You don’t have to break the bank in the French capital!
A lot of people assume that Paris is a really expensive city. In fact, when I try to convince my friends and family to come and visit me, a typical response is “I would love to, but I just don’t think I can afford it!” While a transatlantic flight can be a bit on the pricey side, you don’t have to go broke once you get here!
Yes, Paris can be expensive, if you want it to be. You could stay in a fancy hotel on the Champs Élysées, eat a 5-star Michelin restaurants every night, and do some luxury shopping. That sounds like an amazing vacation. But, here at Sight Seeker’s Delight, we do realize that not everyone has the funds for a trip like this one!
For all of my budget travelers: I salute you! And, I’ve got a bunch of unexpectedly awesome free Paris activities coming right up…
1. Champ de Mars
The Champs de Mars is the large grassy area directly in front of the Iron Lady. The Eiffel Tower is such an emblematic symbol of Paris, which is why this park is number 1 on my list!
If you’re traveling with the whole family, it’s a little expensive to climb to the top of the tower, especially if you’re visiting Paris on a very tight budget. Never fear! The view of the Eiffel Tower is absolutely gorgeous from the Champs de Mars.
It’s a great place to go for a photo shoot, or if you have a free afternoon, to have a picnic with a great view. Stay until the evening, and watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle!
Opening hours: 24/7
2. Rue Mouffetard
Here, you’ll find shops that sell fruits and veggies, meats, cheeses, bread, pastries and more. There are also a few boutiques if you’re interested in that sort of thing, too. On the weekends, street performers and other artists flood the area as well.
There’s a really convivial vibe going on on the rue Mouffetard, which is another reason why we love this street. Make it a point to go here often, and the shop owners are sure to start recognizing you!
You’ll find that the prices here are a little bit on the high side, but that doesn’t mean that their aren’t some budget-friendly options as well. Plus…a stroll is always free!
Address: rue Mouffetard, 75005 Paris
Opening hours: Most of the shops on the rue Mouffetard open between 9am-10am, close up shop for lunch, and then reopen until 6pm. The market shops are closed on Sunday afternoons and all day on Monday.
This basilica that sits on the top of the hill of Montmartre is different from most of the Gothic or Renaissance style churches that you’ll find in Paris, which is one reason why I love it personally.
The exterior is made of a white “self-cleaning” stone, giving it it’s fresh appearance. Inside, you’ll find gold, mosaics, and high ceilings. Even if you aren’t religious, the architectural details are definitely worth your time!
Address: 1 Parvis du Sacré-Cœur, 75018 Paris
Opening hours: Every day 6am-10:30pm
4. Père Lachaise
I never thought I’d see the day where I’d say that I love exploring cemeteries but…here we are! There are 4 major ones in Paris, and the Père Lachaise is probably the most famous. Celebrities like Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Honoré de Balzac are all buried here.
The cemetery is free to enter, and is the perfect place for a long walk. The tombstones are beautiful, and there are many unique graves to appreciate. The atmosphere is calm and quiet, as you can imagine.
We love the Père Lachaise so much that we also have a walking tour here!
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 8am-5:30pm, Saturday 8:30am-5:30pm, Sunday 9am-5:30pm. Hours may vary by season.
5. Shakespeare & Company
Shakespeare & Company is an English language bookstore in the 5th arrondissement in Paris, right across the river from the Notre-Dame, and right on the edge of the Larin Quarter.
The shop has a really interesting history, and has been around since the early 20th century. The original owner, Sylvia Beach, was friends with many artists and writers that made up the Lost Generation, which included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce. It’s actually thanks to Beach that Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, was published for the first time!
Since the time of Beach and Fitzgerald, the shop has moved locations, but it still carries the tradition of helping writers and artists in need. Many of the people that work in the shop are actually writers that also live in the apartments above!
You’ll find a great selection of reading material here, and it’s (of course) free to enter. There is also a nice little reading nook on the second floor that you’re free to hang out in, too!
Address: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 12:30pm-8pm
6. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
I love this museum in western Paris. The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris translates to The Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris. It is free to enter and admire their permanent collection, which includes works by Picasso, Georges Braque and Matisse! It’s not usually very crowded, making it the perfect museum to spend a morning or afternoon in.
Outside, you’ll also find a great view of the Seine River and the Eiffel Tower. Why not start here and then head over to the Champs de Mars, number 1 on my list? Or vice-versa!
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm, Thursday until 10pm
7. Arènes de Lutèce
Did you know that the city was actually founded by the Romans in 52 B.C.?! It was originally called Lutécia, and there are still some ruins of this ancient city waiting for you to explore.
The Arènes de Lutèce is a great place to soak up all of the ancient history that Paris has to offer. The arena would have held 15,000 people, and is in excellent shape. Today, you may not see any gladiators or lion fights, but you will find outdoor theatre productions, and groups of Parisians playing pétanque!
We visit this Parisian monument on our Secrets of the Night tour, in case you’re interested in discovering more about it with us!
Address: 49 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 8am-5:45pm, Saturday-Sunday 9am-5:45pm. Hours may vary by season.
8. Musée de la Vie Romantique
This is another one of my favorite museums in Paris, and it’s free to enter as well! In English, the Musée de la Vie Romantique translates to the Museum of Romantic Life. In this sense, “romantic” refers to the Romantic movement in art and literature.
This museum is dedicated to 2 writers that came out of the Romantic era: George Sand and Ary Scheffer. The building is actually Scheffer’s former villa, where he would host gatherings and art shows.
Today, you’ll find paintings, antique furniture, sculptures and other artefacts and archives that are really interesting to admire.
Address: 16 Rue Chaptal, 75009 Paris
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm
9. Petit Palais
One last free museum for you all! The Petit Palais is located off of the Champs Élysées, and is directly across the street from the Grand Palais. Palais translates to palace in English, and these massive buildings were actually built for the World’s Fair of 1900! They were supposed to be destroyed after the fair, but thankfully they weren’t!
Petit may mean small in French, but there is nothing small about this building! The permanent collection in the Petit Palais is free to enter, and there is also a great little café inside. Artists featured here include Picasso, Cézanne, Monet and Fragonard. Basically…all of the greats!
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm
10. La Petite Ceinture
La Petite Ceinture means The Little Belt in English, and is a section of abandoned train tracks that circles Paris. In recent years, the city has undertaken the task of creating a system of walking paths that follows the old train route.
There are many different sections of La Petite Ceinture that you can explore, but my favorite is the part in the 17th arrondissement. It’s gorgeous any time of year, but I love visiting for the flowers in the spring and the foliage in the fall.
If you’re coming to Paris with your children, it’s a great area for them to blow off some extra steam!
Address: Boulevard Pereire, 75017 Paris
Opening hours: Every day 9am-6pm. Hours may vary by season.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you visit Paris on a budget! There are plenty of free activities, so you can save your money for all of that yummy food I know you want to try.
Have I missed anything major? Let me know in the comments below!