Updated: Sep 8
While I cannot say I am a travel expert, I can say that I am an active traveler and like to pack a lot into a trip. I do like to have down time in my travels, but it's minimal. I figure, I can rest once I'm done travelling and back at home. That being said, these itineraries and tips can help you with your trip planning!
Let's get right into it! Starting with London
London is such a bustling city, but the tube makes it so easy to get from place to place. I highly recommend getting a visitor Oyster card and loading it with some funds. All you need to do when you catch the tube is tap your card to get on. It also caps out at a certain rate throughout the day, if you take a lot of trips. Both London Heathrow airport and Gatwick airport sell Oyster cards, so you can pick up a preloaded one when you land (this will save you time at the station because the line is usually longer).
We stayed in the Earl's Court area in the west end at Redcliffe Apartments (booked through booking.com) and it was amazing. I highly recommend it. The flat comes with a kitchenette (stove top, microwave, kettle) and a fridge. The staff are super helpful and our check in was ready around 12PM.
Explore the area around Big Ben and the London Eye
Explore Westminster Abbey (if you want to go in for free, make sure to check the service times and visit during those hours)
St. James Park and Duck Island Cottage walk (so scenic)
Buckingham Palace visit (sometimes there's one exhibit you can view here, check to see if it's open)
Regent Street at night, is bustling
Dinner at 1 michelin star Sabor (we loved it and they were super accommodating with allergies) https://www.saborrestaurants.co.uk/
King's Cross station for any Harry Potter Fans, platform 9 3/4 lives here and you can get a free photo (there's also a gift shop here, but there's many in London)
Lunch at 1 michelin star St. John Restaurant ( if you don't want a sit down meal, they also have a bar and bakery on site) https://stjohnrestaurant.com/
Old Spitalfields market that has been an indoor market space for over 350 years. It features many shops, local makers and food vendors. It's also a stunning venue and cute area.
If you love vintage, you will have to visit Brick Lane Vintage market because there's a whole underground labyrinth of vintage vendors, including designer vintage wear.
Walk or take the tube to Tower Bridge (you can get tickets to enter tower bridge)
Explore the Tower of London museum nearby (you can walk around it for free, it costs about $50CAD for a ticket if you're interested)
Take the tube to Notting Hill Gate
Walk up towards Portobello Road Market. There's tons of shops, food and coffee spots in this area. And of course, if you like vintage and charity shopping then this is the place for you.
Pop into the Notting Hill Book shop (the famous one from the movie) and grab a donut nextdoor or a coffee at Cable Coffee Co.
Check out the various charity shops for some thrift shopping.
If you're a fan of designer vintage, you need to visit Lovers Lane London. They have incredible vintage designer pieces.
Also of note, Notting Hill is very picturesque. Take advantage of all the colourful houses and snap a couple of photos.
Walk from Notting Hill down to Kensington and through Kensington gardens + visit the palace.
Once you're done with the gardens, head over to the Natural History Museum (it's a free museum).
Check out the British Museum (another free museum, more reason to love London). There's tons of exhibits and famous exhibits (I personally loved Enlightenment, the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Marbles).
Nearby, check out Neal's Yard for shops and food (it's quite the picturesque alley)
Grab a coffee at Monmouth Coffee (it's delicious!)
Check out Seven Dials market nearby for some food.
I met up with a friend in London at Gloucester Road Station and we went on a walking floral tour.
We started with the magnolia blooms at the Boltons and walked from there over to Chelsea.
Take a coffee break at Birley Bakery and treat yourself to a tasty treat!
I had previously booked Wicked tickets for myself, so I went to see Wicked (I highly recommend watching a musical in London if you have time).
Next up, we have Nice (Cote D'Azur/French Riviera/Southern France)
Nice is such a lovely spot for the pebble beaches and cliffside views. Because it's southern France and a stone's throw from Italy, there is a lot of Italian influence here. There's loads of pizza, pasta and gelato spots. I'm not going to lie, it wasn't all that bad. The tram here is very convenient to get around, although Nice is fairly small and it's easy to walk through the city.
I also highly recommend picking up a prepaid SIM card in France, it's more cost effective and handy to have a french number while visiting. I got the Lebara $10 card and had 10GB of data, call and text while there.
Here are some things to do in Nice:
Walk the Promenade des Anglais. Or rent a bike and bike the promenade
Check out Place Massena and the Fontaine du Soleil
For shopping, you can check out the Jean Medecin area
Make sure to visit Old Nice, it's lovely and so charming
Hike up Castle Hill for the lookout points and view of Nice from above (absolutely stunning)
While you're up there, check out the Port Lympia view, the waterfall and Homer's Odyssey steps
During the day, you can also check out the flower market (Marche des fleurs)
Grab a gelato and enjoy it along the waterfront (day or night)
You might be thinking, that's it? Well, because Nice is conveniently located in the south of France, you can catch the SCNF train from Nice to nearby towns. The SNCF runs from Cannes - Ventimiglia in Italy. The towns in between that I've been told are worth visiting include: Cannes, Antibes, Ville Franch sur Mer, Monaco, Eze and Menton. I was lucky enough to visit Ville Franche sur Mer while I was there.
Ville Franche sur Mer was a stunning town on the coast and right beside the ocean. When you take the SNCF make sure to look out the window, the views are phenomenal. In Ville France sur Mer, we walked around, had some drinks, visited the beach and walked through the town a bit.
How to get to Italy from Nice
I was also able to take the SNCF train to Italy and explore over there. You get on the SCNF headed towards Ventimiglia (cost me 6-9 euros for a round trip), it takes about 40 minutes from Nice to Ventimiglia. Get off at Ventimiglia and you can chose to check out the border town or continue on Trenitalia to other towns in the south of Italy. If you continue into Italy, you will need to purchase tickets from the Ventimiglia station towards Genova (which would be a couple of hours away). I opted to get off at San Remo (2 stops from the border and 20 minutes) and explore this area. San Remo is a similar to Nice with cliffside buildings, waterfront views and a coastal vibe. Except, I would say the Italian culture is obviously stronger here. Knowing a bit of Italian will come in handy over here.
In San Remo, I walked from the train station into the city. You can check out the waterfront, the shopping district, the Casino (yes, there's a casino) or you can walk up the hill to get better views. I should mention that Italy is cheaper than France, so pick up groceries if you need them. The Italian food is what I came to San Remo for, so I had a pizza, a cappuccino and left with some groceries.
It's quite easy to catch the trains in Italy and France. And, quite affordable. I would make sure to check the daily train schedules for departures and return trips because you don't want to be stranded across the border.
Last up, but not least, Paris!
I visited Paris during the strike and I was wary of the garbage piles, strikes and blocked off sites. But alas, I didn't experience any of it. The metro is extremely easy to navigate and makes getting around the city really easy. You can actually take the metro directly from the Charles de Gaulle airport to the heart of the city. We stayed in the 13e arrondissement at Hotel Saint Charles, and it was perfect. The room was ready at noon, we were on the 6th floor and had the most incredible views. The 13e arrondissement was fairly central and it only took us one metro line to get to all the major sights.
We didn't get through a whole lot in Paris but here's what we did:
Musee Rodin (14 euro entry fee), where you can see all the sculptures including the thinker, the gates of hell and even a Monet piece and a Van Gogh piece.
Eiffel Tower, I mean this is iconic and you should probably see it. We did decide to take the stairs up the Eiffel Tower (11 euro entry fee), and let me tell you, it was a workout. But the views were worth it. Also to note, the tower sparkles for 5 minutes on the hour from 9PM - midnight.
Le Petit Palais is a beautiful free museum to visit in Paris. It has the cutest and most picturesque cafe in the courtyard.
From there, we walked down les Champs Elysees towards the Arc de Triomphe.
After the Arc, we made our way to the Trocadero for daytime views of the Eiffel Tower
We spent a bit of time just wandering around the 13e arrondissement most evenings
All in all, I think we got to make the most of our short time in each city. I really appreciated the slower moments where we ate at restaurants or cafes. Wandering around the cities made for a more relaxing time as well. I highly recommend making a list of things you would like to do, and booking major attractions to keep yourself on somewhat of a schedule. Hope this trip overview helps!
I should also mention that I travel with a nut allergy and didn't come across any issues in any of these three cities. Air Transat and Easy Jet were also incredible with allergies and making announcements.
Thanks for reading, hope you have safe travels!