Romanticism aside, this is a time to celebrate. While the city may be popular, it’s also expensive. However, you can still experience Paris on a budget.
While the French Revolution, fighting, and the storming of the Bastille brought freedom for the French citizens, Paris is much more peaceful these days. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, many people have a love-hate relationship with Paris.
Named one of the top 20 most expensive cities in the world, Paris isn’t cheap and the French aren’t always popular with tourists. For many who visit, Paris is a city to be loved or loathed.
However, celebrating and honoring Paris on Bastille Day is all about a love affair with France. And here are ways to enjoy Paris on a budget, find new ways to fall in love with the city, and all without breaking the bank.
Free things to do in Paris
Food, shopping, entertainment and Paris hotels can all be quite expensive. However, not everything you do in Paris has to cost money. There are ways to save money on the necessities but there are also free things to do in Paris that won’t cost you anything at all and will help you experience the city.
Remember that budget travel is not about how little you spend but about getting the most out what money you have. It’s what budget travel adventures is all about. Be creative, connect with other people, and find ways to experience Paris without spending a lot of money. Here are some ways to experience Paris on a budget.
1. Wander the neighborhoods of Paris - In Paris, the city is divided into 20 arrondissements, or neighborhoods (for government purposes, administrative districts). While the 3rd through 7th arrondissements are popular and expensive, you don’t have to stay in a hotel near the Champs Elysees to experience local life in Paris. While these arrondissements contain many of the cities most popular attractions, many of the best neighborhoods are away from the popular tourist areas. Wander through the markets on Rue Cler or experience the culture and diversity in Montmartre. It won’t cost you anything (just the fare on the Paris Metro) and you will get to see a little of every day life in the city.
2. Enjoy the city parks of Paris – One of my favorite experiences in Paris is taking a stroll through Luxembourg Gardens. Paris has a number of great parks where locals and tourists alike walk among the flowers, take a stroll during lunch, or enjoy a picnic. The city has parks throughout the 20 arrondissements so there is no excuse for not getting some fresh air and relaxing in between all the museums and attractions.
3. Take the kids to the playground - While families may think of Disneyland Paris when it comes to amusement, many of the parks and gardens spread throughout the city offer a free way to let the kids run around and have fun. Not only do kids need a break from sight-seeing with the parents, taking the kids to the playground gives them a chance to have fun as well. And who knows, your child might even make a new friend – possibly even a French one!
4. Meet a local - While many people may love the streets, parks, and playgrounds idea, I may have lost a few people with this one. While many French people may seem to turn their noses up to foreigners, meeting a local isn’t as hard as you think. Memorize a few French phrases – it can be a great way to break the ice. I tried this in Paris once by asking “what time is it?” in French (Quelle heur est-il?) and ended up spending my day touring the city, eating Lebanese food, and taking a visit to the doctor with a woman who hadn’t spoken English in 6 years and was eager to practice!
Don’t worry about butchering the language! Get some great tips on speaking a foreign language from an average guy who has learned how to master foreign languages – Benny Lewis!
5. Paris markets and food - Part of the fun of walking through the neighborhoods of Paris is seeing all the local markets and food stands spread throughout the city. Many of these vendors have been around for years and even know many of the locals that visit each day. Try some of the different foods, buy from the local merchants, or just talk to the people who choose to do this for a living. Sampling local food and items is great but understanding why these people love what they do is even better. And while you are traveling, here are some other ideas for cheap meals on a budget.
5 ways to save money in Paris
Since Paris is an expensive city, there are going to be things that you have to pay for – hotel, transportation, food, and sightseeing. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t save money. While these tips range from flights to local transportation, here are a few ways you can make of the most out of your trip to Paris – even when some of the things you do are going to cost money.
1. Travel options for France - Being creative may allow you to save money while experiencing more of France. While most people may fly into Charles De Gaulle, here are some creative ways to find cheap flights to save you money. Maybe you can fly into a different city and take the train or even a ferry to France.
2. Stay outside the city center - Some of the most expensive hotels are located in the 3rd through 7th arrondissements. While you don’t need to stay in the Paris suburbs, check out some of the other areas of Paris which might have accommodations which are a little cheaper. Hotels near Montmartre are popular and may be cheaper than what you will find along the Champs Elysees or near the Eiffel Tower. Another great option is to explore apartment or vacation rentals. The key is to do your research and even explore some non-traditional accommodation options.
3. Save money on public transportation in Paris - If you stay outside the more popular areas of Paris, the Paris Metro will become your friend. Rather than buying a ticket each time you ride the metro, buy a carnet – a packet of 10 Metro tickets. They will save you money and the hassle of buying a ticket each time.
4. Free museums in Paris and the Paris Museum Pass - If you are going to spend a few days in Paris, check to see if there are any days where museums are free. Here is a quick guide to free museum days in Paris but always confirm before you go. Another great option is the Paris Museum Pass which can pay for itself with just a visit to a few museums. You can get a 2 day (35 euros), 4 day (50 euros), or 6 day (65 euros) pass and save lots of money on over 60 museums and monuments in Paris.
5. Go on a picnic in Paris - While French food is delicious, it is can also be expensive. Splurge on French cuisine – just not every meal. Be creative and enjoy a picnic in one of Paris’ many parks. Wander the local markets to get some bread, cheese, fruit, and wine. Not only can you still enjoy French food and save money, a meal like this can be a lot of fun if you are traveling with kids.
Experience the best of Paris on a budget
While France can be expensive, there are plenty of ways to save money and enjoy free things to do in Paris. If you are on a budget or just want to experience a different side of Paris, wander, explore, and be creative. Taking the Metro, meeting a local Parisian, wandering through the parks of Paris, or enjoying a cheap meal may be some of the best experiences you may have in Paris.
While Paris is the city of lights and romance, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to make some great memories. I hope sharing my experiences in France will help you save money in Paris. If you travel to France on a budget, here’s a great way to experience this beautiful city regardless of what your budget is!
What are some of your favorite travel tips for Paris?
Thanks to Hotel Club and Sea France for supporting Budget Travel Adventures.