Paris vs. London: who wins?

I was lucky enough to spend my birthday one Eurostar journey away – in Paris! I have had a soft spot for Paris ever since I visited with my high school theatre troupe. And as I begin my 3rd year in London, it’s time for a Capital Clash!

Paris_vs_london

 

The City of Light vs. The Square Mile: who wins ans why?

  1. Cost of living.

    Transport in Paris is cheaper. A LOT cheaper. For those without a Navigo pass (the equivalent of an Oyster card in London), a one way journey costs 1.85€, no matter the zones, no matter the length, no matter the transport (tube, bus, tram all count). Comparatively, the price for a one-way tube ticket in London varies according to the zones, the time –peak and off-peak, the kind of transport. For those with travelcards : a monthly Navigo pass costs around 60€ zones 1-5 (that includes a trip to CDG airport & Orly). A monthly Oyster travelcard zones 1-3 costs £144.8.

    whatbaby
    What about rent? A studio in central London will rob your bank account of an average of £2,000 per month. Paris offers halved prices for a flat in the 1st and 2nd arrondissement.

  2. Shops and restaurants.

    Paris has individual shopkeepers and individually-run restaurants with their own character and quirkiness : butchers, cheese sellers, bakers, brasseries, patisseries, etc. seem to rule the streets whereas London has an infinite amount of chain shops and cafés offering the same kind of food and the same kind of cheddar cheese. Aren’t Londoners sick of Prêt à manger, Gregg’s, Nando’s, Paul, Costa, Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s Local…?

    Restaurant 'Chez Janou' near Places des Vosges

    Restaurant ‘Chez Janou’ near Places des Vosges

  3. Night buses.

    Ever taken the 53 London bus at night? Or walked down Charring Cross Rd at 1am? If you have, you know what I’m talking about. Loud, drunk, inappropriate behaviour all around. Rude, youngsters with absolutely no respect for the others on the bus and altogether an unpleasant experience. Paris may not have the quiet Zurich evenings, nor the peaceful, sober streets, but the population seems calmer, night buses are just like day buses and young people seem (and sound) sensible enough to keep to themselves in a public environment.

  4. Landmarks.

    I have a penchant for Versailles’s jardins à la française with its musical fountains and am head over heels for Place du Tertre at Montmartre with its impressionist painters and caricaturists but objectively, this one will have to be a tie. London has its wonderful Thames path – you can start at Westminster and see the Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye, the Southbank arts centre, Gabriel’s Wharf, the OXO tower, the Tate Modern, The Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Borough Market and the Shard all within an hour (provided you don’t walk in the Tate and forget there is an outside world.)

    A spontaneous concert on the Southbank.

  5. Bridges.

    London wins this one. Thames bridges are iconic. You can all picture Horace Jone’s Tower Bridge and the more modern Millennium Bridge by the inevitable Norman Foster. Other bridges have their own characteristics like Blackfriars Railway Bridge:  the biggest photovoltaic bridge in the world (there is only one other bridge of the kind in the whole world, in Brisbane, Australia).
    Still, let’s not forget some of Paris’ beauties : the Pont de la Tournelle doesn’t get enough attention. The Pont au Double with its one arch cast-iron look, the Pont des Arts footbridge (mainly for the romantic view it has to offer and of course, the “love locks” which have now been taken down – love carries weight…)

  6. The secret spots.

    A city is not well-explored until you have discovered more than just the Eiffel Tower and Westminster. London is filled with lesser-known yet just as beautiful places to visit. The Hindu Temple in Neasden is worth a trip at the edge of zone 3, the Thames Barrier Park is also a great place to spend a sunny Sunday.

    Thames Barrier Park.

    Paris too has more than the Louvres and Notre-Dame. I recently discovered the Viaduct des Arts, a disused viaduct reconverted in a strip of art galleries in the vaults while the railway itself has been metamorphosed into a landscaped pathway  – La Promenade Plantée – overlooking Blv. Daumesnil and offering a fantastic getaway from the city’s traffic.

    viaduct_arts

    Viaduct des Arts near Place de la Bastille.

  7. Modern Architecture.

    London has skyscrapers but does that make it a pro or a con? Hard to say. The Gherkin and The Shard have become the new Tower Bridge and the glass architecture mania is nowhere near about to stop.
    But what about Paris? There is of course La Défense – the modern business district with its famous Grande Arche but Paris is home to a lot more. The Cité de la Mode et du Design is quite something, the Islamic Arts Wing in the Louvres should not go amiss, Parc André Citroën with its dancing fountains, the Musée du quai Branly and its living wall, let’s not forget Rogers’ “inside-out” Centre Pompidou..

    musee-Quai-Branly

    Musée du Quai Branly (photo source at leJDD)

    Maybe a city can be modern without an array of skyscrapers?

  8. International destinations.

    Sure, London has five major airports and railway connections to Wales and Scotland (not that any Englishman seems keen on visiting The Highlands… big mistake!) but the prices are not always jolly. Britain has the most expensive train journeys in Europe – I mean, it costs more to go to Edinburgh than to take the Eurostar to Paris!
    How’s Paris doing by comparison? Its location (not on a desolate island…) is a lot more favourable than London’s. You can go on a long weekend to Brussels, Munich, Amsterdam, Geneva, Lausanne, Turin, Barcelona and guess what? These are DIRECT trains. I won’t even get into destinations accessible in one day, with just one change.

  9. Cuisine.

    Ever heard of British gastronomy? Didn’t think so. Yes, London has some of the best burger places in Europe and perhaps the world (this statement is bound to anger a few Americans) but beyond that, what is a traditional English meal? Fish & chips, ale pies and the famous Sunday Roasts and All Day Breakfasts. All very tasty and moreish but if we get down to business, the cause is lost. Foie Gras, Magret de Canard, Coq au Vin, Ratatouille, Quiche Lorraine, Fondue, Raclette, and don’t make me think about desserts – mille-feuilles, éclairs, macarons, crème brûlée, mousse au chocolat…

    Fondue savoyarde at

    Fondue savoyarde at “Heureux comme Alexandre” near Place Monge

  10. Cheeses.

    Okay, there are three varieties of cheddar. Mild, mature and extra-mature. Isn’t that impressive already? Okay, the English also have Red Leicester, Stilton and a few other obscure names nobody knows… But France. Ah France. Go stand in front of the cheese section in a shop and prepare to be the most indecisive you have ever been. There is of course Brie, then Camembert de Normandie (they are different!), Boursin (mmm…), Comté, Gruyère, Roquefort, Reblochon and I can keep going but my mouth is watering so I shall stop.

  11. Music.

    This one might be a little subjective, hence why it comes last. I grew up with such an eclectic mix of French music but as a bonus, the French also get good international music. This means you can discover French talents and still be listening to what’s trending in the UK and U.S. Can you say the same, the other way around? Does the UK know anything more than Edith Piaf and, with a stretch, Jacques Brel? Doubt it.

So drum-roll please… who wins?

8 out of 11 are in favour of Paris with 2 being a tie and one win for London. What have I missed? Do you agree or disagree? Don’t be afraid to state your preferences even if they go against my clear winner!

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15 responses to “Paris vs. London: who wins?

  1. I went to London once so far. But my fiancé is there now and our bank account surely feels it. We always complain about Paris being expensive but then again it’s Paris and cheaper than London. Great post! :)

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  2. Agreed 100% on all points. Even for a tourist, London is more expensive. And as famous cemeteries go, Highgate and Pere Lachaise are about equally as strange. Great Britain did, however, produce the Beatles and Kate Rusby….

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    • Yes, I had actually included Highgate in London’s secret spots. Such a particular place, isn’t it?
      I hadn’t thought of the Beatles and am listening to Kate Rusby now. I didn’t know her, her voice is so soothing!
      Although France has Edith Piaf, Barbara, Charles Aznavour… :D

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  3. This is a wonderful post highlighting the differences between London and Paris Ellie, I love how you go behind the typical sights and sounds. Oh, I do love London even for all its (many) faults, and Paris is wonderful for all the reasons you mention. BTW, I didn’t realise how easy it is to get to all those other cities relatively cheaply from there, that’s a great tip, thank you! But even though Paris is amazing (got to go with hubby a few years ago, one bitterly cold November), I still go with London purely for sentimental reasons :-) I hope it’s being good to you…aside from those rude late night revellers…

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    • I know how you feel. I think I’m leaning towards Paris partly for sentimental reason too. I just have so many beautiful memories there.
      But I am slowly falling for London, it’s a place that grows on you if you explore a little further than the obvious places. :)

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    • Hi Martha! Thanks for stopping by. Interesting to hear you say that, I guess we all have our own sentimental reasons that defy any logic – like you say, Paris gets me more than London does. And still, I chose London to live in…

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