London and Paris are two of the greatest capitals in the world, and certainly Europe’s two favourites. Connected by a fast train, the Eurostar, it is quite possible to visit London and Paris in a day, and you would think that with their proximity they would be practically interchangeable. But no.
The two cities, which share a friendly rivalry over the most attractive city for visitors, are indeed very close when it comes to annual tourism statistics, with both attracting tens of millions of visitors to city centers each year. and regularly trading first place. between the two. But that’s about where the similarity ends.
Paris is home to two of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre (plus Versailles, which in some statistics is for some reason considered part of Paris), while London has none, strangely enough. However, visitors on average tend to stay longer in London than in Paris.
I’ve been lucky enough to have lived in both cities, and I love each for its own reasons, although if pushed, I’d rather live in Paris and visit London. But many of my expatriate colleagues say the exact opposite.
So why not see what the differences are and decide for yourself?
1. Size and crowd
Compared to London and its population of 9 million, Paris proper is practically a village of just 2.2 million people. You may have read that Paris has around 12 million inhabitants, but it is the metropolitan area of Paris, including all the suburbs, which, if they are outside the ring road peripheral, are not really Paris. While all 9 million Londoners also live in the city’s metropolitan area, the London metropolitan area really does count as London. Thus, London has almost four times more people than Paris, and it can get crowded.
Where London is absolutely sprawling, Paris is compact, and in London you have to spend a lot of time getting from A to B, in Paris you can pretty much walk anywhere. Overall, even though certain parts of Paris can get very busy at times, like around the Eiffel Tower or the Tuileries Gardens, I find London much busier in the center, so much so that quite often I skip places like Oxford Street because you just can’t walk for people.
2. Getting around to see the sights
Both cities have open-top bus tours that take you along the main roads, giving you a good idea of what’s where, places to point out for later, or even the option to hop on and off as you go. and as you go. It’s a fun way to explore a new city, but traffic (especially in London) can make it a time-consuming way to get around. If you have certain sites in mind and are pressed for time, I suggest familiarizing yourself with local transport.
In London as in Paris, buses, metro or underground are easy and cheap to use and add a bit of local flavor to your excursions. And some bus routes are great for sightseeing: in London, the 11 Westminster Cathedral bus takes you past Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, the Strand, St. Paul’s, to Liverpool Street, from where you can explore the East End on foot.
In Paris, try the 42 bus from Gare du Nord, past the Palais Garnier, Madeleine, Place de la Concorde, across the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. Or take the 72 bus along the Seine from the bottom of the Trocadero to the Hotel de Ville, skirting the right bank for great views.
3. The weather
London is known to be decried as a foggy and rainy city, while photos of Paris always show the sun. But on paper, the rainfall in the two cities is actually quite similar. The really noticeable difference is in the hours of sunshine, which are much higher in Paris than in London. Also, in Paris, being part of the mainland, you tend to have more distinct seasons, with hotter summers and slightly colder winters. That said, in January you usually get the Paris greyness, a damp grayness that covers the city and makes a few days in a row quite miserable.
For both cities, it’s absolutely true that spring and fall are probably the best seasons to visit, although you might need an umbrella. Summers can get hot and sticky in cities, making sightseeing a chore, as none of the cities are known to have embraced air conditioning. That said, winter is one of my favorite seasons to visit Paris as I feel it has a special charm when the leaves on the trees have fallen and the glorious architecture can be better admired.
Shopping is a delight in both cities, there is no doubt. And oddly enough, you’ll find many Londoners hopping on the Eurostar to shop in Paris, while Parisians love shopping in London. As they say, the grass is always greener… When it comes to fashion, the inimitable French style a la Coco Chanel is something that many aspire to, and the haute couture boutiques in Paris are a delight, albeit with prices tempting. London style is trendier and more eccentric – just think of Kings Road, which wore designers such as Vivienne Westwood. Luxury in London, however, is more understated, with many old silver ensembles still having tailored suits and opting for non-showy labels, which, including Burberry’s signature trench coats, for example, do not never go out of fashion. Prices are similar in both cities, but London has the advantage of many charity shops which are always fun to browse for bargains and more budget conscious brands like Primark or Marks & Spencer’s.
5. Eat and drink
When it comes to food and drink, the two cities couldn’t be more different. While Paris is full of traditional brasseries and café terraces always full of people drinking coffee or wine, London’s trendy restaurants and old-fashioned pubs are all the rage. Obviously, both cities have their fair share of high-end fine dining restaurants, but at street level the food is quite different.
In Paris, a fixed two- or three-course lunch is offered at most prix fixe restaurants, a cheap and enjoyable way to eat in style. In London, people are in a rush at lunchtime and sandwiches are still the norm, often eaten at the desk in the office. As for the aperitif, the fabulous old pubs of London are always full between the end of work and the hour of the return home, and serve good beer, while in Paris the terraces are full of people who taste a wine or an aperitif like an Aperol Spritz. Dinner, again, is a more organized event in Paris, often starting with a glass of champagne followed by at least three courses plus cheese. Seriously, even after so many years in Paris, I can’t understand how they all stay so thin.
And then there are the hours: in London, we dine around 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., in chic restaurants around 8 p.m., while in Paris, it would be difficult to get served before 8 p.m., and many people still go to restaurants. around 10 p.m. pm for dinner, even midweek. As for the prices, aside from the set lunch price, London is probably a bit cheaper, but in general you can eat cheap or horribly expensive in both cities. But a glass of champagne is much cheaper in Paris.
6. Get along with the locals
The notoriously rude reputation of Parisian waiters is known around the world, but is it true? Personally, I’ve always gotten on well with them as long as I greet them with a “bonjour”, order, or at least try to order in French, and say please and thank you. I saw a lot of tourists mistreated, but that was because they simply shouted their coffee order in very loud English to the waiter with no regard for what is considered basic politeness in France. As long as you say hi and try to speak a little French, you will find that you get along much better in cafes, shops and everywhere else.
In London, the stereotypical London taxi driver also has a reputation that precedes him, that of being loud and talkative. And it is quite true. But the average taxi driver is also your best bet for learning more about London, getting tips on where to eat and drink, what’s happening and, of course, the quickest way to get there. . Typical Londoners are a wealth of information and tend to be so talkative that you can ask all those questions you’ve always wanted to ask about London but didn’t know where to ask.
7. Breakfast: the most important meal of the day
One of the main differences between the two cities is probably their breakfast. A full English breakfast includes eggs, bacon, toast, beans, hash browns, mushrooms, black pudding and sausages, delivering a week’s worth of calories in one sitting, but setting you up nicely for a day of sightseeing. In Paris, you’ll have a croissant, or maybe if you’re really hungry, a baguette.
So, are you the London or Paris team?
To learn more about London, explore these articles:
To learn more about Paris, visit these sites: