, we jumped back on the metro to Gare du Nord. We planned to have dinner at the station before catching our Thalys back to holland, but that proved tougher than expected. We found a surprisingly low amount of food options at the train station. The only options we eventually found were diverse; Burger King, McDonalds and Five Guys. We recommend you eat before getting back to the station, or you’ll be eating fast food in Paris. Anyway, the chicken nuggets were good.
A quick 3 hours later, we arrived back in Rotterdam. That’s how you go to Paris, explore the city, and back in just over 12 hours. If you get around to visiting paris, be sure to let us know in the comments or on instagram!