London vs Paris: Which is the Better Vacation Destination? (2024)

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Planning your trip to Europe and considering London vs Paris? Here’s everything you need to know to choose the right city for you!

I love both London and Paris, and I can see why it would be hard to choose one when planning your European vacation. These capital cities in Europe both have wonderful food, iconic landmarks, great public transit, and are on many travelers’ bucket lists. 

When I sat down to write this post, I struggled to choose one to recommend. I especially love Paris, but I’ve also met a number of travelers who didn’t enjoy their trips. Paris is a bit more difficult to plan and navigate than London, both because the city is French-speaking and it can be challenging to find great food without some recommendations. 

I am including all of my best advice for visiting both London and Paris. I’ll highlight the biggest differences that you should consider when choosing a destination, and all of my top places to visit and things to do. 

London vs Paris

London vs Paris: Which City Is Better To Visit?

Truthfully, I love both of these cities and don’t think that there’s an obvious choice. Paris is beautiful and timeless, with expansive parks, wonderful restaurants, and remarkable architecture. You can walk along the River Seine and stop for a quick picnic. 

That said, if I could only visit one London or Paris for the rest of time, I’d pick Paris. Known as the “City of Light” because it was the first city in Europe to use gas lighting in its streets, Paris is home to lots of intriguing history, unforgettable buildings, and classic cuisine. After visiting once, I’ve found myself returning again and again to explore new areas, visit my favorite spots, and, of course, eat plenty of crepes. 

However, I’ve met other travelers who feel strongly in the opposite direction. They found Paris to be a bit brash and the food to be unremarkable, and they strongly preferred London’s grandeur and English-speaking approachability. All of that is to say that there’s no single answer to which city is the best to visit! 

As someone who loves both cities, I can see why Paris sometimes gets a bad rap. It isn’t the easiest city to navigate, despite being a major city in western Europe. It’s also not necessarily simple to find great food, especially if you’re not used to hoofing it around for an entire trip. 

In this post, I’ll give you all of my top tips to avoid the pitfalls of both cities and hopefully help you to have the best possible trip in the UK or France.

Green trees line the River Seine in Paris in the summertime
River Seine in Paris

About London

London is a rather large city, only slightly larger than New York in terms of population. Despite having a similar population (London is home to about 9 million people, New York City is about 8.4 million), London is much less densely populated. In fact, London is about 50% larger than New York City by landmass. 

As the capital of the United Kingdom, London is one of the world’s most infamous cities. It is known for being cosmopolitan, with an abundance of theaters, restaurants, landmarks, and museums. London is an expensive city to visit, but it enjoys enduring popularity among travelers of all ages. 

One of the most iconic things to do in London is to have high tea in the afternoon. Afternoon tea is available at hotels and restaurants throughout the city, complete with finger sandwiches and other treats. 

Why I Love London

I waited many years to visit London, mostly because I had other places that I wanted to visit first. However, I had the chance to go on a five day solo trip in early 2023, and since then I’ve been back a few times. I’m sure I’ll continue to go back again and again because it is a wonderful city with fabulous food and almost endless activities to try. 

London is a large, metropolitan city with excellent theaters, free museums, and beautiful parks to explore. I spent my entire trip exploring the city, with guidance from a Londoner that I’d met a few days prior in Norway. I went to her favorite spots, from the most iconic (Buckingham Palace) to the niche (her favorite Taiwanese restaurant in Tooting). 

I’ve continued to return to London because I always feel like I find some fabulous new place to explore when I go. On a recent trip, I walked along the canal from Little Venice to Camden Market (and actually a little further to reach Word on the Water, a floating bookbarge). 

I smile in front of large buildings in the London skyline
A photo of me near Tower Bridge in London.

About Paris

Paris is the capital of France and the fourth-largest city in Europe. Each year, about 44 million people visit Paris, often for trips of a lifetime that they’ve been planning for years. As a result, you’ll see lots of visitors, especially during the peak months from June to September. 

There are so many reasons to visit Paris. The city boasts incredible architecture, from its iconic bridges to the facades on many of the city streets. Whether you decide to visit Paris for a weekend or a full week, you’re unlikely to run out of things to do. 

French is the first language of most people living in Paris, so you’ll see and hear it spoken nearly everywhere you go. As a practical matter, most young Parisians speak English, but it’s not a given. So, it’s helpful to learn a few words of French before you go, both to be polite and to navigate when communicating with non-English speakers. 

Why I Love Paris

When my partner suggested that we include Paris on the itinerary of our first trip to Europe, I was hesitant. I thought that Paris would be overrated and overly touristy, and I was worried that it wouldn’t feel “authentic” enough. My fears were put to rest nearly immediately when I visited Paris; I fell in love by the end of my first day in the city. 

I loved visiting Parisian bars, exploring the city’s architecture, trying different foods, and peeking into the beautiful boutiques. I don’t speak French, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning a few words to get around. The wonderful, cheap wine in Parisian grocery stores was another bonus – for only €3 I could enjoy an entire bottle of French wine! 

I’ve been back to Paris many times since that first trip, and each time I love it a little more and in a different way. One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to simply wander around and admire the city’s architecture and movements. There are always little shops, boutiques, and grocery stalls to duck into and admire (and I usually buy a few small items while I’m out each day). 

I stand in front of Invalides
A photo of me at Invalides, a famous landmark in Paris.

London vs Paris: Places of Interest

London and Paris are both iconic places to visit with enough landmarks worth visiting to keep you busy for several days. Keep reading for my list of some of the top places of interest for visitors to the English and French capitals. 

Top places to visit in London

London is home to some of the world’s most iconic landmarks. You could spend an entire trip to London just exploring the landmarks like Hyde Park, Tower Bridge, and Buckingham Palace. These areas are free to visit, and you can walk between them or use public transportation. 

Big Ben, also known as the Great Bell of the Great Clock of Westminster, is located near the River Thames. It’s very close to the London Eye and Westminster Abbey, both of which are also iconic landmarks.

However, one of my very favorite spots in London is Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. The theater was originally built in 1599, though the current structure only dates back to 1997. Still, the theater is a hallmark in London, with incredible performances of Shakespeare’s plays. 

You can sometimes find £5 tickets to plays at Shakespeare’s Globe, especially if you’re willing to stand. I’d strongly recommend that you book in advance, as popular productions tend to sell out. 

Hyde Park
✅ Tower Bridge
✅ Buckingham Palace
✅ Big Ben
✅ Shakespeare’s Globe

Crowds in front of Shakespeare's Globe in London waiting for the show to start
Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London.

Top Landmarks to Visit in Paris

When you think of Paris, you probably immediately think of its most iconic landmark: the Eiffel Tower. Honestly, it’s so obvious that I almost forgot to include it in this post. You can see the Eiffel Tower from vantage points across the city, and it’s just as amazing from afar as it is up close. 

The Louvre Museum, Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame are all additional landmarks in Paris that are well worth a visit. If you rent bicycles, you can explore them all in a day by cycling around the city (or take the metro if you’re short on time). 

Paris is known for its immaculately manicured, expansive city parks. Visiting a city park is one of the most relaxing things to do in Paris. One of my favorites is the Tuileries Garden, which is across from the Louvre Museum. 

✅ Eiffel Tower
✅ Louvre Museum
Arc de Triomphe 
✅ Notre Dame
✅ Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries)

London vs: Paris: Museums 

There are incredible museums in both London and Paris, many of which hold some of the world’s most unique treasures. I don’t think there’s an obvious answer to which museums are better, but I slightly prefer the museums in Paris. I find that Parisian museums are a bit better laid out, have more informative plaques, and are generally more pleasant to visit. 

However, Paris museum tickets can be expensive, especially if you’re traveling with a family. Conversely, most of the best museums in London are entirely free to visit! Budget conscious travelers can spend hours exploring the collections in London’s art, science, and history museums. 

Top London Museums

Like Washington, D.C., London is home to a number of incredible free museums. There are expansive art museums like the Tate Modern and the National Gallery, both of which are well curated and enjoyable to visit. 

You can also visit museums with a scientific or archeological focus, like the British Museum and the Museum of Natural History. Both of these museums are also great for families, though the most kid-friendly museum is probably the Science Museum. 

If you’re visiting when it’s especially hot or cold, a museum visit is the perfect activity because the collections are climate controlled. 

British Museum
Tate Modern
Natural History
National Gallery

Tourists wander around the National Gallery in London, England
National Gallery in London, England.

A note on the British Museum  

If you decide to visit the British Museum, I’d strongly encourage you to first research the museum’s history and related controversies. The “Museums” episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver includes a great overview of the issues and is worth watching. 

The British Museum front entrance in London
The British Museum in London.

Top Paris Museums

Paris is also home to a collection of important museums. Unlike London, most of the museums in Paris charge an entry fee to visit. 

The Louvre Museum usually tops the list as the most-visited museum in the world. It’s home to the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and almost countless other masterpieces and works by renowned artists. 

The Musée d’Orsay is much smaller than the Louvre, but also houses a collection of masterpieces. Van Gogh’s famous “Self Portrait” and “Starry Night Over the Rhône” both hang in the Musée d’Orsay. You can buy a combined ticket to visit both the Musée d’Orsay and the Rodin Museum, which houses sculptures from Auguste Rodin, in one day. 

Finally, the Musée de l’Orangerie is home to eight large water lily painting murals by Claude Monet. There are other works from Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, and Henri Matisse, to name a few. 

The Louvre Museum
Musée d’Orsay
Musée de l’Orangerie
The Rodin Museum

London vs Paris: Food Scenes

London and Paris both have iconic food scenes. London is known for upscale English cuisine and countless international restaurants throughout the city. Paris, of course, is home to French cuisine, including crepes and traditional dishes like coq au vin, bœuf bourguignon, and salade niçoise.

Keep reading for an overview of each city’s culinary scene. 

London’s Food Scene

You’ll find a wonderful mix of cuisines and restaurants in London. It’s truly a foodie city, with options for all sorts of travelers. The options are often creative and diverse, from upscale Indian cuisine to birria tacos to the trademark finger sandwiches accompanying afternoon tea. 

The best food is generally located in the neighborhoods of London. To eat well, especially if you’re on a budget, you’ll need to be prepared to move around the city. I’ve included some of my favorite spots, both as an example of the types of cuisine in London and so you’ll have a few places to add to your list when you visit. 

A few of my favorite restaurants in London

This is my list of must-visit spots when I’m in London. I’ve been to each of these restaurants a couple of times, and they’re spots that I have bookmarked to return to on subsequent trips. 

The Black Pig in the Borough Market
The Borough Market was first described to me as a “foodie paradise” and it didn’t disappoint. Within the Borough Market, I found the Black Pig, a smoked pork sandwich stall with great reviews and a long line. I ordered the veggie sandwich with green chili oil and when I took my first bite I literally said, “I don’t understand how this is so good.” to the person sitting next to me. 

I imagine the pork sandwiches are just as good or better!

Paul Rothe & Son in Marylebone (near Soho)
I found Paul Rothe & Son by searching for “sandwiches” near where I was standing in Hyde Park. I’m so glad I did, because this little deli serves delicious and affordable sandwiches from its small storefront near Soho. I’d recommend that you go as basic as possible with your sandwich so that the high quality ingredients can speak for themselves. 

A cheese sandwich from Paul Rothe & Son with a rose lemonade from Fentimans
A cheese sandwich from Paul Rothe & Son

Daddy Bao in Tooting
Daddy Bao is a trendy Taiwanese spot in Tooting, a neighborhood south of central London. It’s a bit of a hike to get to, but totally worth it. This spot is off the tourist circuit and offers incredible baos – including great vegetarian options – at reasonable prices in a chic setting. 

Be sure to try the apricot sake and shitake bao buns, they’re both worth traveling out of your way for!

A small bao bun from Daddy Bao in Tooting in London
A bao bun from Daddy Bao

Paris’ Food Scene

Paris is home to some of the world’s most exclusive restaurants and timeless dishes. You’ll find seemingly endless French restaurants in Paris, many of which offer tasty fare that was handcrafted by a thoughtful chef.

In Paris, it’s especially important that you choose your restaurants carefully. Avoid eating near major landmarks, be wary of spots with menus prominently displayed in English, and listen for French being spoken in the restaurant you chose. 

A few of my favorite restaurants in Paris

Here are a few of my favorite spots in Paris. I’ve been to these restaurants many times, over several trips to Paris. 

Breizh Cafe (locations around the city)
Breizh Cafe is famous for savory galettes, which are buckwheat crepes filled with toppings like vegetables, meats, cheeses, or an egg. They’re usually perfectly balanced, with fresh, seasonal ingredients. For dessert, be sure to also get a sweet crepe. I love the basic butter crepe, but they have more adventurous options, too. 

A cauliflower, greens, and butternut squash galette from Breizh Cafe
A winter vegetable and cheese galette from Breizh.

Avant Comptoir de la Terre near Odéon
This small tapas restaurant is a must-visit in Paris. They have fabulous wines, oysters, and other seafood tapas that are unique and interesting without breaking the bank. 

The start of the show for me, however, is the bread and butter served alongside your food and wine. The butter is an incredible, salted local butter that’s piled high on a plate and served with fresh bread. I say this as someone who loves butter: it’s the best butter I’ve ever had. Well worth a visit. 

Oysters, sausages, bread, butter, and wine from Avant Comptoir de la Terre in Paris
Oysters, wine, and bread with butter from Avant Comptoir de la Terre in Paris.

Le Florimond near Invalides
If you only have the budget for one “nice” meal in Paris, have it at Le Florimond. This small French bistro describes itself as vegetable-forward, with locally sourced ingredients and a seasonal menu. 

It’s the best place to try authentic French food, and it’s only a 20 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. In fact, I once bought a family member and their spouse dinner at Le Florimond as a wedding gift when I learned that they were visiting Paris on their honeymoon. They said it was the best meal of their trip. 

Le Florimond can sometimes accommodate dietary restrictions, but you’ll have the best luck if you call ahead of time. Reservations are strongly recommended. 

An endive, tomato, and leek starter at Le Florimond, one of my favorite restaurants in Paris
A vegetable-forward first course at Le Florimond

Au P’tit Grec near the Jardin des Plantes and the Pantheon
For affordable savory and sweet crepes, you won’t do much better than Au P’tit Grec. This budget-friendly crepe spot typically has a line out into the street, and for good reason. The simple crepes at Au P’tit Grec are filled with fresh ingredients and made to order, so you know that they’re as fresh as can be. 

They have two locations. If you only have time to visit one, I’d go to the busier one on Rue Mouffetard. 

A cheese, onion, and lettuce crepe warms up at Au P'tit Grec in Paris
A basic feta crepe from Au P’tit Grec

London vs Paris: Costs

Both London and Paris are places where you can spend an almost unlimited amount of money if you’re not careful. Of course, the expenses on your trip will vary based on your travel preferences. It is possible to visit both cities on a strict budget. 

On the whole, I would anticipate that a trip to Paris will be cheaper than a trip to London. 

While accommodations can be quite expensive in both London and Paris, I usually find that food and transportation is much more affordable in Paris.

Public Transportation Costs

There’s no real comparison here, transportation in London is far more expensive than Paris. London is connected by a robust public transit system, including the London Underground trains, buses, and some overground trains. 

In addition to public transit, you can take taxis and Ubers in both Paris and London. These rides will generally be much more expensive than the public transit options. I usually use Uber because it’s the app I’m most familiar with, but taxis may sometimes be cheaper. 

Transit in London

You can get nearly anywhere in the city by using public transit, but the costs are steep. London uses a zoning system, so you’ll pay more the further you need to travel. For instance, the airports are in Zone 6 in London, and central London is Zone 1. 

A single day pass to use all of the 6 transit zones in London is £14.90 if you tap in and out. The tickets are cheaper if you need to travel between fewer zones or if you use the buses, which are cheaper than the trains. 

Be sure to always tap your credit card in and out of the London transit because it automatically caps your fare so long as you use the same card each time. Prepaid and cash prices are much higher, sometimes as much as twice as much as the contactless fares. 

As an added bonus, the contactless payments are much faster and don’t require you to use the kiosks or ticket machines!

Transit in Paris

Paris has an entirely different system, more similar to New York City. The set price for a metro ticket in Paris is €2.15 as of this writing, and it is good for a one way journey anywhere within Paris. You can buy a pack of tickets when you arrive or purchase smaller numbers of tickets as you go. 

Have a system for keeping track of your Paris metro tickets. They all look exactly the same, whether or not they’ve been used. Some stations will require you to use the ticket you used to enter in order to leave the station, so I like to have a special “current metro ticket” pocket in my purse or jacket when I’m traveling in Paris.

When I’m done using the ticket after the exit, I tear it so that I know I can’t use it again. 

Accommodation Costs

London and Paris both have rather expensive accommodations, especially if you opt for a luxury hotel. Even if you’re looking for a budget accommodations, hotels or rooms are likely to be your biggest expense in either of these European cities. 

Accommodations in Paris tend to be a bit cheaper than the hotels in London, especially if you’re willing to stay outside of the city and commute in by train. This is not to say that the hotels are cheap, merely that they’re cheaper than the hotels in one of the most expensive cities in the world. 

Start looking for accommodations as early as possible to save money on hotels that use dynamic pricing or offer early bird discounts. If you can find one, choose a hotel that has free cancellations and then check the prices again closer to your stay – rebook if you find a great deal. This can help you to find the best possible price when staying in both Paris and London. 

Note that air conditioning is not a given in London or Paris. If you’re traveling in the summer, be sure to read the fine print before you book. 

Where to Stay in London

Because London is such a large city, I’d recommend that you stay in a hotel that is somewhat central. I say “somewhat” because I think you’ll be just as happy in Paddington – if not more so – than you’d be in Kings Cross.

Remember, London is an enormous city, so if a neighborhood looks like it’s on the outskirts it could be over an hour on the train from the areas you’ll be sightseeing in later. For your first trip to London, I’d avoid super cheap hotels that are far outside of the city center because it will negatively impact your trip to have to commute an hour or more each way. 

Consider staying in Soho, Paddington, near Hyde Park, Shoreditch, Camden, Notting Hill, Kings Cross Street, or Islington. All of these areas have a mix of accommodation prices and are central enough to allow you to move around the city by public transit without too much hassle. 

My budget recommendation: Urbany Hostel
Located near Notting Hill just off of Hyde Park is Urbany Hostel, a comfortable spot for backpackers aged 18-40. I stayed at this hostel during my first trip to London, and it was comfortable and reasonably central. I loved Urbany as a jumping off point for exploring London, and was even able to make a few friends while I was there. 

My mid range recommendation: citizenM London Shoreditch
Shoreditch is a trendy neighborhood in London, known for being a popular spot for hipsters and as the birthplace of English theater. CitizenM is a budget-friendly hotel in a great location with clean rooms and fun, colorful decor. The rooms are comfortable and modern, with everything you need to enjoy your time in London. 

My luxury recommendation: 41
Set behind Buckingham Palace, this luxurious hotel is located across from the Royal Mews. 41 features modern architecture with thoughtful touches throughout the property. Guests raved about 41’s boutique feel, accommodating staff, and attention to every detail. 

*For an ultra high end experience in London, consider The Ritz London. This hotel has its own Michelin star restaurant, incredible period architecture, and luxurious rooms, all of which make for an unforgettable trip to London. 

Kensington Palace fountain with the palace in the background.
Kensington Palace in London, England.

Where to Stay in Paris

I’d recommend that you choose a central hotel in Paris. Ideally, you’ll be near a metro stop and close enough to the River Seine or another landmark to be able to walk around a bit. Le Marais, Montmartre, the Latin Quarter, the 7th Arrondissement, and Saint-Germain-des-Prés are all great neighborhoods in Paris for first time and repeat visitors. 

When you get a bit more familiar with Paris, you might decide to stay further outside of the city or in a more residential neighborhood. These are great ways to experience Paris, but they require a lot of transit so they might not be the best choice for your first trip to the city. 

I wrote a whole post about where to stay in Paris when you’re on a budget. Hotels usually provide toiletries, but there are stores all over in case you need to buy shampoo in Paris

My budget recommendation: The People – Paris Marais
The People – Paris Marais is a well-located hostel in Paris, set right in Le Marais. The property has a shared kitchen, air conditioning, and some rooms have a balcony available. This is a great choice for young, budget-conscious travelers. 

My mid range recommendation: Hotel Joyce – Astotel
The Hotel Joyce – Astotel is a budget-conscious accommodation in Paris that stands out for its great location (a 20 minute walk from Montmartre), air conditioning, and trendy rooms. The hotel provides free non-alcoholic beverages and snacks to guests – perfect for when you need a quick pick-me-up. 

My luxury recommendation: Hôtel des Arts Montmartre
The ultra trendy Hôtel des Arts Montmartre is a fabulous choice for higher end travelers to Paris. Travelers rave about the attention to detail, kindness of staff, and fabulous location of this hotel. I had a friend who stayed here once and she always talks about how wonderful it was, from the moment she arrived until she left. 

*For an ultra high end experience in Paris, you might consider a hotel like the Hôtel Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris. This hotel was refurbished by Philippe Starck and provides a 5-star luxury experience for its guests. 

Food Costs

When comparing food costs, there’s a clear winner: food in Paris is generally much more affordable than the food in London. From groceries to budget-friendly restaurants to even fine dining, Parisian prices are usually a little bit lower than you’ll find in London. 

To find affordable, tasty food in either Paris or London, you’ll have to be ready to travel around. The restaurants near the city center and main landmarks generally cater to tourists and are more expensive than restaurants in the surrounding neighborhoods. 

Small wheels of French cheeses are piled up neatly in a cold case
A selection of French cheeses from a shop in Paris

London vs Paris: Day Trips

London and Paris are both well situated for taking day trips. There are a number of destinations that you can access by train, making for an easy trip to and from the city. Always check the train schedules before you go, and avoid relying on the last train, if possible. 

If you’re short on time, you can even visit London or Paris as a day trip. The two cities are connected by a train that takes less than 3 hours each way. 

Top Day Trips from London

Two of the most famous day trips are to Oxford and Cambridge, two historic towns that are home to universities of the same name. When visiting Oxford or Cambridge, you can explore the incredible campus grounds and adjoining cities for several hours. 

When I visited London, I took a day trip to Brighton and absolutely loved it. This seaside city is the LGBT capital of the UK and boasts some wonderful food, a beautiful pebbly beach, and great shopping. Although it would be fun to visit anytime, a sunny day is the best way to see Brighton. 

Oxford
✅ Cambridge
✅ Brighton

A few people sit outside on Brighton Beach with the city in the background
Brighton Beach, one of the places you can visit on a day trip from London.

Top Day Trips from Paris 

The Château de Versailles, or Palace of Versailles, is one of the top day trips from Paris. The incredible gardens, ornately decorated palace, and iconic fountain are all worth visiting when you want to get out of the city for a day. 

Alternatively, you could visit the incredible coastlines and beaches of Normandy, to the north of Paris. You can see a few spots in a day, or you can spend a longer trip exploring some of the most famous WWII sites in the region. 

Finally, a peaceful visit to Giverny could be the perfect escape from the city of Paris. The area was home to the famous impressionist Claude Monet. You can even visit the lilypad-filled pond that was the subject of some of his most famous works. 

Château de Versailles
✅ Normandy
✅ Giverny

Top Travel Tips for London and Paris

I had some help from locals when visiting both London and Paris, and I suspect it helped me to make the most of my trips. 

Top Tips for Visiting London

Here are some of my top tips for visiting London. From budgeting to taking public transit to planning your itinerary, I wanted to share some of my best advice to help you prepare for your trip. 

✅ Use the contactless option when taking public transit
As long as you use the same card to tap in and out each time you use public transit, you can save money by allowing the system to automatically determine your daily fees. As a bonus, it’s much easier to use than prepaid tickets and avoids the pesky unusable fees that might be leftover on your Oyster card. 

✅ London is very spread out – plan extra travel time in your itinerary
It has taken me a few trips to London to adjust to how large the city actually is when I look at Google Maps. Distances that look like they would be 20-30 minutes apart on foot actually take 2 hours. Distances that look like they would take an hour take three hours. Plan some extra time, because you’ll probably spend a good portion of your trip riding the rails (of public transit, that is!). 

✅ Leave some wiggle room in your budget
London is expensive! Don’t get caught by surprise. Be sure to research costs before you go and leave some extra room in your budget for incidentals. 

A post office in London, England
The streets of London, England

Top Tips for Visiting Paris

Paris can be challenging to navigate during your first visit. Here are a few of my top tips for exploring Paris and having the best experience. 

Greet every person in French
A simple “bonjour” can be the difference between a bristly interaction in Paris and a pleasant one. Always greet Parisians in French, even if you immediately switch to English afterwards. 

Do not eat near tourist landmarks
I’ve said it a few times in this post but it bears repeating: do not eat near tourist landmarks in Paris. These restaurants are generally more expensive and lower quality than the spots in the surrounding neighborhoods. Listen for people speaking French; if you only hear English or other languages, the food is not likely to be as good as if you hear a lot of French. 

Use the metro system, walk, or cycle
The Paris metro system is easy to use, affordable, and takes you around the city like a local. Instead of using taxis, I love to take the metro, walk, or even cycle around Paris. Most trips, I’ll use all three transportation methods (though I often take an Uber to get to/from Orly Airport). 

London vs Paris: FAQs

Still trying to decide between London and Paris for your European vacation? Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about these cities. 

Is it more expensive in London or Paris?

Generally speaking, London is a more expensive city than Paris. Food, transportation, and activities are more expensive in the capital of the UK. However, hotels are expensive in both cities, especially during the peak season from May to September. 

Is London or Paris more developed?

Both London and Paris are very developed cities. Between the two, London feels much more modern, largely because the architecture is a mix from various times. Large areas of Paris were designed in the 19th century, so the facades do not always allow for modern amenities like air conditioning. 

Is Paris or London better for Christmas?

London is said to have a slightly more impressive Christmas display, with twinkly lights all through the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. There are ornately decorated department stores, lights strung above city streets, and plenty of general merriment to enjoy. 

Christmas in Paris is nothing to scoff at, though! There are beautiful light displays, artisan toy stores, luxurious department stores, and tasty Christmas treats to enjoy throughout the city. The Christmas market in the Tuileries Garden is especially festive, with roasting chestnuts and raclette stands to sample while you wander. 

Nutcracker statues placed at the edge of an ice skating rink in Paris at Christmastime.
A Christmas Market in Paris, France.

Does Paris have better food than London?

No, I wouldn’t say that the food in Paris is better than London. Both cities have wonderful food, but I have eaten at many craveable restaurants in London and Paris. I would say that the food in Paris tends to be more French-focused and fresh, while London is more international and carb-heavy. 

I would be very careful when choosing restaurants near tourist centers in either city. Most of the best food is at least 20-30 minutes outside of the central areas, with the notable exception of the Borough Market in London. 

Never eat within several blocks of major landmarks in Paris – the restaurants are almost certain to be overpriced and unimpressive. 

Why is London so popular for tourists?

London is popular because of its iconic imagery, with sights like Buckingham Palace and red double decker buses. Experiences like having high tea in the afternoon or seeing Big Ben in person are usually enough to entice travelers to this enormous city. As a practical matter, London has a few international airports, so it is relatively easy to get to, especially from the United States and European capitals. 

Which city is safer: London or Paris?

Generally speaking, London and Paris are both safe cities for tourists to visit. I’ve walked alone at night in both cities and personally felt safer in London than Paris. There are frequent incidents of pickpocketing and theft in Paris, which isn’t as much of an issue when visiting London. 

The US State Department considers both France and the United Kingdom level 2 destinations (level 1 is the safest, level 4 is “do not travel”). Travelers are encouraged to practice increased caution due to threats of terrorism in both destinations. Further, the State Department noted that pickpocketing and phone snatching are common crimes throughout France. 

Which city is larger, London or Paris?

London is a much larger city than Paris. The population in London is just under 9 million, while Paris is home to about 2 million people. For US travelers: Paris is about the same size as Houston, Texas and London is about the same size as New York City. 

When visiting Paris, you can easily get around most parts of the city in 20-30 minutes by metro. By contrast, I often spent more than 30 minutes on public transit when exploring London. I was consistently surprised by the distances in London; it’s definitely a large city!

Should you go to London or Paris as a first time traveler?

Travelers who are nervous about their first trip abroad and want a destination that is easy to navigate, friendly, and English-speaking should go to London. Those who are a bit more adventurous and looking for a destination that is different than anything they’ve experienced before should visit Paris. 

A woolly mammoth skeleton in London
A woolly mammoth in the Natural History Museum in London.

Conclusion: Should you visit London or Paris?

I love to visit both London and Paris. These iconic cities have so much to offer, whether it’s your first or tenth visit. I fully intend to continue to visit both London and Paris in the future because they both have so much to offer.

There are so many activities that you can enjoy in these capital cities. Visiting a museum in London is one of the best things to do in the city because many of the top institutions are free to visit. Similarly, I love to just walk around Paris and admire the architecture, shops, and landmarks along the Seine and in smaller neighborhoods. 

Of course, if you really can’t choose between London and Paris, you can visit both! You can take a Eurostar train between these two capital cities in less than 3 hours. It’s short enough for a day trip, or you can split your time between them.