Audrey Hepburn famously said, ‘Paris is always a good idea.’
She definitely wasn’t on a backpacker budget, because this city can be expensive. Paris is a beautiful place to walk around, admiring the architecture and people-watching along the Seine and the Champs Élysées, but as soon as it comes to wanting a bite to eat, or a little drink, you’ll find yourself parting with more euros than you’d like.
Don’t let it put you off. In La Ville Lumière (the City of Lights) croissants are cheap as chips, you can always enjoy a baguette, and free museums, beautiful gardens and the pretty bridges will keep you busy at every turn. In France’s capital, even those on a shoestring can find a way to see the best of the city.
Here’s our guide to seeing Paris on a budget.
Free things to do in Paris
Much of Paris’ beauty is down to its delicately designed buildings and the good news is these works of art can be admired for free. So get your walking shoes on and head to the likes of the Notre Dame or the Cimitière du Père Lachaise (an awesome cemetery with a few famous dead!) for the sum total of zero. Go early – ‘free’ means ‘busy’ in this city.
If you’re here for the history and art, and you’re under 26 and an EU citizen, then entrance fees are waived to some national museums. That includes the likes of The Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou. Don’t worry if you’re a little older, becausethe first Sunday of the month means everybody can access all areas for free.
If you really want the charm of Paris on a budget, check out Shakespeare and Company on Paris’s left bank. This quaint bookshop has floor to ceiling literary delights and, as it’s not too far from the Seine and in the shadows of the Notre Dome, it’s about as Parisian as you can get.
Cheap things to do in Paris (Under €10)
The fee of the famous Eiffel Tower (€17 to take the lift to the top) might seem to steep if you’re trying to see Paris on a budget. The solution is simple: swap the tower for a dome and climb up the Basilique du Sacré Coeur for €6. Or splash another €2 to see the crypt too.
The views from the dome rival those from the Eiffel Tower and you get to see the inside of a beautiful building too. If you’d still like to see the Eiffel Tower, take a picnic to the Parc du Champ de Mars for pretty views at night. Honestly, the views of Paris with the Eiffel Tower in are better than without.
Other cheap things to do in Paris (Under €20)
From museums to the mines, at just €13 the Catacombes de Paris are a creepy yet cool visit to fit into shoestring Paris plans. Once the city’s mines, they now hold the bones and skulls of over six million people, and you can see them up close in this sprawling network of underground tunnels. Kinda creepy – make sure you’re emotionally prepared.
Cheap food in Paris
Start your day like a true Parisian with a classic coffee and croissant in one of the many traditional cafes. In popular budget placeslike Chez Meunier, La Cafeotheque and Mamie Gateaux, it should cost around €5 all in.
Come lunchtime, a hearty salad from Chez Papa will fill you up for around €8, or take a walk down Rue Sainte-Anne, aka Little Tokyo, where a bowl of noodles is a similar price.
You’re never stuck for an afternoon sweet treat in Paris. You’ll see old style patisseries and cafes, but sometimes all you need is a crepe cart – indulge in a sweet or savoury treat for €5. Expect to pay a lot more in the tourist areas, and to be practically ripped off if you’re anywhere near the Eiffel Tower.
At dinner, make like the movies and experience a romantic meal, even if it’s for one, on Saint-Martin canal. The Sunken Chip, Les Bancs Publics bistro and Le Comptoir General are all top places nearby to try or, for an even cheaper option, grab a bottle of wine and baguette and munch it riverside. If you’re looking for a price in between keep an eye out for the ‘plat du jour’ or ‘dish of the day’ – you can find these three-course meals for around €10.
Cheap places to stay in Paris
All the fancy buildings and classic art might have you dreaming of plush four-poster beds in swanky Seine-side hotels, but unfortunately the reality for backpackers is a little different. You have to settle for something a little more cheap and cheerful in Paris.
Having said that, Paris is one place where no matter the location you always feel très chic. Hostels in Paris like Les-Piaules, Le Village Hostel MontmartreandLe Regent Hostel will help you keep up the illusion — until the shared showers of course — for around €30-40 a night.
Getting around Paris
It’s easy to walk around Paris, and doing so along the River Seine can bring you to beautiful places like the Grand Palais, Pont des Artes and the house of Victor Hugo. For longer journeys, like up to Montmartre or further afield, turn to Velib, the city’s bike rental scheme. Anything under 30 minutes is free, but if you want a little longer pay €1.70 for a day’s use. Bargain.
Wary of Parisian peddlers? We don’t blame you. Avoid the busy roads and opt underground for the Metro. A ticket of 10 rides costs €14.50 and you can use it on buses too. Just don’t go for the taxi option – you’ll be stuck in traffic watching your Paris backpacker budget disappear into thin air.