Ask Simon Calder: Paris itineraries - Live coverage - The Independent

Ask Simon Calder: Paris itineraries

Ask our Travel Editor at Large Simon Calder about Paris - getting there, getting around and what to see, from 1300 BST. Post your questions using the 'Make A Comment' button below or tweet them with the hashtag #AskCalder. This event is now closed, but you can read it as it unfolded below.

  • Plane or train?
    7/4/2011 11:58:46 AM
  • ... or bus? Travellers to Paris are spoiled for choice this summer. The answer mostly depends on where you live, and also your sensitivity to your carbon footprint. For travellers from the London area, Sussex and Kent then Eurostar is the most tempting option, which is why the cross-Channel train company has something like 80 per cent of the market. It also boasts a "greener" image than the airlines. However, fares for the summer are high; I just got back last night having spent more than £200 return on a London-Paris return. The Eurolines coach is much slower (typically 9 hours compared with 2h15 on the train), but fares are much lower - and it's the only London-Paris link with WiFi. Also, the carbon footprint is low.
    7/4/2011 12:02:56 PM
  • And, just to pick up on the plane theme - lins from UK airports outside London are very good, making this a sensible option for a short break; but beware the high cost (€9.10 each way) of the train from Charles de Gaulle airport into the city centre.
    7/4/2011 12:04:14 PM
  • One more thing: some people take their own car. The economics of this can be good, with stupendously low ferry fares across the Channel even in the school summer holidays, but driving/parking in Paris itself is a nightmare. Oh, and if you want to have the greenest footprint of all - ride a bike or hitch-hike.
    7/4/2011 12:05:43 PM
  • Is it worth staying in hostels in Paris?
    7/4/2011 12:05:47 PM
  • Definitely. Hotel prices are getting silly: for a clean but cramped family room close to Gare St-Lazare I paid €130 with no breakfast. Great deals are available at the fun Three Ducks Hostel in the 15th arrondissement, and Le Village in Montmartre.
    7/4/2011 12:08:31 PM
  • I'd like to visit Paris, but stay slightly out so it's not too touristy - where would you recommend?
    7/4/2011 12:08:39 PM
  • The superb transport links to central Paris make this a very good option - particularly for people who want to take their own car, then travel in by train. I suggest, though, that you select somewhere that is interesting in its own right, to add an extra dimension to your trip. This could be a recognised tourist destination, such as Versailles or Fontainebleu, or in a lesser-known but very appealing town such as Meaux or Chantilly. Alternatively, get a rail pass (for example from Rail Europe) and use the fabulous TGV trains to base yourself in Lille, Dijon or Poitiers.
    7/4/2011 12:15:46 PM
  • Am visiting Paris in Oct - want to visit Versailles while there - what is best website to do this through?
    7/4/2011 12:15:56 PM
  • October is an ideal time to dodge the tourists in Versailles. There will still be plenty of people there, though, so this is what you need to do. Book tickets in advance at Ths will save you one lot of queuing. Get there five minutes before opening time, and with luck you'll be through the security checks and into the palace 15 minutes later. Explore the palace first, then wander through the magnificent grounds at leisure.
    7/4/2011 12:19:43 PM
  • I have heard about trips in 2CV's that take in Eiffel Tower and all of the Parisienne hotspots. Are there any companies that you would recommend who specialise in this?
    7/4/2011 12:19:54 PM
  • 7/4/2011 12:22:33 PM
  • ... and a bit more about the idea ... it's a great way to see the city in style, though not ideal for the self-conscious because you become a tourist attraction yourself. You might also want to explore the notion of exploring Paris on a quad bike (, but frankly I'd suggest the Velib bike scheme instead - Paris's version of a "Boris Bike", which you can access with a credit card and a bit fo patience in deciphering the instructions. You pay a nominal euro for the day, then a nominal rental for the first half-hour - after which the price rockets. If you can't get there in half an hour on a Velib bike, it's probably not worth going.
    7/4/2011 12:26:19 PM
  • I heard CdG airport has free shuttle buses to take you to the RER train station to take a train to Paris. Is this a frequent service?
    7/4/2011 12:26:30 PM
  • Since the dawn of time, or at least since Charles de Gaulle airport was connected to the suburban rail network, there have been shuttle buses from terminal 1 to the RER. Terminal 3 (the no frills shed) and Terminal 2 have their own stations very close. But if you're struggling with lots of luggage, don't overlook the bus links: Roissybus from all the terminals to Opera in central Paris; bus 350 to Gare de l'Est; and, from Orly, the Air France bus to Invalides.
    7/4/2011 12:29:07 PM
  • If you only have time to visit one museum or gallery whilst in Paris which one should it be?
    7/4/2011 12:29:19 PM
  • The Louvre: sorry to be obvious, but even without the art it is a miraculous palace combining the best of classical architecture with late 20th-century inspiration. Add everything from the Venus de Milo to the Mona Lisa, and you can see the attraction. Incidentally, to dodge the admission fee:the Louvre offers free admission to all on Thursday, 14 July – and also on the first Sunday of every month: dates this year are 7 August, 4 September, 2 October, 7 November and 5 December.
    7/4/2011 12:32:46 PM
  • Also, I would love to eat at the Eiffel Tower as it is my partner's first time there but (a) don't want to break the bank or (b) queue for hours. Any suggestions on that front Simon?
    7/4/2011 12:33:13 PM
  • You won't need to queue for hours to dine at the sky-high Jules Verne restaurant at the Eiffel Tower - but you will need the odd €150 for the set lunch. Instead, get to the tower first thing (Saturday's Independent Traveller will tell you the exact best strategy) then wander along to the lovely nearby Rue Cler to get the makings of a fine picnic from the neighbourhood shops there.
    7/4/2011 12:36:44 PM
  • Also, any undiscovered gems you would recommend to travellers as far as restaurants, attractions are concerned?
    7/4/2011 12:36:47 PM
  • Here's an odd but possibly appealing idea, to do with getting around. RATP, the very good transport authority, has a series of Archi Bus PDFs that show you the sights as you travel around by the capital's excellent bus network. You can discover fascinating corners on 10 different bus routes - and it has been extended to the tram through La Defense, and even Metro Line 6.
    7/4/2011 12:39:37 PM
  • What is the best deal for public transport in and around Paris?
    7/4/2011 12:39:42 PM
  • Paris is a very walkable city, so I make do with a carnet of Metro/bus tickets - 10 for €12.50 from Metro ticket machines, saving you 45c a journey compared with individual tickets. Incidentally, this is the only way to get child reductions (10 for €6.25) for the Metro. If you don't use them, save them for next time or give them away. If you are doing some really intensive travelling, then the Paris Visite pass may be worthwhile: €9..30, 15.20, 20.70 or 29.90 for one, two, three or five days respectively. But it's a pain to buy: you have to queue up at a Metro ticket office, which in the case of Gare du Nord is a real pain.
    7/4/2011 12:44:06 PM
  • Oh, and the boats: while the Bateaux Mouches are fine for a 70-minute there-and-back trip (€11), a smarter move in June, July and August is to use the Batobus up and down the Seine, stopping at the Eiffel Tower, Musee d'Orsay, Notre Dame and elsewhere. These run every 17 minutes (yes, that's 3.53 an hour!) from 10am to 9.30pm daily, and an all-day ticket costs €14; a second day is only €4 more.
    7/4/2011 12:47:41 PM
  • Should I book tickets for Eiffel in advance and if so, how?
    7/4/2011 12:47:57 PM
  • My strong recommendation is that you walk up the first two levels of the Eiffel Tower, for which - maddeningly - online booking is not available. But if you are content to take the lift up, then definitely book and print online or save to your mobile phone at
    7/4/2011 12:50:51 PM
  • Thanks for some excellent questions - all done for today - but do look out for our Paris special on Saturday 9 July. Bon journee.
    7/4/2011 12:51:42 PM
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