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The “City of Love” is often an expensive place to visit, with attractions such as the Louvre costing 17 Euros per person in 2020. If you’re traveling to Paris on a budget, you can still find plenty of options to explore that tend to be inexpensive or even free! These activities and attractions give you the opportunity to live like a Parisian while you’re in town.
Picnic in the Parc du Champ de Mars
Just about anyone visiting Paris is going to seek out the Eiffel Tower, but this structure known the world over is quite expensive to visit. While you’re in town, don’t worry about taking an elevator to the top. Instead, pack a picnic basket, and enjoy the Parc du Champ de Mars. This impressive park features stunning views of the Eiffel Tower, and you can sit and enjoy the evening’s twinkling light show, La Tour Eiffel. As part of your visit, consider stopping by the Mur Pour la Paix, or Wall for Peace. You can also arrange to take a tour of the area, experiencing some of its history as the cadet parade ground that was used for the Ecole Militaire in the 18th century.
Go “Window Shopping” at the St-Ouen Flea Market
If shopping is one of your favorite pastimes, or if you love history, you’ll probably want to spend a few hours wandering through Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, also known as Les Puces (the Fleas). Some dedicated shoppers make a trip out of it, spending the entire weekend exploring the different vendors. This market is considered one of the largest flea markets in the world, and you can find a variety of trinkets, but be prepared to spend a pretty penny on them if you decide to buy anything here. Get there early, as it starts to become crowded after lunchtime. You’ll be able to explore the different dealers between Saturday and Monday of each week.
Visit Free Museums
While some museums are more well known but have a hefty admission fee, you can find some free gems in Paris that offer an exciting look at history and art. There’s the Musee d’Art Moderne, which offers peeks at spectacular pieces of modern art, including some works by Picasso. Another such museum is the Musee Carnavalet, dedicated to the history of Paris. Their permanent collection is free to visit and features a range of Paris’ history, from its ancient origins to pieces from the French Revolution.
If your visit falls at the right time, you can even enjoy some of the more popular museums for free. For example, on the first Sunday of the month, you can explore the Louvre, Musee Picasso, and the Musee Rodin with no admission fee, although you will have to contend with many other people who want to experience the same things.
Stroll Along the Seine
There is little more Parisian than taking a stroll along the Seine. While it costs nothing to wander the banks of this river, you might stop by a vendor featuring an item you just need to purchase. Take the time to see artists painting and potentially pick up an art piece to bring home. You can also wander past the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris and marvel at its outsides while reconstruction work continues on the interior, as well as take in stunning views of the Eiffel Tower. While you walk, take a few minutes to shop at stalls such as the various used book sellers, known as the Bouquinistes.
Visit Markets Like a Parisian
When you come to Paris, one of the activities that can help make you feel more like a Parisian is visiting one (or more) of the many markets located throughout the city. Foodies will appreciate markets such as the Rue Mouffetard, which is a splendid food market, filled with sweets and baked goods. Located in one of the oldest neighborhoods, you’ll be surrounded by history while you pick up a few items for a picnic. There’s also the Marche des Enfantes Rouges, which is housed in a former 16th-century orphanage. You can explore food vendors or dine at a fantastic restaurant while you’re here.
If you want to experience more than just antiques or food stalls, you should plan a trip to Marche aux Fleurs et auz Oiseaux. This market features indoor and outdoor areas and is home to both a flower market and a bird market. Take in the sight of exotic blooms or walk through on Sunday to chance a peek at an assortment of different types of birds.
Promenade through Paris
Ever thought about taking a promenade? This term for a leisurely walk is something you can really enjoy in Paris. Explore the La Promenade Plantee, also known as the Coulee verte Rene-Dumont. This elevated park was built upon the old Vincennes railway. Located in the 12th arrondissement, it follows an almost-3 mile pathway. Enjoy an elevated look at the city, while you can appreciate the makeover this area received, the first green space constructed on a viaduct, or railway bridge over a low-lying area.
Experience a Taste of Nature in the Heart of Paris
If exploring the greenery and flowers outside is what you’re looking for, don’t fret. Paris offers a variety of outdoor spaces. Spend time outdoors in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. This park offers plenty of attractions for your day, including a manmade lake and a manmade grotto designed to look like a natural grotto. There’s also a suspension bridge that was designed by the creator of the Eiffel Tower himself, Gustave Eiffel. You can also enjoy a small recreation of the Roman Temple of Vesta from Trivoli, Italy, known as the Temple de la Sibylle.
Make a Free Stop at the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur
The Basilique du Sacre-Coeur is located at a site that has seen worshippers for thousands of years, with numerous religious buildings having been built at the location. Today, it is home to a white marble church that features one of the heaviest bells in the world. When you come to visit this church, there is no entrance fee unless you plan to visit the crypts or climb to the dome for impressive views of the city beyond. Also in the church is a grand organ, one of the most renowned in the world, as well as mosaics, including the large Mosaic of Christ in Glory featured in the apse.
While you’re here, make sure you take a walk through Montmartre, a lovely and lively district. Enjoy a self-guided walking tour filled with surprises that have been featured in art and films. Taking a stroll here is quintessentially Parisian, and you can come across street performers and artists. Relax and stop in one of the many cafes for a drink and bite to eat.
Explore the Crypts and Cemeteries of Paris
While visiting the dead may seem like a morbid attraction, numerous people flock to the cemeteries and crypts in Paris. You can pay your respects to revered artists, such as Proust and Oscar Wilde. Two of the major cemeteries that you can visit with no charge are the Montparnasse cemetery which features the eternal resting place of Simone de Beauvoir and the Cimitiere du Pere Lachaise, which is the more popular of the two. The monuments and tombs are impressive and offer a cherished look at history and architecture.
For a small fee, you might consider visiting the Catacombs of Paris, which is only a few minutes from Montparnasse cemetery. Inside numerous churches such as the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur, there are also crypts that you can visit or pay your respects to the dead.
Learn About Roman History
The history of the Romans is a fascinating subject that extends outside of Rome. In France, one such place you can visit to learn more about the Romans is the Arenes de Lutece within the Latin Quarter. This is considered the longest Roman amphitheatre and dates back to the first and second century AD. When visiting, you can still see the area where actors would stand, performing in front of around 15,000 people. Originally the home of gladiator fights, it is now used for petanque, a sport that is related to bocce.
One of the other remaining Roman sites in Paris is the Thermes de Cluny, which are Roman baths. These are located in the 5th arrondissement and date back to the third century.
Paris offers something for everyone, from art lovers to history connoisseurs. While many attractions have associated entrance fees, you can visit a variety of locations at no charge. Spend time soaking in the sights, sounds, and even smells of the city to really get an appreciation for this fashion-forward world icon.