London vs Paris – Which City is Better?
If you could visit only one city tomorrow which would it be – London vs Paris? London and Paris are the most popular capital cities in Europe to visit. No surprise there, as these bucket list cities offer travellers the best of the best in terms of history, culture, and tourist attractions.
This article breaks it down for you – London or Paris – which city is better? How might these two cities be similar or different in architecture, food, shopping, and nightlife? And, which city is bigger, older, safer, and many more interesting travel questions you have. So, are you ready to find out which city is better – Paris vs London – who will it be?
Table of Contents
London vs Paris: Which City is Better?
Top London landmarks include Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and the London Eye. London is also home to many famous museums, art galleries, and parks, such as the British Museum, the National Gallery, and Hyde Park. History buffs love London for its rich history and all things royal family.
While Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre Museum. Paris offers travellers many famous museums, art galleries, and parks, such as the Musée d’Orsay, the Pompidou Center, and the Luxembourg Gardens. Romantics fall in love with Paris with its sophisticated rich French culture.
Seeing both cities offer a lot of activities for travellers. But Paris has the edge over London, as it boasts the record for having three of the world’s top ten most-visited tourist attractions (Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Palace of Versailles) and London has none.
Can any city really top the architecture found in Paris? I think not!
Paris with its iconic Haussmann-style architecture from the 19th century is unlike any other. It is characterized by its grand boulevards, uniform façades, and large public spaces giving the city an air of elegance, sophistication and romance. It’s also home to many Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings. Lovers of architecture and design flock to the city to admire its buildings.
Whereas, the architecture found in London is diverse and eclectic, reflecting the city’s history and development over the centuries. It features a mix of architectural styles, including medieval, Georgian, Victorian, and cutting-edge modern designs such as the Gherkin and the Shard. London is known for its traditional red brick buildings, terraced houses, and the rainbow-coloured townhomes of Notting Hill.
Parks & Gardens
London has a lot of green space! In fact, they have about 3000 parks and open spaces that make up 30% of the city. Some of the most famous parks and gardens include Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, Greenwich Park and St James’s Park, which are all part of the Royal Parks of London. Most of London’s parks are wide open spaces, with paved walking paths and small lakes. Locals go to London parks for an activity of running, biking, or swimming.
Even though Paris has far fewer parks and gardens, approximately 400 make up 20% of the city, they are far more beautiful. Paris is known for its elegant, beautiful parks and gardens full of well-manicured plants and trees, fountains and statues. Some of Paris’ most visited parks and gardens include Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin des Plantes, and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. But, there are also many hidden gardens and squares that are small and intimate, and often only known by locals.
I choose quality over quantity. The beautiful parks and gardens of Paris ooze elegance and charm. Visiting one, or two is a must! It’s here where you’ll find the heart and soul of everyday life for a Parisian.
London is a city of history lovers and theatre-goers! And for that, it offers more than 230 museums and about 50 theatres. That’s impressive, isn’t it? World-famous museums and art galleries include the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Tate Modern covering a wide range of subjects, from ancient history and art to science and technology. The best part is- most of them are free!
Whereas, Paris offers about 152 museums with the most famous being the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Pompidou Center, and the Rodin Museum. Paris’ museums and art galleries are mainly focused on art and history, with a particular emphasis on French art and culture. Many of Paris’ museums and art galleries charge an entrance fee, but it’s worth it for their exceptional collections.
Although both cities are rich in terms of arts & culture, London easily takes this one, for being accessible, diverse and has a world-renowned theatre production that no other city can match.
London is known for its diverse and multicultural food scene, ranging in options from traditional British cuisine to international cuisine, from street food to fine-dining restaurants. It’s a melting pot of different cultures and cuisines, you can find everything from classic British dishes such as fish and chips and Sunday roast beef, to Indian, Chinese, and Italian.
Paris on the other hand is known for its traditional French cuisine, classic dishes of escargots, foie gras, and coq au vin. From its charming bistros and brasseries to high-end Michelin-starred restaurants, French cuisine is considered one of the most refined and sophisticated in the world.
Chefs in training go to Paris to learn the basics and master the classics, even home cooks like Julia Child. Not all classic French dishes are refined- just think of steak and frites, omelettes, or Croque monsieur are quintessentially French and are cheap and found on any bistro or brasserie menu.
And, no city has patisseries, boulangeries, and chocolate shops like Paris. Baguettes, buttery croissants and sweet pastries are worth the trip to Paris alone. Clear winner!
Both cities are known for their café cultures, but they are just completely different experiences.
The coffee shops of London mostly made up of Starbucks, are a big disappointment. If look hard enough, there are some cool independent coffee shops in some of the boroughs, like Soho and Shoreditch. But, they are similar to what you might find at home in North America, right down to the takeaway coffee. But, it’s the traditional British tea rooms offering lovely afternoon tea that I fell in love with. Famous tea rooms like Fortnum & Mason and Harrods, or practically every hotel in the city, offers afternoon tea.
The café culture in Paris is like no other. It’s the very fabric of what makes Paris, Paris. The tiny bistro tables and chairs spilling out into the street is the perfect spot to soak up the city’s everyday life comings and goings. There are famous ones like Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore where legendary artists, philosophers and authors would linger for hours, or the modern Café Kitsuné, but the vibe is the same. Slow down, savour and enjoy a quiet moment solo or with a friend.
Getting Around the City
London and Paris have well-developed transportation systems making it easy to get around the city. Whether it’s London’s Underground (or Tube) or Paris’ Métro the system is extensive and well-travelled by locals and tourists alike.
But, here’s why getting around the city is much easier in Paris than in London.
- Walkable. Paris is known for its walkable city centre with many areas being pedestrian-only, whereas London has much more traffic on the roads and the distance from one neighbourhood to the next is too vast to call itself a walkable city.
- Cost. The Metro costs only 1,90€ for a one-way ticket, compared to the steep price of £6.30 in London.
- Bike-friendly. The popular bike-sharing program in Paris called Velib offers dedicated bike lanes making it safe and efficient to use compared to London’s ride-sharing program called Santander Cycles. Paris also has embraced scooters as a way to quickly get around the city and is able to use the dedicated bike lanes.
- Taxis. There’s no denying that London is the winner here. The traditional London cab is a photo op waiting to happen. But taking a cab is not the most affordable or popular option.
Both of these capital cities are known for their great shopping experiences.
London has an eclectic shopping scene. It ranges from high-end luxury boutiques to vintage shops to street markets. Harrods is the city’s most famous and popular department store. But, it’s the neighbourhoods that have some great shopping areas like Oxford Street, Convent Garden, Portobello Road in Notting Hill, Shoreditch or Camden, with its alternative and vintage shops.
Paris is synonymous with high-end fashion and haute couture houses. There’s a reason why Paris fashion week is one of the most sought-after events to attend. Paris is also more well-known than London for its many department stores like Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marche and Printemps. Vintage shops and boutiques found in Le Marais and Canal Saint Martin are popular, but not as plentiful as in London.
For variety and accessibility in every borough London takes this one (sorry Paris, you win for Fashion, but not the overall shopping experience).
London and Paris are both known for their vibrant nightlife, but they have some differences in terms of the types of nightlife experiences they offer.
London is known for its lively and diverse nightlife, with something for everyone. It offers a great variety of bars, pubs, clubs, and music venues, as well as a thriving theatre scene. London’s nightlife is spread throughout the city, with popular areas including Soho, Camden, and Shoreditch. Not to mention, the music scene in London is world famous with some of the biggest bands getting their start here.
Then there’s Paris. Known for its much quieter nightlife of long walks by the Seine, lingering over a late-night dinner, and being dazzled by the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. Pure romance, and definitely my type of nightlife. Of course, the city has a good variety of cocktail bars and clubs, as well as a thriving cabaret scene, but it’s much more concentrated in specific arrondissements like the Latin Quarter, Le Marais, Montmartre, and the Champs-Elysées.
Both cities experience similar weather climates and temperatures, with only subtle differences between the two. Here’s the breakdown.
- Temperature. Paris generally has warmer summers and milder winters than London. In the summer, temperatures in Paris can reach up to 30°C (86°F) or more, while in London they tend to be around 20°C (68°F) or less. In the winter, Paris is generally around 5°C (41°F) and London is around 0°C (32°F).
- Rainfall. Both cities experience similar amounts of rainfall throughout the year, with London having slightly more rainfall than Paris. London can be more prone to drizzly, grey days, while Paris tends to have more sunny days.
Which city makes a better home base for exploring beyond London or Paris?
Here are some popular day trips from London in less than 2 hours:
- Stonehenge – a prehistoric monument located in Wiltshire (2 hours by train)
- Bath – a historic Roman city with gorgeous 18th-century Georgian architecture located in Somerset (2 hours by train)
- Canterbury – a historic city with a UNESCO World Heritage-listed cathedral and medieval streets located in Kent (1 hour by train)
- Windsor Castle – a royal residence that is considered the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world (30 minutes by train)
- Oxford – the prestigious university known for its beautiful architecture (1 hour by train)
- Brighton – a lovely seaside town (1 hour by train)
Here are some popular day trips from Paris in less than 2 hours:
- Versailles – one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world is the royal Palace of Versailles (20 minutes by train)
- Giverny – the lovely village and gardens made famous by Claude Monet’s artwork (80 km or 50 mi)
- Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte – is considered to be one of the most beautiful castles in France (90 minutes by train)
- Disneyland Paris: the theme park resort (40 minutes by train)
- Reims- is a historic city featuring 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites for its cathedral and its Champagne vineyards and caves (30 minutes by train)
- Normandy – a region known for its beautiful landscape, charming villages and famous D-Day beaches (200 km or 124 mi)
- Chartres – a historic city featuring a UNESCO World Heritage cathedral (90 minutes by train)
Seeing that both cities offer some great day trip options, I resorted to an average number of days that people stay in London over Paris, and London wins. Travellers stay longer in London.
THE WINNER IS…
Paris vs London: The Differences
As you can see Paris and London are different in many ways despite their similarities as major European cities. So, here are some nuances that you need to keep in mind.
- Language. Paris is the capital of France and French is the official language, while London is the capital of England and English is the official language.
- Currency. Paris uses Euro and London uses Pound.
- Electric Adaptors. All of Europe operates on 2 round-pronged outlets, while the UK uses its own unique 3-pronged outlets.
- Driving. Londoners drive on the left side of the road, whereas Paris drives on the right. Even if you decide not to drive while there, this impacts you as the pedestrian knowing which way to watch for traffic flow.
- Royal family. No other country has royalty as famous as the British royals.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit London depends on your preferences.
- Spring (March to May) is a popular time to visit as the weather is mild, and the gardens and parks are in full bloom. Many come just to see the cherry blossoms in bloom.
- Summer (June to August) is considered the peak travel season. Outdoor activities and festivals like Wimbledon and the Notting Hill Carnival make this the busiest time of year.
- Fall (September to November) is a great time to visit as the weather is still mild and the crowds are smaller, you can enjoy the changing leaves in Hyde Park and Kew Gardens.
- Winter (December to February) can be a nice time to visit if you’re interested in Christmas markets and holiday lights, but it’s also the coldest and darkest time of year.
As the famous saying goes, Paris is always a good idea! I’ve never met a season or time of year I didn’t like in Paris.
- Spring (April to June) is a popular time to visit as the weather is mild. There’s nothing quite like springtime in Paris, as the song goes. The parks and gardens are in bloom and oh-so-pretty, as are the Parisian terraces.
- Summer (July and August) is just like London and the most popular time to visit the city. The month of August is when locals leave Paris for their own holiday, so don’t be surprised to find some smaller shops or restaurants to “ferme” or close.
- Fall (September to November) is a great time to visit as the weather is still mild, the crowds are smaller and the city turns golden with the turning of its leaves.
- Winter (December to March) is the ideal time to visit Paris- especially for its Christmas markets and holiday lights– but also for its mild temperatures and virtually no tourists.
Top Places to Stay in London
- Top luxury – The Langham, The Savoy, Rosewood London
- Affordable luxury – NoMad London, Mayfair Townhouse, The Henrietta Hotel
- Budget-friendly boutique – Inhabit, Lime Tree Hotel, The Zetter Hotel
Check out these curated lists of the best places to stay in London
Top Places to Stay in Paris
- Top luxury – Hotel de Crillon, Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Four Seasons Hotel George V
- Affordable luxury – Le Pavillon de la Reine, Relais Christine, Grand Hotel de Palais Royal
- Budget-friendly boutique – Hôtel Adèle & Jules, Tinah Paris, Hôtel Saint-André des Arts
Check out these curated lists of the best places to stay in Paris:
- Boutique hotels
- Holiday rental apartments
- Review of my stay in the affordable luxury hotel Le Pavillon de la Reine
- Review of my stay in this holiday rental in Saint Germain
- Review of my stay in this holiday rental in Le Marais
What is the distance from London to Paris?
The distance from London to Paris is approximately 563 km or 350 miles.
Is London north of Paris?
No, London is south of Paris. Paris is located in the northern region of France, while London is located in the southern region of England.
Are London and Paris in the same country?
No, London is the capital city of England, which is part of the United Kingdom, while Paris is the capital city of France. They are in different countries.
Are London and Paris in the same time zone?
No, London and Paris are not in the same time zone. London is in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) while Paris is in Central European Time (CET), making Paris one hour ahead of London.
How big is London vs Paris?
London is considered to be the larger of the two cities. London covers approximately 1,572 square kilometres, while Paris covers around 105 square kilometres.
Which city is more populated – Paris or London?
Paris is more populated than London. The population of the city of Paris is around 2.2 million people, while the population of London is around 8.7 million people spread over a much larger land space than Paris.
Is London or Paris older?
Paris is older than London. Paris, also known as Lutetia, was founded by the Parisii, a tribe of Gauls, in the 3rd century BC. London, also known as Londinium, was founded by the Romans in AD 43.
Is London or Paris more expensive?
Both London and Paris are considered to be relatively expensive cities, but London is generally considered to be more expensive than Paris. The cost of living in London is higher than in Paris, especially when it comes to housing, accommodation, transportation, and food.
Is London safer than Paris?
Both are considered to be safe cities overall. Although London has a higher crime rate than Paris, it is focused on property crime. Whereas, Paris has a higher rate of pickpocketing and scams, especially targeting tourists in popular tourist areas.
Additional Travel Resources
If you decide to visit both cities, here’s how you can do it – London to Paris (or Paris to London) by train.
And, once there, here are some resources to help plan your trip to either capital city.
- Guide to Notting Hill
- Top London Landmarks
- Must-see Streets
- Prettiest Parks and Hidden Gardens
- Secret Covered Passages
- Guide to Saint Germain in the 6th arrondissement
- Visit Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement
- Guide to Ile Saint-Louis in the 4th arrondissement
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As a holidaymaker…
Paris is this great divide among travellers – either you love it, or you think it’s overrated. If you know my content, then you know I fall into the first camp. I adore Paris, but I didn’t let that overshadow my side-by-side comparison of London vs Paris. Even though Paris was the clear winner over London, BOTH cities are top places to travel to in Europe.
Overall, London and Paris are two distinct cities with their own unique culture, history, and atmosphere. They have a lot to offer, just different in their own ways. So, London or Paris – don’t choose one over the other, keep them both on your bucket list and see them both!