Free, or Nearly Free, Things to Do in Paris
With so many things to see and do is it possible to be bored in Paris?
The anser is a resounding NO. Paris is a city filled to the brim with things to do, places to see, food to eat, and ambiance to soak in.
Seemingly every street in and around the center of Paris contains either architectural marvels, museums, art exhibitions, bars, jazz clubs, quaint boutiques, cafes, pastry shops, or restaurants. It’s pretty impossible to be bored when visiting this city, there are a million and one things to do in Paris.
The list below reflects our selection of activities, especially when on a budget, in no particular order.
If you are a backpacker or a budget traveler visiting Paris take a look at our article on traveling to Paris on a budget! We give you all sorts of tips to keep your budget under control in one of the greatest cities in the world. On that note, let’s talk about finding accommodations in Paris for a quick second.
Hostels and Accommodations in Paris
Before we jump into all the things to do in Paris that will take up your time, we need to talk about the Eiffel Tower sized elephant in the room. Paris can be a very expensive city to visit. However, there are plenty of ways to keep costs down when exploring the City of Lights.
Your number one expense will be accommodations. You can save a LOT of money when visiting Paris by NOT staying in a hotel. However…
The best hostels in Paris can be laughably expensive, with the average cost of a dorm bed coming in at over €35.00 a night anywhere within 4 kilometers of the city center during high season. So, if you want to stay in a hostel you should chose wisely.
We recommend that backpackers and budget travelers visiting Paris select hostels with kitchens, and hunt down any offering free breakfasts in the interest of saving as much money as you can.
Hostels aren’t your only options for finding a cheap place to sleep. Couchsurfing and Workaway can both be tremendous money savers. If you are up for the adventure both of these websites completely negate the cost of accommodations, in different ways.
Find Great Rates on Hotels in Paris on Booking.com!
Likewise, it is also possible to find good deals on Airbnb, particularly if you are willing to live a bit outside of the center. Since we had only a week in Paris before commitments elsewhere in Europe, we decided to rent a studio located twenty minutes by metro from the center. The cost of the rental was only a few Euro more than the cost of two dorm beds, and was far cheaper than most of the hotels we researched.
Airbnb prices have him on the rise as the popularity of the site grows, and finding a great deal is much harder than it was two years ago. However one can find real value there, especially if traveling in groups of three or more.
Things to Do in Paris
Visit The Louvre
Ok, our first recommendation isn’t free. The Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world, and this beautiful former fortress is worth every penny of its €15.00 entrance fee.
It’s no surprise that the Louvre is one of the most visited museum in the world. You can spend all day wandering the vast hallways of the Lourve, checking out everything from French sculptures, to 10th century Islamic art, to Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. And much much more. So if you do spend an entire day here, which is really easy to do, the €15.00 entry fee won’t destroy your budget.
A bit of a money saving tip for the Louvre – we didn’t have any issues with exit and re-entry. Meaning it is possible to skip the over priced museum cafeteria food and run out for a cheaper lunch before continuing getting your culture on.
Tip – Check out this cool article for some pro tips on skipping long lines in Paris!
Things to Do in Paris – Take a Scenic Walk Along the River Seine
Paris is an amazing city to walk around in, and there is no place better to start than along the Seine river. Make sure to check out the many bridges spanning the river, especially Pont des Arts for its infamous “Love Locks” and the gorgeous Pont Alexandre III for its statues and sculptures.
Editor’s note – Right after we published this article officials in Paris decided to remove the iconic love lock railings from the Pont des Arts bridge. It’s still a lovely bridge to stroll over, although the distinct locks have been replaced by glass panels. Truth be told this makes us a little sad.
Things to Do in Paris – Pay Your Respects at the Père Lachaise Cemetery
Some people people might consider walking around a cemetery to be morbid, or even a little creepy. Personally, we feel that cemeteries hold many fascinating stories and traditions. Exploring one can be great way to get a better feel for any given place you are visiting.
So, if you are like us, and you’re going to pick one cemetery in Paris to visit, Pere Lachaise might as well be the one.
Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are but some of the legendary names buried here. Stop by and pay your respects to these cultural icons. Admission to Pere Lachaise Cemetery is totally free, and tons of interesting tombs and sculptures make this a worthwhile excursion for a couple of hours.
Things to do in Paris – Wander the Tuileries Garden
This immaculate, and sculpture adorned, garden separates the Louvre from the Place de la Concorde. The opulent garden is a popular chill out spot for locals and tourists alike. Pack a lunch on a sunny day and relax near the ponds, or one of the grassy lawns. Then stroll around and admire the numerous statues and sculptures, or laugh at all the tourists taking selfies. Or, take some selfies. We won’t judge you!
The Musée de l’Orangerie, where you can go to see some of the works of Claude Monet, is located right near the Tuileries so you can have a look in after you are done. And obviously, the Lourve is right there, making a trip to the gardens and the museum a great combination.
Get Local in St. Germain des Pres
The hip neighborhood of St. Germain des Pres is crammed with bustle and energy. You can almost feel the narrow corridors of St. Germain getting increasingly more exciting as day fades into night. Tourists rub shoulders with locals in the many restaurants, creperies, cafes, bars, and galleries, from early morning into electric night .
If you are a backpacker in Paris you are probably going to want to hang out in St. Germain as relatively inexpensive (for Paris) food can be procured here. Most bars have a happy hour for “cheaper” drinks, which will still run you an average of €6.00 a pint, but you’re in Paris so… might as well go for it.
If you want to get your local vibe on then hanging out in St. Germain is definitely one of the things to do in Paris.
Things to Do in Paris – Montmartre and Basilica of the Sacre Coeur
This famous neighborhood is host to the Basilica Sacre Couer, but there is so much more to do and see in Montmarte. It’s winding streets are home to a eclectic array of upscale clothing shops, second hand stores, restaurants, and cafes.
Make sure to climb Montmartre Hill to see the Basilica and to get breathtaking views of the city.
Things to Do in Paris – The Eiffel Tower…of Course
The iconic Eiffel Tower might not be the most beautiful structure in Paris, but it’s probably the most well known. You can picnic in the near vicinity at the Parc du Champ de Mars, or wait in line and pay to ride to the top. We skipped the latter, and just hung out on the lawn watching the tourists go by.
It’s certainly a great place to people watch in Paris, just don’t fall for any of the tourist trap cafes around the square, as you will likely end up unknowingly buying a 6 Euro espresso.
Going up to the top of the Eiffel Tower is a chore reserved for only the most eager of tourists. Yeah, the views are great, but the lines are incredibly long and the price isn’t friendly for most budget travelers. We aren’t saying you shouldn’t go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but if you do prepare for a long wait and a deep dent in your Paris travel budget.
Things to Do in Paris – Pedal Around Paris
One of the best ways of exploring any city that has bike lanes is to rent a bicycle and pedal around. It’s one of our personal favorite ways of getting around cities, especially when the weather is accommodating.
Paris has a large system of affordable rental bikes in place for those who prefer to pedal from one location to another instead of walking. It’s a cost effective, eco-friendly, and fun way to get around the City of Lights. There are a lot of new bike lanes in Paris these days, so take advantage of the city’s embrace of bicycles and join in!
For more details on getting around Paris in a bicycle click here.
Tasty Treats: Crepes, Baguettes, Croissants, Pastries
You can’t go to Paris and not sample the eclectic and delicious array of pastries, breads, and orgasmic crepes. Do yourself a favor and walk into one of the seemingly thousands of bakeries and stuff your face! Just try to look refined, you are in Paris after all. How does one do that with a face full of fantastic fluffy dough? Don’s ask us! I’m sure we put off a few locals with our Cookie Monster impression.
You’ll put on a couple of pounds just off of breads and pastries alone, but hey, it’ll be worth it!
Things to Do in Paris – People Watching at a Corner Cafe
If you are unfamiliar with the charming nature of outdoor cafes we highly recommend taking some time to experience this relaxing custom. Find a nice cafe on a random street corner (they are literally everywhere), take a load off, and enjoy a fine brew of your choosing. The world would be a better place if this was a globally adopted custom.
We love the idea of sitting outdoors and chatting with our friends and peers, having a coffee, maybe a smoke, and slowing things down for a bit. In the middle of the day no less! That’s nearly unheard of in a place like our home town of New York City.
A word of caution, however. Some cafes, especially near highly touristy landmarks, have steep markups on the price of their beverages. Make sure you check the menu before ordering. We sat down near the Eiffel Tower and walked away with a €12.00 bill for two small coffees. As amusing as it was ridiculous. Lesson learned! If you are a soda drinker be aware that a can of Coke will run you anything from €3.00 – €7.00 almost everywhere but the super market. Yikes.
Things to Do in Paris – Check out the Notre Dame
You literally can’t miss Norte Dame.
Man-kind really outdid itself when it built this colossus. As one of the largest cathedrals in the world Norte Dame is an awe inspiring structure. Completed in the 1300’s Notre Dame stands tall and Gothic, inspiring one to wonder at the toil and ingenuity it took to build it. Gawk like all the other tourists around you are doing, and then go inside for a free look around. Notre Dame is just as impressive within. Did we mention it was free?
Ok, All of that is Cool BUT…Is Paris Too Expensive to Visit?
NOPE! It’s not.
There’s are plenty of other things to do in Paris, and many of them don’t have to cost you a dime. We encourage everyone who thinks that Paris is prohibitively expensive to reconsider. Sure, accommodations might be pricey, but if you stay in hostels and plan your trip right you can totally manage to see some of the best the City of Lights has to offer.
Be sure to check out our guide on how to travel on a budget in Paris, for tips on keep costs WAY down!
Well, there you have it guys, our guide to some free or nearly free things to do in Paris. There is SOOO much more that this amazing city has to offer, so if you find any awesome activities that you think we need to know about please hit us up! As always, happy travels, and we’ll see you on the road!
Disclaimer – We have included a few handy little affiliate links in case any of our readers want to book accommodations. We receive a small commission for any sales made, without any additional cost to you, our dear reader.