Are you looking to take a coach trip to Paris? Are you wondering how to travel to Paris? Do you want to know how to spend 24 hours in Paris? Join us as we take a coach trip to Paris with FlixBus and find the best things to do in 24 hours!
Paris is famous around the world for its attractions, food, and fashion. But unfortunately, it's also gaining a rising reputation for crime! And during our weekend break, we got to experience both sides of the city.
Coach Trip to Paris from Manchester with FlixBus!!
Our coach trip to Paris starts with great excitement... travelling with FlixBus on their new direct route from Manchester to Paris, the only bus company in the UK to offer direct buses from Manchester to Europe!
The total journey time is around 16 hours which Paul is a little apprehensive about, but Sneha has done it many times travelling in India so knows what to expect.
And Paul finds he has nothing to be apprehensive about, the journey is great! With it being an overnight bus it's much less stressful than an airport... board the bus at Manchester, get some sleep, wake up in Paris! (Ok so there is a little more to it then that, but it is a very smooth journey throughout).
We have a passport check at the ferry terminal (and Euro Tunnel on the return), and we get to stretch our legs for a couple of hours on the ferry crossing. The bus is on-time the whole way and it's very clean and comfortable, with Wi-Fi and charging ports onboard.
It also makes a change for Paul from being the driver on our usual road trips, and we use the time to plan what we want to do in Paris… checking out what sites to see, what food to try, and where to do the best shopping. (Paul does find it a little difficult to forget he's not driving at times though, with Sneha saying he's not paying enough attention to the planning for watching the road ahead!)
And it's a great way to reduce our carbon footprint too with the bus producing 9x less CO2 than flying! Routes can easily be booked on the Flix website or app, and they offer over 60 destinations in the UK so it's easy to leave the car behind and take a weekend break in the UK too (and for a lot cheaper than a train!)
We arrive at Bercy bus station at 9.30am with a full weekend ahead of us. We could do with a freshen-up after the long journey, so first stop is for breakfast…
For more info and bookings... FlixBus Website
Where to get breakfast in Paris… La Crème de Paris Notre-Dame
We get a bus into the city, getting off close to Notre-Dame Cathedral and see a cute little café called La Crème de Paris on the corner overlooking the cathedral. Looks perfect… so after a few photos of the cathedral, we head in and get lucky with a table… a few minutes after we sit down there is a long queue outside!
There’s only one choice for our first breakfast in Paris… a croissant and pain au chocolat, with orange juice and coffee!
The pastries are fresh, warm, and flaky, the coffee is strong, and the orange juice is refreshing! (Unfortunately we don’t have any photos of breakfast to add to the blog, more on this to follow…)
Notre Dame Cathedral
Feeling refreshed and refuelled, we’re ready to start our sight-seeing! And we don’t have far to go, crossing the bridge over the Seine to get up close to Notre-Dame Cathedral.
The cathedral was hit by a devastating fire in 2019 so there are extensive building works going on to restore it, meaning large parts are covered in scaffolding and we can’t go inside.
But the two towers at the front of the cathedral are standing firm, uncovered, and give a glimpse of how impressive the cathedral must have been before the fire.
Before we move on we see a lady taking people’s photos with what looks like a huge old fashioned camera. It only costs a donation of our choice for a photo, so we get a snap done and the photo is printed out onto an old looking newspaper… pretty cool!
Île de la Cité
Notre Dame Cathedral is located on Île de la Cité, or Island in the Seine, the historic heart of Paris.
This small island was the birthplace of the city over 2,000 years ago, and has since been influenced by Roman invaders, France's first kings, Medieval and Renaissance architects and builders, and the French Revolution, giving it a unique style and charm.
Sainte-Chapelle Royal Chapel
At the other end of the island from Notre Dame Cathedral is another holy monument, the Sainte-Chapelle.
Whereas much of Notre Dame’s beauty is to see on the outside, Sainte-Chapelle’s is most definitely hidden on the inside!
We haven’t pre-booked tickets though, and with it being late Saturday morning, it looks quite busy! There is a sign saying no entry without pre-booked tickets, so we go online, and to our disappointment it seems there’s only 1 ticket left available for the next 2 hours’ timeslots… damn!
“You go inside and take a look around” Paul says, knowing Sneha will appreciate the beauty of the church more than he will. “Go and try that queue anyway” Sneha says, “you never know, you might be able to get in anyway by saying you’re with me”.
And as luck would have it, I manage to get in as well. So even if you don’t have tickets and the sign says no entry without them, it’s worth asking and trying anyway!
Once inside the courtyard we can see the outside of the chapel, and to be honest it’s not all that impressive in comparison to Notre-Dame or other Churches we’ve visited. It’s quite square, isn’t elaborately decorated, and the spire isn’t very prominent rising from the roof.
Saint Louis at Sainte-Chapelle
We walk into the entrance and enter a quite small room which feels more like a vault, and not quite the spacious high-ceilinged chapel we were expecting.
The Saint Louis room is beautiful though. The vaulted ceiling is a deep blue with gold stars shining in the dim light, edged with red and gold decorations. It feels like we’re walking under a sky of golden stars!
And at the far end of the room is the only real light source, a statue shining bright white, stood under a detailed stained-glass window.
The statue is of Louis IX, or Saint Louis, the King of France who ruled from 1226 until his death in 1270. The whole room feels like an homage to the King!
Sainte-Chapelle Stained-Glass Windows
We take the narrow staircase up to the floor above, not sure what to expect. And as we emerge into the main chapel, we can’t quite believe our eyes… the entire chapel is made from brightly coloured stained-glass windows, flooding the room with colours and light all around.
There are 1,113 windows in all, telling the story from the Old and New Testaments from the Bible. Seeing the windows from the outside gives no indication of the amazing beauty of the inside, and we stand in awe for a while trying to pick out individual windows among the sea of colour and detail.
We recommend booking tickets ahead… Saint-Chapelle Website
The tickets we got for Saint-Chapelle also give entry to another historic site on Île de la Cité, the Paris Conciergerie.
A former courthouse and prison, it was originally part of the Royal Palace which also included Sainte-Chapelle, and two large medieval halls remain from the days of the palace.
What makes the visit here different and really interesting, is that we get iPads at the entrance, and as we explore the rooms there are codes to scan which then show us what they would have looked like during the medieval times and tell the story behind the scenes.
The architecture of the rooms is impressive, but it is quite plain inside, so this feature makes the place really come to life!
At the end of the tour we see the prison cell of Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France before the French Revolution and France becoming a Republic.
On show are some of Marie Antoinette's belongings, although questions around the authenticity of some of them is detailed, and the iPad takes us through the story of her imprisonment and eventual execution.
Pont au Change & Pont Neuf
The Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris crossing the Seine, standing since the 17th Century.
Photo-bombing our view of the bridge, the Eiffel Tower, and the dome of the Hôtel des Invalides though, are a line of police vans queued on the bridge somewhat spoiling the view!
There seems to be a large protest going on in the city centre today, and with riot police everywhere, there seems to be a slightly uneasy atmosphere as we wander around.
Where to have lunch in Paris… Le Reynou Bistro
It’s starting to rain as we walk along the side of the Seine, so we take shelter in Le Reynou Bistro on the side of the street which has a fresh crêpe kitchen outside. Crêpes were on our must try list, so seems like a perfect spot to have lunch too!
They also have another of our must try dishes on the menu… Steak Tartare. So along with a beer and a Mimosa, it’s not a hard choice for what to have!
And it’s a good order… the steak tartare is delicious, very soft and succulent and full of flavours. And the crêpe topped with sugar has a lovely, sweet warmth to it to finish the lunch nicely.
Paris Pickpockets… Subway and Shopping Districts
After a great morning exploring and eating, this is where our trip goes wrong.
With Paris being so famous for shopping, we’re heading to Galeries Lafayette, an upmarket department store selling famous French and international fashion brands.
Taking the underground is the best way to get there, and despite it being uncomfortably busy and crowded, it’s easy enough to navigate, and we exit the subway at the Chaussée d'Antin station.
Having been in the crowds we’ve been careful to keep our hands on our valuables, but as we emerge from the station, in a split-second Sneha shouts that her phones gone… someone’s taken her phone!!
We frantically look around but it’s just a sea of people. 4pm on a Saturday afternoon outside the biggest department store in Paris, it must be one of the busiest places in the city.
Not being able to see anyone or anything suspicious, we rush inside the shop and speak to security… and they couldn’t be less helpful! Despite the crime happening directly underneath one of their CCTV cameras, and within view of at least 2 more, they can’t do anything. Other than give us the address to the nearest Police Commissariat.
We spend the next hour trying to track the location of the phone, blocking it, and calling up to cancel bank cards linked to the phone. Before heading to the Police station.
The station is set up with a queuing system, a roped off area under a makeshift cover so people can wait outside, keep dry, and not block the pavement. And in front of us in the queue are 2 girls who have also had their phones stolen!
The policeman says they’re too busy tonight to do anything so we need to come back tomorrow. And after we explain that the theft happened directly under a CCTV camera, he says “CCTV is not used in that way here in France so it can’t help.” We’re a little confused by this… what is CCTV used for then if not to investigate crimes?!
The police are absolutely no help the following day when we return either. After filling in a form and making us wait for over 3 hours, they say there’s nothing they can do as “this happens so often here we don’t investigate”. Well, if they don’t investigate, no wonder it happens so often! Where is the deterrent?!
Feeling very disappointed, angry, frustrated, and violated, we give up and decide to try and make the best of what little time we have left in Paris.
See the end of this blog for our tips to try and stay safe in Paris.
Where to Stay in Paris... TimHotel Montmartre
After the drama of the afternoon, we head to Montmartre where we’re staying for the night.
Montmartre is an area perched on top of a hill in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Having been a separate village before being engulfed by the expanding city, it has retained its small village feel and charm.
The narrow-cobbled streets give off a completely different feel than the busy city centre, and the architecture and artistic atmosphere make it quite a unique place.
We’re staying at the TimHotel Montmartre, a 3-star hotel close to the famous Sacré-Cœur Basilica and located on a pretty little square.
The room is quite small but is clean and comfortable and has everything needed for a short stay. But the real selling point of the hotel are the views. We had a Superior room with the City View, and I don’t think you’ll find a better view in all of Paris!
Being on top of the only hill in the city, we can see right across the whole area and pick out all of the famous landmarks. And towering over everything else, lit up against the dark night sky, is of course the Eiffel Tower.
The view is worth staying here alone, but the hotel offers good value for money compared to some of the other, much more expensive, hotels we looked at too.
For bookings… TimHotel Montmartre Website
Where to Eat in Montmartre… La Parts de Agnes
Still feeling very deflated at how our afternoon turned out, and with the weather also having changed to heavy rain now, we’re not much in the mood to go out exploring this evening.
So we go to the closest restaurant to the hotel we find, and what a surprise hidden gem we find!!
La Parts de Agnes is a small rustic restaurant offering French cuisine, and when we walk in we can tell its only locals in here and definitely not a tourist trap!
The menu is a short and simple specials board only in French, which we try and make sense of with the help of the friendly waiter. He’s great in explaining everything to us and making his recommendations, and we follow his suggestions of the snails to start, followed by duck breast and a pork dish. The food is accompanied by some recommended red wines, a local Merlot and a Languedoc.
The snails aren’t like what we’ve had before, these come still in their shells and we have to prise them out with clasps and a lobster style fork! They are really tasty though, soft and juicy, and not slimy or how we would expect at all. The duck breast and pork are cooked perfectly… tender and rich, and accompanied well with the potatoes and vegetables they’re served with.
To book a table… La Parts de Agnes Website
Best Things to do in Montmartre… Sacré-Cœur Basilica
The most famous sight to see in Montmartre is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, a huge white domed cathedral with views over the whole of Paris.
The steps in front of the Basilica are a popular spot for people to gather and watch the sunset, although there was no chance of a sunset last night with the rain!
The steps are still busy today with lots of people gathered to take photos, and the queue to go inside is even busier. It’s free to enter and you can’t pre-book tickets, so with the size of the queue and with us having to go to the Police station soon, we don’t have time to go inside unfortunately.
The outside is still mesmerising to look at though! The huge some is flanked by 2 smaller domes, and the arched entrance has 2 statues… 1 of King Saint Louis, and the other of Joan of Arc. The green statues are symbols of “what’s right” (shame the local Police don’t share this symbol), and they are the only colour contrast standing out against the totally white Basilica!
For more information… The Sacré-Cœur Basilica Website
Exploring Montmartre… Place du Tertre
Place du Tertre is a public square close to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and well worth an explore too.
The square is lined by cafés and restaurants and is a bustling centre for artists to paint portraits and sell their pictures of Parissian scenes.
The atmosphere here is so different from that in the city centre, and as we explore we’re passed by some traditional Citroën 2CV’s to only add to the ambience! They are organised city tours, but that doesn’t take anything away from seeing them, and what a cool way to see the area too!
The Louvre… Highlights to See
Everybody who visits Paris knows about The Louvre.
The museum and art gallery is home to possibly the most famous painting of all time in the Mona Lisa, as well as one of the most sculptures in the Venus de Milo. And it’s also home to the French Crown Jewels.
We need to make our visit a quick whistle-stop tour to be able to reach the Eiffel Tower, having lost most of our afternoon.
So after getting through the long security lines, we make our way straight to see the highlights we want to see… starting with the Mona Lisa.
The Mona Lisa at the Louvre
The Mona Lisa masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci has been described as "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world". And yet the painting is a lot smaller than you might think, and it’s unfinished!
The landscape behind the portrait of Lisa Gherardini was never finished, with parts of it barely even sketched! Leonardo started the experimental painting in 1503 and carried it around with him everywhere, until in 1516, King Francois I bought it and added it to the French Collection despite it being incomplete.
Seeing the world’s most famous piece of art up close is awe-inspiring, especially for an artist like Sneha. But the room is crazy busy, with hundreds of people jostling and pushing to get the best viewing (and selfie!) position, which spoils the experience for Paul a little… it’s just far too busy!
The Venus de Milo at The Louvre
After the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo is probably the next most famous piece at The Louvre.
A Greek statue thought to be of Aphrodite, it’s been on show in The Louvre since 1821. And much of its fame is due to a huge branding campaign by the museum!
Having returned large parts of its looted collection following the Napoleonic Wars, The Louvre was left with a big gap and its reputation for culture was suffering. So upon housing the Venus de Milo, it set out on a mission to hype it up as one of the most important Classical pieces of Greek antiquity, even hiding the dates of origin, showing it was from after the Classical period.
The propaganda worked, and the Venus de Milo became perhaps the most famous Greek statue in the world… that’s some good PR from The Louvre team!
The statue is in the Sully Wing of the museum, and to our surprise it’s a lot quieter here than the Mona Lisa room was. And we can get a lot closer to the statue too… we can almost reach out and touch it!
Walking further into the wing we see lots of other Greek, Etruscan and Roman statues, some beautiful, some missing some key bodily parts (which makes Paul grimace at the thought!), and some giant! The giant Pallas of Velletri at the opposite end of the gallery towers over Sneha as she poses next to it!
The French Crown Jewels at The Louvre
In-between seeing the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, the French Crown Jewels are the 3rd highlight we see.
The Crown of King Louis XV, Côte de Bretagne, and emerald and diamond sets belonging to past Kings and Queens are all on show. And the room itself is almost as elaborate as some of the pieces on show.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace & Art Collections at The Louvre
But while it’s amazing to see the world-famous pieces of art and Crown Jewels, one of our favourites is the Winged Victory of Samothrace sculpture which stands at the top of the stairs outside the Mona Lisa room (not that this isn't world famous of course!). The statue is of the goddess Nike, dates from 190BC, and although is missing the head and arms, is very impressive standing at over 5 metres tall on top of a ship’s bow.
Walking between the different galleries and rooms to find the highlights of The Louvre, we pass loads of other pieces of art and history which we can’t give enough time to unfortunately.
We see the Great Sphinx of Tanis from around the 26th century BC! We see pieces of the Parthenon Marbles, which takes us back to our trip to Athens and the Acropolis earlier this year. And we see lots of artworks, our picks being The Flood and Burial of Atala, both by Girodet, and The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David.
With our quick visit of The Louvre over, we have just enough time to take a photo with the glass Pyramid, before catching a bus to our next and final stop in Paris…
For more information and tickets… The Louvre Website
The Eiffel Tower
One of the modern Wonders of the World, the Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris and of France. And having seen it from a distance all weekend, it’s the last stop for us on our weekend in Paris.
The daylight is starting to fade and night is fast approaching, so we want to get there quickly before it gets too dark.
Champs de Mars
We get off the bus at the edge of the Champs de Mars, planning to walk to the centre and get some good photos of the Eiffel Tower with the sun-setting behind it. Only as with most things this weekend, Paris seems to have other ideas for us… most of the park is fenced off so we can’t go in!
We rush through the side paths with glimpses of the Eiffel Tower showing through the overhanging trees as the sky is getting darker. And we emerge just as the Tower is starting to shine, with the last colours of sunset fading behind it.
It looks amazing close up, and as we’re taking photos the tower starts to flash too!
We walk around the perimeter of the fence trying to find a way to get closer and find another long queue to get through the security check! And then once in, there’s another queue to get tickets to go up the Tower… this weekend has involved A LOT of queuing!
Levels of the Eiffel Tower
There are 3 different levels to visit… the 1st floor has a restaurant, the 2nd floor a viewing platform, restaurant, and some shops, or we can go all the way to the top!
There’s no point coming this far and not going the whole way, so 2 tickets to the top it is!
There are stairs we can take but it looks a loooong way up, so we opt for the lift. The first lift stops at the 2nd floor which gives great views all around of Paris, but we want to go higher, and so we join yet another queue for the list to the summit.
The lifts are fast and whizz us up in no time, giving a unique perspective travelling up the inside of the Eiffel Tower… we can see the ironworks up-close.
The Top of the Eiffel Tower
We finally make it to the to the top and we can see all across Paris, but as is often the case, Paul points out that we can’t see the best sight as we’re stood on it!
The city twinkles below us and although it looks great, Sneha wishes we’d been able to come earlier and see it in the daytime too.
After a long and stressful weekend we finally have the chance to just stand and admire the view for a while though, and reflect on a weekend that had promised so much, but hasn’t quite turned out as expected.
Where not to Eat in Paris… La Terrasse Bercy
Before catching the FlixBus home from Bercy terminal, we stop for a final meal to fill up for the journey.
We head towards a restaurant we find on Google which looks like it serves good French food and is highly rated, but when we arrive it’s closed. So we walk the street and find another restaurant a few doors down to La Terrasse Bercy...
The steak Sneha orders is not good at all, there is hardly any meat it’s all fat. And they don’t have Pau’s first choice, so he orders the mussels. They are ok, but the sauce is quite bland and tasteless.
Other Recommended Paris Food Spots
There were some other good foods spots we tried when walking around the city... a ham and cheese baguette from Artisan Boulanger M. Denis (which we ate while sat in the police station!). And pastries and macaroons from Le Valentin Jouffroy inside the beautiful Le Passage Jouffroy.
Troven Moments from our Coach Trip to Paris
Maybe our feelings about the weekend are tainted by our experience of having Sneha’s phone stolen, but it’s not a city we would return to.
But, if we were to return at some point in the future, we’d be tempted to just stay in Montmartre and not venture into the rest of the city. The village on the hill is postcard perfect, and just what you would expect from Paris if you have a romantic view of the city from watching TV shows and movies. Small cobbled streets, patisseries baking fresh croissants, bistros serving traditional French food and wine, stunning architecture, and amazing views of the Eiffel Tower and the rest of the city. Definitely our favourite part of our weekend!
The Eiffel Tower is the symbol of the city and of France itself, and no visit to Paris is complete without a visit to it. Seeing it at dusk and at night is even more special, as it lights up in the night sky and sparkles every hour, while shining a bright beam across the rest of the city.
How to stay safe in Paris and not fall Victim to Pickpockets
After our bad experience we want to help others not suffer the same fate as we did when visiting Paris (and other major tourist hotspots).
And while the safest way to keep your belongings safe are to keep them hidden and locked away in bags or even your hotel room, we understand only too well the need to constantly have your phone or camera out and unfortunately on show to take photos and videos, making them visible to any potential thieves.
So, here are our top tips to keep your belongings safe, which we’ll also be more vigilant in following on future trips…
Use a strap for your phone
Use a Wrist strap or a lanyard case to keep hold of your phone. There are many available on Amazon and other sites for only a few pounds, and having your phone attached to your body makes it a lot more difficult for someone to pickpocket it or snatch it from your hand. For added security you can also loop the strap through a belt loop if you keep your phone in your pocket.
Keep your phone in hidden pockets
Wear a scarf with a hidden pocket. If you don’t have any secure pockets, you can get very useful and stylish scarfs with hidden zip pockets in. This allows you to zip your phone secretly away on your chest, making it easy to access but very difficult to steal.
Try not to look like a lost tourist
If you’re using your phone for directions, then consider using headphones to listen and keep your phone hidden away. This will make you look more confident and less like you’re lost when walking, and means you don’t have your phone on show. Just be careful when wearing headphones as they can make it more difficult to stay alert and aware to your surroundings.
Don’t blame yourself!
No matter how careful you are though, it’s also best to be prepared in case your phone is lost or stolen.
The most important thing to do is remember… IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT! You are the victim, and these pickpockets aren’t random chancers, they are professionals who do this for a living.
Sneha’s phone for example was transported from Paris to Algeria in a matter of days from being stolen… this is big business, so they know what they’re doing!
If it happens to you then it’s important to act fast and make sure your data is secure. With our lives stored on our phones, from bank cars and apps, social media accounts, passwords and locations, it’s important to make sure any thieves can’t access any of this information.
Secure your phone & back up your data
As well as having your phone locked with a password or biometric logins (fingerprint or facial recognition), make sure your data is backed up, either to cloud storage like iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, or Google Drive.
And make sure you have a way to remotely block your phone and delete the data to stop any thieves from gaining access to your phone’s contents if they do manage to get through your lock screen.
Below are some helpful articles if you’re not sure how to do this. These features sometimes need to be enabled before you travel though, so make sure you set up the necessary permissions to be able to do these when travelling…
Apple… iCloud Lost Mode
Samsung… Find My Mobile
Other Android… Google Help
Have a backup way to pay
And, very importantly, make sure you have back up means to pay for things if you usually use your phone to pay. There’d be nothing worse than being stuck without your phone or any money!
Carry bank cards and/or some cash in a safe place like a money belt, or keep them tucked away in a bag or your hotel room in a safe if possible.