Paris has a reputation the world over for being one of the most expensive cities in the world and whilst this can be true, it’s also a city which is very easy to do on a budget. Paris welcomes student discounts, offers free museum days and is overflowing with free activities. There really is no need to spend copious amounts of money in Paris in order to have a good time! The first year that I spent in Paris I was on a very tight budget working as an au pair with a low disposable income but that it didn’t stop me from having a good time, in fact is was the best year of my life to-date. Experiences are what count, not materialistic possessions. It’s the little things that I would value the most such as the moment the Eiffel Tower would sparkle, passing by monuments which I’d only seen in films beforehand and being around people who’s company I cherished. I am convinced that you can come to Paris, spend little money and leave with your heart full of happiness and dozens of new friendships and wonderful experiences. After all the best things in life are free!
Here are the best Free activities in Paris…
Printemps & Lafayette terrace
You have to pay to climb nearly all of Paris’ monuments but the rooftop terraces of two of the city’s most luxurious department stores are completely free of charge. They are located right next to each other and they both offer great panoramic views spanning across the whole of Paris. My pick would be the view from atop Printemps.
The best way to explore a city is to walk until you’re weary feet can walk no longer. It’s the only way to really uncover every nook and cranny of a city and stumble across hidden surprises along the way.
One of the best ways to enjoy the balmy summer evenings in Paris is with a picnic. Gather together a group of friends and fill a picnic basket full of food for an outdoor feast to be remembered. A favourite picnic spot of mine is the banks along the Seine where the surrounding monuments and sparkling Eiffel Tower are like watching a real-life motion picture.
All of Paris’ parks are completely free and provide a wonderful place to while away an afternoon. For a more extensive guide on which ones to visit, you can see this article here.
18-25 EU residents
Being an 18-25 EU resident in Paris has so many benefits. Entrance to every national monument and museum (excluding temporary exhibitions) is free. That means that you can climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, enter into the Louvre museum and visit the Château de Vincennes, to name but a few examples. Just show you’re I.D card and you’ll be allowed to enter entirely free of charge. This is also applicable to nationalities outside of the EU if you have proof of long-term residency in the European Union i.e. a visa. Here’s the website to find out which monuments qualify.
The flower market is located on Ile de la Cité and is a great little activity to brighten up any day in Paris. Rows of potted plants are sheltered under the covered passageway and birds of every color tweet away in the background.
La Promenade Plantée
The Promenade Plantée is an elevated footpath in Paris that was once a former railway track, comparable to the High Line in New York. It provides a scenic walk through the city where you’ll be at eye level with some of Paris’ finest apartments and verandas.
Nature has gifted to us some incredible sights, one of which is the sunset. Better than any show you could every pay for, the sky ignites with vivid colours and profound cloud formations as the sun meets the horizon. Collect memories, not things; something everyone ought to collect is sunsets around the world and I would definitely add Paris to that list.
Walking into this museum is as though stepping into a novel and journeying through Paris’ history. Each room is dedicated to a historic event of a different century and therefore provides an interesting insight into some of the city’s most fascinating historical milestones. Entrance to the museum is free to all visitors.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
It seems a bit spooky to visit a graveyard as a tourist attraction but Père Lachaise has become one of the top things to do in the city. It evokes an eerie calm and peacefulness and you might be surprised at just how much you enjoy it. It is extremely large and maze-like therefore it might take a little perseverance to find some of the graves you’re looking for such as Edith Piaf or Jim Morrison.
Take photos of all the monuments
The majority of images that you see of Paris, tend to be of the monuments from the outside. Whilst entering them might not be free you can take as many photos as you desire from the outside and chances are they’ll be the best shots. Do a tourist tour of the whole city and take a photo of yourself in front of Paris’ iconic monuments. Here are a just few to tick off: Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Hôtel de Ville, Palais Royal, Opera House and Sacré Cœur.
Movies Al Fresco
In the summer months, namely July and August, film fanatics can enjoy watching movies al fresco. Crowds of movie-lovers congregate in front of the large outdoor screen with their chairs and blankets in tow. (Image:hotellouvremarsollier.com)
In Paris there is always something happening. One of the events which I most look forward to is Nuit Blanche; one night of the year museums and art galleries are open all night until the early hours of the morning and entrance is completely free. The entire city turns into an art exhibition with tangible art installations and exciting performances. Nuit Blanche is held on the first Sunday of October but there are plenty of other free events happening in Paris, another of the most popular is Fête de la Musique which takes place in June.
Canal St Martin
Canal St Martin is located in the hipper part of town and is where all the cool kids hang out. Its tree-lined banks are the ideal place for a shady stroll, along the way you’ll pass speciality coffee shops, graffiti painted walls and busy bars.
Inside Notre Dame and churches
The great thing about churches is that entrance is completely free. Paris boasts some incredibly beautiful ones with gold-adorned interiors and beautiful stain glass windows. Notre Dame aside, a few favourites of mine include la Madeleine, St Sulpice and Saint Eustache.
Sunday markets are a ritual for many Parisians who come to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, quality meats and specialty cheeses. Whilst buying might not be free, perusing the stands and sampling a few things certainly is.
Admittedly this activity isn’t entirely free of charge, but for only €1.70 for a day pass it’s a fairly reasonable thing to do and it’s so much fun! Nothing beats seeing Paris by bike, swiftly cycling past pretty buildings with a breeze in your hair and a huge grin on your face. It will be the best couple of euros you spend in Paris.
On the first Sunday of each month, many of Paris’ museums offer free entrance to all visitors. Included are the Musée d’Orsay, the Pompidou Center, the Rodin museum and the Musée de l’Orangerie and many more. If you happen to be in Paris on the Sunday that it falls on, make sure to make the most of it but also be prepared for queues.
Rollerblade along the Seine
On a Sunday the banks of the Seine close to motorists and instead open up to walkers, cyclists and rollerbladers. It feels as though the whole of Paris is enjoying the weekend and there is no better way to join in than hiring a pair of rollerblades and gliding down the riverbanks.
Wall of love
The I Love You wall is a work of art dedicated to love, written on it is “I love you” over 311 times in 250 languages. Located in the Abbesses garden, in the heart of Montmartre, this wall is a testament to the romance of the neighbourhood.
Photography and words by Faye Bullock