There are some cities in the world that are must visit cities than can take your attention for several days, or even weeks at a time. They reward as much time as you can give them. Paris is one of these cities, as is New York, but so too is London.
An exciting mix of old and new, geeky and hip, retro and chic London has something for everyone.
What to see
London can be done as a day trip from Paris, allowing you to see the highlights. The first train departs Paris at around 07h13 and will have you in London at 08h30. Last train back from London departs at around 20h00, giving you enough time for a curry in London before arriving back in Paris by 23h30. Note that there is a 1 hour time difference between Paris and London. Thus, when travelling to London the train ride is approximately 2 hours 15 but the arrival time is 1 hour 15 after departure. Add an hour when returning to Paris.
There are more things to see and do in London than you could possibly fit into one (or even three) days. Here are some highlights. If you are heading over for the day, you probably have time for two or three of them depending on your train.
Tower of London: or more formally known as "Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress" was originally founded in 1078 by William the Conquer and has at various times in its history a prison, a fortress, a treasury, the royal mint, the royal records office, a zoo. Now a major tourist site and home to the crown jewels. The free tours led by the uniformed 'beefeaters' (palace guards) are well worth doing
Parliament Buildings: The home of the British parliament and Big Ben, at the other end of the city from the Tower of London provides an interesting insight into the past and present of English politics. Visits for tourists are by guided tours only. These are available on Saturday's and during the summer recesses - there are no tours on Sundays. More information is available on the UK parliament website. It is not possible for non-UK citizens to climb Big Ben
London Eye: The tallest Ferris Wheel in Europe (135m/442ft high), the London Eye provides amazing panoramic views over London and its major monuments. One rotation takes about 30 minutes. Although, be warned, it is London's most popular paid tourist attraction and can be subject to long lines.
Buckingham Palace: Probably the most famous royal palaces in England (and there are several you could visit) and home to the Royal Family, the 600 room palace can be visited during the summer months when the Royal's are not in residence. Look for the flag pole - if the flag is flying, the queen is in. The 11 o'clock changing of the guard ceremony is also worth seeing.
British Museum: Some of the worlds most famous archaeological items are on display in the British Museum, including the Rosetta Stone, the largest and most comprehensive collection of Egyptian antiquities, the Nereid Monument, a massive collection of Assyrian antiquities including palace reliefs from Nineveh, and drawings by da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo. Probably the most controversial of the Museums collection is the Parthenon Marbles, from the Acropolis in Greece. Free to visit, and open every day (except three days over Christmas and New Years day).
London churches: There is a never ending number of churches to visit in London. The most famous are probably St Paul's Cathedral (the worlds second largest domed cathedral (behind St. Peters in Rome), and location of the wedding of Prince Charles and Dianna Spencer in 1981, and the final resting place of the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson), Westminster Abbey (home of nearly every royal coronation since 1066, and final resting place of Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, and David Livingstone and the site of the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton), and Westminster Cathedral (one of the few Byzentine buildings in London, the cathedral is world renowned for its music and concerts).
Art galleries: The Saatchi Gallery, The Tate Modern, The National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, and the Serpentine Gallery to name just a few - if you love art you could spend a week in London's art galleries alone.
Also worth a look are places like Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, Harrods, Covent Garden, The Globe Theatre, the list is endless.
And if you are staying longer in London, you could take a day trip from London as well.
Things to do
How to get there
Getting to London is super simple - even simplier than getting to some of France's smaller towns.
Trains leave about every half hour from Paris, Gare du Nord regularly throughout the day. It is worth buying your Eurostar tickets beforehand. You can do this on the SNCF website or on the official Eurostar website. It is also possible to buy them in person at the station. There seem to be a number of places that sell Eurostar tickets on commission - buy direct, its commission free.
Departing on the Eurostar is also reasonably easy. You should aim to be at the station around 30 minutes before your train as you will need to go through French and UK customs as well as security at Gare du Nord. This simplifies arrival at London St Pancrass, as there are no additional boarder formalities in London (note: this is the same for the return, all formalities are done at London St Pancrass). The boarder queues normally move reasonably quickly, but the train will depart on time, so ensure you arrive 30 minutes before.
The Eurostar is the only train that has boarder formalities and so its entry is separate from other trains. These are on the mezannine floor and can be accessed by lifts/elevators at the door for Rue de Dunkerque/Place Napoleon III or by stairs once you enter the station through the main entrance and turn right.
To depart you will need your passport/identity document, ticket and a UK customs declaration card which are available on the mezzanine floor at the station before you enter boarder security. Bring a pen!
Once you have completed your immigration document for the UK you can proceed through the formalities.
The first desk is French boarder control, the second desk is UK boarder control (where you will need your landing card). Following these two desks there is a security scanner which will scan all bags going on the train but it is not as strict as airport security. After these procedures you will enter the waiting area which has a number of restaurants/sandwich stores, magazine stores, and gift shops. When your train is called you exit the wating lounge, you will need to show your ticket and passport to access the platform. You need to descend onto the train platform. There are stairs and an elevator available.
Once on the platform you need to find your train car/voiture. These are displayed on the side of the train on a small LCD screen. Once you have found yours, board the car, stow any large luggage in the space provided, and find your seat.
Approximate Distance from Paris: 370km/235mi
Time to get there: 2.5 hours
Transport Method: Eurostar from Paris Gare du Nord
Approximate Price: Fares from 50 Euro if booked well in advance.
70-100 Euro if booked 1 month ahead.
Worth: Several days but can be done as a day trip.
For ideas on day trips: http://www.beyond-london-travel.com/