London, Paris and Barcelona are three of the most exciting cities in Europe and you can travel between them by high-speed train, making it possible to enjoy all three cities in one easy, but epic trip. Use this detailed London, Paris & Barcelona itinerary and guide to help you plan that trip.
One of my post-pandemic trips was to travel to Barcelona. I had been before and I crushed hard on the place, so I wanted to return. And, mindful of the carbon footprint of flying, I latched on to the idea of going from London, where I live, to Barcelona by train. Then, realising I would need to change trains in Paris, I couldn’t resist the idea of breaking up the journey and spending some time there before carrying on to Barcelona.
I had a really great time on that trip and this itinerary is based on both that train trip and my extensive experience of all three cities: I’ve lived in London for twenty years, I’ve been to Paris at least a dozen times and Barcelona three times.
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Table of Contents
What’s In This London Paris Barcelona Itinerary
This itinerary will enable you to take in:
- London, the buzzing capital of the UK, where you can find castles, royal palaces and skyscrapers.
- Paris, the legendary City of Light, a handsome metropolis of blue-grey rooftops overlooked by the Eiffel tower and the Sacre-Coeur
- Barcelona, Spain’s enchanting second city, with a charming blend of gothic alleyways, and bold art nouveau architecture.
In this London, Paris & Barcelona itinerary, I will show you how to get between London, Paris and Barcelona by train and ideas of things to do in each city. I’ll also give you tips on where to stay and where to eat.
Practical Questions About Travel Between London, Paris & Barcelona
What Is The Best Time To Travel To London, Paris And Barcelona?
You can do this trip at any time of year. The appeal of each season is as follows:
- Summer (June-August): best chance of warm, sunny weather in all three cities, plus long, light days – but also the biggest crowds, especially in Paris and Barcelona (which gets notoriously over-crowded)
- Autumn / Fall (September-November): milder temperatures, fewer tourists and a chance of peeping some lovely colours as the leaves turn – especially in London and Paris.
- Winter (December-February): coldest temperatures & shortest days, but quietest streets and festive fun in December – especially London and Paris in Winter
- Spring (March-May): the weather improves and blossoms come out (especially in London and Paris in Spring). In fact, I have a guide to the best places to see cherry blossoms in Paris.
Overall, I’d say the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit these three cities – when the weather is good, but not overbearingly hot, and the crowds are slightly smaller.
I did this specific trip in September and it was generally warm and clear. I did get one day of rain in Barcelona, but it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the city. I’ve also visited all three places in Spring and that’s another great time to explore them (after all, Springtime in Paris is famously nice).
How Many Days Do You Need To Explore London, Paris & Barcelona?
I’ve suggested four nights in each city because that’s a decent amount of time to get a feel for them. With travel days, this is a 13-day itinerary. However, of course, you could flex your own itinerary and spend more or fewer days in each place, if you prefer. More days in each won’t be boring – there’s lots to experience in all of these cities.
And, specifically for Paris, I have also written an itinerary for 4 days in Paris.
Does Eurostar Go To Barcelona?
No, Eurostar trains operate between London, Lille, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. However, you can get a Eurostar train from London to Paris, and then a direct train from Paris to Barcelona.
Is There A High-Speed Train From Barcelona To Paris?
Yes, there’s a high-speed TGV train that runs between the two cities, so you don’t necessarily have to choose whether to visit Paris or Barcelona – you can visit both! It makes some stops along the way, but you don’t need to change trains between Paris and Barcelona.
How Long Does It Take To Get From Paris To Barcelona?
The fastest option for this leg of the journey is 6 hours 40 minutes on the TGV train.
Is The Train Ride From Paris To Barcelona Scenic?
Yes, it is – you’ll pass lots of countryside in France and also northern Spain. However, the TGV train goes at very high speed throughout France – so fast it’s hard to take in the passing countryside (and certainly hard to get a decent photo from the window!). It slows through the south of France where it makes several stops – so you’ll see a little more of the towns and coastline in this part of the train. You’ll also see some of the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains as you cross into Spain.
Where Should I Stop Between Barcelona And Paris?
If you wanted to stop and break the journey between Paris and Barcelona, the train stops at several places in the south of France: Nimes, Montpelier and Perpignan. There are also stops in Spain: Figueres and Girona.
These stops aren’t included in this itinerary, but they are options if you want to see more between Paris and Barcelona.
London, Paris & Barcelona itinerary: Travel Details
Here are the practical details about how to travel between these three cities. I’ll share ideas for what to do in each place after this.
Getting To London
If you’re flying into London, there are five London Airports. Two are within the M25 (the orbital motorway around Greater London):
- London Heathrow, the biggest airport in the UK, connected to central London by train (to Paddington station) and tube (Piccadilly line and Elizabeth Line)
- London City Airport, the smallest of the London airports. This is connected to London by the DLR light railway network, which connects to the tube network.
Outside the M25 are three more:
- London Gatwick is just south of London and connected to London by train to Victoria station
- London Stansted is north-east and connected by trains to Liverpool Street Station
- London Luton is northwest and connected to the Thameslink train line to London via Luton Airport Parkway station, which you can reach via a shuttle bus from the airport.
To find flight deals, I tend to use Skyscanner.
If you’re coming in from elsewhere in Europe by Eurostar train, you’ll arrive at London St Pancras International terminal.
London Public Transport
In my London itinerary, I’ve tried to minimise the need for using public transport by suggesting activities that are adjacent to each other, but you’ll probably use public transport in London at some point. It’s a big city and hard to get around without using the tube at least occasionally, no matter how comfortable you are with walking.
Use the Citymapper app for navigating London: it contains all the tube, train and bus information to plot a route using any kind of public transport – and also walking. I’ve been using it for years as a Londoner and it is indispensable to me.
You can either pay-as-you-go, tapping in (and out on tubes & trains) using your bank card, a payment wallet app or an Oyster card, or you can buy a travelcard that lasts for a fixed amount of time – but pay-as-you-go often works out better value, as there are automatic caps. For example, a single zone 1-2 journey on the tube costs £3.10 by pay-as-you-go, the daily cap for pay-as-you-go in zones 1-2 (using bus, tube or local trains) is £7.70 but a day travelcard, which I believe is only available for zones 1-4 is £14.40. Find out more on the Transport for London website.
Travel From London To Paris By Train – Eurostar
To get from London to Paris by train, you will take the Eurostar from London St Pancras International station to Paris Gare du Nord.
You book tickets on the Eurostar website. The earlier you book, the best chance you have of finding cheap tickets, which start from £39 each way for standard tickets on the London – Paris route. They have a Lowest Fare Finder page which is a useful way to search by price.
Boarding The Train
There is security and passport control to go through before you can board the Eurostar train. This means you do need to arrive at St Pancras well in advance of your train’s departure time. They give guidance on how much time you should give on the Eurostar website here.
In my experience, the queues and wait times can vary hugely – the longest I’ve taken to go through all the checks is about 45 minutes and the fastest was about 3 minutes! That said, I typically give myself 1.5 hours to avoid stress and risk.
You and your bags will be scanned as they do in airports, but it isn’t as strict – you don’t normally need to take your electronics out of your bag and there’s no restriction on liquids.
Once you’re through security and passport control, there’s a fairly big waiting area, with a café, toilets and plenty of seating.
On The Train
The journey from London to Paris is approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes. There’s wifi on board but it’s not very reliable in my experience.
Standard seating is very standard – pairs of seats on either side of the aisle (2+2), some with tables, most with a power point to plug in. There’s plenty of luggage space and a café carriage.
Standard Premier class costs more and for the extra, you get a more comfortable seat – it is softer and wider, due to there being fewer seats (arranged in a 2+1 plan) and a meal served during your journey. The food I had in comfort class was pretty good – I enjoyed it.
There’s also a Business Premier class, but I haven’t tried this.
The train goes through several tunnels before it comes to the Channel Tunnel (the tunnel under the sea between England and France), so you won’t see a huge amount of England from the window. Once you emerge from the tunnel in France, you’ll see a bit of the French countryside whizzing past at high speed before you reach Paris.
Paris Public Transport
You don’t have to use the Metro (Paris’s underground train network) to get around – there are other options, like walking or taxis. However, the Metro is useful because like London, Paris is a large city with spread-out attractions, and the Metro is cheaper (and sometimes quicker) than using taxis all the time.
Single tickets of €1.90, making them much cheaper than the underground in London! When using the Metro, what you need to know is:
- The stations you’re starting from and getting off at. With this, you can see whether one line will take you all the way, or whether you will need to change lines (and where).
- The final destination of the line you’re on – because this is how the stations signpost which direction the train is going in. They won’t say ‘uptown’, or ‘eastbound’ or anything like that – they will simply say the final destination like trains do.
Good news: the CityMapper app works in Paris as well as London!
Travel From Paris To Barcelona By Train – TGV Train
To get from Paris to Barcelona by train, you will take the TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Barcelona Sants.
There are only a few trains per day, and one of them is overnight. I chose the 10:14 train, which is the earliest and fastest option and also the only direct train (where you don’t have to change). This is the train I recommend you take.
The TGV train is a duplex, ie it has both an upper and lower deck of seats. You’ll have a better view from the upper deck, but the lower deck felt more spacious to me somehow (not sure if it actually is or, or if that was my imagination because it was less busy).
When you’re booking, you should be able to see the seat number before you confirm your purchase. Seat numbers 11-58 are on the lower deck and seats 61-128 are on the upper deck. I don’t believe you can select specific seats, but if you want one or the other, you can simply retry your booking journey until they allocate you one with the deck you want.
Boarding The Train
Unlike Eurostar, you do not need to go through any security or passport control when boarding the train from Paris to Barcelona. Even though you will cross an international boundary, France and Spain are both in the Schengen Zone, so there are no border checks between them.
However, it is a long, busy train and there can be a lot of people boarding, so I recommend getting there 15 minutes before departure to get through the gates, find your carriage, stow your luggage and settle into your seat before departure.
Also, worth noting that there’s a spectacular restaurant in Gare de Lyon called Le Train Bleu – so check that out if you have time before your train.
On The Train
Standard seats are in the standard 2+2 configuration and first class is 2+1. There seemed to be plenty of luggage space.
I had a standard seat on the upper deck, which turned out to be an aisle seat on a ‘table’, but the table was tiny and only served the two seats by the window, so I had nothing to lean on. I asked to swap to another seat because I wanted to work on my laptop and the train manager found me another seat on a full table on the lower deck.
There is free wifi on board, but it is not unlimited and my access to it got used up rather fast, so I switched to my own 4G for most of the journey.
There is plug points for all seats, I believe. There’s also a café carriage which sells standard train fare.
Barcelona Public Transport
I don’t have a huge amount of experience with Barcelona’s public transport, because I walked a lot and took taxis when I needed to get across town quickly. However, when I did take buses and the Metro a few times, I used the CityMapper app to find a route and I paid by tapping my debit card, pay as you go. Both the bus and metro are €2.40 for a single journey, but if you think you’ll use public transport a lot, there are savings to be had with a T travel card.
London Paris Barcelona Itinerary – At A Glance
- Day 1: Arrive in London (stay 4 days)
- Day 2: London – Buckingham Palace, Mayfair, National Gallery & West End
- Day 3: London – Westminster, South Bank to Tower Bridge
- Day 4: London – Sky Garden, Tower of London & Greenwich or East London
- Day 5: Train from London to Paris (stay 4 days)
- Day 6: Paris – Eiffel Tower, Musee D’Orsay, Seine river boat ride & Pompidou Centre
- Day 7: Paris – Notre Dame, Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain-des-Pres and the Arc de Triomphe
- Day 8: Paris – Palais Garnier & Les Grands Magasins, plus Sacre-Coeur and Montmartre
- Day 9: Train from Paris to Barcelona (stay 4 days)
- Day 10: Barcelona – Gaudi landmarks: La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila and Park Güell
- Day 11: Barcelona – The Old City: The Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas and El Born
- Day 12: Barcelona – La Barceloneta beach, Port Vell, Parc Ciutadella and Arc de Triomf
- Day 13: Return journey or onward travel
London Paris Barcelona Itinerary – in detail
Day 1: Arrive In London
Allow the first day to get to London from wherever you’re coming from and to get settled in your hotel. Grab something to eat in that local area.
Where To Stay In London
Even though I live in London, I have stayed in hotels there – mainly fancy ones that I’ve booked as a treat for a special night in the city. These are the ones I can recommend, based on personal experience
- Four Seasons Park Lane – this place is very luxurious and is one of those places so fancy they have a ‘town car’ you can use for local journeys. It is, of course, not cheap.
- The Soho Hotel – a high-end hotel in the middle of Soho – this place can be a great retreat from the frenetic streets.
- Intercontinental London. If you don’t mind being slightly out of the city centre, the Intercontinental at the Millennium Dome costs less than many central London hotels, but is comfortable, with spacious rooms. It’s connected to central London on the Jubilee line and the Thames Clipper (Uber boat)
Although I have not stayed at the next hotel, I’ve heard it recommended by several travel contacts and it is well-rated on Booking.com.
- Z Hotel, Holborn. The rooms look small, but the price is low, the ratings are good and the location is great – Holborn is very convenient for Covent Garden and Seven Dials.
London Itinerary: Things To Do & Places To Eat
Here are my suggestions for three days in London. I’ve tried to blend some of the main tourist sights with an exploration of the areas of London I love the most.
Day 2: Buckingham Palace, Mayfair, National Gallery & West End
Start your time in London with a big hitter: the official residence of the King of England, Buckingham Palace. You’re free to look through the fancy gates any time, and you might get lucky and see the changing of the guard when the uniformed soldiers change shifts in a regimented parade. This doesn’t happen every day, though, so check the schedule in advance to check the dates & times.
Buckingham Palace is in use by the monarchy, but it does open its doors for tours in the summer and on a few other selected dates.
After the palace, head north through Green Park. It’s a pleasant, short stroll; if it’s a nice day, you could sit on the grass for a bit.
At the top end of Green Park is Piccadilly, a major road that borders Mayfair, the most well-to-do area of London (and the most expensive spot on the UK monopoly board). Have a wander eastward, passing the fancy Ritz Hotel, The Wolseley (nice place for brunch, if you haven’t eaten) and Fortnum & Mason, an iconic London department store.
A detour down Old Bond Street can be good to see what high-end jewellers like Cartier and Graff are offering these days. Head back towards Piccadilly along Burlington Arcade, which feels a bit like a time capsule of the 19th century. Piccadilly Arcade is another one of these historic covered passages. It leads to Jermyn Street, home to some of London’s finest men’s attire. Alternatively, you could stop in the Royal Academy of Arts to see what’s on display, or, at the very least, poke your head into their smart courtyard.
At the end of Piccadilly is Piccadilly Circus, a junction made famous by the corner of advertising real estate between Shaftesbury Avenue and Glasshouse Street.
There are lots of great dining options along Piccadilly: The Wolseley, Fortnum & Mason itself has some eat-in options, or Hawksmoor, a high-end steak place near the junction with Regent Street. If you’re on a budget, there are a few sandwich & coffee shops, including Pret a Manger, which is reliably tasty. There’s a small garden called Southwood Garden if you want somewhere peaceful to sit and eat.
As a local, I’d say be wary of the places on or close to Piccadilly Circus (apart from Hawksmoor – that’s an exception) – and avoid Angus Steakhouse and the Hard Rock Café.
From Piccadilly Circus, head down Haymarket past a couple of historic theatres (the Theatre Royal Haymarket and Her Majesty’s Theatre). We will return to the theatre district later, but our focus for the afternoon is the National Gallery, which looks out of Trafalgar Square.
Trafalgar Square is home to Nelson’s column, a monument to Admiral Nelson, who led Britain to victory against the French & Spanish in the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Four lions guard the column and are popular with children. There are two fountains in the square and statues on three of the four corners. The empty 4th plinth is used to display contemporary works of art that change regularly. It used to be a thing to come and feed the pigeons at Trafalgar Square, but that’s been banned as there were so many of them and their droppings were causing damage!
The National Gallery is an art gallery with a huge collection of over 2,600 paintings dating from the mid-13th century. They advise you to book a ticket, but there is no charge because the art belongs to the British government on behalf of the British public. So you can wander the halls and admire the masterpieces for free! The National Gallery houses a wide range of works, by artists including Titian, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Gainsborough, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet and Rembrandt. One of my favourite pieces is The Fighting Temeraire by Turner.
Next door is the National Portrait Gallery – this might be my preference over the National Gallery, actually. It’s smaller, but I love the focus on only portraits and there are some great examples in there, including Andy Warhol and Lucien Freud. There’s also a restaurant on the top floor that overlooks the rooftops and domes of the gallery.
Head north into the West End of London, the theatre district. Catch a show if that’s something you like doing. Maybe you could get tickets to Ronnie Scott’s jazz bar. Sample a cocktail at number 30 on the world’s 50 best bars: Swift Soho (reservations required). Or simply wander around the area, which comes alive at night.
Some notes on the various areas of the west end:
- Leicester Square has become over-touristed and over-priced in my opinion, so I avoid it and the streets immediately around it.
- Soho used to be a bit seedy but has been tidied up quite a lot, though you might still find the odd sex shop dotted around. The area is very gay-friendly and the heart of it is Old Compton Street, but other key streets are Wardour Street and Poland Street.
- Covent Garden has a pretty piazza and market but not as many independent shops as it used to – it’s skewed towards high-end luxury brands like Tom Ford these days. Seven Dials retains a little more personality and is very pretty.
Some options for dinner that I personally like:
- Low-cost: La Porchetta Pollo Bar is a long-standing no-frills Italian on Old Compton Street in Soho. Franco Manca, a home-grown pizza chain that serves amazing Neapolitan-style pizza that’s very well-priced. Honest Burger is a great affordable chain that does a small simple menu of burgers really, really well. Fun fact: both Franco Manca and Honest Burger chains started as small independent units in Brixton Market about a decade ago. There are also plenty of Chinese restaurants to choose from in Chinatown, which is focused on Gerrard Street. I don’t have any specific recommendations, though.
- Mid-range: Floral by Lima has really good, authentic Peruvian food. For something old-school British, try Rules on Maiden Lane – it’s the oldest restaurant in London (and it shows in both the menu and the décor!).
- High-end: Balthazar is also great if you don’t mind spending a little more – it has a grand interior and a New York-inspired menu. There’s also The Ivy, an elite London classic (not to be confused with The Ivy Grill or Brasserie – those are more accessible versions of the original), and J Sheekey: as upmarket as the Ivy and specialising in seafood; I had lobster thermidor there once – it was amazing!
Day 3: Westminster, South Bank To Tower Bridge
Today is a day of lots of walking!
Start in the heart of Westminster: Parliament Square, where you’ll find Westminster Abbey, the 1000-year-old abbey, where royal coronations and funerals take place. Across the square is the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British Government. You can do tours of both, but you need tickets in advance. Big Ben is the name we tend to use for the big fancy tower next to the palace of Westminster, but it technically refers to the massive bell inside it. This is the bell whose rings get broadcast in the UK at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Head east across the Westminster Bridge and then head north along the river past County Hall and the London Eye, which you could ride, but I suggest booking tickets in advance (and in all honesty, it’s not as good as the viewpoint I have planned for you on day three).
You’re now on the South Bank of the River Thames and the plan is to walk all the way along the river Thames until you get to the iconic Tower Bridge. It’s a long walk (4.5 km / 2.8 miles from Parliament Square to Tower Bridge), so wear comfortable shoes! Some of the things you’ll see along this walk include:
- Royal Festival Hall, a modernist concert hall built in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain.
- The Hayward Gallery, an art gallery in a brutalist concrete building
- Southwark Book Market takes place under Waterloo bridge
- National Theatre, one of the premier performing art spaces in the UK
- Gabriel’s Wharf, a cluster of independent shops and restaurants
- The Oxo Tower, around which you’ll find design shops. There’s also a restaurant on the 8th floor.
- The Tate Modern houses an impressive art collection in a converted power station. The main collection is free to view.
- The Millennium Bridge is opposite the Tate and you can see the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral beyond it.
- Shakespeare’s Globe, a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, which was demolished in 1644. You can do tours or even catch a play.
- The Clink Prison Museum – if you like the idea of exploring the darker side of medieval London.
- The Golden Hind, a reconstruction of the galleon in which Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the world in the 16th century.
- Southwark Cathedral, which dates from 1106.
- Borough Market, a popular food market under the railway lines near London Bridge.
- London Bridge, although it is not very interesting to look at! The fancy one with towers is Tower Bridge, of course.
- The Shard, the tallest building in the UK. You can get tickets to go up to the observation decks on floors 68, 69 and 72. The views are amazing! But I think the view I have planned for day 4 is better.
- The skyscrapers of the City, including the Walkie-Talkie Building (we’re coming back to that one tomorrow, though), which you’ll see from across the river
- Hay’s Galleria, a handsome retail arcade in a developed warehouse and wharf
- HMS Belfast, once a Royal Navy cruiser, now permanently moored in the Thames and open as a museum.
- Old City Hall: the glass building shaped a little like a helmet was once where the Mayor of London’s office was.
- Tower Bridge, one of the most recognisable icons of London, the bridge still opens for tall ships and you can go up one of the towers and walk over a glass floor looking down on the lower level below
- On the north side of the river, the Tower of London has stood for a thousand years and still houses the crown jewels belonging to the Royal family. At low tide, you might see the sign above what used to be the Traitors’s Gate, a watery entrance to the fortress for condemned prisoners.
It’s an epic walk!
Depending on when you get hungry, there are some good options for food scattered along this walking route, including:
- Giraffe, a family-friendly chain on the ground floor exterior of Royal Festival Hall
- Skylon, upstairs in Royal Festival Hall, is a fancier option with a great view and a good cocktail list
- The Tate Modern has a number of food options.
- Pizza Express and The Real Greek are both popular chains with restaurants between Millennium Bridge and Southwark Bridge
- The Anchor Bankside is an old, quaint English pub just beyond the – but it is extremely popular so may be difficult to get a table there.
- Nando’s next to the Anchorcould be an easier option – it’s a South African chain that specialises in grilled chicken and it is very popular in the UK (many of us like to go for a ‘cheeky Nando’s’)
- Franco Manca (pizza) has an outlet in Borough, as does Hawksmoor (steak)
- Borough Market itself has a huge choice of fresh food sold from stalls and carts – even if you’ve eaten before you make it this far, have a wander around to see what’s on offer.
- There are also some options in Hay’s Galleria
I think you’ll still be walking the route in the afternoon, especially if you stop to go inside any of the attractions you pass along the way!
You’ve covered a lot of ground by this time, so treat yourself to a nice dinner near Tower Bridge. The best options are on the south side of the river, including:
- The Ivy Brasserie – not as special as the original, but more affordable
- The Coal Shed – steak & fish restaurant
- Gunpowder Tower Bridge – Indian cuisine
- Butler’s Wharf Chophouse – steak, burgers and some British favourites like fish & chips
- Le Pont de la Tour – French cuisine
- Cantina Del Ponte – Italian
Day 4: Sky Garden, Tower of London & Greenwich or East London
Have a lie-in and take it easy – you get a later start this morning because of all the walking you did yesterday. But you still have a busy day ahead!
Today you’ll get that viewpoint as promised. The two best options for a view over London are The Shard and the Walkie-Talkie building (officially 20 Fenchurch Street). Both are great, but only one has both a view of the Shard and is free – so I recommend the Walkie-Talkie Building. It has an observation deck on the 36th floor, with a winter garden and views on all four sides, most spectacularly over the river towards The Shard. It also has a great view northward towards the other skyscrapers in this part of London (my favourite is the Gherkin).
You don’t need to pay, but you do need to book a timed ticket through their website, and these get snapped up fast, so best to book several months ahead.
However, if they’re booked up, you might still be able to get in if you book lunch at the Darwin Brasserie restaurant that is within the Sky Garden. Access to the observation deck is included for all reservations. This is also true for the rooftop Fenchurch Restaurant.
Enjoy lunch at Darwin Brasserie. This restaurant is pretty good – I do recommend it for lunch, not just because it is a hack for getting into the Sky Garden.
After the Sky Garden, wander down Eastcheap until you get to the Tower of London. Maybe stop at the ruins of St Dunstan in the East Church Garden along the way.
You can pay to explore the Tower of London grounds, seeing the castle and its dungeons, the beefeater guards and spooky ravens, plus, of course, the Crown Jewels. Or you could simply admire the fortifications from the walkway along the river., which also gives you a great view of Tower Bridge.
After the Tower, you have a choice for your afternoon activities: either A, a boat trip to Greenwich, a village-like part of London where you’ll find the Greenwich Meridian and a small-town experience within the big city, OR B, a mooch around Brick Lane & Shoreditch, which are the cool areas of East London, known for hipsters and street art.
For Greenwich (A), take a Thames Clipper (Uber Boat) from the pier outside the Tower and head east to Greenwich. You’ll go under Tower Bridge, which is pretty cool and past Canary Wharf, a cluster of skyscrapers in East London. At Greenwich you can:
- Explore the Cutty Sark, a museum built around a historic sailing ship that was once the fastest ship on the seas
- Admire the grand building of Greenwich Naval College
- Browse Greenwich’s cute independent shops and indoor market, which has antiques, art and food
- Wander through Greenwich Park
- Visit the Greenwich Observatory and straddle the Prime Meridian line, one side on the eastern hemisphere of the globe and the other on the western hemisphere.
For Shoreditch (B): head north from Tower and explore Spitalfields and Shoreditch, looking out for:
- Spitalfields Market, an indoor market for independent fashion, jewellery, homewares and also food
- Brick Lane has been long known for its Bengali curry houses and more recently for its street art
- Truman Brewery Markets, an arts and events centre with various shops and bars
- Beigel Bake Brick Lane is famous for its Jewish-style bagels
- Boundary Gardens at Arnold Circus is a historic spot that used to be part of a slum in this area in the 19th century.
- Shoreditch Town Hall, which is a municipal building turned into an events centre.
Greenwich (A): catch a movie at the Greenwich Picturehouse, an independent cinema, followed by dinner at Franco Manca, just around the corner from the cinema.
Shoreditch (B): so many options for food in the triangle of Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch High street & old street. Dishoom could be a good option or Pizza East. If you want some entertainment, there’s a bowling alley called All-Star lanes bowling. And if you like cocktails, there’s a very well-rated cocktail bar called Tayēr + Elementary, which is number 2 on the World’s Best Bars list in 2022.
Other things to do in London
I’ve kept this itinerary to three days, but there are many other things to do in London if you have more time, including:
- So many great museums: The British Museum, Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum
- Regents Park, Hyde Park, Albert Memorial & the Royal Albert Hall
- Visit some of the personality-led peripheral neighbourhoods, eg Camden Town.
Day 5: Travel To Paris
Between getting to St Pancras, going through the checks, the journey itself and finding your way to your accommodation, I don’t suggest you plan much else on this day other than exploring the area around your hotel and grabbing dinner near where you’re staying.
But I do suggest you manage your expectations about Paris: I think it’s a wonderful, beguiling place and I haven’t been bored of exploring it despite many visits. However, some people’s expectations are so very high they end up being disappointed by the reality of Paris. this is possibly more of a risk if it is your first-time visit to Paris.
Where To Stay In Paris
I’ve stayed in the following Paris hotels which I really liked (there are some others I haven’t liked, so I won’t send you to those ones!):
- 3-star: the Hotel Auberge Flora is in the Bastille area. The rooms are small but comfortable and the hotel has everything you need. I liked the cheerful bar downstairs and they offer a simple, affordable breakfast in the morning.
- 4-star: in Montmartre, the Terrass Hotel is stylish and comfortable and has some wonderful views across Paris to the Eiffel Tower (unless you’re in Paris in winter, when the view might be obscured by moisture in the air).
- 5-star: the Hotel Regina Louvre, is next to the Louvre. It is old-school, luxurious and has some elegant Art Nouveau design features. Some rooms have a view of the Eiffel Tower, but all of them are special.
Paris Itinerary: Things To Do & Places To Eat
Day 6: Eiffel Tower, Musee D’Orsay, Seine River & Pompidou Centre
Start early to avoid the worst of the crowds and climb the most recognisable of Paris landmarks: the Eiffel Tower. It is a must-see if you are in Paris for the first time and a kiss at the top of the Eiffel Tower is one of the most romantic things to do in Paris for couples. Make sure you book a ticket in advance to minimise queuing. You should allow at least a couple of hours to get up the tower, enjoy the view and get back down.
After this, head towards Rue Cler, which is about 15 minutes walk away. You’ll walk through some classic Haussmann-style Parisian streets along the way.
Rue Cler: this pretty market street has plenty of cafes with terrace seating, so take your pick!
After lunch, walk east towards Les Invalides, the gold-domed baroque building that contains the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France in the early 19th Century. You can go inside if you like, or just admire the building from the outside.
Heading north, you’ll come to the Seine River when you turn right towards The Musée d’Orsay, which has a great exhibition of impressionist art. (If that doesn’t take your fancy, the Louvre is just across the river.)
Once you’ve finished at the gallery, you can jump on a Batobus – a hop-on-hop-off river boat that does a fixed route along the river, with boats approx. every 20-25 minutes. You can join at the Musee D’Orsay stop, from where the boat heads east towards Notre Dame.
Enjoy the ride and get off at Hotel de Ville. From here you can walk to the Pompidou Centre, an art gallery in a bold inside-out building, with pipes and tubes on the exterior. Check out the gallery, by all means, but the main reason you’re here is for the restaurant on the top floor: Georges.
Georges – make a reservation in advance. Georges has a great view over Paris, including the Tour Saint-Jacques. From the viewing terraces on the other side of the restaurant, you can also see the Eiffel Tower over the rooftops of Paris.
You’ve done a lot of walking already today, so I suggest you have an easy evening. Enjoy your dinner and the view and have an easy evening.
Day 7: Notre Dame, Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain-Des-Pres & Arc De Triomphe
Spend the morning exploring Île de la Cité and the left bank of the Seine in the Latin Quarter. This is the oldest area of Paris, the heart of the city since the middle ages.
Things to do include:
- Notre-Dame cathedral
- Sainte-Chapelle (the one with the stained glass windows)
- Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole, a picturesque café covered in vines
- Pont Neuf – one of the best-known bridges over the Seine
- Bouquinistes – bookstalls and print-sellers whose stalls line the Seine
- Shakespeare & Company – a cute bookshop and café
You could snack on a choux bun from Odette cafe, but I suggest you save lunch until you reach Les Deux Magots on Saint-Germain Boulevard. This is one of the most iconic cafes in Paris, and a great spot to enjoy some people-watching from a wicker chair on the terrace – though you might need to queue if you don’t make a reservation. Some alternatives in the area are Café Flore and La Societe.
Spend some time strolling around Saint-Germain-des-Pres, known for its philosophical thinkers: it was the centre of the existentialist movement (associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir). You could take a look at Saint Germain des Pres church and, if you’re up for more walking, you could go even further south into the lovely Luxembourg Gardens.
Get the metro to Charles de Gaulle Etoile because tonight you will climb to the top of Napoleon’s monument to war heroes, the Arc De Triomphe, watching the sun go down. Make sure you check the time of sunrise for the dates you’re in Paris – and book tickets to give you access about an hour before sunset. It’s really magical to watch the lights come on over Paris.
Heads up: there are a lot of steps to get up there (and down).
Why not try Les Philosophes, which does classic French food including a scrumptious onion soup and a perfectly crisp Crème Brulee.
Day 8: Palais Garnier, Les Grands Magasins, Sacre-Coeur & Montmartre
You can have a late start today – you’ve already covered a lot of ground in days 1 and 2, and you will probably appreciate a lie-in and a lazy breakfast.
Book some tickets for Palais Garnier – the opulent opera house I mentioned earlier. Spend an hour or so exploring the decadent theatre and then do the short walk to Boulevard Haussmann, where you’ll find Galleries Lafayette, one of the grand department stores of Paris. Even if you’re not interested in going any designer shopping, you can admire the stunning architecture.
Next door to Galleries Lafayette is another art nouveau masterpiece department store: Printemps.
Reine Mer is a small restaurant on the 9th floor of Printemps. You might get lucky and get a table with a view – and if not, you can enjoy the view from the terrace after lunch. Reine Mer specialises in fish, but if that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other places to eat within Printemps.
After lunch, take the Metro to Anvers and walk up the hill to the Basilica of Sacré Cœur de Montmartre, where you can climb to the dome or simply enjoy the view from outside. After this, follow my self-guided walking tour of Montmartre to find all the sights and viewpoints in this charming and legendary Paris neighbourhood. Or you could find your own route around Montmartre – there are some nice spots off the beaten path of Paris.
Grab a bite in either Moulin De La Galette (famous for inspiring the painting by Renoir) or La Boite Aux Lettres.
If you can find an English-language movie you fancy, consider catching a film at the art deco-style Studio 28 cinema in Montmartre.
Other things to do in Paris
I packed a lot into that itinerary for 3 days in Paris, but there’s plenty more to do if you have time:
- Exploring Le Marais, including checking out the handsome Place des Vosges and possibly the Carnavalet Museum, which tells the history of Paris (and is free!)
- Musée de l’Orangerie, which displays some of Monet’s waterlilies
- leisurely stroll through Tuileries gardens and towards Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Élysées
- Promenade Plantée René-Dumont, a leafy raised walkway in the Bastille area
- Discover the covered passages of Paris – 19th century covered walkways where you can find independent shops, cafes and some architectural gems
- Enjoy the view of Paris from Montparnasse Tower
And if it’s your first time in Paris, check out my ideas and tips for visiting Paris for the first time.
Day 9: Travel To Barcelona
Most of the day will be getting to the station, on the train and getting to your hotel in Barcelona, so there won’t be time for much else than breakfast in Paris and grabbing dinner in Barcelona.
Where To Stay In Barcelona
The best place I’ve stayed in Barcelona so far was the mid-range Musik Boutique Hotel, which was perfect for a city break: it is in the middle of Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera, so easy to get to many places in central Barcelona, including the Gothic Quarter. However, it is also fairly quiet and I had a large, modern room.
Barcelona Itinerary: Things To Do & Places To Eat
Day 10: Gaudí Landmarks
Today is all about Gaudí, the creative architectural genius who created many of the landmarks that Barcelona is famous for.
Book ahead for tickets to see La Sagrada Família, Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece and the most recognisable icon in Barcelona. Construction started on Gaudí’s church in 1882 and is ongoing today. It is estimated it will not be finished until 2030 or 2032. Its unique, gothic-inspired spires tower over every other building in the city centre, and its style clashes unapologetically with Eixample’s neat network of streets.
You can admire the spectacle of the exterior for free (the view is best from Plaça de Gaudí). But I do recommend getting tickets to go inside the cathedral. The intricately detailed exterior is fascinating, and the interior feels just as bold but calm, fluid and almost organic.
After La Sagrada, stroll through the smart, wide streets of Eixample towards Passeig de Gràcia, where you’ll find Casa Batlló, the Gaudí -designed house with the whimsical, colourful façade. This house is in a row of buildings with bold and innovative designs (Illa de la Discòrdia), yet still it stands out with its blue-green colours and soft curves. You can admire this one from the street and also get tickets to explore the interior – but I must warn you it can get very crowded inside and the interior design is not as bold and colourful as the exterior.
Vinitus is a big breezy restaurant near Casa Batlló and they serve some really great tapas – so this is the perfect spot for lunch. I really enjoyed broken eggs and deep-fried artichokes here.
Just a little way from Vinitus and Casa Batlló is Casa Mila (or La Pedrera). Occupying a corner of one of the blocks, Casa Mila has a fluid structural style with a rough-hewn finish. It is this finish that led to its nickname, La Pedrera, which means ‘stone quarry’. It was the last private house designed by Gaudí, finished in 1912.
Whilst the building itself isn’t as ostentatious and enchanting as Casa Batlló, a big draw is the rooftop terrace which has a number of unique chimneys. Tickets include an audio guide and a Gaudí exhibition.
If you’re not Gaudi’ed out by now, there is another major Gaudi attraction in Gracia, in the north of the city: Park Güell, which is a mixture of architecture and gardens, with a view over the city.
And if you have time, tax a bus or taxi to Turó de la Rovira, an old bunker on a hilltop and one of the best viewpoints in Barcelona. It is quite exposed here, though: I got drenched on my last visit, as the skies opened up when I was at the top of the hill!
Head across town to El Born for dinner. Cal Pep is an unassuming place, but very good. The best seats are at the counter, where you can watch the food being prepared in front of you – but expect to queue before the opening time for the privilege. I loved my calamari and Spanish omelette here – simple classics done really well.
Day 11: The Old City
Yesterday was spent mostly in the Eixample and Gracia areas of Barcelona, but today you’ll explore the old city: Ciutat Vella. These old neighbourhoods are my favourite parts of Barcelona.
Explore the Gothic Quarter: the heart of Ciutat Vella. For a detailed guide, check out my post all about Barcelona’s Old City, but be sure to look out for the following:
- Barcelona Cathedral – This cathedral dates from the 14th Century and is an example of Gothic architectural style.
- The Roman Towers, built around one of the entrance gates to the city, at Bishop’s Gate (Portal del Bisbe) in the 4th century AD
- Bishop’s Bridge: a bridge crossing the alleyway between two buildings – and one of the most photographed spots in the Gothic Quarter
- Placa del Rei is an old courtyard where you’ll find the Royal Palace (or Palau Reial Major de Barcelona), which was the residence of Catalan counts from the 13th to the early 15th centuries and the Watchtower of King Martí.
- Placa Ramon Berenguer el Gran, which gives a great view of more remains of the Roman walls, dating from the 1st century AD.
- Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi, Placa de Sant Josep Oriol and Placa de Pi – this gothic church is flanked by two lovely little squares where you can find artists and market stalls.
- La Rambla, a wide, tree-lined boulevard running northwest/southeast, with a central walkway designed for, well, rambling. This boulevard marks the border between the Gothic Quarter and the slightly cooler and edgier of neighbourhood of El Raval (also worth a wander, if you have time). La Rambla is very touristified, though, so you’ll find lots of souvenir shops and you should be especially careful of pickpockets here.
Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria is a food market just off La Rambla. There’s been a market here for more than 800 years – although the current covered structure was not built until 1853. Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (often called simply La Boqueria) is home to a range of food stalls, including meat, fish and also snack and tapas counters where you can buy fresh food & drink to eat on the spot. I ate at Kiosk Universal, where the food is so fresh the razor clams in the counter in front of me were wriggling around!
Explore more in the southern part of The Gothic Quarter:
- Plaça Reial feels like classic Barcelona to me: a square that is both grand and warm and charming with lots of palm trees making it feel tropical.
- Plaça del Duc de Medinaceli is on the southern edge of the Gothic Quarter and feels bright and open – lovely on a sunny day.
- Passeig de Colom – This palm-tree-lined promenade is edged with grand buildings and offers a view over the Marina.
Eventually, head east into neighbouring El Born, which is a very pretty labyrinthine neighbourhood with some amazing cocktail bars. It has also a buzzing food scene and some of the best tapas bars in Barcelona are here.
Things to do in El Born include:
- Picasso Museum, which pays homage to the great painter’s formative years in Barcelona. You can also do a Picasso walking tour in Barcelona
- One of many art galleries in El Born, including Moco Museum Barcelona.
- In the heart of the district is Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, a large church that dominates the small square that shares its name.
- Near there is a lovely leafy promenade, Passeig Del Born – shorter but more pleasant than La Rambla, in my opinion.
I really enjoyed the food and ambience at Story in El Born. I had some tapas there that included the most tender and delicious tuna.
El Set is another renowned tapas bar – but reserve a table in advance because this place is popular!
You might want to consider one of the many great cocktail bars in Barcelona – there are a few in El Born, including Paradiso, which was named number 1 in the list of World’s Best Bars in 2022.
Day 12: The Beach, Port Vell, Parc Ciutadella & Arc di Triomf
Seeing as Barcelona is a coastal city, today, you should head to the beach.
La Barceloneta is the waterfront district of Barcelona’s Old City, and on a sunny day, this place can be crawling with people – on the beach and on the walkways. There’ll be both strollers and rollers: people walking and people on skateboards, in-line skates, scooters and Segways.
The beach is obviously the main attraction: Somorrostro, Barceloneta and Sant Miquel are sandy beaches in Barceloneta. You can sunbathe, swim or do stand-up paddle-boarding. There’s also a museum called Casa de la Barceloneta 1761, which is a house that has been preserved in its original décor, giving a glimpse of life in 18th-century Barceloneta.
On the other side of the Barceloneta peninsular is Port Vell, a swanky marina filled with expensive boats, where you can ogle a few of the mega yachts that dock here. If you’d like to get out on the water yourself, consider a short boat trip from the Marina, such as a catamaran cruise.
And if you fancy a better view of Barcelona, there’s a cable car which can take you up over the city from Port Vell to Montjuïc.
There are plenty of waterfront cafes with terraces, but they get pretty busy. I found a few places off the busy strip between Barceloneta Beach and Port Vell:
- Barceloneta is an upmarket Mediterranean restaurant that needs a reservation
- La Cala Barceloneta is a popular brunch spot (which may well have a queue)
- Jerusalem is a hookah bar that offers delicious Middle Eastern mezze.
Head away from the sea to Parc De La Ciuttadella, which is Barcelona’s biggest city park and a vibrant place with lots to see and do, including Barcelona Zoo, a boating pond, the Catalan Parliament, the Museum of Modern Art and an ornate fountain. There are also plenty of trees, so it can be a good spot to get some shade on a hot day in the city.
From the park, head up Passeig de Lluís Companys, which is a grand pedestrian walkway with palm trees and the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia on one side. At the end of this, you’ll come to the Arc De Triomf. Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas built this arch as the main gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair which was held in the Parc de la Ciutadella.
It is an attractive reddish colour, with a series of ornate friezes. The frieze overlooking the Passeig de Sant Joan depicts Barcelona welcoming the nations and the frieze facing the park shows the city presenting medals to the exhibition participants.
Head back into the Old City, this time the barrio of Sant Pere, Santa Caterina I La Ribera.
You could check out Palau de la Música Catalana – a music hall, designed in the Catalan modernist style by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and built in 1908. Both its exterior and interior are wonderfully bold and fun. The hall hosts concerts of classical music and dance.
I recommend Elsa y Fred, which is one of my favourite tapas bars in Barcelona (so far) – it offers an inventive seasonal menu that often blends classic tapas dishes with eclectic ingredients.
Day 13: Onward Travel
Onwards travel from Barcelona. If you’re heading back to London, you could retrace your steps on the train, or you could fly back from Barcelona. Again, Skyscanner is good for flight deals.
If you’re not done with your travel, you could carry on into Spain. When I did this London Paris Barcelona itinerary, I carried on travelling to Madrid, then Lisbon and Porto in Portugal. It was a really fantastic trip!
The Last Word
I hope you found this London, Paris & Barcelona itinerary and guide useful! Travel by train is pretty easy in much of Europe – check out Seat61 for encyclopaedic information on train travel.