Paris is one of the most loved cities in Europe. It’s known as the most romantic city in the world and one of the four fashion capitals of the world. For me, Paris is the capital of my home country, the country I lived in for the first 18 years of my life. But for many years, I only ever saw Paris on TV. Back then, many people living in the small country towns of France avoided Paris. They saw it as too busy, too expensive, too scary?
The first time I came to Paris I was 18, stopping over on my way to London, which then became my home for the next 6 years. Although I wasn’t looking for romance or fashion at the time, I enjoyed Paris. It was so different from where I had come from, a small village of just 400 people. Scary? Maybe, but I was young and free and loving it!
Since then, I’ve returned to Paris a couple of times, once with Simon, but it had been a good 12 years since our last visit. But recently, we decided to spend some time re-exploring France’s capital.
The problem with Paris is that being a big city, it isn’t cheap to visit. So when you’re a full-time traveller on a budget it can be tough. Accommodation and food in Paris are pricey and the entrance fees to museums and other sights can really make a dent in your daily budget.
Don’t despair though, some of the best things in Paris can be enjoyed for no cost at all.
Here are 10 free things you can do in Paris:
Basilica du Sacre Coeur
The Basilica du Sacre Coeur is one of the top sights in Paris and it’s located in the quartier of Montmartre. Montmartre is one of the nicest parts of Paris and it’s my personal favourite.
Before checking out the basilica, take some time to wander the hilly streets of Montmartre, once home to famous artists such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Then enjoy the basilica, which sits on top of the 180 metres high Montmartre hill. You can explore the ground floor of the basilica for free from 6 am to 10 pm every day. But if you want to climb to the top of the dome or visit the crypt, there is a small fee.
Take a free guided tour
A guided tour for free? That’s right, you heard it right, many cities in the world now offer free tours and Paris is one of them. Isn’t that fabulous? Discover Walks offers a good range of free guided tours in Paris from the famous sights to Montmartre or the Marais. Although the tour itself is free, make sure you tip your guide appropriately if you are happy with their service.
Wander through the Marais District
The Marais district is the Jewish Quarter of Paris and it has been the hub for LGBT Parisians since the 1980s. It’s home to many trendy boutiques, Jewish eateries, many galleries, and many gay bars. You’ll also find several historical sites and many cute streets to explore. Make sure you check out the historic Rue des Rosiers, which is the heart of the Jewish quarter. The smell of falafels will tickle your nostrils, so definitely stop at L’As du Fallafel for some super tasty pita bread sandwiches, filled with delicious falafels!
Head next to the Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris and one of the most beautiful. On a warm day, around lunchtime, you’ll see lots of people sitting on the grass with a baguette in their hands. So, find the nearest boulangerie, buy yourself a sandwich and join them in enjoying this beautiful square.
Check out the Eiffel Tower at Trocadero Square
Don’t worry if you can’t afford to go up the top of the Eiffel Tower, you can enjoy it from the ground, completely free. Standing in Trocadero Square will give you the best views of this iconic French tower. From that square, you’ll see the Dame de Fer standing tall, just for you to enjoy and photograph!
You can also enjoy views of the tower from the Champs de Mars which is just at the foot of the tower. But beware of the pickpockets in that area!
Stroll through one of Paris’ many gardens
Paris is a city of gardens. So when you need a breath of fresh(er) air and some greenery, head straight to one of those many gardens. They are all free to enter.
Jardin du Luxembourg is the most popular garden and Paris’ version of the Boboli Gardens. It’s also home to the Luxembourg Palace.
The Jardin des Plantes is Paris’ botanic gardens and, with so many colourful flowers in bloom, it’s a real delight during spring and summer.
The Jardin des Tuileries is a historic garden located right between The Louvre and the Place du Concorde. You can’t miss it as you walk between the two. On the Louvre side of the garden, you will find Napoleon’s Triumphal Arch.
Walk around Paris old’s neighbourhoods
Paris is full of old neighbourhoods waiting to be explored on foot. So put on comfortable shoes and head off on a morning walk to one of Paris’ best neighbourhoods. Other than Le Marais and Montmartre that I mentioned earlier, be sure to head to Saint-Germain-des-Pres, the Latin Quarter and Canal St-Martin. You will quickly get a taste of what living in one of the world’s most beautiful cities feels like.
Visit the Cimitière du Père Lachaise
The ancient Cimitière du Père Lachaise is the final resting place of many great names in history, such as Proust, Balzac, Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. Jim Morrison was also buried in this cemetery and his grave is barricaded off to protect it from the many fans who make a pilgrimage to see it. A walk in the Père Lachaise cemetery is certainly atmospheric, although perhaps slightly creepy.
Admire the Paris Skyline
If you think that the only way to enjoy Paris’ skyline is by going up the rather pricey Eiffel or Montparnasse Towers, don’t worry. Some of the best viewpoints in Paris are free!
The terrace in front of the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, gives you some of the best panoramic views of Paris, extending as far as the eyes can see.
For another great view of the city, head to the Parc of Belleville. It’s much less popular but equally as spectacular.
Admire the Arc de Triumph
The Arc de Triumph, the second most iconic monument in Paris, is not free to enter and climb but it’s certainly free to admire from below. This monument was built to commemorate the men who died fighting in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.
Once you’re finished, head down the Champs-Elysee for some window shopping. There’s no chance of finding anything cheap in this area but there is no harm in dreaming that maybe, one day, that Chanel bag will be yours!
Take a walk along the River Seine
The River Seine is the perfect place to take a long walk. It’s popular with tourists and Parisians alike who enjoy morning jogs, walking their dogs and romantic strolls.
As you follow the river, you’ll pass some of the city’s thirty-seven bridges and at night most of them are illuminated. Many of Paris’ famous sights are also situated close to the river, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides, the Musee D’Orsay, the Louvres, Notre-Dame and more.
Visit Paris’ free museums
Although most of Paris’ famous museums are not free, and in fact are quite expensive, there are still some that are completely free! The Museum of Paris History, the Maison de Balzac, the Paris Modern Art Museum and the Paris Fine Arts Museum are some of the best free museums.
If you really want to visit the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay on a budget, there is free admission every first Sunday of the month. Try and time your visit for then but remember that, of course, it will be even more crowded than normal.
I wish I could add the beautiful Notre-Dame to this list. Sadly, since the terrible fire on the 15th of April 2019, the cathedral is now closed to the public. For how long? The damage is quite extensive so it will be a few years before we can enjoy its full glory again.
Cheap Accommodation in Paris
It’s not easy to find decent, cheap accommodation in Paris. We recommend using hotelscombined.com to search across all of the top hotel search engines in one go, using the search box below. We use it all the time.