Paris is not only known as the city of love but also as the city of luxury. Besides being the fashion capital, Paris has no shortage of unique hotels, restaurants, art galleries, or boutique stores.
Does that mean that you need to spend a fortune to make the most out of this beautiful city? Absolutely not! Paris is a capital city and as such there are a ton of people who live there and enjoy the city on a budget.
Paris is one of the most-visited cities in the world, and it’s popular with all kinds of people. Families visit Disneyland, couples get romantic in the city of love, and friends enjoy interrailing and visiting Montmartre, it’s got something for everyone – regardless of your budget!
So, with that in mind, let’s check my top budget-friendly activities and recommendations for things to do in Paris on a budget.
How to Get to Paris on a Budget
Depending on where you are traveling from, there are different means of transport that can get you to Paris.
If you are coming from overseas, I would recommend using Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flight options to Paris (or nearby airports). There are a few airports that you can choose from.
The largest is Charles de Gaulle (CDG) which is the hub for transatlantic and long-haul flights, or you can fly into Orly Airport or Beauvais Airport which are smaller airports, popular with low-cost airlines.
There are direct Metro and train routes from the airport into the city center which cost only a couple of euros each way, making it super easy. No expensive airport transfers here!
Ryanair, WowAir, and EasyJet are some of the most common ones to keep an eye out for.
For example, I was flying from Berlin to Paris on a budget airline and I paid only €100 for a round trip. Keep in mind that these airlines don’t normally include baggage so either travel light or factor that into your ticket cost!
Taking a train is a good option, especially if you are traveling around France, Belgium, or the Netherlands (Thalys trains). Eurostar trains can also take you from London to Paris in about 2 hours and if you book in advance, tickets are not that expensive.
It also means that you don’t need to worry about luggage limits or having to arrive 2-3 hours early and spend all your money in the airport on snacks!
Some travelers opt for even cheaper options and book their tickets with FlixBus. They have excellent bus connections between many European countries and if you don’t mind spending a few extra hours on the bus, you can get tickets for as cheap as €2.99 (depending on where you depart from, of course).
It’s super easy to use their site and they include one piece of hand luggage and one piece of hold luggage in their ticket as standard!
Moving Around Paris on a Budget
Moving around Paris doesn’t have to be expensive. If you want to explore Paris on a budget and not spend a fortune on taxis, your best option is the metro.
It works a lot like many other big city subway systems, so if you’ve been on the London Underground or the New York Subway, you’ll be able to travel around with ease.
If you plan on moving around different arrondissements (areas of Paris), I would recommend getting a day pass. The average cost is around €12.00 and you can see what types of travel passes are available here.
If you will be staying in just one district, I recommend taking a walk around or buying a carnet of 10 train rides so you can see as much of Paris as possible. If there are two of you, I’d definitely opt for a carnet for the weekend and just split the tickets between you.
It saves you from having to keep going back to the ticket kiosk or queuing for half your vacation.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on your belongings at all times, especially when you are in the metro. Unfortunately, pickpockets are quite common and you don’t want to get anything stolen
Budget-Friendly Paris Accommodation
Like any decent capital city, finding good accommodation on a budget in Paris can be tricky. There are plenty of cheap places, but some of the locations are a bit sketchy or the facilities and amenities are not ideal. It all depends on what your preferences are and how many of you are traveling to Paris.
It’s certainly possible to find decent budget accommodation, but you do need to be prepared to hunt for it!
These hostels are great if you’re traveling with friends and often booking out an entire four-person dorm with you and three friends is an awesome way to get a private room for the price of a dorm bed.
Paris is a huge stop on the student interrail trail so there are tons of amazing hostels to choose from with some cool design choices and amenities. The hostels in Paris are normally in decent locations in the center of Paris, so if you’re short on time this might be a good choice for you.
Airbnbs are also available across the city, but for affordable options, you’re looking at small studios on the outskirts of Paris. There are pros and cons to this.
It’ll take longer on the Metro to get to the main sights, but you are likely staying in more local spots where eating and drinking out might be cheaper and more authentic.
You can also check out sites like Secret Escapes and Voyage Prive to find some of the best deals. You might even get some luxury spots for up to half-price off on certain dates.
You can set deal alerts and get them straight into your inbox when new offers come through.
Budget-Friendly Paris Recommendations
There are plenty of options to save money in Paris, and I will highlight some of my best budget-friendly recommendations. Some of them are completely free, some of them have reduced rates for students, and some are just a good deal all around!
Let’s dive in and check them out.
1. L’Atelier des Lumieres
I recommend this beautiful art center to everyone looking to explore Paris on a budget. The walls and floors come to life as you walk through, the art is very original and entertaining, and the tickets cost around €16. It’s a lot cheaper than many of the galleries and attractions in Paris, and you can see some of the Master’s great works in person.
I was very lucky to explore a beautiful exhibition of art from Gaudi and Dali when I was in Paris. For more information on the current events, you should visit their official website here.
2. Explore Paris’ Parks and Courtyards
As a budget-conscious traveler, I absolutely adore all the parks scattered across Paris. I highly recommend them if you are looking for a perfect picnic spot and would like to save a bit of money.
Why not enjoy an afternoon with a French baguette, fresh cheese, and a bottle of French wine all while having a taste of Parisian life?
Sound’s like the perfect day, right?
Some of the best and most beautiful parks in Paris include Parc des Buttes – Chaumont, Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, and Parc Monceau. They can get pretty busy in the summertime so make sure you get there early to stake out a patch of grass to soak up the Parisian sunshine.
If you are thinking of spending the whole day out in nature, you should head to Bois de Boulogne. It’s a huge place with a lot to do and see, and most certainly one of the best ideas when exploring Paris on a budget.
3. 59 Rivoli
This wonderful art gallery houses 30 artist studios open to the public for free tours. It was originally occupied by artists from 1999 onwards until it was formally recognized by the government in 2006.
Known in the past for its excellent parties and incredible exhibitions, 59 Rivoli today is a place where you can buy art directly from the artists.
The walls and floors are covered in paint, sketches, and text, and each room is different, adapting to the personality of the artist himself, and whatever art he is working on. It means that no matter what style of art you’re into, you’re likely to find something to suit your tastes.
This is a perfect place if you are looking for things to do in Paris on a budget! Not only can you admire the art, but you can also buy a souvenir or two to support the local artists. You never know, you might just find yourself a new favorite artist or an undiscovered gem for years to come!
No visit to Paris is complete without a trip to Louvre! There are so many works of art that you can discover in this amazing place, and if you want to explore Paris properly, the Louvre is surely one of the things worth investing your time and money in.
You need to get your ticket in advance and entry slots are timed to stop the exhibits from getting too congested. There are reduced rates for students if they have a valid student ID.
That being said, it’s a Paris legend for a reason, so it’s worth paying the cheap entry ticket for the amazing experience. The tickets are around €17 or €27 if you would like to get a combined ticket.
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5. Musee d’Orsay
Those who love art and paintings and are looking for ways to save money in Paris, will not be disappointed by this museum. Honestly, a lot of people prefer Musee d’Orsay to the Louvre and it’s normally way less busy, due to tourists opting to join the crowd around the Mona Lisa!
Musee d’Orsay is home to an impressive collection of paintings, decorative arts, and sculptures dated between the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. You can find some of the most famous pieces in the world all under one roof.
If you want to admire some of the greatest artwork by Monet, Manet, Renoir, or Pissarro, get your tickets today! The ticket price is €16 and you can book them here. Again, you may be able to find student rates or reduced nights every once in a while.
6. Le Ju
If you are a Sunday brunch person, I totally recommend this amazing restaurant to everyone wanting to visit Paris on a budget. Dominated by the multicolored umbrellas that hang outside the bistro’s terrace seating, it’s a delicious place to grab a bite and a massively Instagram-friendly spot in the heart of Paris.
Their special Sunday Brunch ‘all you can eat for €20’ menu includes a great variety of dishes so you will surely find something to try. Their location is also very central so you will not need to travel far.
Understandably, their Sunday deal is popular with tourists and locals alike, so try and book as far in advance as you can to avoid disappointment.
7. Galeries Lafayette
Galeries Lafayette is basically the symbol of French luxury shopping and one of the most famous department stores in the world, but it does not need to drain your wallet.
Unlike the Champs Elysee, it’s a little more accessible and feels like a department store from years gone by like Harrods or Liberty’s in London or Bergdorf Goodman in New York.
There are many promotions, pop-up shops, and sample sales and if you are lucky to be in Paris during the sales period, you can find discounts as high as 70%! So, you can get that effortlessly chic Parisian style and vibe on a shoestring budget!
If you are a big fan of vintage shopping, keep your eye out for a CrushOn vintage popup either in the store or around Paris. It has great selections from across different eras and brings a touch of glamor to sustainable shopping!
8. Wander Along the Seine
The beautiful Seine snakes through the center of Paris and has been immortalized in film and TV so many times over the year.
Whether you want to check out the many stalls of books and vinyl records along the banks of the Seine, stand on one of the many bridges and take in the view, or just cycle along the riverbank with a friend or loved one, it’s a great, free place to visit in Paris.
If you wander down the riverwalk that spans the city, you’ll pass so many amazing architectural wonders and sights like Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. It also helps you escape the hustle and bustle of the busy Paris roads!
9. Check Out the Neighborhood Patisseries
Okay, so it’s no secret that eating out in Paris can get super expensive, especially if you’re having to eat out for all your meals.
However, if you’re staying in self-catering accommodation to keep costs down, but still want to hit up some classic French cuisine, make a beeline for one of the hundreds of patisseries and bakeries.
These havens of sweet treats and flaky savory pastries are a place where locals and tourists alike hang out and eat, so it’s normally pretty cost-effective, with prices from a euro up to around 10 euros if you go somewhere super fancy.
That being said, there are a ton of amazing neighborhood joints with affordable and delicious French staples!
Grab a coffee and a croissant or a delicious millefeuille and sit on the terrace outside, watching the world go by. You can actually stay eating and sipping for a couple of hours without having to continually order – it’s expected that meals, even small ones like pastries, are to be savored and enjoyed over time.
10. Have a Look for Free Museum Nights
One of the best things about Paris is the sheer number of museums and art galleries that you can visit.
Many of them do have reduced rates for students, but there are also designated nights each month where you can have free entry into some of the best sites, including the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay.
Although a lot of these museums can be done pretty cheaply on their own, if you want to visit a few of them, it can quickly add up.
Checking in advance and traveling around the dates each month when these free nights fall can save you a good chunk of money in entry ticket fees that you can spend on other things like cheese and wine!
Best Time to Visit Paris Cheaply
Personally, I think that the best time to visit Paris is during the summer, spring, and fall. Winter can be a bit miserable and with a lot of great Christmas Markets around France and wider Europe, you might be better off going to one of those cities instead.
In these brighter months, there are many events happening outdoors, cafe terraces are open and welcoming to everyone who loves people-watching, and you can make the most out of Parisian picnics.
It’s easy to feel like a local just chilling out in the Parisian sunshine or wandering around Paris in the rain with an umbrella heading to a warm and cozy wine bar.
There’s always something happening in Paris. It’s a capital and a cultural hotspot, so you’re never short on things to do.
You can check online at https://en.parisinfo.com/ for up-to-date schedules about what’s going on. Keep in mind that many events are free so it’s a great chance to explore Paris on a budget.
The other times that you’re going to want to avoid Paris if you’re traveling on a budget are times like Valentine’s Day, Bastille Day, New Year’s, the French Open (Roland Garros), and Paris Fashion Week.
At these times, the prices for accommodation and flights go through the roof, making it really difficult to travel well on a budget.
So, You CAN Visit Paris on a Budget!
Paris is an amazing city. It’s a place where you will never get bored because there is so much to do, see and taste.
It’s quite easy to explore Paris on a budget, but there are also countless options for those looking for a bit of luxury.
Do you have a favorite budget-friendly spot in Paris you would like to recommend? Feel free to share it in the comments!
If you are considering moving abroad, feel free to have a look at some of my resources that will help you prepare for your move (visas, preparation, finding a job abroad):
- How to Move and Live Abroad
- How to Find a Job Abroad
- US Expat Tax Deadlines & Common Mistakes
- Move Abroad Starter Kit