There's no need to spend a fortune to enjoy the City of Light. Here are our suggestions for ways to save some euros while exploring the best of Paris with budget hotels, free events and cheap and tasty food.
Hotel des 3 Colleges is a clean and cozy hotel across from the Sorbonne in Paris' famed intellectual district, the Latin Quarter. Rooms are basic with choices including singles, doubles and twin beds all with a bath or shower all for around 100 euros, while larger rooms go for a bit more. Amenities include flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, air conditioning, free passes to the Musée D'Orsay and breakfast in the downstairs lounge.
Bunk with a Parisian family through Good Morning Paris, an organization that arranges guest rooms at certified bed and breakfasts around the city. The host family provides a key to the house as well as a comfortable bedroom, bathroom, breakfast and a local perspective on the City of Light. All rooms feature unique character, whether that's a private balcony, charming French décor or a fabulous location, all for under 100 euros.
Savor an authentic French experience without a host family by renting an apartment in the city through Paris Attitude. Apartments ranging from cozy studios to lavish penthouse digs are perfect for longer stays of a week or more. All accommodations are furnished and include fully stocked kitchens so you can fill the fridge after a trip to the market, perfect some French recipes and save some euros by dining in.
Free and Nearly-Free Paris Fun
Free and Discounted Museums
No trip to Paris is complete without taking in the world-famous artwork at the city's best museums. If you're planning on visiting the city's top museums and have a few days to browse the halls, purchase a 2-, 4- or 6-day Paris Museum Pass for unlimited visits to 60 of the area's best museums and monuments, including the Louvre, Musee D'Orsay, Musee Rodin, Centre Pompidou, Versailles and the Arc de Triomphe. If your goal is to explore off-the-beaten-path museums for no charge at all, check out the free permanent collection at the Petit Palais at the Musee des Beaux Arts de la Ville de Paris with works by Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as the Musée D'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
Explore the City on Foot
You can still experience the best of Paris' culture without spending a single euro by exploring the city's neighborhoods. Skip the steep fees to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and take in a panoramic view of the city by traveling through the hilly neighborhood of Montmarte. You can take in sweeping views of the city from the church atop the hill at Sacre Coeur--and absorb some of the neighborhood's artsy vibe--all for no charge.
When the weather is nice, you can enjoy the great outdoors in sprawling and well-manicured Parisian gardens. The best urban escapes include the Jardin des Tuileries, which overlooks the Louvre and the Seine and the super-sized Jardin du Luxembourg with its numerous statues, fountains, gazebos and an old-school carousel. The Parc de la Villette is the best spot in the city for kids with endless opportunities for fun with 10 themed gardens with climbing structures, unusual sculptures and a tall and twisting dragon slide. During the summer, visitors can also enjoy free outdoor movies and concerts.
Celebrate the city's most famous deceased residents at the free and atmospheric city cemeteries. It costs nothing to visit the graves of cultural legends like Jim Morrison, Sarah Bernhardt, Georges Bizet and Isadora Duncan at the city's largest graveyard, Cimetiere Pere-Lachaise.
Many Parisian churches appeal to a broader audience than worshippers on Sunday mornings with classic artwork and architecture and free music. Admission to the Notre Dame Cathedral is free, though it does cost money to explore the towers. Saint-Merri Church hosts free concerts on Saturdays at 9 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. There is also a weekly organ concert at Saint-Sulpice on Sundays at 11:30 a.m. before the 12:05 mass.
Shop the Sales
If you're visiting Paris in January or July, you may score some bargains during the biannual citywide sale period. Otherwise, you may save some cash browsing at the city's great flea markets or window-shopping along the Champs-Elysees. To keep abreast of the most current styles, check out the weekly free fashion show at Galeries Lafayette every Friday at 3 p.m.
Sample French bistro fare with the reasonable prix-fixe menu at La Ferrandaise. The menu changes each month and focuses on farm-fresh food and locally raised meats from La Ferrandaise cattle.
Celebrate Paris' melting pot of cultures with inexpensive ethnic cuisine. Locals dine on the go with portable meals from falafel stands around the Marais like Chez Hanna at 54 Rue des Rosiers. Moroccan food is another inexpensive option that can be a late-night snack or hearty dinner with filling couscous dishes topped with grilled lamb or sausage at spots like Chez Omar (47 Rue de Bretagne).
Enjoy a gourmet picnic stocked with bread, cheese and prepared foods from any of the open-air markets. Splurge on a bottle of wine, and laze the day away under the Eiffel Tower or in any of the city's parks for people-watching and outdoor dining at its finest.
Public Transportation and Beyond on a Shoestring
If you're traveling around Europe, your cheapest travel option is catching the bus with Eurolines for inexpensive coach service from Paris to major cities around Europe, including London and Brussels.
Once you arrive, you can save on public transportation with the discount multiday Paris Visite travel card for use on the metro, bus and RER trains if you're heading out of town. You can also experiment with alternative modes of transportation and see the city by boat or bike. Take in great views of the city from the Seine onboard the Batobus, a riverboat shuttle service that makes stops at popular tourist spots along the Seine. There's no commentary with tourist information, but it's cheaper than many of the guided boat tours along the Seine. Or choose to explore the city on 2 wheels using the Velib bike rental system, which allows you to borrow bikes for a small fee from hundreds of stations around the city.