Paris is all about making it your own. And, since there is no way you’ll be able to do everything in the few short days you’re there keep your to-do list doable. There is no reason you have to go broke either, Paris is full of free surprises. With the basics under your belt about where to eat, sleep and how to get around pas cher, it’s time to share some of my favorite tips to see the city on a budget.
When you get tot the city buy a Paris Museum pass. Entrance into all the major museums and sights is included (except the Eiffel Tower). Having the pass gives you priority, making that endless line you see a breeze. Think about getting it for at least four days so you can come and go as you like without having to pack it all into two exhausting days. You can buy the pass at any museum ticket counter or order it online. If you don’t get the pass expect to pay around 10 euros entrance into every major sight and museum.
**If you happen to be in Paris on the first Sunday of the month, entrance to many museums is free! Check out the list from Paris info for more details. If you’re under 26, you can get into museums for free on Fridays from 6-9:45pm (take your ID)! Remember museums in Paris are closed on Tuesday.
My must see places on the pass are The Louvre, The Musee D’Orsay, The Rodin Museum (The garden, the roses, the house…), The Pompidou Centre (don’t miss the view from the top), The Saint Chapelle ( a hidden stained glass treasure just steps from Notre Dame that will take your breath away. Check out Marie Antoinette’s prison cell next door at the Conciergerie too.), Notre Dame tour (the view from the towers is the best view of the city), the Arc de Triomphe (go up at sunset and watch the Champs Elysees and Eiffel Tower light up), the Orangerie, and the Chateau of Versailles.
Now for some absolutely free activities around the city…
Entrance into Notre Dame is always free. You’ll see a huge line to get in, but it just to get past security and to keep the crowds inside under control. Once you’re in you can buy a ticket for a tour and visit the towers, but if not it is absolutely free! Take some time to hang out in the back garden too. It’s the perfect place to take a breather from the crowds.
Shakespeare and Co, the legendary English language bookstore where Hemingway spent his hours in Paris, is just across the river from Notre Dame. It’s become a bit of a tourist trap lately, so you won’t really be able to linger in the tiny rooms or peruse the uneven bookshelves, but it’s worth a stop to see the quirky shop inside and imagine Hemingway’s Paris “when we were very poor and very happy”.
Galleries Lafayette is actually one of the most visited sights in Paris. A shoppers paradise, you can get lost in floor upon floor of designer labels. Even if you’re not planning on shopping stop in to see the gorgeous Belle Epoch glass dome and make your way to the rooftop for a lovely view of the city.
At the top of the hill in Montmartre, visit the stunning white Sacre Coeur. Visits are free and a rest of the grassy hill or the steps is a nice break from being a tourist (even if you are among the tourists!). Make your way behind the church to find Place de Tertre where Parisian artists set up shop painting street scenes and portraits. Finally, take a trip into the Abessess Metro stop, the deepest in the city.
Check the cultural schedule at the Hotel de Ville. Exhibits are free! I saw a beautiful exhibit about Haute Couture last time I was in Paris with original Chanel, Dior, and Givenchy dresses on display.
And while you’re outside, head to the banks of the Seine. When the weather is nice the banks are lined with people relaxing, picnicking, reading or watching the boats. Pick up a little bottle of wine, a warm baguette and some cheese and forget about the time.
Finally, get lost in a French bakery, patisserie, fromagerie or traiteur. Pick up your lunch or dinner while you take in the authentic colors, aromas, and sounds. Remember to say Bonjour and Merci to be served with a smile! And, a walk through an outdoor market will give you a sense of Paris outside of the tourist circle. A great street to get lost in shops on is Rue Montorgueil and for a lovely outdoor market check out Ave. Franklin Roosevelt.
So, there are a few of my tips, take them or leave them, but, make Paris yours. Don’t over do it and don’t expect to see it all. Expect a few hiccups (maybe even Paris Syndrome) and be ready to walk, get lost, and find a city that you dreamt of and never expected all at once. Give yourself the time to stop and breathe and you’ll find a city that is uniquely yours.
Any other budget stops you’d add to the list?
Ps…don’t miss the rest of the Paris Budget series!Montr