The breathtakingly beautiful capital city of France is particularly stunning after dark, when its main iconic buildings are lit up in gold. Without a doubt it is a romantic city but there is plenty to see and do if you are solo in Paris too…
How to get there
I booked a return economy flight with Vueling which took approximately 45 minutes from London Gatwick to Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris. Due to engineering works no trains were running from the airport to Gard du Nord that day. This happens at weekends sometimes, though a bus replacement service is provided instead. However, I discovered that directly outside the airport terminal, shuttle buses run every 15-20 minutes.
Buses run from Platform E to Opera, where one of Paris’ popular tourist attractions, Opera Garnier is located. My hotel was a 10 minute walk from here so it made sense to travel on this bus, rather than getting a bus to Gard du Nord and then taking the Metro.
Tickets can be purchased from a machine on the platform. A single journey costs Euros 13.70. Payment can be paid by card (not American Express) or coins (not notes).
The bus was a stopping servicing and took around an hour and a half. However, the weather was particularly wet and windy, so may take less time on a fine day. The roads seemed extremely busy and chaotic in a lot of areas in Paris so, unless you are a very confident driver, I wouldn’t recommend hiring a car!
On arriving at the bustling square, Place de l’Opera you cannot miss the imposing Opera Garnier with its impressive architecture.
A ten minute walk took me to my hotel. I can recommend it if you are solo in Paris. Firstly, it is in a quiet street so I slept well and secondly, it is close to restaurants and main attractions. The 3 star hotel was cost effective at £75 for the night and was extremely clean and comfortable. Breakfast is served between 7am-10am at an additional charge of Euros 12. Additionally, there is a small lounge area.
My Room at Paris Louvre Opera
I chose a standard double room. It was small with limited space around the bed but the space saving furniture framing it was great, including hanging space and cupboards. The room also comprised a small fridge, telephone, a safe, wall mounted TV and tea and coffee making facilities. The ensuite bathroom was fitted with a good sized corner bath with overhead shower.
Reception is manned 24 hours a day and a number of attractions can be booked from here. The receptionist spoke very good English and was friendly. She provided me with a complimentary map of the City.
Big Bus Paris – Hop on hop off bus tour
A few minutes walk from the hotel is a main bus stop for the Big Bus Paris. When a ticket is purchased after 4pm, the one day ticket does not start until the next day, giving you a few extra hours free of charge. As it was approaching close to 5pm I took advantage of this and purchased a one day ticket for Euros 39 from the driver and paid an additional Euros 9 to include a one hour river cruise along the Seine. With just 24 hours solo in Paris, I jumped onboard straight away. By going upstairs on the open top deck of the bus, I had a great view of the City by night. This was a good way to familiarise myself with the city.
Big Bus Paris Routes
Big Bus Paris has 2 routes, a red route and blue route. I highly recommend the Red Route at night as you get to see areas of the city as the sun sets and after dark, the main attractions are illuminated in gold which is truly stunning to see….
The Red Route
The red route takes in many of Paris’ main tourist attractions including …
- The Louvre
- Grand Palais
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Avenue des Champs Elysees and..
- L’Arc du Triomphe
Waterproof ponchos are provided if the weather is wet and earphones are included for the audio commentary which is in a choice of 12 languages. The commentary provides you with interesting facts and amusing stories about French history.
When the route was complete, I had arrived back where I started, close to my hotel. This allowed me to explore my local area and check out places for dinner. I discovered a number of busy Japanese restaurants, but I was looking for French food. And there it was, La Rotunde St Honore, a French brasserie.
The restaurant was quite eye catching on the corner of Rue St Honore. There are choices of outdoor seating areas, a conservatory with heaters which allows smoking and a large indoor area.
Inside, the ambience was relaxing with soft music playing and dim lighting from the lamps which gave the restaurant a golden glow. Clientele was a mix of solo diners, couples and families.
The menu at La Rotunde St Honore was extensive serving a range of traditional French cuisine. The steak I ordered was tender and full of flavour. This was served with crisp fries and a side salad.
My waiter for the evening, Ugo, offered exceptional service with a smile, spoke great English and was attentive throughout the meal. I don’t usually have dessert but he highly recommended the profiterole. It was outstanding. Choux pastry cooked to perfection, filled with vanilla ice cream with hot, dark chocolate sauce poured over it at the table!
I could think of nothing better when I woke up than to take a leisurely stroll via Place de la Concorde, to find a place to have coffee and croissant along the Champs Elysees.
The bright pink cafe with metallic pillars caught my eye. Cheery, modern music played and it was in a prime location for a great view of the Champs Elysees while enjoying my coffee and croissant.
The buttery croissant was very enjoyable but the cappuccino was weak. Total cost was Euros 11 so I am sure there are places tucked away in the side streets which would have been cheaper. However, it’s not often you can say you are having breakfast along the Champs Elysees, arguably the most famous avenue in the world, so I was prepared to pay the extra.
After breakfast, I allowed a couple of hours to explore The Champs Elysees. It is almost 2km in length and lies between two famous squares…
Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde is Paris’ largest square. The obelisk marks where the guillotine stood during the French revolution. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were both executed here.
Place Charles de Gaulle and L’Arc de Triomphe.
The iconic monument built to honour all those who died and fought in the Napoleonic wars and French revolution.
Avenue des Champs Elysees is packed with shops including high end designer stores, the famous French, upmarket Department store, Las Galerias Lafayette and well known high street brands such as H&M, Zara and Gap. Shopping here is a great activity if you are solo in Paris.
Close to the Arc de Triomphe, I was able to get back onboard my Big Bus Tour which took me to the Eiffel Tower. It was here where I could pick up a river cruise from Platform 3.
River Cruise along The Seine
Platform 3 was easy to find. I was a little early for the cruise so stopped for a light lunch in the adjoining restaurant, Le Bistro Parisiene.
This restaurant is in a beautiful location on the dock adjoining the entrance area for the cruise. It has breathtaking views of the Eiffel Tower and the River Seine from here.
The pumpkin soup I ordered was outstanding. It was rich and creamy topped with chestnuts and served with complimentary crusty French bread. I highly recommend stopping by for a full meal or light lunch here.
The cruise sails steadily along the Seine for an hour. This is a wonderful activity if you are solo in Paris. The daytime sail was a mixed set of passengers including other solos, couples and families. During the cruise you pass many points of interest and Paris attractions including the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral. It was sad to see the damage following the recent fire. Audio commentary is available via earphones in the lower deck of the boat or by connecting to your mobile phone up on the top deck.
I made my way back to the Louvre area for an early tea. The restaurant served a wide range of traditional French dishes, salads and burgers. I settled for a delicious Croque Monsieur at a super restaurant, Le Musset. The outdoor dining area had heaters and flowers above the tables. It was a great place to sit and watch the world go by, looking out onto the Parisienne streets.
The Blue Route
From here, I picked up the blue route of the bus tour. It passed through the more seedy streets of Paris, in the same strip as world famous Moulin Rouge.
Gare du Nord was the next stop, so I was able to get my return train to Charles de Gaulle airport from here.
GARE DU NORD
This is a huge and busy train station in the North of Paris. Outside the station is a fascinating sculpture, The Melting House, which represents climate change.
Purchase a ticket from one of the machines or members of staff who wander around the area who can also provide you with a ticket. A single ticket to the airport costs Euros 10. Platform 43 offers frequent trains to the airport. Check which terminal you are flying from as there are two stops to Charles de Gaulle airport. The first stop serves terminal 3 which I needed for my return to Gatwick.
Suggested Further Reading:
Solo Travel Destinations – Reviews and recommendations of other destinations I have travelled to alone