Year after year Paris remains at the top of the “most want to go” list for people from all around the world. Hardened travellers arrive expecting the hype about Paris to let them down but are overwhelmed by the fabulous architecture, history, style and culture, magnificent buildings, restaurants, bars and shops.
We take a look at ways to enjoy Paris for free or on a tight budget. Follow these great tips so that you can save your Euros to spend in some the fabulous cafés and restaurants or on something to take home as a reminder of the City of Light.
Paris on foot
Enjoy the sights on foot, you can pick up guide maps from the tourist office, a plethora of books are available, or take guided tour. Alternatively you can just wander, get lost and make your own guided walk up as you go!
Why not take a stroll in one of the many beautiful parks in the city. Perfect for a picnic, to watch the world go by and to join the throngs of Parisians who hasten to the green spaces in the city to chill out. American photographer in Paris Krystal Kenney recommends “Visit Parc Monceau for a gorgeous walk. If you’re looking for a free and less crowded view of the Eiffel Tower visit the Bir Harkeim bridge. And for a free picnic place and beautiful location along the water, look no further than Saint Martin’s Canal”.
More on Saint Martin’s Canal
More on great walks in Paris
More on fabulous places to picnic in Paris
Paris from above
The iconic Eiffel Tower offers stunning views over the city, but for free views check out Galeries Lafayette, the fabulous department store. Of course, this requires you to harden yourself to all the luxury products on display! The views from the top floor of this store and also from Printemps are free and fabulous!
The Paris markets
It’s hard not to spend when you see all the wonderful goods on sale but the famous Paris markets won’t cost you a cent to enjoy the colourful atmosphere, the scents and sights of Paris in her day dress. The Markets at Saint-Ouen and Montreuil flea market offer a series of markets and shops – just perfect for browsing. There’s also a flower market, bird market and lots of other markets – yours to enjoy! One of my favourite Paris things are the daily street markets – there are around 75 of them, Rue Mouffetard in the 5th is historic and beautiful. Ernest Hemingway said of it “this wonderful, narrow crowded market street”; open Tuesday – Sunday mornings, closes around lunch time.
Guide to antique shops and flea markets in Paris
Paris to the sound of Music
Free music performances take place all over Paris and if you’re lucky enough to be in town on the fete de la Musique on 21 June you will be completely spoiled for choice as the city opens its streets, stages, hospitals and prisons to any and all musicians in a huge all-day free music fête. All concerts and events are free, and include performances by the largest and most famous institutions as well as amateurs.
Géraldine Lepère of Comme Une Francaise suggests “one my favourite place in Paris is Les quais de Seine. Very often, people stay at the street level when they could take a few steps and walk along River Seine. There are often musicians, people reading in the sun or others just walking around like me. My favourite ones are near the Ile Saint Louis. I have lots of memories of talking with my dad sitting on a bench with a sandwich jambon-fromage”.
For regular free concerts in the most amazing setting – try the Cathedral of Notre Dame or the evensong practices of the nuns at Sacré Coeur.
Art in Paris
Paris herself is like one big artwork – filled with iconic landmarks, historic buildings, sculptures, fountains, picturesque little roads, chic and trendy stores with window displays with the wow factor.
It’s not all statues, fountains and gorgeous buildings. Paris is continually evolving its artistic side with street art like the “the Man who could walk through walls” and the Mur des je t’aime (the ‘I love you’ wall).
Standing in its own little garden in quirky place des Abbesses (Métro – Abbesses), the je t’aime wall is covered in the words ‘I love you’ written 1,000 times in more than 300 languages and is a mecca for romantic couples visiting the city. The Man who could walk through walls is a statue in Montmartre of a man who appears to be coming out of the supporting wall of the garden that lies above it. Sculpted by the famous French actor Jean Marais (1913-1998), it was produced to commemorate a famous story by author Marcel Aymé – “Le Paisse-Muraille” or “The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls.”
If you’re in Paris on the first Sunday of the month, you’ll find that most of the museums and galleries are free to enter for the whole day, though in peak summer months this may not be the case – check the website of the museum you want to visit to make sure.