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Have you always dreamed of seeing the gorgeous sights of Paris but you’re on a budget? Paris can definitely be an expensive place to visit, if you let it. The city of love is famous for it’s high end designer stores, 5 star restaurants and exorbitantly priced accommodation.
But don’t let that deter you. If your dream is to visit Paris, I’m here to tell you that you can definitely see Paris on a budget.
I lived in Paris for a year, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. The Ernest Hemingway quote about Paris being a moveable feast couldn’t be more true. It’s truly a breathtaking city and a part of Paris will stay with me forever.“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”Click To Tweet
I scrimped and saved to get my way over to Paris, and while living there, I was on a fairly tight budget. I certainly wasn’t dropping thousands on designer handbags and eating $100 meals every night (or any night, for that matter!)
After living in Paris on a tight budget for a year, I learned a thing or two about how to enjoy the city of love on limited funds. Here’s how you can see Paris on a budget!
How to See Paris on a Budget
Book Cheap Flights
The first thing you need to do is actually get to Paris, and for that, you’ll need to find cheap flights. I’ve done a lot of travel, both interstate and overseas, and I keep on coming back to Expedia to book my flights.
Expedia has the best deals that I’ve found anywhere, both on flights and vacation packages. As an example, for our honeymoon we flew to Vegas and stayed at the Bellagio for 5 nights. Thanks to an awesome deal I found on Expedia, the trip cost us less than $1000 (for both of us, including flights and accommodation.)
If you can, try to be flexible with your dates. Prices can fluctuate hundreds of dollars even within the same week. I’ve found that Tuesday is usually the cheapest day to fly, and the weekends are usually more.
Go check out how cheap you can find flights to Paris on Expedia.
Hotels in Paris are super expensive – even the “cheap” ones, that are usually located in less desirable areas. I actually made the mistake of staying a “cheap” hotel for one night in Paris… The room was miniscule, dirty, situated in a very seedy area directly above a strip club. I don’t think I got a single hours sleep that night because I had a neon sign flashing through my window and could hear music and people yelling the entire night… Not recommended!
A better, budget-friendly alternative is to rent an apartment through Airbnb. There are thousands of gorgeous apartments, lofts and even houses for rent in Paris through Airbnb, for a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay for a hotel room.
Staying in an Airbnb in Paris not only saves you a lot of money, it gives you a more authentic Parisian experience. You’ll be living in a real Parisian home, rented out by it’s owner. The owner will be the one who greets you upon arrival and will usually give you some helpful tips on the surrounding area.
An added bonus is that you’ll also have access to a mini-fridge that you can stock up with grocery-store items, to save some more money!
There are some gorgeous, character filled apartments and houses for rent on Airbnb, starting at as low as $77/night.
*I have a special offer for you, too! Use this link to join Airbnb and you’ll get a bonus $39USD coupon off your first stay.
When you first arrive in a new city, it’s often second-nature to hail a taxi. Don’t do this! Paris is a very walkable city and the metro system, while possibly daunting at first, is actually fairly easy to navigate.
Grab a map, study the different lines for a bit, and then hop on! Worst case scenario? You disembark at the wrong station and discover a part of Paris you probably never would have discovered otherwise! (This happened to me a few times at the beginning, but I got the hang of things pretty quickly.)
Free food? Mais oui!
There are actually a number of places in Paris that serve free food. The most common dishes served are couscous, and moules-frites (mussels and fries), and the purchase of a drink is required. I recommend checking out:
La Cordonnerie, 142 rue Saint-Denis offers free couscous Thursday and Saturday nights.
Le Taïs, 129 boulevard de Ménilmontant offers free moules-frites on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and free couscous on Friday and Saturday nights.
Le Grenier, 152 rue Oberkampf offers free couscous on Saturday nights.
Les 3 Frères, 14 rue Léon offers free couscous on Thursday nights.
Try to avoid eating at restaurants on the Champs-Élysées. You will be paying through the nose, and while the food is likely going to taste amazing, you’re mainly paying for the location. However, there are hundreds of restaurants “off the beaten path” that offer amazing views and delicious food for a fraction of the cost.
Don’t avoid those “hole in the wall” places because that’s where you’ll find some of the best, and cheapest food.
Crepe stands are always a hit, and they’re quite inexpensive and filling. Again, avoid buying crepes from vendors directly overlooking attractions like the Eiffel Tower, because the price will be MUCH higher.
Bread and cheese can be purchased inexpensively from any small patisserie and grocery store like Carrefour or Monoprix and makes a delicious, simple, cost-effective meal.
Free Attractions in Paris
Paris is overflowing with amazing museums, picturesque gardens, and beautiful cemeteries.
The gardens scattered around Paris are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
Must-See Gardens in Paris:
Jardin des Tuileries – 113 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
Jardins des Plantes – 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France
Jardin du Luxembourg – 75006 Paris, France
Bois de Vincennes – Route de la Pyramide, 75012 Paris, France
Bois de Boulogne (excellent for kids, with an amusement park!) – 75016 Paris, France
Must-See Cemetery in Paris:
Entrance to the cemeteries is always free (of course), and shouldn’t be overlooked, as the grounds of most Parisian cemeteries are absolutely beautiful.
Père Lachaise (16 Rue du Repos, 75020 Paris, France) is the most visited cemetery in the world, with 69’000 tombs spread over 44-hectares. It is the final resting place of many well-known people including Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Marcel Marceau, Frédéric Chopin and Georges Haussmann, to name just a few.
Must-See Museums in Paris (and how to get in for free):
Paris is home to an incredible number of amazing museums including:
The Louvre – Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France. Home of the famous Mona Lisa, The Louvre offers free admission on the 1st Sunday of each month, from 1st of October – 31st of March
Musée d’Orsay – 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France. Musée d’Orsay offers free admission on the 1st Sunday of each month, year round.
Musée d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou – Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France. Musée d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou offer free admission on the 1st Sunday of each month, year round.
Popular Tourist Attractions
Some of the main reasons tourists flock to Paris is the chance to see attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Luxor Obelisk. The great news is that all of these are free to view! There’s not much that’s better than spending an evening at Jardins du Trocadéro with a fresh baguette and some wine and cheese, watching the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower.
Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance!
You may be tempted to try and save some money and skip the travel insurance, but PLEASE don’t do this. Anything can happen while you’re overseas, and your medical bills could end up being astronomical.
I know of someone who broke their leg while traveling overseas. He’d failed to take out travel insurance for his trip, and his medical bills were eye-watering…
World Nomads is my go-to for travel insurance. Have a play around in the box below to see a free quote on travel insurance (and then actually purchase it. Seriously. Travel insurance should be a non-negotiable.)
Paris can definitely be an expensive city to visit, but it can also be done well on a budget. While I enjoyed the occasional splurge, the experiences that left a lasting impression on me were the free and cheap ones – spending afternoons in Notre Dame Cathedral, wandering around the Louvre, visiting Père Lachaise, and marveling at the beauty of the Eiffel Tower.