London vs Paris – Which One to Visit?
Many tourists choose London vs Paris for their first trip to Europe. Even if you are European and have been to both, a trip to these two metropolises is a must. After all, we are talking about two of the world’s most visited cities.
The only reason to choose between the two is a lack of time. If you have at least 10 days to spend, go to both. They are both outstanding cities that offer plenty of things to do.
Now, if you must decide between London or Paris, we are here to help. We’ve been to both places several times and spent months exploring them. It’s not easy to compare two world beauties, but we are sure you will visit and love both!
London or Paris
Let’s take a look at both cities. London is the capital of the United Kingdom, a country of 57 million people. Paris is the capital of France, where the same number of people live (just above 57 million).
When comparing London vs Paris in size and population, it seems that the UK’s capital wins. Officially, it’s home to 8.8 million people. On the other hand, some 2.2 million people live in Paris. But don’t let these numbers fool you. London’s metropolitan area hosts some 14 million people, while Metropolitan Paris is home to 13 million.
As you can imagine, tourists flock to both cities in huge numbers. According to the Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index, 19.1 million people visited Paris in 2019. That same year, 19.09 million visited London. Since Paris is a bit more dense, it can feel busier.
If You Have to Choose
Choosing between two incredible places is never easy. If you have less than a week for your entire trip, you have to choose between Paris or London. Choose Paris if you love elegant palaces and parks. If you are into good food, fashion, and art, then Paris is for you.
Go to London if you love unique architecture. The city hosts some of the best examples of several architectural styles and periods. If you like street art and love to party, you will be in heaven in London.
Finally, if you plan to travel further on and visit nearby places, go to Paris first. The French capital is in the middle of Europe. Thus, you can visit nearby countries like Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany on a day trip.
One of the oldest cities in Europe, London has been important for two millenniums. Today, the city is a cultural melting pot. People from all over the world call it home.
London is one of the busiest cities on earth. However, its streets are curvy and narrow. Gorgeous buildings from different historical periods populate the city. The City of London is the oldest area. Though it dates back to Roman times, London’s contemporary skyscrapers are here.
London extends on both sides of the River Thames. The financial and historical centers are north of it, just like most sights and attractions. Unlike Paris, the city’s residential neighborhoods are varied and colorful. Not only that, but full of world-class street art.
London offers sights for every taste. The main historic landmarks are by the river Thames. East of the City of London we find the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. For centuries, the 11th-Century castle was a royal palace and a prison.
Your London itinerary should include the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben. The neo-gothic masterpiece is the seat of the UK government. Westminster Abbey is next door. Since 1066, it’s been where British kings and queens are crowned. Buckingham Palace is in the neighborhood too.
London excels in something else. You will fall in love with its charming squares and parks. Demonstrators and activists meet at Trafalgar Square. Piccadilly Circus is where locals and tourists gather before going out to party. Finally, who hasn’t heard of the iconic Hyde Park?
London has more museums than Paris, though we are talking about an administratively much larger area. In fact, there are more than 200 museums in Greater London, both big and small. Many of them are free to visit.
Three of these are among the world’s top museums: British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Tate Modern. At the British Museum, you’ll wonder why the UK keeps stolen masterpieces like the Parthenon. The world would be a much better place if things went back to their rightful owners!
We could spend hours discussing the rest of the museums. Whatever you like, you will find a museum of that in London. Our favorites are the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, and the Imperial War Museum. For local history, head to the Museum of London.
It is unclear how many hotels there are in the UK’s capital. Some estimates put that number above 1500. In any case, London hosts hotels for all budgets and tastes.
We love historic hotels, and London has quite a few. The Claridge’s is probably the city’s most glamorous hotel. The early 19th-Century hotel is the playground of the royal family. Another iconic hotel in London is the lavish Savoy. When it opened in 1889, it was the first luxury hotel in the UK.
London has much more than old grand palaces. Its modern hotels are some of the best in the world. We love the Z Hotel Soho. Glass bridges connect its 12 different townhouses! Citizen M, on the other hand, conquered us with its futuristic design.
Restaurants and Bars
Though there are restaurants for every taste in London, the city is not a culinary Mecca. Let’s be honest: British food is not the most famous in the world. You’ve probably heard of fish and chips. The local staple is not that elaborate or healthy.
Don’t get us wrong! We are not complaining. When in London, we hardly eat British food. To our delight, the different communities that live in the city have opened delicious restaurants. In fact, the Indian food in London is as good as in India!
Our favorite Indian restaurant is Bibi. Located in the most exclusive area of London, right by Hyde Park, they offer fine dining in a beautiful place. If you are into pubs, we recommend the Prince of Greenwich Pub. To enjoy a cocktail with epic views, go to The Rooftop, near Trafalgar Square.
Though London is a compact city, it is also pretty big. Thus, its sites are not that close to each other. Nevertheless, the city is mostly flat, so walking about is safe and fun.
As mentioned above, London’s streets are narrow and curvy, so biking can be tricky. The city has a shared bike system, Santander Bikes, but there aren’t many bike lanes. Remember that you have to get used to riding on the left!
Therefore, you’ll move around in its public transport. The London Underground, popularly known as the Tube, is the world’s oldest and third-largest metro system. You will hear the iconic Mind the Gap! Likewise, you have to take the world-famous double-decker buses. This will give you an idea of why London is such a cool place. Plus you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery!
You can go from London to lovely English cities on a day trip. Two of the most famous ones are the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge. Both are just an hour away and offer some of the best English architecture.
Many Londoners go to Brighton on a day trip. We enjoy the place a lot and go there every time we crave some sea. Besides, the oriental-inspired Royal Pavilion is gorgeous, and there is plenty of quirky street art.
If you have more time, there are more options. Bath in Somerset is one of the oldest cities in the country. Its Roman baths will take your breath away. If you are into ancient monuments, you must not skip magical Stonehenge.
What’s Special about London
What sets London apart is its cosmopolitan spirit. No other city in Europe has such a modern and progressive scene as London. Thus the variety of cultural venues, cool bars, and clubs.
When it comes to architecture, London stands out for the variety of styles from different periods. In the case of brutalism, it might as well be the world’s capital. You’ve probably heard of the Barbican or the National Theater. There are many more great examples!
Another thing we love about London is the amount of impressive street art. It is one of the best places in the world to search for street art. Some of the best neighborhoods to visit are Shoreditch and Camden in central London and Brixton, Dulwich, and Penge, in southern London.
Paris might be a bit younger than London, but it’s been a world-leading metropolis for a very long time. We are talking about the center for haute cuisine, art, and fashion. In fact, the whole city is an open-air art exhibit.
Paris is known as Europe’s most elegant capital. Grand buildings, parks, and boulevards dot the city. Unlike in London, most streets are straight, long, and wide. Thus, Paris feels monumental!
The city extends on both sides of the River Seine. Its oldest part, Ile de la Cite, is right in the center. Though major sites stand out for their opulent architecture, Paris’ neighborhoods feel remarkably uniform. The city’s business district is 3 miles (5 km) from the center.
Two of Paris’ main sights are on the Ile de Cite Island. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and Saint-Chapelle are two of the city’s most impressive churches. Both are lavishly decorated Gothic temples.
The majority of main attractions are north of the river Seine. The main street, Av. des Champs-Élysées starts at the Louvre, passes by Concorde Square, and ends at the monumental Triumphal Arch. The opulent Opera Garnier is also in this area.
However, the city’s most famous landmark is on the southern bank of the river. The Eiffel Tower opened in 1889 to mixed reviews. Today, it’s France’s s most iconic monument, visited by 7.5 million tourists every year. Other impressive sites in this area include the Les Invalides and the Pantheon.
Paris has some 130 museums within its administrative city limits. If we include the metropolitan area, that number grows to some 200. Many of them are inside old palaces. Unfortunately, only a few museums are free of charge.
Just like London, Paris hosts three world-class museums. As you can imagine, we are talking about the Louvre, the Orsay, and Le Centre Pompidou. Again, you’ll spot some stolen objects here, which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit.
Paris has several museums dedicated to its famous artists. The most popular one is the Musée Rodin. However, we like the Picasso and Monet museums too. In recent decades there has been a wave of museum openings. Two of the best ones are the Musee du Quai Branly and Fondation Louis Vuitton.
According to some estimates, there are some 1600 hotels in Greater Paris, slightly more than in London. There are over one hundred 5-star hotels in Paris versus more than hundred and sixty in London. Generally speaking, Paris is more affordable. That is, depending on the exchange rate.
As we mentioned above, we have a thing for historic hotels, and Paris has some of the best in the world. Our favorite is the elegant Hotel Lutetia, an art deco gem in the 6th district. Another great luxury hotel close to the Champs-Élysées is the San Régis, a 19th-Century mansion.
When it comes to unique places to stay, Paris doesn’t disappoint either. If you want to stay in a chateau, we recommend the Saint James, close to the Boulogne Forest. If you have a thing for places with history, stay at Les Bains Hotel. This chic hotel used to be the city’s most famous public thermal bath. Many renowned artists were regular guests.
Restaurants and Bars
Paris is a better choice if you are into food. The French cuisine has a big name on the international stage. We are huge fans of delicious pastries. Thus, we can’t stop eating Quiche Lorraine and croissants. When it comes to elaborate dishes, you’ve surely heard of Coq au vin, Bœuf bourguignon, or Ratatouille.
Even if you are not into French cuisine, you’ll find your favorite eatery in the French capital. La Grange Aux Canards is probably the best restaurant in the bohemian Latin Quarter. Just like its name says, they serve dishes made of duck. Our local friends always take us to Chez Marcel.
If you are looking for a local bar serving great cocktails in the center, we highly recommend Le Syndicat. To drink with great views, head to the Ilvolo Bar Rooftop at Novotel Vaugirard Montparnasse. We always go to the Hotel Costes for cocktails and music.
Paris’s population density is higher than London’s, but the city seems equally big. Due to the number of important sites and their great distance from each, walking about takes quite some time. That said, the city is flat and so beautiful that walking is a must.
The streets of Paris are long and wide, and there are often bike lanes. Therefore, biking around is a wonderful option. The city has a shared bike system, Vélib’Métropole, which is easy to use and pretty convenient.
Due to the great distances in Paris, you have to use public transport. You’ll easily recognize Paris Metro by its art nouveau station entrances. There are also trams, suburban trains, and buses. If you avoid the rush hour, moving around Paris is a joy.
The most popular day trips from Paris are to the Versailles Castle and Gardens and Europe’s only Disney Park, Disneyland Paris. However, since Paris is in the heart of Western Europe, it is a great place to base yourself and go to other amazing cities.
We strongly recommend going to Lille, to the north of Paris. This mid-size city has beautiful architecture, lively pedestrian streets, and a relaxed vibe. Nantes, to the west, we love for its modern architecture. You can take a train to both directly from Paris.
Thanks to the expansion of the fast train network, you can visit Lyon and Strasbourg on a day trip. Lyon is probably the country’s most elegant city after Paris. Strasbourg, with its German flair, is totally different.
What’s Special about Paris
Paris is special for many reasons. It’s the planet’s fashion capital, followed by Milan. Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Givenchy are some of the French names that have conquered the world. Other artists continued their tradition until today.
Just like in London, in Paris, you can find numerous styles and buildings from different historic periods. One style does stand out: we are talking about the intricate Art Deco that was born nowhere else but in Paris.
Last but not least: Paris is known for its impressive architectural landmarks. No other city on the continent has sights as famous as Paris. Even in the last few decades, the city has built new venues that have quickly become top attractions.
If You Still Haven’t Decided
Paris vs London, whichever you choose you won’t go wrong. Both places are equally beautiful and offer everything you can think of. Paris might be a bit more visual, wowing you from the moment you arrive. London conquers you slowly. It takes time to explore all its unique charms.
When it comes to museums, hotels, and public transport, both cities come neck and neck. Paris has better luxury hotels and better restaurants. Thus, if you are a hotel or restaurant queen, go to Paris.
If you want to base yourself in a city and go on day trips, Paris is a better choice. There are far more options. If, on the other hand, you like alternative places and are looking for great bars and clubs, we recommend London.
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