It can be concluded that Paris is associated with wealth, decadence and glamour. However, this does not mean that Paris can not be experienced on a tighter budget. If you know where to go and what to see, Paris becomes an incredibly accessible city to explore for travellers from all walks of life. Don’t be fooled by the gilded gold buildings, the rich food (and we don’t mean only the amount of butter that’s used) and the luxury French designer boutiques; Paris is accessible for all!
One thing that I found incredibly useful as a student in Paris was researching the various entry policies to museums. If you have a European passport or visa, visits to famous museums such as the Louvre and Musée L’Orangerie are completely free - just be sure to ask! There are also further discounts for those who are students of European universities. When it comes to transport, you can save big money by buying a day or week ticket to avoid wasting money on a single journey. Paris is, however, an incredibly walkable city, so transport is not a necessary cost for those who love to travel by foot.
1. Marché aux Puces Saint Ouen
Marché aux Puces Saint Ouen is located in North Paris, just a short walk from the metro stop Porte de Clignancourt This open market is the biggest flea market in all of Europe and is free for visitors and shoppers! If you are in the mood to wander or perhaps you wish to bring a small something back from your travels, you are sure to find an antique delight in this treasure trove of curiosities.
Stohrer was founded in 1703 by one of King Louis XV’s pastry chefs Nicholas Strohrer, and is the oldest patisserie in Paris. Located just beside the Chatelet and a short walk from the Marais lies this gastronomical delight. Pick up a variety of croissants, tartes and galettes for a small price, your tastebuds won’t regret it.
3. Saigon Sandwich
Located close to the neighbourhood of Belleville and a short walk from Canal Saint Martin lies this culinary haven, Saigon Sandwich. The rather unassuming sandwich shop specialises in Vietnamese sandwiches, also known as Bahn Mi’s. For just 5 euros - you can purchase a fragrant and fresh Vietnamese baguette of pork, chicken or veggie. I mena, there’s very few places these days that you can get a full meal for just 5 euros right? As a bonus, why not walk to Canal Saint Martin after and enjoy the views with your affordable lunch.
Quaintly hidden behind the rather grandiose Notre-Dame, removed from the hustle and bustle of Paris, you will find Ile Saint-Louis. Few tourists are lucky enough to know about this hidden gem. The island itself has various architectural delights, much like the rest of Paris. However, it is the famous creperie ‘La Crêpe en L’isle’ that is the main character on the island. Pick up a classic La Beurre Sucre crepe for a mere €3.80 and discover the island on your whim.
Where to Stay for Hostels
This modern hotel neighbors Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur, making it the perfect palace for a short stay!
Atrendy guesthouse located just off Canal Saint Martin. Stay here and blend in with the edgy locals who chill by the water.
An affordable hostel located in the 14th arrondissement and is fully equipped with a terrace and restaurant.
5. Musée D’Orsay
The Musée D’Orsay is situated in a former train station and is now home to a variety of famous art pieces. The museum houses some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous art pieces and is therefore not one to be missed. There is in fact, a huge clock that resides from the time when the museum was once a train station. You can look out through the clock onto the seine and onto the right bank. Be sure to get cheaper tickets here to avoid waiting in long queues and missing your Instagram opportunity in front of the oversized clock.
6. Le Pere LaChaise
Le Père Lachaise is the famous resting place for numerous famous writers, painters and singers alike. Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison are just some of the characters laid to rest in this architectural haven. This public cemetery is completely free and features dozens of tombs and mausoleums adorned with rich stained glass, moody gargoyles and cobbled streets. The sheer vastness of this location will shock you.
7. Centre Pompidou
The Centre Pompidou, with perhaps the wackiest exterior in Paris, is a modern art gallery situated in the heart of Le Marais. The building resembles a futuristic play area, with various coloured chutes leading in and out of the building in every possible direction. The building is completely free to enter, as are some of the exhibitions that they put on. Why not wander about the bookshop inside and pick up a chic and artsy souvenir from the shop after your tour. The building juxtaposes with the classic buildings that surround it, making it the ideal location for an interesting Instagram pic without having to spend money! To reserve your tickets in advance, you can book it here for a small price.
8. The Pantheon
The Pantheon is perhaps one of the most spectacular buildings in Paris. The Panthéon was historically a church, however, at the end of the 20th century, the building became the home for various tombs. Here lies the tombs of famous French writers and revolutionaries such as Victor Hugo, Voltaire and Emile Zola. If brave enough, you can climb the dome of the Panthéon to get incredible views over the Latin Quarter for a small cost!
9. First Sunday of the month at Musée L’orangerie
On the first Sunday of every month, Musée L’Orangerie opens their door to the public for free access to the exhibition. In this museum located at the corner of Jardin de Tuileries you will find Monet’s famous water lilies and other glorious artworks. Monet’s panoramic painting is not one to be missed, especially when this activity is free.
Where to Stay on a Budget
For just 80 euros a night, you can stay at Hotel Rivoli which is just a stone's throw away from the Louvre.
A contemporary hotel situated in the 18th arrondissement close to Montmartre. The sleek and spacious bedrooms are sure to impress!
Escape from the hustle and bustle of central Paris by staying here in the 20th arrondissement. Here you will be able to rest and relax and therefore make the most of your stay!
10. Marché des enfant rouge
Marché des Enfants Rouge is a market selling various fruits, vegetables and dishes in the 3rd arrondissement. The market gets its name from the orphanage that used to occupy the market grounds and the vibrant red uniforms that the children had to wear. The market hosts a variety of cuisines, whether this be classic French charcuterie, Japanese or Lebanese food. As if it's a market, the food is significantly cheaper than the classic french bistros peppered around Paris. Whatever your taste, Marché des Enfant Rouge will accommodate!
11. Galerie Vivienne
Galerie Vivienne is located near Paris’ famous Richelieu library. This hidden arcade is full of boutique shops and antique bookshops. However, it is the beautifully mosaiced floor and terrazzo-style seating that adds to this architectural wonder. Wander through this passage, searching for a vintage pocketbook as you walk. Why not also stop off for a cafe crème after your meander and take in this historical monument.
12. Parisian Peach Garden
Despite not being a known fact, Paris was in fact, known for its orchards of perfectly cultivated peaches. Located in the outskirts of Paris in Montreuil, you will find remnants of Paris’ horticulture past, where over 300 hectares of land was used to grow peaches. In the 17th century, Parisian farmers built peach walls, known as mûrs à pêches where prize-winning peaches were grown. Today, there are parts of the gardens that still remain and conservationists are attempting to rebuild the famous peach walls.Visit the gardens on a Sunday when the gardens are open to the public.
When wandering around Paris, you may notice various pixelated characters on the sides of buildings or hidden above street signs. These pixelated mosaics were created by French artist invaders and have now been turned into a game. The game forces you to look up and appreciate your surroundings, therefore making it the perfect form of free entertainment.
13. Galeries Lafayette Haussaman
If you are still in the mood to shop, visit Galeries Lafayette located just behind Opéra. In this stunning building, you will find a variety of luxury clothes, jewellery and cosmetics from a wide range of brands. But if you’re on a budget - don’t be put off by the French designer houses that are in stock here. Rather, look up when you are wandering around the ground floor to see the gloriously adorned stained glass cupola that hangs over your head. If you ascend the various floors, gathering goods as you do so, you can sit down for a coffee or a glass of wine at the Lafayette Café and admire the spectacle above.
14. Street performers
The area of Montmartre is a gathering place for tourists, families and lovers alike. The views over the entirety of Paris are simply spectacular, however, this is not the only spectacle available at the top of the summit. After climbing to the top of the Sacré Coeur, sit on the steps and enjoy the various street performers. There are those who perform football tricks, sing songs and dance - but it’s the whole vibe from the crowd that creates a warm and enchanting atmosphere. Sit down and enjoy this free entertainment with perhaps one the best backdrops in the whole of Europe.
15. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is often underrated when it comes to Parisian hotspots. Visitors tend to pay attention to the Eiffel Tower and the Pont Neuf, however, the Arc de Triomphe is a spectacle in itself. It is the axis point of various famous avenues, most importantly the Champs Elyssé. In fact, why not pre-book tickets here to ascend the tower and find the best views over Paris.
Where to Stay for a Mid-range budget
The perfect hotel for its location. Situated right in the heart of Le Marais, you won’t have to wander far!
This hotel is fully equipped with a terrace and sleek rooms. Escape from central Paris by staying in the 18th arrondissement, just a short distance from Montmartre.
This spot rests just at the foot of the Sacrê Coeur and Montmartre. The simplistic hotel has everything you’d ever want for a cheap and cheerful break in Paris!
16. Rue Cremieux
Located in the 12th arrondissement lies this beautifully twee street. The houses, painted in a variety of pastel pinks, butter yellows and powder blues are reminiscent of the famous Notting Hill houses. The houses were originally built as workers' accommodation however, it has become the new instagrammable spot. Brighten up your life and your Instagram feed with a visit to this little lane.
17. Vintage shopping
Paris, the fashion capital of Europe, is definitely not short of boutique clothing shops. However, why not shop more ethically and find yourself some individual pieces in the various Parisian vintage shops, also known as friperies.
18. Canal Saint Martin
Canal Saint Martin has become a trendy hotspot for edgy Parisian locals to manger, boire and se détendre. The quiet banks of the canal are the perfect place for a and to rest for a bottle of wine, purchased from local grocers. The river is framed by quaint bridges that arch over the placid water. On your walk down the canal, take a pit stop in Belleville to get a Bahn Mi from the famous Vietnamese lunch spot, Saigon Sandwich. This deli makes filled sandwiches with fresh vegetables and deliciously marinated meat. You won’t be disappointed in this renovated baguette.
19. Abbey Bookshop
The Abbey Bookshop is one of the most elaborate and interesting bookshops in all of Paris. This second-hand bookshop is filled from floor to ceiling with used books ranging from the classics to children's books. Here you will find literary bargains and groups of trendy university students searching for their next novel!
20. Photo Booth in Montmartre
When venturing into Montmartre, wander off the beaten track and scout down the vintage photobooth that still lies there. On 53 Rue des Trois Frères, you will find a metallic vintage fotoautomat that appears to have been plucked from the set of Amélie itself. For just 4 euros, pretend you are an old Hollywood movie star by snapping pictures behind the photo curtain.
21. Visit best boulangerie in Paris
Every year in Paris, there is a competition for the best baguette. The winner of this precious prize subsequently supplies the French President’s residence with fresh bread for the year. In 2022, it was Boulangerie Frédéric Comyn, situated in the 15th arrondissement, that was awarded the prize. Why not venture into the tranquil 15th arrondissement, neighbouring the Eiffel Tower, and reward yourself with the world's best baguette (well for 2022)!
22. Le Nouvel Institut
The Nouvelle Institute is a student bar located in the heart of the 5th arrondissement. Here, arts and humanities students gather to chat, smoke and wind down after their lengthy lectures. The atmosphere is buzzing and filled with bright young things - and you don’t have to worry about snobs, there is no sentiment of exclusivity here. Everyone is welcome! The bar does not only deliver on vibe but also in regard to price. Come here for a cheap and cheerful drink and a chat.
23. Rosa Bonheur sur Seine
Paris is the most vibrant place in terms of music, culture and let's not forget dancing. It is impossible to pass a Parisian plaza without coming across a group of swing dancers or perhaps an accordion player. However, if you are scouting out a place to ballroom dance, visit Rosa Bonheur sur Seine in the height of summer, where locals and tourists gather to take part in tangos, foxtrots and waltzes. Located in an old guinguette, meaning a place to dance, eat and drink, this gathering spot is the ideal spot to visit, get a drink and dance!
24. L'Hôpital Saint-Louis
This building is located off of Canal Saint Martina and above Le Marais where you will feel as though you have been transported to rural trance. L'Hopital Saint Louis was a hospital built in 1607 to accommodate the rising cases of the Plague. Take in the red brick architecture of the four buildings that encase the main garden. The main quad is a palace of tranquillity and the perfect place to bring a packed lunch and to read!
25. Marché Saint Quentin
This covered market is located in the 10th arrondissement, just a short walk away from the Gare du Nord and L’Est. Marché Saint Quentin is the local market for those in the north of Paris, and its produce does not disappoint. Why not treat yourself to pistachio-covered goat cheese from the fromagerie, chilli olives from the Italian deli and some fresh fruit from the grocers. In fact, you can take a seat at the numerous market stalls that serve a variety of delights. For a small cost, you can indulge in Lebanese, Moroccan or Asian food.
26. Eiffel Tower Viewpoint
The Eiffel Tower was constructed for the World Fair in Paris in 1889 and is the most visited tourist attraction in the world. Although a bit mainstream, it is obligatory to visit when in Paris! And hey, soaking up it’s magnificent architecture is all free. Take the metro (line 9) from Republique to Trocadéro for the best and most intimate views of the Tower. From the metro, walk down the steps till you reach the banks of the Seine. This is the best view you get of the tower, away from the crowds. The Tower only sparkles when the sun sets and for five minutes every hour. Be sure to arrive early so as not to miss the show!
27. Parc La Villette
Paris is certainly not lacking in parks, and Parc La Vilette offers more than walks and scenery. The park is the third largest park in Paris and has a variety of different buildings within, offering its visitors different forms of entertainment in the 19th arrondissement. In the summer, relax in the summer sun by watching a french film in the open-air theatre. Or, if you are visiting in winter, there is also an indoor cinema located on the grounds offering screenings of short and experimental films for no price at all.
28. The Louvre
An obligatory visit to Paris is the famous Louvre Museum. Pre-book tickets here to save money and avoid queuing, then begin perusing the hundreds of art pieces. The Louvre is home to various famous art pieces and is an obligatory part of visiting Paris. Formerly a Palace for French Royalty, The Louvre contains a vast array of art, sculptures and antiques. Of course, you can queue for the Mona Lisa (also known as La Jaconde) however there are hundreds of different eras and movements of art ranging from the civilisation of Uzbekistan to the furniture found in Marie Antionette’s bedroom. Wear comfortable shoes as you will be here for hours!
29. Wall of Love
Upon visiting the city of love, it seems obvious to equally visit the Wall of Love, a completely free exhibit. This tiled wall, created by artist Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito, has “I Love You” written on it in over 400 languages. The aim of the wall was to bring people together in an era of hate and violence. As if Paris could get any more romantic!
30. Shakespeare and Company
Shakespeare and Company is an English bookshop located on the left bank, just a short walk from the Notre Dame. The bookshop specialises in antique books predominantly in English. The site itself has become popular in recent years for appearing in films such as Before Sunset and Midnight in Paris. Despite fears of closing down during the pandemic, the bookshop has returned to its former glory and is frequently queued out the door. Wander around the bookshop and take in the knowledge with this completely free activity!