‘Paris isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you think of cheap travel, but there’s a surprising amount to do and see, even on the smallest budget…’
So much of the city can be viewed from the streets, but food and drink also needn’t cost you the earth if you’re staying in the French capital for a few days. I recently spent 4 days in the city with my sisters and it didn’t break the bank. These are my tips for budget Paris…
The world famous Cathedral is a budget traveller’s dream as it’s free to enter. It’s also one of Paris’ most spectacular sights. Notre Dame is located on the Ile de la Cite, which lies in the middle of the Seine, close to the Latin Quarter.
The bridge is a tourist attraction in its own right; billing itself as the oldest in the city. This confuses me, somewhat, what with it being called ‘nine’ and all. That generally makes me suspect there are eight older bridges, but what do I know about French counting? The bridge also has the added bonus of having a million love padlocks attached to the railings at the sides. Sounds mushy; is mushy, but reading them is good budget fun.
As with ND, this whitewashed chapel is free and is well worth the walk up the numerous steps. The views are spectacular and it’s a beautiful spot to relax and look out across the city. Also, on the way to Sacre Coeur, you can get your photo taken at the Moulin Rouge, as both are located in Montmartre. Feel free to try out some can-can on the street, if that’s your kind of thing.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery
A short metro ride away from the middle of Paris lies Pere Lachaise. It’s a beautiful graveyard (yes, I actually mean that), houses many famous occupants. The cemetery is the final resting place of Doors frontman, Jim Morrison; Irish author, Oscar Wilde; French Opera legend, Maria Callas; and La Vie en Rose chanteuse, Edith Piaf.
You can pick up a free map outside the gates and immerse yourself in the peaceful beauty of the mausoleums and stones on show. There are few better budget activities in the city.
‘Jim Morrison’s grave, covered with joints and flowers and guarded by two scary blokes with guns made him pretty easy to spot from a distance. Maria Callas was more difficult to find, but she wasn’t much of a troublemaker…’
Statue of Liberty Flame
At Pont D’Alma sits a life sized replica of the flame that was gifted from France to America. It sits in the hand of the Statue of Liberty. The flame glows in the sunshine on the banks of The Seine and serves as a memorial. Incidentally, it’s also above the Pont D’Alma underground bridge, which was the location of the fatal crash involving Princess Diana. Diana’s photograph is a permanent fixture on the flame and has been since 1997.
Yeah, OK, so I like graveyards; don’t judge me. Montparnasse is the eternal resting place of many a famous French person, including author, Jean Paul Satre and his partner, Simone de Beauvoir. It’s a lovely place for a wander, if you like walking amongst the dead and it’s a surprisingly beautiful area. No, seriously.
|Don’t stand in the middle of the street to get a photo, unless you no longer want to live.|
Champs Elysees/Arc de Triomphe
In the middle of Paris, budget isn’t a word you hear very often. However, it’s here you can check out the beautiful main boulevard. In addition, as well as the Arc that serves as a symbol of those who died fighting in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars.
The Champs Elysees is beautiful by day, but even more special when lit up at night. The main shopping street is a mix of upmarket stores in classic and very modern designs, such as the Peugeot shop. The Arc sits at the top of the avenue and, although there’s a fee to enter, a budget activity is wandering around the impressive exterior.
Food and Drink
Paris can be extremely expensive to eat out in but it needn’t be for your entire trip. If you like street food, such as crepes, pizza and baguettes, you can eat well on a budget. There are tons of tiny places up and down side streets that will cater for all your Nutella cravings for a small fee.
We stayed in Saint Michel and had a range of options, including expensive riverside cafes and cheap street food. You’re never far from choice in Paris, so don’t stop at the first thing you see. You’ll always find something in a budget price range just a hop away.
|Can’t start my day without one.|
I like my coffee, as do my sisters, so we all agreed that the first activity each morning was to knock back a cafe au lait or two. I’m not an instant coffee lover, but I’m also not a complete coffee snob. In the city, you’re never too far away from a McDonald’s and, although I don’t personally touch the food, the coffee is really excellent.
It might not conjure up the same romantic image of sitting in a pavement cafe by the River Seine, but it’s quality and great for your budget. Besides, you can grab a cup and wander off to the nearest bridge to pop yourself down for a bit. It’s the same view for a fraction of the price.
‘It can be a little pricey for wine and beer, but the happy hour menu is a budget travellers dream. It’s here you can indulge in an excellent Gin Fizz or a very tart Margarita for around €4.80…’
If you’re a fan of Champagne, expect to be set back around €13 for a decent glass. I paid around €10 for beer, and small glass of red or white wine was similarly priced. If you stay in a hotel or hostel and can take bottles to your room, grab some beer or wine at your local store for a percentage of the price. Then you can have a glass (or keep it classy with a plastic cup) before you hit the streets in the evening.
There’s no shortage of hotel accommodation in Paris and, obviously, it can be pricey place to bed down for the night.
There’s also a huge range of budget hotel rooms that won’t cost the earth. These are clean, tidy and the perfect place to lay your weary bones after a day of pounding the city’s cobbled streets.
Hotel Eugenie in Saint Michel will set you back around £40 a night and is a short walk from Notre Dame on the Left Bank. In terms of location, it’s perfect.
Hotel de L’Europe is also a budget stay at around £100 for 3 nights for a single person. The hotel is located in the 11th arrondissement and close to the metro station at Belleville.
Ibis Budget Paris Porte de Monmatre comes in at around the same price and is in the 18th arrondissement. However, this is a little further away from the main city centre attractions.
Regardless of where you stay, time of year will always dictate pricing, so expect to pay more during the main tourist season and get a budget deal in the shoulder months.
As with every other major city, Paris is also home to some super budget hostels. You can pick up a decent multi-room, or pay for a little more for a private one. I’m not a fan of hostels, so I’m far happier paying £40 a night for peace, quiet and my own space. However, they are a staple for budget travellers.
|You don’t have to stay at the Hotel de Ville to have a good time.|
Paris has a widely efficient RER (overground train) and Metro (underground train) system, which are both accessible and reasonably priced. They can both be packed during rush hours, so just because a train’s due, doesn’t necessarily mean there will be space.
You can hire a segway to get your round the city and these often come with a tour guide. There are also countless hop on tour buses around, where you can purchase a daily ticket and then jump around your chosen sights. These are a bit more expensive, but you do get see all parts of the city. It’s an excellent way to travel on a sunny day.
|The benefits of seeing the city by foot. And by bar, obvs.|
I much prefer walking and it’s the one way (in my opinion) to really get to know a city and find all those hidden treasures. Plus, walking is free and is the budget traveller’s best way to explore.
‘Walking means I can stop at a bar whenever I’m tired. It’s a win, win really. Or, in my case, a wine, wine….’
Let’s face it: all you need is some flat and comfy shoes and bit of common sense and a list of free attractions and the world, or Paris, rather, is your oyster. Do you have any tips for Paris on a budget?