A weekend break offers me the insight to discover the true value of a break in Paris and how it compares to London in 2010.
There was a time when Paris was the clear winner as the most visited city in the world, but over the last four years, its has lost the title to London which continues to see visitor numbers on the increase. After a weekend in Paris, I can honestly give some information and opinion to the differences between London and Paris, revealing the one that offers the best value for the cultural budget traveller.
Everyone knows London weather can change within hours and summers are far from perfect, but Paris shares a similar climate. On my fourth visit, in the month of June, I found Paris to be chilled, overcast and hazy. I lacked my jacket to shelter me from the cold winds and showers. Of all my visits, only once actually gave me some weather worth enjoying, on three of my visits it compared no better than London.
On arrival to Paris via Eurostar to Gar du Norte, the best option for a 3-day visit is a Paris Visitors Pass, this will set you back 20euros (€) for unlimited use of the metro, trains and buses (tip: buy on arrival). In London, you can buy a one-week travel card for £26, though one day passes in London easily fetch £5.60 per day, but is still cheaper than the pass in Paris, even with the exchange rates.
I like to judge how expensive a city is by comparing prices of similar items like a McDonalds Value Meal (sandwich, chips, drink) which sell for an average of £3.99 in London, compared in Paris where the same meal will cost 6.80 euros. Ouch! A pint of beer can be purchased in Paris during happy hour for about 3.50 euros, but the normal cost is easily reaching more like 7.00 euros a pint, compared to £3.50-4.00 in London. Dining in restaurants is comparable in both cities depending on the style. Even if you consider the exchange rates, you still pay an average of 30% more for the same items in Paris (and Madrid and Barcelona).
The main reason for visiting London and Paris is for the culture and sites. Paris is well known for being rich with many interesting and historic sites as well as museums and galleries. The Louvre is clearly the best art museum in the world, no-where compares or even comes close to the collection here, the 9 euro entrance is a bargain for the wealth of items on hand to see, and seeing everything in a day is just impossible. There are many more galleries and museums worth visiting, too many to list here.
London also offers many museums and galleries worth visiting, but this will cost you absolutely nothing, they are all free (with few exceptions like the London Eye. The History Museum is a must, along with the Tate Gallery and National Gallery, along with the V&A and Science Museums.
Both cities offer so much for the traveller and visitors, but in a time where everyone is watching what they spend and counting their pennies, London is the clear winner. Paris is a great city and I love going back to see and know it more, but the low value of the British Pound, value for money, free things to see and visit, its no wonder London has overtaken Paris as the number one visited city in the world.