My husband and I went to London and France the beginning of April with two of our friends and we had the best time! We lucked out on the weather and felt like this was a great time to go because although it was still busy, we missed the insane summer crowds. Below is our itinerary over the 10 days we were there (long post ahead because I want to remember all the details).
Day 1 London
High Tea at Savoy, Porterhouse Drinks & Live Music, Piccadilly Circus, Burgers and Gelato
We took a red eye flight, arrived in London around 1pm and took a taxi from the airport to our hotel (the price of a taxi vs train is about the same so I would recommend taking a Taxi since you can get to your destination faster and won’t have to haul your luggage around connecting trains). We stayed at The Z Hotel in Covent Garden. Although the rooms were tiny, the location was perfect and we were able to walk almost everywhere we wanted to go. I would recommend staying here based on the location alone. We took a nap after our long flight (did not sleep much on the plane) and then got ready for Afternoon Tea at The Savoy. This experience was so much fun and was a highlight for me from our trip. We were served traditional sandwiches and savory bites, pan seared salmon and a variety of pastries and scones while sipping our tea. Everything was delicious!
After tea we walked around Covent Garden until we stumbled upon The Porterhouse. This bar was massive with three levels and felt like there was something there for everyone. We found a table, had some drinks and enjoyed the live music from the band playing behind the bar down below. A fun place to go in London.
Then we decided to take the train to Piccadilly Circus which reminded me of Time Square in New York. Lots of billboards and lights, shops and people walking around even late at night. We stopped into Gordon Ramsay Street Burger for some food and ended the night at Amorino Gelato (which we later discovered is a chain all over Europe). A great start to our trip!
Day 2 London
Hop on Hop off Bus, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, London Eye, China Town, Adelphi Theatre-Back to the Future, Little Italy
Tommy and I purchased a London Pass which covered admission to many of the places we wanted to visit. We started the morning getting on a Hop On Hop Off Bus which allowed us to explore the city at our own pace. They have headphones available on the buses but it’s mainly used to get on and off wherever you need based on what attractions you want to see. We took a long walk through St James’s Park and made our way to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of The King’s Guard. Well, we thought we were going to see this but when it was 11am and nothing was happening we discovered this only happens on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. We were there on Saturday so we didn’t get a chance to see this but still enjoyed seeing Buckingham Palace.
From there we went to Westminster Abbey and explored the royal church. Then we walked to Big Ben, the world’s famous clocktower (we didn’t go inside since it was closed but were able to walk all around it). We crossed Westminster bridge and walked over to London Eye to take some photos.
Then we hopped back on the bus and went to China Town. There were endless places to eat and lots to explore. We also tried Taiyaki which is a fish-shaped pastry with custard inside.
Later we went back to our hotel in Convent Garden and got ready to see Back to the Future: The Musical at Adelphi Theatre. This was another highlight of the trip for me. I definitely recommend checking out this show if you are in London!
After the show we found some late night eats exploring Little Italy in the Soho area. This part of London was wild at night. Endless night clubs, restaurants and people walking around the streets. It reminded me a bit like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or like 6th Street in Austin, Texas. This is definitely the area you would want to explore in your early 20s/bar and club scene season of life. We would love to come back here for a milestone birthday! Tommy and I enjoyed a delicious pizza before making our way back to our hotel and calling it a night.
Day 3 London
Neal’s Yard, Opera House, The Shard, Borough Market, London Tower, London Bridge, Soho Hobson`s Fish & Chips, Gelato
We walked about 10 minutes from Covent Garden to Neal’s Yard which was a small alley with little shops and restaurants. We snapped some photos then kept walking and stumbled upon The Royal Opera House and grabbed a quick bite to eat. We learned that every Sunday is Family Day where they do events and performances for the families. Seeing all the kids made us miss our little guy at home!
We were trying to decide if we should walk the 45 min to The Shard or get onto the Hop on Hop off Bus. Well, we discovered The London Landmarks Half-Marathon was happening this morning which changed all the bus routes so we decided to just continue to walk and keep exploring the city along the way. When we reached The Shard (another activity you can use with The London Pass) we took the elevator up to the top and soaked in the 360 degree views of the city. I know I keep saying this but this was another highlight of the trip for me! It reminded me of the time we went to Bangkok and saw the city at sunset (read about that trip here).
After spending some time enjoying the views of the city, we went back down and walked across the street to Borough Market. This is a must do if you are visiting London! Many vendors selling any type of food you can think of, gifts, cheese, desserts, souvenirs, really it was endless. We had a great time trying out an assortment of foods and exploring this market (The mushroom risotto was my favorite, so delicious!).
From the market we walked to the Tower of London and explored the iconic castle. Then we walked to Tower Bridge and climbed the 206 steps to the top. Both of these excursions are included in the London Pass.
After a day full of walking and exploring, we made our way back to our hotel for a quick rest before heading out to dinner. We went to Hobson’s Fish & Chips in Soho. The food was good but pretty much everything is fried so something to keep in mind if you are thinking about checking out this spot. Then we ended the night with dessert, some yummy gelato.
Day 4 Travel From London To Amboise
Travel Day- Train from London to Paris, Train from Paris to Amboise, Dinner in Amboise at L’Epicerie
This was a long day of traveling from London to Paris and then from Paris to Amboise. We used RailEurope to book our train tickets and had a couple of transfers along the way. I definitely recommend taking the train over flying since the process is pretty seamless. We arrived in Amboise around 6pm, checked into our hotel and relaxed a bit before dinner. We stayed at Hotel Au Charme Rabelaisien which was a charming hotel with comfortable rooms and within walking distance to everything.
We had our first French meal in Amboise at L’Epicerie and everything was delicious.
Day 5 Amboise
Château Day- Château de Chenonceau, Château de Cheverny, Château de Chambord
Today was a day spent exploring three different châteaus. We hired a driver to drive us to and from each one, picking us up in Amboise and taking us first to Château de Chenonceau. This château was by far my favorite and the one I found the most beautiful. The first château was built between the 12th and 13th centuries while the château in its current form was built between 1513 and 1517. Not only is the castle stunning inside but the gardens worked on by Queen Catherine de’ Medici are absolutely perfect. If you are looking to visit a château in the Loire Valley, this is it!
Next we drove to Château de Cheverny, which was constructed in the 17th century and is currently occupied by the descendants of the Hurault family (living in the right wing while the left wing is open to the public for tours). This château was full of furniture and had a more homey feeling. We were also able to see all the hunting dogs in their kennels and see all the decorations out for Easter. This was a nice place to visit but was no comparison to Château de Chenonceau and one I would not recommend if you are short on time.
The final château we visited was Château de Chambord and wow, this castle is massive. Commissioned by King Francis I, the Chateau de Chambord is the largest castle of the Loire Valley and is a symbol of the French Renaissance. Chambord has 426 rooms, 83 staircases and 282 fireplaces (yet was built without any bathrooms)! It was very beautiful with massive rooms, although was a little overwhelming and we felt pretty tired by the time we came here. We opted to explore a bit and then grabbed a snack at the café nearby.
We arrived back in Amboise around 6pm, relaxed for a bit and then got ready for dinner. Make sure you make reservations ahead of time since most places in Amboise are on the smaller side and fill up fast. We ended the night hanging out at the hotel and playing some card games.
Day 6 Amboise
Café Breakfast, Shopping in Amboise, Chateau Amboise, Wine Tasting at La Cave, Dinner at Chez Bruno, Card Games at Hotel
We started the morning with a typical French breakfast-croissants and pastries, at a local café. Then we walked down the main street in Amboise, exploring the different shops and looking for souvenirs to bring back home for our family.
We then went to Château d’Amboise since it is right in the center of town and explored this final chateau of the trip.
After, it was time for some wine tasting at La Cave where you can pay 5 Euro to taste a variety of either white or red wines while enjoying the view of the castle right outside. We ended up taking three bottles home and strategically packed them in our suitcase for the plane ride back. Later we stumbled upon St. Denis church in Amboise and explored this church built in the 12th century.
We enjoyed another delicious dinner in Amboise at Chez Bruno. If you go here don’t skip out on dessert and order the chocolate, so delicious!
Day 7 Travel From Amboise to Paris
Train from Amboise to Paris, Walk Luxembourg Gardens, Lunch near Opera House, Walk Champs-Élysées, Seine River Cruise at Sunset, Eiffel Tower, McDonalds in Bed
We took the two hour train from Amboise to Paris in the early afternoon and arrived in Paris around 2pm. We checked into our hotel, Hotel Mercure La Sorbonne Saint-Germain-des-Prés which is located in the Latin Quarter. The rooms were clean, comfy and much larger than the hotel we stayed at in London. I would recommend staying here if you are interested in staying in the Latin Quarter of Paris. However, we found that Paris is very spread out and not as walkable as London. The 7th arrondissement of Paris might be a more appealing area to stay in if you are looking to be closer to some of the main monuments in Paris and not have to take the train form one destination to the next. The train is very easy to navigate though and most hubs are only about a 5 or 10 min walk away from each other.
After checking in and getting settled, we walked the Luxembourg Gardens and then down Champs-Élysées (one of the worlds most famous commercial streets), basically just killing some time before the Seine River cruise at sunset. We tried to visit Palais Garnier and stopped for lunch before but then realized it was closed by the time we were ready to enter. We decided to make our way back near the Eiffel Tower to get ready for the river cruise.
I really enjoyed the Seine River Cruise and felt like this was a great way to see the city on our first night there. There are many options to book online with a variety of boats and I believe they are all about the same. The only difference is if you decide to do a dinner cruise with the tour which we opted not to. You are able to board the boat at anytime you want throughout the day without a reservation. We got on at 7:30pm which I felt was a great time to see the city right before sunset. The cruise is 1 hour, starting at the Eiffel Tower then passing by known monuments such as Musée d’Orsay, Notre Dame Cathedral and Louvre Museum.
After the cruise we walked around the Eiffel Tower and watched it sparkle at night. The Eiffel Tower sparklers every hour as soon as it gets dark for 5 minutes until dusk. We stumbled upon this Free Photo-booth where a woman takes photos with a vintage camera and it instantly prints. This was a fun souvenir from the night.
We took the train back to the Latin Quarter area and decided to end the night with good old McDonalds back in bed at our hotel. A classic first dinner choice for our first night in Paris (haha).
Day 8 Paris
Louvre Museum, Cafe Marley, Arc de Triomphe, Drinks along Seine River, Notre Dame, Italian Dinner in Rue de la Huchett, Jazz Club-Le Caveau de la Huchette
If you want to check out the Louvre Museum (which I highly recommend) get there early! We booked our tickets online ahead of time and choose the 9:30am time slot. When we got to the museum, we saw a huge line that wrapped around the corner. Then we saw another line which looked to be the entrance. We showed the person working their our tickets and he told us to go to another area instead. We walked past Café Marley, down the escalator to a sperate entrance with no line at all! We actually didn’t even realize we were inside the museum once we entered since we got in so fast. Try entering this way if you have a select time for tickets and you can get in within 5 minutes.
The museum is massive and one could easily spend a of couple days here and still not see everything. We decided to head to Mona Lisa right away since there wasn’t a line. From there we explored the different levels and exhibits in complete awe of the history behind the pieces that have been around for so many years. Spending time in the Louvre Museum was definitely another highlight for me from this trip.
After a couple of hours in the museum, we stopped at Le Café Marley for some lunch. This café has one of the best views and was a a nice resting place after walking around the museum. We sat on the balcony people watching while enjoying a club sandwich. If you do come here make sure to book a reservation ahead of time online and know that you are paying for the scenic view when it comes to the food prices.
We took the train to Arc de Triomphe, crossed underneath and snapped some photos. Then we made our way to Île de la Cité which is an island in the Seine River in the center of Paris. We had some drinks, sat on a bench and waved to the boats passing by.
We walked to Notre Dame and read all about the incredible reconstruction of the church then grabbed dinner in Rue de la Huchett (one of the oldest streets that is now famous for having the highest concentration of restaurants in the city). We went to a fun Italian restaurant called Il Gigolo and had some delicious pizza and pasta.
Then we walked a couple minutes to Le Caveau de la Huchette which is a Jazz Club in the Latin Quarter. This was one of my favorite nights in Paris! We walked down to this cellar/compact basement with a midcentury vibe to find an open area of seats and a stage for the band. We listened to jazz music while watching the locals swing dance. Get there early to get a good seat or if you get there later you can join the locals on the dance floor. It was so much fun! A must do for a memorable evening in Paris.
Day 9 Paris
Breakfast, Shakespeare and Company, Sainte-Chapelle, Palais Garnier, Ladurée Macaroons, Picnic in Jardin Des Tuileries, Eiffel Tower at Night
We had breakfast nearby our hotel and walked along the river checking out the bouquinistes’ stalls. There was a huge line to get into Shakespeare and Company which I probably would have been more into if I was more of a book lover. Then we went to Sainte-Chapelle, a royal chapel in gothic style with gorgeous stained glass windows.
We took the train back to Palais-Garnier and got in this time. The opera house was absolutely stunning and a place I definitely recommend checking out if you are in Paris.
After exploring Opéra Garnier we grabbed some famous Ladurée Macaroons and sat in The Tuileries Gardens while people watching and relaxing in the sunshine. It was a beautiful day in Paris!
That night we had dinner near the Eiffel Tower and after met up with our tour group to go to the top! If you do plan to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I recommend booking with a tour group just to skip the lines. We went through the company Get Your Guide and met up with the group at 9:30pm. It still felt like it took awhile to get in even with our group so I can’t imagine waiting in line on our own. Our guide told us during the summer months the wait time is around 4 hours! A couple things to note, there are several options for going to the top. You can get a ticket with stair access to the second floor (this is probably the fasted way up), a ticket with access lift to the second floor or a ticket with access lift to the top. We had tickets with access lift to the top but honestly I would recommend skipping going to the top and just staying on the second floor (in hindsight we wish we would have done this). The view is still incredible and you can miss out on waiting on the long lines to get to the top.
Day 10 Paris
McDonalds and Starbucks breakfast, Shopping and exploring in Montmartre, Dinner at Bouillon Racine
Our last day in Paris! We slept in and got a typical American breakfast-Starbucks and McDonalds breakfast sandwiches. Then we took the train to Montmartre to explore and shop. The hilly area in the 18th arrondissement has cobblestone streets, lots of traditional cafes and restaurants and lots of little unique shops for souvenirs to bring home.
We had a delicious lunch at Le Vrai Paris and sat on the street while enjoying the views like true Parisians.
That night we celebrated my husbands birthday and enjoyed our last dinner in Paris at Bouillon Racine. Many restaurants in Paris offer le menu, which may also be called the formule with first course (appetizer), second course (entrée) and third course (dessert). Sometimes a fourth course is offered before dessert which can be a cheese option. This is offered as a three or four course package for a set price and is often the best deal in the house!
If you made it this far, props to you for reading this whole thing (haha)! I also took about 1,000+ more photos but narrowed it down to these in this post. My husband and I had a wonderful time in London, Amboise and Paris and did everything we wanted to do. This definitely was a nice little vacation that we feel so lucky we were to be able to take together and experience with our close friends before our baby #2 arrives later this August!