How to enjoy Paris on a budget

How to enjoy Paris on a budget

Visiting Paris on a tight budget? The most visited city in Europe last year, welcoming 19.1 million foreign visitors in 2018, has a notorious reputation for being a costly tourist destination. The accommodation and food alone can cost travelers a fortune. But that doesn't mean you should skip out on this glorious French capital.

We’ve unraveled the expensive tape that wraps up a typical trip to Paris, picked apart the things to do and must-see sights, and put it all back together to present you with the ideal tips for visiting Paris on a budget. Full of free things to do in Paris, cheap eats, budget shopping, and local tips, here’s the ultimate guide to a wonderful Paris experience that won’t cost you a small fortune! You're welcome.


Where to stay in Paris

Okay, accommodation is likely going to be the biggest culprit when it comes to eating into your Paris budget, but it doesn’t need to be a big bite.
Couch-surfing is useful for some, but it isn’t for everyone, so finding a cheap place to stay in Paris takes a bit of savvy. Again, visiting in the off-season will mean cheaper rates on hotels, short-stay apartments, and hostels in Paris. While you may be tempted to find accommodation at the foot of the Eiffel Tower or on the Champs Elyse, the closer you are to iconic landmarks and famous attractions in Paris, the higher the price you pay.

paris montmartre streets

Streets of Montmartre, Paris.

Venture to the more affordable east-side or left-bank of Paris, or search for accommodation in some of the lively and vibrant neighborhoods a little further from the center. For example, Bastille often offers cheaper Airbnb options, hostels, and hotels than in Marais, but there are also a good number of budget hotels in Montmartre and the 11th arrondissement. There tend to be more affordable places to stay in the Latin Quarter, Montparnasse, and Saint-Germain-des-Près; you just have to do some searching, decide that ultimately all you really need is a fairly comfy, clean, safe bed somewhere in Paris, and you’ll find an affordable option for your budget.



Cheap things to do in Paris


There’s a surprisingly plentiful amount of free and affordable things to do in Paris; here’s a quickfire rundown of some of our favorites for inspiration:


Walk along the Seine

paris walk around seine river

Yes, walking is free, but many would happily pay for the privilege of strolling the banks of the Seine in Paris. Start at the Eiffel Tower and make your way to the Notre Dame Cathedral, you'll take in the typical Parisian scenery and have a contender for one of the most beautiful walks of your life.

See more: Free and budget tours in Paris


paris canal saint martin

Feeding the Seine in the south and Canal de L’Ourcq in the north, the delightful Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement is nestled between Gare du Nord and Republique; punctuated by iron footbridges, chestnut trees, and local Parisians chilling out, a stroll along its banks is another of the many wonderful free things to do in Paris.


Explore Parisian Parks

Paris has some of the most beautiful gardens in Europe. The Tuileries Garden is a wonderful example of a place where you can admire several landmarks such as the Louvre and the Obelisk of Place de la Concorde while sipping on a cup of coffee by the pond with the ducks.

tuileries garden paris

Sculpture "Renommée Du Roi", Tuileries Garden.

Others include the Luxembourg gardens, the Monceau Park, Parc des Buttes Chaumont, and Champ de Mars which sits below the Eiffel Tower.


Enjoy other, less central Parisian Neighbourhoods

Montmartre of the 18th arrondissement has so many sights and history to offer. There are the typical Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeur sightseeing and also the very fascinating Montmartre cemetery for the art groupies. Walking down the little streets, you can spot the cafes that were often frequented by Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh, and others.

Neighborhoods such as Belleville, are relatively tourist-free. You can get the real feel of Paris and enjoy the recent surge in bars, restaurants, and nightlife. Often frequented by 20-somethings, Belleville has a very contemporary feel, while remaining almost unchanged since the beginning of the 20th century.

paris sacre coeur basilica

Sacré Coeur, Paris.

Lastly, enjoy the historical monuments that are free to visitors, like the Notre Dame or Sacre Coeur Cathedrals. Take longer walks and enjoy the architectural beauty.


Budget shopping in Paris

The Puces, or the fleas in English, is what the locals call the flea markets in Paris. There’s many around the city and we recommend visiting Saint Ouen flea market on Allée des Rosiers, if not for buying something then for the sight to behold that it is - a mammoth market with more than 2,500 sellers!
If you’re visiting at the start of January or July, many shops in Paris slash prices in clearance sales, with up to as much as 75% discounted, so shop fast to grab a real bargain. For thrifty shopping in other times of the year hit up second hand and vintage shops, of which there are a plethora in Paris, particularly in Montmartre.


Cheap eats in Paris

While your Airbnb or hostel, should you choose either accommodation option, may have kitchen facilities, Paris is a wealth of fantastic food markets in which to get fresh ingredients to cook; you’re in Paris, you’re gonna want to dine out at least a few times during your visit, but this city of Michelin star restaurants and world-renowned cuisine doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There’s plenty of budget eats in Paris to enjoy. Here are some useful tips:

french cuisine quiche

French quiche.

  • For breakfast or lunch, drop by any local boulangerie (bakery) and grab some croissants, quiche or croque-monsieur. It's delicious, cheap and probably the best french baked good you'll ever try. Don't forget about the bread, artisanal baguettes at 1 or 2 euros per loaf.

  • There are some delightful traditional Parisian bistros specializing in French fare that won’t break the bank, yet offer a quintessential Paris dining experience; check out Au Pied de Fouet in St-Germain des Prés, La Recyclerie in 18th Arrondissement, Café d’Ici on Rue Léon, or the impressive Le Réveil du Xe on Rue du Château d'Eau.

  • Get to know local markets near you and load up on cheese! There is so much to choose from and if you really dig cheese, try them from different regions. Veggies and fruits are also very affordable and make great snacks in between meals.

  • If you're really into organic produce and the local Parisian experience, check out the Marche Batignolles in the 17th arrondissement. Offering vegetables, fruits, fresh baked goods and herbs, everything in this market is locally grown and organic.


P.S. Be very vigilant about dining in restaurants near big touristic attractions. A great tip for finding budget-friendly, quality restaurants in Paris, or indeed any city, is to ask your local free tour guide for their tips and recommendations – seek out where the locals love to eat and you’ll have no regrets.


How to get around Paris, cheaply

Paris is actually deceptively small, despite its grandeur, renown and big character, so getting around all of it is not a burdensome task.

Arguably the cheapest way to navigate Paris, other than by foot, is by bicycle; Velib is the city-wide bike scheme that lets you hop on one of the regular or electric city-bikes and park it again at any of the several Velib bike racks around the center. From just €5 per day, and €15 for a week, it’s great value. The first 30 minutes are free, so we recommend changing bikes within every half hour to avoid paying the additional fees, though, at just €1 for each additional 30 minutes, it isn’t a huge expense.

If cycling in an unfamiliar city without a helmet on doesn’t appeal to you, the next cheapest mode of transport in Paris is the metro. The entire city is well connected by metro and there are very frequent journeys throughout. A single journey costs €1.90 but you can buy 10 journeys in bulk for just €14.50 – and ten journeys will be plenty if you’re visiting Paris for a few days.


What is the cheapest way to go to Paris?

If you are flying to Paris, make sure you check flights in and out of different airports nearby. For example, it will almost always be cheaper to visit Paris through Orly or Beauvais airports than Charles de Gaulle, depending on where you’re coming from, as it is further away from central Paris but could save you a pretty penny.
Another potential way to save on getting to Paris is to fly cheaper into a neighboring city or country on the continent and then take a train or even a bus to the French capital. Sure, it will take a few hours out of your Paris time, but you’ll get to see more of the country or continent, and potentially save a nice chunk of spending money too.
Trains from Lyon to Paris, for example, take about two hours, while from London it’s just 15 minutes more on the Eurostar, while a little over four hours by train will have you in Paris from Amsterdam. Be creative, shop around for cheap flights into surrounding cities if you’re willing to ride the rails for a few hours to Paris.


Don’t forget to book yourself a free walking tour in Paris with an excellent, lovely local guide at – this is, without doubt, the best way to see, learn about, and love Paris while staying in total control of your budget. And, when it comes to partying in Paris for cheap and experiencing real Paris nightlife with a group of fellow fun-lovers and locals, you can book yourself onto a Paris bar crawl for free drinks, drinks discounts, and free nightclub entry too.
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